Monday, March 20, 2017

Cripple Creek Colorado, the World's Greatest Gold Camp!

This was our first view of the high 9,494 foot valley of Cripple Creek, Colorado, called the "World's Greatest Gold Camp." In 1890, a local rancher, Robert Miller Womack, discovered a rich gold ore on his land, and the last great Colorado gold rush began. Thousands of prospectors flocked to the region and in three years the population increased from five hundred to ten thousand. At its peak in 1900 over 500 mines dotted the area, and in 71 years of operation 21 million ounces of gold were produced--more gold than the gold rushes in California and Alaska!

(All photos will enlarge if clicked on)

In my last blog post--click here to read--I showed you a town at the eastern foot of Pikes Peak, called Manitou Springs. Cripple Creek lies on the western face of Pikes Peak, and is a forty five minute drive from Colorado Springs.

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A placard at the Heritage Center overlook shows the locations of many of the famous gold mines in the area of Cripple Creek. One can also drive a 131 mile  Colorado Scenic Byway Gold Belt Tour in this area.  Four wheel drive is required in certain parts of the byway which is unpaved. The Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, can be accessed from the byway, where there are some of the richest and most diverse prehistoric fossil deposits in the world, such as those of an ancient red wood forest, insects and plants.

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This placard shows "Poverty Gulch" area where Womack made the first gold discovery.

The free Cripple Creek Heritage Center, located at 9283 South Highway 67, is worth a visit, as it is full of fascinating exhibits about the Cripple Creek area's Gold Rush era, as well as information about the region's rich geologic and prehistoric history, the Native Americans who lived here, and recreational opportunities in the area.  I loved seeing the displays of vintage photographs from the early mining era.

After the Gold Rush era ended and production in the mines almost completely ended, Cripple Creek's population slowly dwindled until it was basically a ghost town. In 1991, Colorado voters allowed Cripple Creek to establish legalized gambling and many of the vacant historic buildings became casinos. The casinos have been successful in bringing back tourists and revenue to the area.

We were surprised and thrilled to see one of the wild donkeys in the area walking down the main street during our visit to the town! The donkeys are believed to be made up of several direct descendants of the donkeys that were used to work the mines in the Cripple Creek and Victor mining district in the early years of the gold camp. When miners left the area they often left their donkeys behind, free to roam. Volunteers help to take care of the donkeys and a big event every year is a fundraiser called Donkey Derby Day.

There are attractions in and around the town, and we know we will have to return one day to partake in more of them. The Mollie Kathleen Mine has the world's only 1,000 foot vertical gold mine tour. One can ride the Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gage Railroad, a narrated four mile forty five minute steam engine railroad trip past many historic mines and beautiful scenery, or hike one of the many trails in the area, or take a free shuttle bus ride from casino to casino in the town.

Since my husband and I are not gamblers we enjoyed strolling around the town to visit\ its shops and ...

...reading the stories about the historic buildings pasts. Click on each photo collage to enlarge them to read about them.

These were just a few of the historic buildings in Cripple Creek.  After having lunch in a cafe, we continued on to our next destination, happy to have had a visit to Cripple Creek and to learn of its interesting history.

Our drive further west took us through areas of beautiful scenery....

 ....and the beginnings of autumnal tree colors, in September of last year.

We were on our way to Canon City to take a ride on the Royal Gorge Railroad...come back next post to see more.

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Monday, March 13, 2017

Manitou Springs, Colorado

Manitou Springs, Colorado, is a small and charming town minutes away from Colorado Springs, and nestled between Garden of the Gods Park and America's most famous mountain, Pikes Peak. The word "Manitou," is a Native American word for "great spirit." Ute, Cheyenne and other Native American tribes attributed the natural mineral springs they found in the area as sacred, as a place of peace and healing.  General William Jackson Palmer, a western railroad magnate,  and Dr. William Abraham Bell founded the town of Manitou Springs in 1872, intending the town to be a "scenic health resort."

We visited the town in the fall of 2016, where most of these photos originate, and again recently when we had some family members visiting us--see that post on this link, and I thought I'd tell you more about this interesting and historical town.

(All photos, and photo collages, will enlarge when clicked on)

This boulder near the center of town marks the eastern end of the Ute Pass Trail, one of the oldest Native American Trails in the United States. The Ute Pass Trail runs along the north side of Pikes Peak. Native Americans first paved the trail on their travel over the the Ute Pass, and then in the 1860's it became a wagon road.  Now it is used for hiking, biking, running or horseback riding. The trail head is located near the Pikes Peak Cog Railroad parking lot.

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As you can see by the photos above there were many natural mineral springs located in the area that the ancient peoples and Native Americans used for eons. These waters became known as "healing waters" and during the Victorian era when diseases like tuberculosis was rampart people sought out natural cures. Mineral water was felt to cure liver, kidney and digestive aliments. 

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The town of Manitou Springs was built up around these springs and became a resort area with bath houses, a mineral water bottling plant and hotels and spas.  If you enlarge the collage above you can read where the mineral water originates from and more about the town history.

Manitou Springs has eleven naturally carbonated mineral spring drinking fountains throughout the historic district, and eight of these springs are open to the public to sample for free. Each one tastes a little different from the next. You can get a map of all the mineral spring fountain locations at the Manitou Springs Visitor Center, located at 354 Manitou Avenue. They will also provide you with a plastic cup if you ask for one. 
My husband and I enjoyed searching out all the springs and sampling small sips of the water. Our favorite was Seven Minute Spring, located in a park near the beginning of town.  We felt it taste similar to club soda. Our least favorite was the Iron Geyser, which is closest to the mountain along Ruxton Creek, and definitely has a strong metallic iron taste. We could see why it was called "the strongest of tonics" at one time! 

The other mineral fountains are the Shoshone, the Navajo, the Cheyenne, the Wheeler, the Stratton, and the Twin.

If you click on the highlighter names of the fountains it will bring you to the Mineral Springs Foundation page that will describe the characteristics of each spring and its location.

The historic center of Manitou Spring is filled with interesting and picturesque Victorian era architecture

I particularly liked this baby blue building, on Canon Avenue, that was built in 1887 by Dr Isaac Davis to house his pharmacy. It is now privately owned as an artist's studio.

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The Wheeler Town Clock was donated by Jerome Wheeler in 1889 for the opening of the Manitou Mineral Water Bottling Company that existed at that time. Click on the photo to read more about this historical clock.

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The Nolan House was built by John Nolan in 1890.  Nolan was the owner of the Colorado Springs Lumber Company at the time and also owned several saloons and a Cripple Creek gambling hall. Click on the photo to read more about the house.

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The Cliff House was built in 1874 by two Canadian investors and was the second largest hotel in Manitou Springs at the time.  It was visited by many famous people over time--click on the photo to read its history.  This Queen Anne style hotel has been fully renovated and is still used as a hotel and event center..

My husband and I dined in the elegant  Cliff House Dining Room for a delicious lunch.

A another step back into time is the Miramont Castle Museum. This incredible Victorian style castle has over 30 rooms and nine styles of architecture. Built in the late 1890's by a French priest, Jean Baptiste Francolon, who came to Manitou Springs in hopes of restoring his ailing health. His mother and her servants joined him soon after. The family came from wealth and the mansion was filled with artwork, fine furnishings and tapestries. The Francolons left for France in 1900, never to return. In 1907 the Sisters of Mercy purchased the mansion to use it as a tuberculosis sanitarium for twenty years.  In 1928 it became a boarding house and vacation retreat for the wealthy until 1946 when it became privately owned. In 1976 the Manitou Springs Historical Society purchased the mansion as their headquarters and began renovations.  It now conducts tours of the house, many events throughout the year, and hosts a tearoom for High Tea and light Victorian Tea, reservations required.

The historic district of town is lined with many unique shops, art galleries and trading posts filled with handcrafted Native American treasures.  Manitou Springs is home to many artists, and attracts a young bohemian crowd, especially during the summer months.

Another attraction in town that draws athletes, and the physically fit who like a challenges, is the Manitou Incline, seen looming over the main street in the foothill above.

A close up of the incline.

The Manitou Incline is the remains of a former narrow gauge funicular railway, whose tracks washed out during a rock slide in 1990. It is now used as a fitness challenge trail, as it has steep grades of 45% to 68%, and gains over 2,000 feet (610 m) of elevation in less than one mile. It recently went through renovations from August, 2016 to December, 2017 and is now open again.  

Do you think you are up to the challenge of hiking so many steps at such a steep climb?

The Manitou Springs Penny Arcade is located at 930 Manitou Avenue in the middle of town, and is one of the oldest and largest amusement arcades west of the Mississippi! With over 250 machines dating back to actual penny pinball machines to modern video game machines, skeeball, and rides for small children, this area has been a favorite attraction for many, many years.

Opened in 1891, the Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railroad, is the highest cog railroad in the world! It is located at 515 Ruxton Avenue in Manitou Springs.  You can purchase tickets to ride the railroad--reservations required a few days in advance--most months of  the year, to visit the top of Pikes Peak, at an elevation of 14,115 feet, and back.  A train runs every 80 minutes, with an average grade of 12%, and at times reaches a grade of 24%.  Once on top of the mountain you will be able to see five states on a clear day! 
When my younger brother visited Colorado a couple years ago in October we took a ride together up the cog railroad and really enjoyed the views!  To see my blog post about driving up Pikes Peak in the summer, click here.  The panorama from the top of the mountain is remarkable!

Some famous people from Manitou Springs past.

Sadly, in 2012, the Waldo Canyon Fire occurred near Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs and Woodland Park. It destroyed 346 houses, killed two people, and burned 18,247 acres (28.511 sq miles) in the Pike National Forest.  The burn area created "burn scar flood" in 2013 as rain water increased flow in six waterways and picked up mud and debris that caused damage to many homes and businesses in Manitou Springs. Much mitigation was done and the resilient town is thriving again.  It is definitely a wonderful place to visit, and to stay, to enjoy many local attractions.  Come and sample the mineral water, climb the incline, shop in the quaint stores and dine in one of the many restaurants.  You will have a memorable time!

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Sunday, March 5, 2017

A Family Visit and Colorado Sightseeing

We were happy to have family visit us recently!  Our nephew and his wife visited Colorado for the first time on vacation, and after visiting Vail and Avon, they spent the remaining time with us. After enjoying a day with our family here we spent the rest of the time sightseeing with them. Top on our list for things to do was to take a drive on the "Peak to Peak" highway to the town of Estes Park. The views along this highway are beautiful, and even more so in winter when the Rockies are covered with snow. I've blogged about this scenic highway before, which you can read on this post.  In Estes we visited the historic Stanley Hotel for lunch.  If you remember this past blog post, my husband and I saw a "ghost" there on an overnight visit we made for our anniversary a couple of years ago.  Happily, did not see any ghosts on this visit, but our relatives were excited to see some large elk eating the grass in the hotel parking lot!

All photos and photo collages will enlarge if clicked on

After lunch, we took a ride into Rocky Mountain National Park. There we saw a large herd of elk in one of the meadows and lots of beautiful snow capped peaks, but surprisingly little snow at the lower elevations.  The winter in Colorado has been unusually mild this year, and snowfall at the lower elevations has been below normal, although it has been fairly normal at the higher elevations. We've visited Rocky Mountain National Park many times since moving to Colorado--it holds a special place in our heart--and we were excited to show some of it to our family members.

This is the view we had from Horseshoe Park Overlook in the park--breathtaking, isn't it?  No matter what the season, the park is wonderful to visit!

If you would like to read more details about Rocky Mountain National Park on my blog you can click here for the eastern side of Trail Ridge Road, and here for the Roof of the Rockies, and here for the western side of Trail Ridge Road.  I also have a post about Rocky Mountain National Park in autumn, which you can see here.

The next day we headed south from the Denver area towards Colorado Springs. It is always exciting to see Pike's Peak from the highway.  We had hope to take the cog railroad or even drive up the 14,115 foot (4.302252 km) high Pike's Peak--called "America's Mountain--but the railroad is closed during the months of January and February to the peak, and only runs on weekends to Inspiration Point. Because of snow pack, the road was also closed past a certain point.  So this trip we could only take in the mountain views from the ground.

To see a drive we took up to the summit of Pikes Peak in the summer click here.

We did visit the beautiful Garden of the Gods, a registered National Natural Landmark in Colorado Springs, comprised of giant red rock formations that were created during a geological upheaval along a fault line millions of years ago.

We enjoyed driving and hiking through the park on a wonderfully mild weather afternoon.  We hiked up to the "Siamese Twins" formation to take some photos.....

...and also the 700 ton "Balanced Rock" formation!

To see more photos from Garden on the Gods from a trip we made during the summer, click here.

We also had time to visit Manitou Springs, a small scenic town located at the base of Pikes Peak, and known for its natural mineral springs. There we had fun tasting the mineral water that flows freely into eight public fountains in town, and looking at the shops and historic buildings in the area. I will show more about these springs on a future blog post.
Among other fun places, and things, that we did together with our nephew and niece-in-law was to visit the outdoor Red Rocks Amphitheater--where they returned the next morning to do a work out climbing up and down the stairs! We also drove into Denver to see some sights and to have dinner.  It was a wonderful visit, and we now miss them dearly.  It was so nice to spend time again with extended family members, and we hope more of our family will come to visit us soon!

Before I leave I wanted to share some photos of our oldest granddaughter's 4th birthday party. She had a party at a famous mouse party place where there are a lot of rides and fun games to play, and a wonderful time was had by all. It's hard to believe how fast our grandchildren are growing up, but we are certainly enjoying every moment with them. 

Spring will soon be here and that often means snow showers for us on the Front Range of Colorado, that will bring wildflowers in June. I'm looking forward to longer daylight, more outdoor fun and seeing our flowers grow.  What are you looking forward to in Spring?

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