Monday, March 30, 2020

Leadville, Colorado



Thank you to all who commented on my last post about the coronavirus pandemic and for your encouraging words. This is a serious time in history and hopefully, we will all stay well and persevere. We continue to stay home as much as possible to help "flatten the curve" and practice "social distancing" when we do have to go out.

 I am continuing to blog about Colorado and some wonderful places my husband and I visited last fall.  After we visited the ghost mining towns of Vicksburg and Winfield in the Sawatch Mountain Range----click here to read that post-- we drove on US Route 24 towards Leadville. Colorado.  We stopped along the way to take the photo above of the Arkansas River.




It was a scenic drive and we saw distant waterfalls and autumn foliage



Leadville, Colorado is a former silver mining town that lies among the headwaters of the Arkansas River in the heart of the Rocky Mountains.  Its elevation is at 10,200 feet (3,094m).


Please click on to enlarge

Leadville is quite proud of its mining history and its distinct position of having the highest elevation of any city in the United States.  It also has a rich history of fortune-seeking miners and infamous outlaws. Wealthy businessman Horace Tabor, the Silver King, and his second wife Baby Doe, gun-slinging dentist Doc Holliday, Margaret "Molly" Brown, and Meyer Guggenheim are just a few frontier characters who contributed to the town’s history.


Leadville is situated between two mountain ranges, the Mosquito Range to the east and the Sawatch Range to the west and the mountains dominate the horizon, one of which is Mount Elbert, the highest summit of the Rocky Mountains of North America and the highest point in Colorado  An ultra-prominent 14,440-foot (4,401 m) fourteener, Mount Elbert is the highest summit of the Sawatch Range and the second-highest summit in the contiguous United States after Mount Whitney in California. The other prominent mountain is Mount Massive, at 14,428 ft (4,398 m).  It is the second-highest summit in the Rocky Mountains and state of Colorado, and the third-highest in the contiguous United States.


This was our second visit to Leadville, In our first visit we took a ride on the historic Leadville Colorado and Southern Railroad--click here to see that post.  We walked up and down its main street admiring all the victorian era buildings.


Horace Tabor's Opera House in Leadville was the most costly structure in Colorado at the time. Building materials were brought by wagons from Denver. The massive three-story opera house, constructed of stone, brick, and iron, opened on November 20, 1879. Tabor, originally from Vermont, became the town's first mayor. After striking it rich, he had an estimated net worth of 10 million dollars and was known for his extravagant lifestyle.


The Legendary Silver Dollar Saloon caught our eye and we went inside to explore it.



This historic bar opened in 1879 and has hosted some famous names from Oscar Wilde to Doc Holliday. It's filled with photos from the past and such memorabilia.


An interesting mural along the street was of the legendary Tenth Mountain Division skiers from Camp Hale, located 16 miles north of Leadville.

Please click on to enlarge

My husband and I visited the Camp Hale area along the Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway--click here to read that post. After two years of rigorous training, the Tenth Mountain Division was ordered to Italy in 1945 to prepare for an advance of the U.S. Army. They breached the supposedly impregnable Gothic Line in the Apennines and secured the Po River Valley to play a vital role in the liberation of northern Italy. By the time the German surrendered in May 1945, 992 ski troopers had lost their lives and 4,000 were wounded. This was the highest casualty rate of any U.S. division in the Mediterranean.


One place we did not get a chance to visit this trip to Leadville as it was too late in the day was The National Mining Hall of FameIt is known as the "Smithsonian of the Rockies" and the "Premier Showcase of American Mining" the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum houses 25,000 square feet of interactive and informative exhibits sharing the evolving narrative of mining and its relationship to our everyday lives.  


Before we left Leadville to go back to our hotel in Buena Vista, we stopped by Turquoise Lake.


Located five miles west of Leadville, Turquoise Lake is one of Colorado’s favorite high-altitude recreation destinations. Dammed in the 19th century and named for the rare turquoise deposits found nearby, Turquoise Lake offers 1,800 acres or year-round recreational fun.


We also passed the Mt, Massive Golf Course on the ride back. It's North America's Highest Gold Course! My husband had to call all his golfing buddies back in New York to tell them all about it. It certainly had some beautiful views.


One other place we visited in Leadville was Horace Tabor's Matchless Mine.  It deserves a post of its own, as it also tells the scandalous and tragic story of the time of "Baby Doe" one of the most talked-about women of the time--more in my next post!

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Sunday, March 22, 2020

Coronavirus: Staying Home But Keeping Hope



Last week I was so sad and upset by the growing threat of the novel Coronavirus that I decided to take a short break from blogging to regroup my thoughts and to take a break from social media. I honestly could not concentrate on anything for very long.  I'm sure all the dire information I was hearing triggered a bit of PTSD that lingered in my psyche from my time when I lived in New York City post 9-11 when we were so uncertain as to what the future held.  

As of Sunday afternoon, public health officials in Colorado confirmed that there were 591 cases of COVID-19 in 29 counties, and around 5,436 people had been tested. There were 58 people hospitalized and 7 deaths.  Sadly, those numbers are all rising every day. 



This week, however, I feel more in control and more confident that as a state, nation, and world, we will eventually return to a normal life.  It may be for the long term, but I can "stay home," I can do "social isolation," and limit my contact with others.  I can take responsibility for my health and the health of those I love by reducing contact with others to "flatten the curve" of how quickly this virus spreads so that our hospitals are not overwhelmed by those needing care. I am so grateful for the doctors, nurses and first responders, and all other essential workers that must still expose themselves to regular work in order to take care of us and keep us safe.




My heart goes out to those who lost their jobs and are worrying about paying bills and rent or mortgages.  I know many students will most likely be home for the rest of the school year and are missing their friends, teachers and special school events and parents have had to scramble to find childcare or homeschool resources. I know vacation plans have been canceled, as well as holiday plans. It is a new dystopian world right now in most places, but in accepting all of these sacrifices we are saving lives, maybe even our own.




Right now, most public places have closed in Colorado. Most schools, churches, restaurants, bars, gyms, salons, entertainment venues,  ski resorts, and even Rocky Mountain National Park have been closed. Many people are working from home or have reduced their workplace density, and workplaces of essential workers have reduced staff as much as possible. The Colorado State Parks are still open, and we are fortunate that we still have many open space trails available where we can have solo recreation and enjoy the outdoors. In fact, all of the photos in this post I took along a trail in my neighborhood. 


Neighbors are helping neighbors, and we are all trying to keep as busy as possible.  Life goes on as best as possible. 




This was our St. Patrick's Day! Usually, my entire family will gather for our traditional Corned Beef and Cabbage dinner and Irish Soda Bread dinner, but this year it was only my husband and I.  Neighbors had a fun idea to organize a St Patrick's Day parade of decorated cars to go through our neighborhood to share some cheer, and it really did cheer me up to go outside and see them pass by. 



This is a local news story about this event. You can also click on my Mille Fiori Favoriti Facebook link here to see it.

Next week I'll go back to my regular blog posts about Colorado, as I have much to share from prior trips we took, and I hope those posts will be a welcome distraction from the ongoing situation. I look forward to seeing how you all have been spending your time.  Please stay healthy and please keep hope that we will all get through this unusual time together!


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 Hearth, and Soul Link PartyYou Are the Star Blog Hop, Inspire Me Monday,  Good Random FunNature NotesGrand SocialTravel Photos, Photo TunesHappiness Is HomemadeOver the Moon, Our World TuesdayRuby TuesdayTuesday Turn AboutTuesdays With A TwistLet's Keep In TouchWordless Wednesday on a TuesdaySay Cheese!,  Party in Your PJ'sWordless WednesdayNanahood WWOh My Heartsie Girl's Wonderful Wednesday, Your Whims WednesdayWorldless  Wednesday My Corner of the WorldWonderful Wednesday Little Things ThursdayThankful ThursdayThursday Encouraging Hearts and HomeFull Plate ThursdayFriendship FridaysFriday Features Linky Party, Skywatch Friday,   Pink SaturdaySaturday Critters
 Grammys Grid-Month Long Linky Party

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Monday, March 9, 2020

Ghost Towns of Vicksburg and Winfield, Colorado



In autumn of 2019, my husband and I took a scenic drive in Colorado into Clear Creek Canyon, between Buena Vista and Leadville, Colorado to visit the silver mine ghost towns of  Vicksburg and Winfield.


We took Highway 24 north from Buena Vista until we reached County Road 390/Clear Creek Reservoir.  CR 390 is an unpaved dirt/gravel road but it is easily traveled by a regular car or SUV.  The surrounding trees along the road and high up in the Sawatch Mountain Range had the beginnings of beautiful autumn color.




There were many beautiful mountain views along the drive.



In about nine miles we reached the town of Vicksburg.



Vicksburg was founded in 1867 after prospectors from Leadville, Colorado, who were camping out in the Clear Creek Canyon lost their burros. The burros had wandered down the creek and when the miners found their pack animals, they discovered gold in the creek bed as well. More than gold, however, the surrounding area was rich in silver and copper. Early miners brought in "Balm of Gilead" (balsam poplar) trees on the backs of burros and planted them to line the main street of Vicksburg, where they still remain


Vicksburg was the second largest town in the canyon, with around 600-700 people during its peak. A museum is open here on some weekends during the summer, run by the Clear Creek Historical Society.  Many of the cabins in Vicksburg are now privately owned and seasonally occupied.


Quite a few interesting vintage mining implements and machines were on display around the cabins.




After visiting Vicksburg we continued on our drive...



...passing an area that obviously suffered an avalanche in winter at one time as many aspen trees lay broken on their sides along the side of the road.



Between Vickburg and Winfield is a small assortment of cabins for rent where more silver-boom towns once stood -- the towns of Rockdale and Silverdale. There are rustic cabins available for daily rent here. We spoke with a forest ranger who was sweeping out a cabin and she told us fishermen, hikers, mountain climbers, etc, rent the cabins all summer.




Continuing on for about five miles we reached the end of the county road and the town of Winfield.




Winfield was founded in 1861 with the first recorded silver prospecting done in 1867. Located on 120 acres at the junction of the north and south forks of Clear Creek, the town made lots of 50×100 free to anyone who desired to build there. In its prime, around 1890, some 1500 people lived in town. The silver market crash and depression in 1893 halted the mining activity in Clear Creek Canyon. There was a resumption in the early 1900s and the last ore was hauled out of the canyon by two-horse wagon in 1918.



Please click on photo to enlarge it


The history of the town is displayed in an open book in the Winfield schoolhouse window.




Two of the buildings are open as a museum during the summer, hosted by members of the Clear Creek Historical Society, while the rest are now privately owned and occupied seasonally.




There were quite a few trailheads located at the end of Winfield. The Winfield Cemetery was a quarter mile down a narrow winding road that would require high clearance 4WD.  Although 26 people are buried there, only two stone marker stones for children remained. In 2016, a descendant of one of the men buried there worked with the historical society to clean up the cemetery and place wooden crosses on the graves.  If you would like to see a local Denver news video about that effort and the story click here.



Can you imagine living such a rugged life at 10,000 feet, all because of hopes and dreams of finding riches in the surrounding mountains? The gold and the silver rush is the pioneer story of the state of Colorado and became the "boom and bust" of many a town.  To see more Colorado mining ghost towns visit my post on the Independence Pass Ghost Town--click here--and Saint Elmo Ghost Town--click here.


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Monday, March 2, 2020

Crested Butte to Monarch Pass--an Oh Be Joyful Route!




In my last post--click here-- my husband and I drove from Buena Vista, Colorado, over Cottonwood Pass to Almont and then Crested Butte, Colorado, where we decided to stop for lunch before continuing back to Buena Vista, using Monarch Pass for the return trip.


When we entered Crested Butte, the skies opened up and it began to rain heavily.  We parked about midway on Elk Avenue, which is the main street in town and had delicious sandwiches at The Last Steep Cafenamed after the Owners’ favorite North Face ski run at Crested Butte Mountain Resort and Ski Area.




This was our second visit to this colorful and bohemian style Colorado ski town.  On our first visit, we happened to arrive in town on the day of "Vinotok," which is a storytelling and fall harvest festival with ancient roots and is a long-standing annual event in Crested Butte, that takes place on the autumnal equinox.  If you missed that post you can read it here.  It is a really very colorful and raucous celebration!   More about the town of Crested Butte and our visit can be read here.


The rain had decreased to a light drizzle so we walked along Elk Ave. a bit after lunch enjoying the sights...



...and all the beautiful flowers that were everywhere in town.




The name "Oh Be Joyful" is common in Crested Butte. There is a gallery, a church, a creek, a trail, and a recreation area with that name. From what I could find after doing some research is that the Oh-be-Joyful name was first applied to the creek in the 19th century after valuable ore was discovered in the gulch.  I think it is the perfect description for the entire joyful town!



 As we drove out of Crested Butte we passed beautiful scenery...



...and drove towards the Sawatch Mountains and scenic Monarch Pass.






Monarch Pass is located on the Continental Divide at the southern end of the Sawatch Range along the border between Gunnison and Chaffee counties, approximately 25 miles (40 km) west of the town of Salida.



During the summer, an aerial tram from the parking lot at the summit carries visitors to the top of Monarch Ridge above the pass (at approximately 12,000 feet (3,700 m) above sea level), allowing a wider view of the surrounding peaks. During the winter, visitors enjoy skiing at Monarch Ski Area. Monarch Mountain Lodge is located about 5 miles from the summit of the pass.




The pass can be traversed by all vehicles under most conditions and is generally open year-round; however, 7% grades exist, and the area is prone to heavy winter snowfall, often resulting in temporary closures during severe winter storms.



An automated weather station (AWOS), provided by the Federal Aviation Administration, is located atop Monarch Pass, providing pilots of small aircraft access to real-time weather conditions near the summit.




There are many curves and downhill grades on Monarch pass but the views are spectacular!  If you'd like to see some photos of how it looks in winter on a ride we made to Telluride. Colorado, click here.



As we descended out of Monarch pass we passed the remnants of the Madonna Mine, a lead, zinc, and silver mine located at an elevation of 10,751 feet which was mined from 1883 until 1953.



Soon, we were back on the Collegiate Peaks Scenic and Historic Byway on our way back to our hotel in Buena Vista, Colorado.  We were not finished exploring the area and would head the next day towards some mining ghost towns near Leadville--more in a future post.


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 Mosaic Monday, All SeasonsBlue Monday, Through My Lens MondayLittle Cottage Link Party
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