Victor Cripple Creek

20 10 2008

Once we reached about 10,000 feet elevation all of a sudden the terrain abruptly changed. I am not sure if this is altitude related or not, but the forest just gave way to a meadow. Webb pointed out that it reminded him a lot of Tennessee farms.

Victor, Colorado is a mining town of less than 500 residents currently. In the late 1800’s the town was booming with prospectors and miners. The history of the town is quite interesting, you can read more if you follow the link.  History of Victor, Colorado

This is a distant view of Victor, Colorado. The town sits below the tailings of a former large gold mine. This reminds me of mountain top removal mining in KY, the entire mountain in some areas seemed to be nothing but a pile of rubble, and often we know that these areas are poisoned with heavy metals and other waste from the gold mines. To continue the similarities the leftover rubble from the mines are often dumped into valley fills. Below is a photo of one of the mines near Victor and Cripple Creek.

Notice the similarities to Mountaintop Removal mining in Appalachia.

History of Cripple Creek Colorado

Cripple Creek, Colorado was once a city of 50,000 during the Gold Rush years. Now limited stakes gaming has been approved to bring in income to the region.  While in Cripple Creek Webb and I stopped into a little shop and noticed this extremely disturbing sign…

Since it was getting dark and late we decided to drive Northeast to Colorado Springs to access an actual paved highway. We came around the Western side of Pikes Peak through Woodland Park. Below is an image of Pikes Peak viewed from Woodland Park, Co.


Phantom Canyon part deux

18 10 2008

ore photos from our recent trip through Phantom Canyon, CO! In this part of the canyon we are starting to really get up there in elevation.  Canon City is 5,332 ft.  The road climbs slowly, but for reference at the end of the road we are at nearly 10,000 ft.

A picture of our SUV (gas-guzzler 🙂 ) on the side of the road, looks like a commercial. Ford trucks!!!

We found this strange pit mysteriously near the roadside. Don’t know what it’s purpose was.  Mostly I just hoped no one ever fell in, because it was filled with nastiness. There was nothing around to explain what this thing was doing out here in the middle of NOWHERE.

Webb dont JUMP!!!

Webb don't JUMP!!!

As you can see…nastiness…

This is the only remaining original bridge along this road.

Yes those are wooden planks…

More road through the canyon.

A view from the side of the road, one of the many many times we abruptly halted our ascent to take photographs. It took us well over 2.5 hours to complete this trip one-way, but we stopped A LOT. At this point the temperature is dropping quite a bit the higher we go.  The difference between beginning and destination temps was 58-35 degrees F. The leaves at the lower elevations haven’t begun to change, but here the leaves are in full swing. (about 7000 feet)

These are Quaking Aspen. They grow in colonies and share a root system.

There were signs along the road marking where towns used to be during the gold rush.  All of these towns have since disappeared without a trace.

More aspen…

As you know this area of Colorado is famous for it’s major fossil discoveries including a practically complete stegosaurus fossil.  Amazingly we discovered perfectly preserved dinosaur remains in the woods!!!

Poor Barney…

The view at almost 9,000 feet.  You can see the road we drove in on down below as well and the Aspen which tend to follow the creek bed.  Amazingly it is entirely possible that ALL of the yellow Aspens you see in this photo are part of a single root structure.

Of course, Webb waves at the camera from the scenic overlook. It is cold so we keep our hands in our pockets.

Phantom Canyon

16 10 2008

Finally a trip up Phantom Canyon!!!

Here’s some information about the tour from which has a lot of pictures and info about the gold Belt Tour and the surrounding area. This was a great resource for us while planning this trip.

Phantom Canyon Road was built to connect Florence, CO to the mines in Cripple Creek and the surrounding area. From 1894 to 1912, railroad cars filled with gold ore rolled down Phantom Canyon feeding up to nine processing mills running day and night in Florence.

It was 1890 when Bob Womack made the gold strike that started the Cripple Creek Gold Rush. Since that time, more than 500 mines in the Cripple Creek and Victor Mining District have produced over 21 million ounces of gold – more than the Alaska and California Gold Rushes put together. Gold is still being produced in the District.

The terrain begins in the dessert-like scrub and makes some pretty intense transitions to thick evergreen and aspen cover and then to meadow up around 10,000 feet.

The majority of the land along this route is owned by the Bureau of Land Management particularly on the lower portion of the road. Since 1996, Phantom Canyon has been designated an Area of Critical Environmental Concern by the Bureau of Land Management.

Here is a shot as we are entering the canyon as the blacktop becomes a dirt road. The green you see to the right is the path of the creek which carved this canyon. At the time the creek is barely 3 feet wide and patchy (even following a pretty recent rainfall) but there are numerous reports of 30 foot flash floods racing down the canyon.

There are two tunnels along this route, the Upper and Lower Tunnel. The entire road is a converted narrow-gauge railroad path.

Lower Tunnel

There are some pretty steep drops, especially as you emerge from the upper Tunnel.

Upper Tunnel

This next picture shows one of the cuts blasted out for the railway.  There is literally only room for one car here, and just beyond there is a sharp curve and STRAIGHT down.  We were very fortunate to encounter another truck just as we emerged from this spot…of course we took the right side allowing the oncoming vehicle to risk sliding off the edge.

Notice how the trees have changed to evergreens…big tall ones!

From the Gold Belt Tour Website

From the Gold Belt Tour Website

Up further we pulled off and explored some of the camping, hiking in the area and found this creek and large fire pit.

Oil Well Flats

20 09 2008

On Thursday we went camping again. Take two, for the BLM, only this time we hoped that our plans wouldn’t be ruined by the 31% chance for rain. After watching the weather like a hawk, with clear skies we decided to begin packing a head in that direction (if the weather changed we would just go home). After packing grey clouds began to roll in, after eating drip drops of very light rain, in the drive-thru to get coffee monstrous scary lightning everywhere but no rain. Once I convinced Webb that, “clearly the weather is quickly moving east and if you look west the skies are clear and the weather will be nice, and please please please let’s at least drive up there.”

We had our spot all picked out, but when we got out there someone was already there parked behind a tree doing God knows what.  So we went about 2 miles further back into the area and found the most awesome campsite ever. We will definitely be returning to this location for future camp-outs.  It’s on the top of a hill over looking the canyon.  Off in the distance to the south you could see some lights from Canon City twinkling in the distance. It had a great fire pit already built and used, flat vegetation-free ground, and a nice little pull in for the car. It was GREAT. When we first arrived it was raining (barely). Enough to make us re-think our decision, but it stopped right after we got the tent set up and the fire lit. The only drawback was that it was almost too quiet at night, and every sound was the sound of a bear or mountain lion contemplating ripping open the tent and having a midnight snack.

This is where the tent was, actually very comfortable.

This is where the fire-pit was, very cozy, and you could sit on the big rock to the left.

The sun was shining so brightly that Webb couldn’t open his eyes to see who he was waving to.

Red Canyon

13 09 2008

On Thursday Webb and I took one look at the weather report for the evening and decided to cancel our planned camping trip.  Since “weather” wouldn’t arrive until about 5-6pm we decided to make a trip a few miles north of Canon City to Red Canyon (literally 10-15 minutes outside of town).  The entire Red Canyon area is a mix of Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Public Park owned by the City, and private land.  The rock formations out here are absolutely amazing and reminds me of a much cooler and less touristy version of Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. We did a cursory exploration of the park and plan to come back and explore A LOT more in the coming weeks.

Webb and i climbed up to the very tippy top of this formation, there is a neat cave-like place up there where someone has clearly had a camp-fire.

This is a view of Red Canyon Park from the top of the rock formation.

Below is our truck.

I thought this tree looked really interesting against the sandstone rocks.

We didn’t get to go see these towering rocks on this trip, but plan to make our way over there on our next trip. They may look small from here, but they are actually very far away in this photo. Not sure if the road winds over that way, or if we will need to find a foot trail. Still, I’m really excited to see these up close and personal.

Other pictures for the trip…

Tunnel Drive: Trip includes REAL Tunnels

8 08 2008
Tunnel Drive has cacti

Tunnel Drive has cacti, this one stuck out over the trail, it is probably the most common type of cactus in this area.

unnel Drive is actually not a “drive” but a hiking trail. It overlooks the Arkansas River and railroad tracks from the entrance of the Gorge at the west edge of Cañon City to about the 1.1 mile marker into the Royal Gorge. It is a narrow trail, originally constructed as an irrigation ditch that winds its way among the foothills and through three tunnels of solid granite west of the city.

Yesterday I decided to go check it out during the afternoon and take some pictures. Later I took Webb up there to check out some of the scenery. Below is the sign placed at the entrance to the trail head.

I’m intrigued by the rule which states “alcoholic beverages allowed by special permit only.” A little further up the trail you come across this lovely welcome.

There are lots of warnings for this trail

There are lots of warnings for this trail, this one at the entrance was a little disconcerting. "Trail Subject to the Following Hazards, Cave-ins or Land Slides" WHAT?!?!?!

The trail offered scenic views of the river and railroad tracks

The trail offered scenic views, this one is right past the entrance to the trail.

The river and railway

The river and railway, considering the surrounding area, the river area is so green

Grape Creek meets the Arkansas River

Grape Creek meets the Arkansas River

These are the first two MUCH smaller tunnels

These are the first two MUCH smaller tunnels

Tunnel Drive has real tunnels!!!

Tunnel Drive has real tunnels!!! There are no lights in there, it gets pretty dark and windy inside.

Do not throw or roll rocks over the side of trail

Do not throw or roll rocks over the side of trail, entrance to the longest of the three tunnels

Once you get inside the tunnel you walk maybe 150 feet to the exit. Very dark, the following is a photo from about 20 feet inside the tunnel entrance.

Inside the largest tunnel

Inside the largest tunnel

This is a view up the side of the trail.  Dont let the picture fool you its really really far to the top!

This is a view up the side of the trail. Don't let the picture fool you it's really really far to the top!

Sunday Morning Coming Down

7 08 2008

One of the unexpected (for me) consequences of moving to a small town is how early things close. Especially on Sundays when everything is shuttered and locked by 3pm. Although I don’t actually find this surprising it is one of the many things which I neglected to consider when relocating. It also requires a complete overhaul of your typical city-girl mentality.

If you drive down the main drag (US 50) or Main Street on a Sunday afternoon you will see hardly anyone. You might see the occasional converted school bus preparing to take a group of rafters out to the river for some whitewater rafting, but that’s about it, and only before noon. Although just a few weeks ago the State of Colorado repealed an old “blue law” from the 1930’s banning the sale of alcohol on Sundays, most liquor stores remain closed on Sundays regardless. Don’t assume that this is a big problem for me, just a simple observation. 🙂

I used to complain that places closed at 9pm on Sundays in Louisville, but that is laughable now. If a place is even open on Sunday at all it closes by 3pm, except Office Depot which shuts down at 6pm. And of course there is the 24/7 Wal-mart, thank Jeebus.

I recently discovered that soon many stores will begin closing early (or simply closed) on many weekdays. Something to do with the summer ending and the tourists. Webb has explained to me that this problem is easy to overcome thanks to the gifts of the internet. Now I may have been born at an age where reliance on the internet is a given, BUT I like to try on things or hold them in my hand before I fork over my information to some whack-o on the internet. Maybe my fear is a little over stated, but I can’t help it. I guess I’ll have to get over that too.

I’m sure by the time I come to appreciate this trend it will be time to leave town for good.