From Ouray, we took the vertiginous million dollar highway (there are plenty of stories about how it got the name, but the building of the road certainly opened up the mountains to proper prospection) up to Silverton, stopping off on the way to look at the remains of the Idarado Mine (there are plenty of remains of mines around, but this site is one of the most visible and extensive). It’s a desolate spot now, well above the treeline. An information panel explained that the mine’s Yankee Girl Shaft, which burrowed down some 1,200 feet, produced over $12 million in ore during its 16 years of operation, estimated to be worth over $100 million in today’s market. The mine also sported a five-and-a-half mile long tunnel connecting it up to another mine in a neighbouring valley. The Red Mountain (guess why it’s called that) mining district was and probably still is full of gold, silver, copper, zinc and lead. The tailings from these works are splayed out spectacularly over the mountainsides. Cadmium and lead has leached into local water supplies and a lot of work has had to be done to neutralise some of the worst effects of this polution. From there we drove on to Silverton which, as its name suggests, is a former silver mining camp. On the way there we spotted a Harley Davidson (this is biker land) with a pet dog sitting on the pillion, complete with goggles, crash helmet and scarf! Like Ouray, Silverton was also once a rough place where prospectors came down from the surrounding mountains to drown their sorrows or drink their earnings (Silverton itself is, at 2,836 metres, one of the highest towns in America). It also had a ‘wrong side of the tracks’, for Silverton is the upper terminus for the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad which, like the million dollar highway, opened up the mountains to prospectors and the mining industry. Before catching the train we had a wander around. Silverton has a population of 531, dividing into 255 households or 149 families. And yet, when we stopped counting, it has at least five churches in good repair. Local religion may flourish but, despite the local population being over 97% white, it is fragmented.