Monday, June 26, 2017

Independence Pass, Colorado, Part Two


Last week I blogged about the beginning of a drive my husband and I went on Highway 82 to cross over Independence Pass, which is the highest mountain pass in Colorado.  It is only open from the end of May through sometime in October as the rest of the year it is covered with heavy snow. Click here to read that post.  That post ended with our stop at the Independence town site--now a "ghost town" of abandoned and crumbling buildings, remnants from a once thriving gold rush site.


Independence Ghost Town is located 16 miles east of Aspen, Colorado, on Highway 82. There was a parking area off the highway, and then a hike down towards the town. You can see some standing buildings in the photos above as we approached the town.
Legend has it that the town of Independence was formed when prospectors discovered the Independence Gold Lode on July 4, 1879. A tent city sprang up that summer and by the next year there were 300 people living in the camp.

Placard on the site--click on to enlarge.

By 1881 the Farwell Mining Company had acquired most of the mines in the area, as well as operated the Farwell Stamp Mill and a large sawmill for their mines. The population of Independence grew to 500, and was served by four grocery stores, four boarding houses and three saloons. By 1882, the town had over 40 businesses with three post offices and an estimated population of 1,500 people!


Even though we were visiting at the end of the month of May, there was still areas of heavy snow all around the ghost town site. I could only imagine what the winters were like there, with many feet of snow for months on end from October to May, high winds, avalanches, hail, and cold. Those gold prospectors had to be a hardy bunch, desperate to strike it rich, in order to want to live here.

Placard at the site--click on to enlarge

Most of the buildings were complete ruins with the exception of a few, yet it was interesting to hike around the site and read the informational placards and imagine life in that era.


This is considered to be the general store, one of the buildings in better condition....


....and this well built miner's cabin still stands.


Life was harsh here at 10,900 feet and many miners were lured away from Independence to the milder climate of Aspen where they could also find abundant work, and good pay.


Although mining at Independence proved to be short lived, over $190,000 worth of gold was produced between 1881 and 1882.  The next year production fell to $2,000, and by 1888 only 100 people remained in the town.


In the winter of 1899 the worst storm in Colorado's history cut off the supply routes to Independence. The miners were running out of food so they dismantled their homes to make skis and escaped to Aspen.  It was the end of the town.


To learn more about Independence, and to support its preservation, visit the Aspen Historical Society.


After leaving the Independence Ghost Town we went back on our way on Highway 82 to travel over the pass.


 We could see the road gaining elevation ahead....


...and we entered beautiful snowy landscapes as we traveled higher in elevation.


The view looking down at the Roaring Fork Valley was magnificent!


At last we were at the very top of the pass! There was a parking area and a scenic overlook. The snow at the side of the road was higher than our heads!


We took a photo by the iconic Independence Continental Divide sign...


...and decided to walk to the overlook, as we saw others doing.


Unfortunately, we managed to walk into a snow drift and I began to sink into the snow. At first I thought it was funny until both legs were stuck in snow up above my knees and I could not move!  My husband tried to help me out and then he also sank down into the snow. Two young men thankfully came over and helped us climb out. We were soaked up to our hips, and decided that was the end of our walk.


Back in the car we drove down the rest of Highway 82...


...to its end, in the small scenic community of Twin Lakes.  This area has beautiful views of the Sawatch Mountain Range, including the highest Rocky Mountain in Colorado, Mt Elbert, at 14,440 feet (4401 m)



We then drove onto US 24, and into the town of Leadville, at 10,152 feet, it is the highest incorporated town in the United States. In the late 19th century this silver mining town was the second highest in population in Colorado after the city of Denver. 


We only had time to drive through, but it's historic charm could easily be appreciated and we know we will be back for a longer visit one day soon....


..as we'd also like to ride the scenic Leadville, Colorado and Southern Railroad train!

From Leadville we drove back on I 70 east, and returned home.  It was a very full and exciting day. Colorado has many exciting and interesting places to see, and Independence Pass was definitely worth the trip!

Click here to read part one of our ride over Independence Pass.

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63 comments:

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Oh gosh Pat! I never imagined you would (or could) BOTH get stuck in the snow like that! Guess that won't happen again. Fascinating story about the miners carving skis from the wooden cabins. They must have been quite desperate.

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

It's a beautiful post filled with wonderful images. I enjoyed my tour of the ghost town and pass. I'm not a big snow person so I would not enjoy winter there.

eileeninmd said...

Hello, Pat! Beautiful scenery and snow covered mountains. I can not imagine living with the harsh winters so high up in the mountains. I love the view of the Twin Lakes. Leadville looks like a charming town. Great photos, thanks for sharing. Happy Monday, enjoy your day and new week!

LV said...

You are right. Hardly find many places in Colorado that is not very pretty and historical. Wish I could visit there more, but enjoy it through your lens. That would have been the end for me if I had gotten stuck in the snow. Truly my trips to this awesome part of our country some of my best memories.

Maggie said...

My goodness the people who lived in Independence and surrounding towns had to be made of hearty stuff to have survived the winters and the hard life. I had to smile when I read that they dismantled the cabins, made skis and set off for pastures new in Aspen! You must have been surprised when you sank into the snow and then your husband did too, very lucky that there was someone there to help you out. Another great travel post, I do enjoy seeing your world every Monday morning.

From the Kitchen said...

Oh my, to think of what those who came before went through. What a beautiful area. I'm glad you only sunk up to your knees!! I've often wondered what it would be like to walk across an unknown area covered with snow!!

Best,
Bonnie

J said...

Once again, I'm at the edge of my seat, enjoying every word and every stunning photo! You take us behind the scenes wherever you go and fill us in on things most history books just gloss over...."Mining towns sprang up in Colorado in the late 1800s." - but you brought us inside the homes and tents the people lived in and made us feel the cold and hunger and the desperation to move on when gold and food became scarce. I love your work!

Small City Scenes said...

A beautiful post with wonderful pics and great information.
MB

Sylvia said...

Pat, To have so much so close to home. Love the up to my knees in snow photo. Glad there was someone to help out. Have a great week. Sylvia D.

Connie said...

Hello there, this is my first visit to your blog and I am hooked. So interesting and the photos are wonderful. I don't get to do much traveling, so I travel by tagging along with my blogging sisters. That's what happens when you marry a couch potato . . . but I love him, he's a sweetie, just doesn't enjoy traveling.
Nice to meet you.
Your newest follower,
Connie :)

Linda W. said...

I love exploring old ghost towns! If those crumbling walls could talk what a story they'd tell. Interesting trip, thanks for sharing.

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

Snow...it's hard to imagine on a hot day like today! And I don't think I am rugged enough to live out there the way they did. Although my oldest son went to the mts to pan for gold when he was in college. He spent one summer living out of his car and came home with a small container of gold and a beard! heehee! Hugs!

jeannettestgermain said...

Having been at Yosemite, not even 10 thousand feet, I remember how temps can be so extreme, the sun and wind harsh, so I can imagine that many miners were looking for a milder life! Your captures of the snow are breathtaking! And had the same experience of being stuck over knee-high in the snow - was glad for you it happened, like me with people around to rescue you!
Thanking you for this experience, from All Seasons -have a lovely week, Pat!

Tamar SB said...

Beautiful!!

Photo Cache said...

Someday I will find a way to do a Colorado road trip. So much natural beauty to skip.

Worth a Thousand Words

carol l mckenna said...

Fascinating post and gorgeous photos ~ could live without seeing snow, though ~ LOL

^_^

Janet M said...

Thanks for the lovely photos. I have driven this road before and have vowed never to do it again ;-)

Al said...

There is such abundant natural beauty there - I must get to the area again soon. And yes, little Socks is a Pomeranian.

The Joy of Home with Martha Ellen said...

Wow, Pat, what a wonderful trip! The views are just breathtakingly beautiful. The snow is surprising to see on a hot summer day. Glad a good Samaritan came to the rescue! You and your husband really do take advantage of all the beauty near you. ♥

Ruth Rieckehoff said...

So much interesting history in such a picturesque place! I hope to do this drive one day even thought the "highest pass" title makes me a bit nervous. The gold rush was really short lived and not that lucrative (well, some would love to have that money). Mining towns are some of my favorite places to visit.

Ruth Hiebert said...

The scenes are gorgeous,but I cannot imagine living in a place like that way back then. I think people were hardier back then than they are now.

The Furry Gnome said...

Can't believe those snowy landscapes at this time of year!

Magical Mystical Teacher said...

Leadville is a great little mountain town. Thanks for linking to Blue Monday.

Rajesh said...

Beautiful shots of the place. It is good to see remains of miners cabin.

Jim said...

Great shots.
Sydney – City and Suburbs

Breathtaking said...

Hello,:) Beautiful scenic views of the places you visited, and the history of Independence. It must have been heart breaking for the mining community of Independence way back in 1899, to have to abandon their homes, and make skis out of them to escape the harsh winter. All very interesting, and your photos of the snow covered mountains are all delightful.

Kelleyn Rothaermel said...

Didn't know this place exhisted. Next time I go to Colorado I will have to visit. How fun!

A Colorful World said...

Great photos of the old mining camp! Beautiful being in that mountain pass this time of year! Loved seeing the old cabin and all the gorgeous scenery!

Alexa T said...

Wonderful, wonderful place to travel and to admire nature; such lovely scenes, views and lots, lots of snow...
Many thanks for sharing them in this warm June!!... ;) I would love to see such great place, myself.
Best regards and a lovely summer! Alexa

Lowcarb team member said...

Fabulous photographs and so lovely to see the scenery and mountains covered in snow!
Not fun getting stuck in it though ... glad all ended well.

All the best Jan

Cheryl @ TFD said...

Hi Pat, I've had computer problems so I'm behind in blogland and have a lot of catching up to do. I so enjoy seeing your trips in scenic Colorado! So much beauty and interesting places to visit. Loved this post!

Felicia said...

So many memories come flooding back. I loved Independence Pass and remember seeing the old log cabins of Independence. We didn't walk down to them though. Oh how I wish I could return to beautiful Colorado. Thanks for sharing your wonderful pics.

ellen b. said...

Hello Pat,
Because of the heat we experienced this past weekend I find it refreshing to see this snow in your post! Another great place you've shown to visit. Hope you have a great week.

bettyl-NZ said...

I always feel sad when I see abandoned places like this. And that's the time when I really wish the walls could talk! Your images are great of this part of your journey.

Rhonda Albom said...

That's a lot of snow for the middle of summer. Bad luck about sinking into the snow and getting stuck. It happened to me once when I was young.

Lady Fi said...

What a lot of snow. And such gorgeous old wooden cabins.

NC Sue said...

Interesting to see these shots now as I'm in the midst of a North Carolina summer! Great series. Thanks for sharing at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2017/06/shades-of-purple.html

Marilyn @ MountainTopSpice said...

I LOVED this ride with you! We made the trip over Independence Pass around the 4th of July a few years back, and there was still a bit of snow on the pass then! It is amazing how much snow falls there! I remember it being terribly COLD up there at the summit, lol! It is an absolutely incredible drive. We stopped to see the abandoned ghost town too, lots of sad history there, although I don't remember the part about them dismantling the houses to ski to Aspen, wow. Love your posts, and all the history you share as you travel to each place, I always learn new things from your research. Have a blessed day!

Marilyn @ MountainTopSpice said...

I LOVED this ride with you! We made the trip over Independence Pass around the 4th of July a few years back, and there was still a bit of snow on the pass then! It is amazing how much snow falls there! I remember it being terribly COLD up there at the summit, lol! It is an absolutely incredible drive. We stopped to see the abandoned ghost town too, lots of sad history there, although I don't remember the part about them dismantling the houses to ski to Aspen, wow. Love your posts, and all the history you share as you travel to each place, I always learn new things from your research. Have a blessed day!

Sharon said...

That's a lot of snow! You needed snowshoes! I would love to visit this ghost town. Intriguing, how some buildings have fallen over and some are still standing.

Michelle said...

I sometimes wonder if we have the fortitude that people had back in these times. What strength of character it took! Thanks for linking up today!

Jim said...

Really interesting to see this post.

Spare Parts and Pics said...

That's a beautifully preserved old mining town! Great photos, and thanks for the tour.

Judee Algazi said...

I've never been to Colorado but I'm enjoying your beautiful photos and great information about your travels. It definitely looks cold..

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

Amazing the snow was so deep still. It seems like a lot of ghost towns sprang up overnight and then depopulated just as soon as the gold played out.

LA Paylor said...

you had me at ghost town! I will have to read every word tomorrow, thanks for a fun post! LeeAnna at not afraid of color
ps we're thinking of moving to CO. as a job opened up in Aurora. Rather be in Boulder but...

diane b said...

Wow what a beautiful day trip. Not fun getting trapped in the snow though. Scenery is breathtaking.

Rose said...

I cannot imagine living in a place like this in winter. Shoot, it is hard enough to imagine living in Indiana in some of the primitive cabins back in the day. I do think people were just tougher back then..

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Sinking up to my knees in snow does not sound like a heck of a lot of fun -- you were intrepid explorers to continue to enjoy the scenery after that -- (instead of becoming a huddling mass of shivers like i probably would have done at that point). You two are now true all-weather Coloradoans -- not just wimpy good-weather visitors like some of the rest of us! Congratulations. It is stunning scenery, as is usual for your beautiful state! And such interesting history. (Imagine sinking into the snow from October through May -- every day of your life! not enough gold in the world to make that worthwhile for me!)

Ann said...

Leadville is close to where our Son lives and we have ridden that Leadville train---lots of fun. Don't miss going back.
Ann

Grammy Dee said...

Enjoyed seeing all your photos! What a great place to visit. Can't believe there's still snow in May. Thank you Pat for linking up at the #BloggingGrandmothersLinkParty. I shared this post.

retirementreflections said...

So beautiful, and so much history! Thank you for sharing this #BloggingGrandmothersLinkParty.

Clearissa Coward said...

Beautiful scenery! I would love to take that drive, but only during the summer. Thank you for sharing this post with #BloggingGrandmothersLinkParty.

Sue Loncaric said...

The mountains are just stunning. Thanks for sharing with us at #BloggingGrandmothersLinkParty. I've shared on social media and hope you have a lovely week.
Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

Jim Vail said...

I'm sure I would have been stuck in the snow right there with you! What a gorgeous part of Colorado! Thanks or linking in this week to #wkendtravelinspiration

Ida said...

I think it would be fun to visit a Ghost Town although a bit sad as well. I bet it would have been a difficult life there. - Lovely scenery and gorgeous views of the mountains. I would have been scared to if I'd been stuck in the snow like that. Thank goodness those nice men helped you out.

gideon sockpuppet said...

What a fascinating account of your trip to Independence, and beautiful photos as well! I have always been interested in ghost towns left behind by the mining industry, and have visited many of them, especially in British Columbia, Alberta and the Yukon, but also in the western states. Barkerville is one well-known gold mining town in central British Columbia that has been restored, and it is worth a visit. Nearby is Wells, a former gold-mining town that has been turned into an artists' retreat by its few remaining inhabitants. It was a very rich goldfield, and some gold prospecting and mining is still going on in the area.

Jude

Christie Hawkes said...

What a fascinating trip and beautiful photos. When I see old structures like that, I try to imagine the people that lived there and what they were like. That must have been scary getting stuck like that though. Glad you made it out. Can you imagine if you had to build skis to move on? Thanks for linking up at #BloggingGrandmothersLinkParty.

~Christie

Jann Olson said...

I love going to ghost towns. You and your hubby are seeing so many wonderful things! Thanks for sharing with SYC.
hugs,
Jann

Lori G. Hill said...

Beautiful country & great photos! Thank you for linking up at ‪#BloggingGrandmothersLinkParty‬.

Carol (" Mimi") Benton said...

You've put together a wonderful post to share the gorgeous scenery and rich history of Colorado. Thank you for linking up at #BloggingGrandmothersLinkParty. I’m sharing your link on social media.
Carol (“Mimi”) from Home with Mimi

Mary K.- The Boondocks Blog said...

Pat I cannot believe you had that much snow in May, or any snow at all for that matter. But it was worth the trip, so so beautiful! And your pictures are all so crisp!

aginglikeafinewine.com said...

Colorado is such a beautiful state. I look forward to spending more time there when we are officially retired! Ghost towns are so interesting to me, I love looking around and imagining what it was like in its prime. Hubs and I visited the ghost town of Bodie once; we've also visited Calico ghost town, but it's more commercialized. Thank you for sharing with us at the #BloggingGrandmothersLinkParty! Shared!