Friday, July 29, 2011

Orient Mine

After the slalom races, we made a visit to the abandoned Orient Mine high on the side of the San Luis valley, for C who is a bat aficionado. We stopped at a gas station in Poncha Springs. The attendant asked what all those canoes had been doing in Salida yesterday, so we explained. A friend of his had decided the historic high would be a good time to raft Brown's Canyon above Salida. Luckily he lost only his raft and quite a bit of skin after swimming through the Seven Stairs. 

The mine hosts a colony of some quarter-million Mexican free-tail bats, all of which come pouring out of it in the dusk to hunt the valley.

It turns out that 250 000 bats whoosh as they flood out, from dusk until too dark to see: also they bring a trail of bat poo odor out with them. Quite extraordinary. 

The mine is in the hills above the Valley View hot springs. Those folks are on the far side of hippy. As a canoeist I’m usually the crunchiest granola in any given group, but felt like the man in the grey flannel suit out there. On the hike back to the car, we stopped in at what turned out to be a unisex bathroom - was peacefully having a pee at the urinal when several women came in. There was a brief moment of nightmare like one of those dreams where you are naked at the office, before reality resumed. Women's bathrooms don't have urinals so if anyone was wrong it had to be them. I know this about women's bathrooms because as the Officer on Duty after hours at Army Intelligence HQ, I had to check all the rooms including the women's bathrooms: definitely no urinals.

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