The Chevy slid to a stop, and Jim, the Jeep tour leader, was halfway out as the dust the truck had just kicked up blew into the group members faces. Leaping over the roadside ditch, he snatched up an unusual looking flower and held it up to the nine people sitting behind him. Smell! he suggested, and like children, they passed it around, each sticking his or her nose into the high-altitude flower. Miners Socks! he continued with a grin. Having lived here for the better part of his life, he readily told his passengers about the true birth of this area and its geologic cycle over the last 4.6 billion years. But Jim had to work quickly, there were only two hours until these wide-eyed newcomers had to catch the train for their descent back to their hotel rooms. Just as easily as he had gotten out, Jim was back in the drivers deat, shifting into second and rolling down the narrow valley road that had appeared to be a thin ribbon of orange from atop California Pass minutes earlier. Looking back, the other Mild-to-Wild crawler, a 76 Pinzgauer, lumbered down the switchbacks with Dave, a part-time schoolteacher, at the wheel. With what looked like a truck full of California refugees, he stopped the military green land monster and pointed out a few Columbines. Meanwhile, one woman was still puzzling over the high-altitude floral gift from Jim. Whatd he give us this for? asked Sherry, looking as if someone had just handed her a dirty diaper. Makes sense Vic, a fellow Texan, offered up. It kinda smells like a miners sock! The others laughed a bit, and just then, the truck dipped its right tire into a small hole, bouncing the passengers into the air. Once seated again,the conversation was all but forgotten as everyone gaped at the enormous valley that lay before them. From the back of the truck, Jim could be seen through the passenger side mirror grinning.

Jim Shadell, a Jeep tour leader, explains calderas, cirques and
other local geologic formations to his truckfull of passengers. The tour group surveys the remains of the last 4WD tour to come
through, or so they are told. The Austrian Pinzgauer goes up, up and up and then some during a
recent Mild-To-Wild Jeep tour. A bay window offers million dollar views in the ghostown of
Animas Forks. Jim takes the red Chevy through a water hazard. Lindsey Goding, of Omaha, takes a perilous peek over the edge of
California Pass.