For the July 4th holiday Lisa and I decide to skip the traditional activities and head up high into the mountains and when I say high I’m talking over 12,000 feet for a portion of the trip and above 11,000 for other portions.
But, before we get deep into the mountains, we stop back at Bailey, CO to the park and get photos of what I thought was an old RR Wait Station on June 2nd. After taking a few photos and doing some research since we got back, sure enough it is. The below structure is actually what is left of the Glenisle, CO and Grousemont, CO RR Wait Stations that were identical in construction. Both were in such bad shape that to save them they took what was restore-able from both to make a single structure as it looked at both Glenisle and Grousemont.
From there we stop at the top of Kenosha Pass (9,997ft) for a quick break to stretch the legs. I took a quick shot of the reconstructed Wye that sits at the top of the pass since it was easy to see from the highway given the light.
Our primary travel goal of the day is to take three (3) Auto Tours around Alma, CO (Highest Incorporated Municipality in the US at 10,578ft) but nearly all the Tour Auto Signage was getting replaced so it made it tough to know when we reach each place along the tour guide. We started off on the Placer Valley Auto Tour – (Fairplay to Alma) but didn’t find much to take photos of.
We then cut over to the Buckskin Gulch Historic Auto Tour and our first major stop on that route was the old town cemetery that is still used today by Alma. There are many different headstones from days of old and the guide pointed out one related to Thomas Faley that we were able to track down. There were also many military graves here that someone took the time to place a US Flag next to for the holiday (Thank You!) one that was even listed as a Civil War veteran. Here is a photo of Thomas Faley headstone as well as Daniel M Clack of the 2nd Colorado Calvary.
From here we head up higher and find the Hungry Five Mine clinging to the side of the mountain. Don’t be fouled by the telephoto angle, it’s a long way down to the valley floor!!!
We next spot the Paris Mine which too is hanging off the steep side of the same ridge. Here you can better tell that just below the mine is a vertical rock face that drops and drops and drops some more
On our side of the mountain valley is the Paris Mill that Ore was carried down to via cables. You can tell this historic building is being somewhat taken care of for younger generations to see some day…
We will now reach a turn-off to head up towards Windy Ridge but before we get up there we will find what little is left of the Mineral Park Mine. You can start to tell from this photo that we are nearly at tree line…
We will reach the Bristlecone Pine Scenic Area that was been nearly untouched by logging or mining so these trees here are very old and you can tell what this is called Windy Ridge from their shape. At this point we are also at 11,719ft when we start hiking. From here you can also see Alma far below us…
We turn back down from here to the turn off to head back up towards Kite Lake. At this point we are just below three mountain peak that are above 14,000ft that many hikes come here to hike up. If you are going to take those hikes start really early as you do NOT want to be this high when the afternoon lightning storms hit and have no cover so you become the Lightning Rode. Many a hikers die from lightning at these altitudes.
On the way back down we stop to take a photo of one of the local that call this place home. Nice of him to pose for a few shots. Don’t be fouled by his cute looks, this is one tough / mean critter that rules at this altitude.
From here we will head all the way back down to Fairplay, CO (9,953ft) to have lunch at the Brown Burro which is one of our favorite places to eat in this area.
After a wonderful meal we head out for the third Auto Tour; the Horseshoe / Fourmile Historic Auto Tour. As we turn onto County Road 18 from US285 we are now on the old Denver, South Park and Hilltop Railway grade that serviced the mines / mills of what was Leavick, CO. This railroad hauled the our down to the Denver, South Park, and Pacific that would later become part of the Colorado and Southern Railroad. I believe the DSP&H was a bit over 11 miles in length as it headed up the gulch to the old mining town of Leavick.
On the way up, we will pass the old Mudsill Mill that is in need of some TLC or will be lost to time soon. Yes, that is a For Sale sign and there is a fair amount of acreage that comes with the sale…
We will go as far as motorized travel is allowed which is still well below the mine that you can hike up too. We are at 12,061 ft when we park and get out. It’s starting to Rain and clouds are moving in so it’s time to get down of these high mountain trails. Looking back down the road you can see part of the DSP&H roadway we just travel over to get up here. Yes, there are no trees up at this level so we are the lightning rods right now so down we go.
Part way down now below timber line we pull in to the Limber Grove Trail. Part of the trail crosses over the gulch and I notice the heavy timbers are being supported from below are railroad ties, have I found some small part of the DSP&H still here?
Time to head back towards Alma to track down and photograph the old Alma Junction depot. The first time we looked for it we missed it (in plain sight) and after re-reviewing some old photos we realized the back of the depot was to the road and thus mistook it earlier for one of the cabins. (GPS 39°16’11.52″N / 106° 3’10.18″W). This depot too needs some serious restoration $$$ to save it.
We have one more stop to make of this chapter, we head for Breckenridge, CO. You might recall that Colorado and Southern Steam Engine #9 was restored to operations, placed into service on the Georgetown Loop and quickly was broken from over usage. Well, it’s new home is in Breckenridge where it is once again a static display.
It’s getting late and I do have to still work for a living so it’s time to head home. We will stop in Idaho Springs for diner at one of our favorite places there (Buffalo Bar) and then head the rest of the way home. Not a bad One-Day vacation and a way to celebrate July 4th by visiting various historical places and saying Thank You to a few war vets from conflicts of long ago at the Buckskin Gulch Cemetery…
Dinner Idaho Springs