Mesa Verde National Park – Continued
Mesa Verde – Cedar Tree Tower
Mesa Verde – Far View Sites
Mesa Verde – Geologic Overlook
… and as Lisa jokes, I found some RR stuff even here!
As we continue our journeys we head up to Wolf Creek Pass (10,857 ft.)
We had also planned a side trip up to Lobo Overlook but we were shocked to find the gate still closed
So down the road we went to the Charles Stith Overlook 37 27.015 N / 106 53.353 W for some great views of the valley below and the interesting geology here as well.
Our next stop is to hike up to Treasure Falls 37 26.553 N / 106 52.639 W
Time for lunch so we pull into Pagosa Springs for a bite to eat…
It’s time for some Railfanning and this time we are off to find the D&RGW Florida River Bridge 37 12.861 N / 107 44.851 W
We then head for Durango where we heard a new Steam Engine is being setup and restored in the park; Emma Sweeney. They are doing a great job and got a chance to talk to the team for a bit while I was there…
Time to head over to Mesa Verde National Park to get info on our planned morning hike. This is also our first time to see the new Visitor Center.. Much larger and modern then the old one…
As we start off our fifth day of our vacation I stop at a gas station in Monte Vista and I am shocked to see a train station where one should not be. See, the Monte Vista depot is gone yet it looks to be right there where it once was. Well, after some research, I had to laugh. See, in 1953 Bob Richardson and Carl Helfin built a replica of the Rio Grande Southern’s Mancos depot for the Narrow Gauge Museum & Motel south of Alamosa. That depot is also very similar to the one that was once here in Monte Vista. When Bob moved the Narrow Gauge Museum to Golden in 1958, the building remained at the Narrow Gauge Motel. Sometime later, it was moved to Cole Park in Alamosa and was used as their County Chamber of Commerce building. The city of Alamosa since decided to do an expansion of the municipal buildings at Cole Park and the depot building was in the way. SLRG purchased the building for use in Monte Vista. Here is a historic photo postcard of the original Monte Vista Depots (Freight & Passenger) along with the photo I took of depot that now stands here today.
I will also get shots of RAMPART RANGE CORPORATION RRBX #2095
and of AMERICAN RAILCAR LEASING, INC. SHPX #203212 tankers
Next stop is Del Norte, CO where we track down the D&RGW Depot
Also here in town is Denver and Rio Grande Western Caboose #0580
As we head into South Fork for our next two historic structures we spot a Railfan opportunity and stop for a few photos. We find Santa Fe Passenger Car #36, a diesel engine labeled White Satin / Brighten with what looks to be NO-1, and a old Seaboard Coast Line Passenger Car now labeled PPCX #6401.
Across from them is our first historic structure we were searching for; the South Fork D&RGW Water Tank.
Our other historic structure we had on our search list was the D&RGW Depot of South Fork, CO
Today this is also used as a tourist line but they are closed so we will make plans to return here someday. But, that didn’t stop me from taking a few photos include one of the Hy-Rail truck of the new D&RG Railway labeled the Wagon Wheel Gap Route ( South Fork / Creede )
The second half of the day is primarily about Railfanning; our way, which is searching out remnants of railroad history…
As we pass through La Jara, CO we stop by the depot. When we were here in 2005 it was being used as the Town Hall but now it looks to be back in railroad usage. This was originally a D&RGW Passenger Depot.
We next head over to Antonito to check on the Ex-Conejos Depot that is endangered. The stone work makes this a unique building and is worth saving so I hope someone can obtain the funds and purpose to keep it from being lost to history.
Also here in Antonito is a historic hotel that belonged to the D&RGW that was built in 1890 and was called the Palace Hotel. Railroads of the past often owned destination hotels / resorts / ships to maximize their revenue.
As we head up over La Manga Pass (10,230ft) we stop at the Scenic Overlook on the eastern side; nice views!
We swung over to Cumbres Pass just to see what we might catch of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad but no trains in sight. I will take a photo of one of the large trestles near Los Pinos from afar.
Also get a photo of the Los Pinos Water Tank from a different location
One last photo for the day would be to get a nice shot of the Cumbres Pass Trestle that I had never gotten in the past.
That’s it for Day #4 of our nine day trip…
Our next stop will be at the Colorado Gators Reptile Park; yes, you read that right…
This is a Family Operated / Active Fish Farm with Gators and other Reptiles / Birds they have “rescued” from pet owners that didn’t understand what they had. So, it’s a bit of a tourist trap but it is also worth a stop if you are in the area and have the time to help them pay the bills.
I would also find some unexpected Railfanning while here as they had a couple of Boxcars used as storage sheds. Both are likely old Burlington Northern units that were later listed as RBWX (WESTERN FRUIT EXPRESS CO.) The location is roughly: Mosca, CO – 37 42.352 N / 105 52.160 W
After spending time walking through that facility taking photos and enjoying Lisa hold a baby gator it was time to leave.
Before calling it a night we will swing over to the Great Sand Dunes to take a few evening photos and get information on a trail we plan to hike in the morning.
As we move our base-camp to new location tonight, we head over Wilkerson Pass (9,507ft) and stop to take in the views
We will next track down a historic railroad location ( 38.911254°N / 105.975374°W ) where the Colorado Midland Railroad and the Denver, South Park, and Pacific Railroad crossed. What remains are only the roadbeds and a bit of trestle abutments of the Colorado Midland.
We head over to Johnson Village (near Buena Vista) to find what remains of the Denver, South Park, and Pacific Railroad over the Arkansas River. Without going below US24 you would never see it as the built the highway over the top of it.
We will then head up to Monarch Pass to take a ride up on the Tramway; COLD & WINDY ride
I will also photograph an piece of Snow Removal equipment in the parking lot; you can see snow is still here
We will then head over Poncha Pass (9,010ft) on our way to our next destination but something we didn’t expect to see catches my eye at 38.394426° N / 106.058884° W. It looks to be the remains of the Steam Era Water Tank which should make it Denver & Rio Grande Western. Research: Round Hill
This area today is being heavily mined by what is known as the Cresson surface mine. Because of this, the historical structures in the area are moved (the best they can) so where you find things one year might be different the next. This was very true on this trip as we found various things moved again…
After crossing 250-foot bridge over Arequa Gulch that was constructed by the Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Company we head into the next section. We are expecting to stop to take photos on structure on the left side of the road but are surprised to see a Headframe on the right. After a bit of research, I determine it’s from the Golden Wedge Mine. This headframe was originally at 38.727941° N / 105.157534° W but it’s been moved to 38.724918° N / 105.167238° W now.
To our left we find the Nichol’s Mine as expected at 38.722430° N / 105.165642° W
Next down the valley is the El Paso Mine at 38.719252° N / 105.170454° W
Farther yet down the valley is the Mary Nevin Mine at 38.718397° N / 105.175245° W
As you continue on State Highway 67 we will reach a timber wall or cribbing on the right that supported the dump rock of the Mary MacKinney Mine. This cribbing was originally placed here to permit the passage of the Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad (F&CC) on what is now the highway. You can start to see how the current Cresson surface mine is pushing down hill into this area.
As we make the tight turn in the highway, this is where Anaconda, CO once stood and the railroad once also had a depot that is now in Cripple Creek used by the tourist railroad today. We will stop after making the curve in the highway where we can get more of a panoramic view of the changes that have occurred since we were last here.
As we look to our left down the highway we just passed over we can now clearly see why the Golden Wedge Mine Headframe was moved as the Cresson surface mine has pushed into that location now. We also note the old Blacksmith Shop building is missing (unknown status) and can barley make out where the old dept once stood now. What was once left of Anaconda’s ghost town is nearly gone now and what remains will be gone soon…
Rotating clockwise, the cribbing of the Mary MacKinney Mine is back in view of the camera again.
Rotating clockwise again, you can truly see between all these three photos the impact the Cresson surface mine is having now. It won’t be long and this entire area will be transformed.
Zooming in, I will also capture a closer view of the Chicken Hawk Mine at 38.726301° N / 105.163991° W. I wonder how much longer it will remain.
Here is a couple of Goggle Earth Images from 2001 and 2012 of the Cresson surface mine to show growth over ~10 years of mining operations. Anaconda, CO stood basically where you see the hairpin curve in the highway in the middle of these images