Saturday, September 17, 2016

Scenic Landfills of Colorado

One of them, anyway. Hey, it’s something when even your regional trash dumps are surrounded by such stark, natural beauty.

Man, we had some stuff. Enough to fill nearly half of our outsized two-car garage. We had tall rolls of dusty carpet from the two main bedrooms leaning in the corner. We’d have to cut it to fit in bags before either one of the local trash companies would take them. The rotten wood ripped out of the upstairs bathroom walls, the cheap framing set up so the previous owners could put sheetrock over the original plaster (yeah, I know), the toilet, the sink, the vanity, bags and bags of lawn waste...obviously, none of that was fitting into the curbside bin. It was all going to the dump.

My wife looked it up, called their number, and all we knew was where it was. Like many in the San Luis Valley, they charged a fee for our using credit cards, so after throwing some of  the larger items into the back of the van, we stopped by an ATM for cash before driving out. 
My wife is looking from the passenger window, so this is facing north towards the distant Sangre de Cristos.

You have to use the zoom on the Canon Powershot to get decent photos of things in the distance. That’s why the mountains look bigger here.

The San Luis Valley Regional Solid Waste Authority is in the middle of some beautifully desolate high country, about five miles west/northwest of Monte Vista as US 160 runs to Del Norte. Just past mile marker 210 you’ll see this farm to your right, and a cell phone tower on the hill to your left. Get in the left lane to turn into Rio Grande County Line Road 44.
“Turn left. TURN LEFT!”

As the lady told my wife over the phone, settle in for a drive. It’s no more than a couple of miles, really, but it feels like forever.

The lone cell phone tower on the south side of US 160 that I used for a landmark after the first trip out to the dump.

The road starts off going south by southwest, then curves around eastward to parallel US 160. The entire point of this road is to get you in and out of the regional landfill, so there are no side roads to distract you, no wrong turns. Just drive, and watch out for injuns. 

Or their ghosts, anyway. If it wasn’t for the power lines and poles (note the distances, they are deceptive) you’d think you were back in eighteen-hundred and something. You’d be looking for the spear tips of the horsemen assembling on the butte, ready to charge down at you.

Me, I can’t help hearing that old Hollywood movie theme that seemed universal to the Indians in old Westerns, that ominous, heavy theme with cramped half-step intervals indicating something foreign and dangerous whenever I’m driving through this Wild West stuff. Such is the price of being older, and weirder than you’ll ever know.

Eventually the entrance to the landfill comes into view, if not the landfill itself. The way the road winds among the small hillocks to conceal the essential ugliness of human solid waste disposal is ingenious. 

Even at the small building at which one is required to stop for inspection, you don’t see anything, nor do you get the odor.

The process was informal, but orderly. A young woman came out to inspect our load. She pulled out a tape measure and took some rough figures in regards to the dimensions. That our refuse was enclosed inside the back of a minivan saved us from getting charged double. Double what? I wondered.

We went indoors and she entered her numbers into a computer. To rid ourselves of old bathroom fixtures and carpet cost all of eight dollars and change. The young woman took our money and directed us to the gate. Follow the signs, she said, and throw your trash on top of the already established trash pile.

So we did. We came upon this. 

The dead animal drop is notable inasmuch as this is cattle country. I can only imagine the horses and cows decomposing on top of all the dead dogs and cats. Naturally, we went nowhere near this place.

Oh, that odor. It’s what the word “putrid” was coined for, the kind of smell that haunts you long after you’ve left its source. It’s the smell of sour gone sour, the kind that tells you you’re going to get physically ill of something if you breathe it too long. I nearly lost it when my wife said something to me while we were unloading. I was not opening my mouth in this place. 

On the next trip up my wife offered me a face mask. I still insisted on not talking when we came to the landfill.
Waste among the waste. A perfectly good child’s ball. It pinched my heart to see this here.

After two more trips and a total of $21 and change, we had cleaned our garage of everything but a few broken down moving boxes, which we’ll rid ourselves of over a period of weeks through the recycling bin. It was a good deal, one I wish we’d availed ourselves of sooner.

The drive out was always pretty. My wife and I admired the wildflowers coloring the area north of County Road 44.

Those are some seriously rocky mountains.