Part 7: Leadville, CO to Canyon City, CO


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The Trip

We left Leadville and intended to head to a lower (and therefore warmer) area.  For a variety of reasons, we ended up at 11 Mile Reservoir and stayed for 2 nights.  From there we headed to Black Forest, CO northeast of Colorado Springs to visit our friends Becky and Peter.  After Colorado Springs, we headed west toward Divide, CO to visit with our friends Kent and Taydie.  From Divide, we headed south toward Cripple Creek and Victor then on to Canyon City.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

We arrived at 11 Mile late in the day and the wind was blowing at least 30mph sustained.  It was cold outside, but OK inside the camper.  That said, the morning was cold.  From our campsite we could see out toward 11 Mile Reservoir and the hills beyond.

Around dusk I spotted this herd of 8 deer wandering through camp.

On our descent from 11 Mile we passed Woodland Park and got a nice view of Pike's Peak.

We traveled to Black Forest to visit our friends Becky and Peter and were greeted with several days of windy, cold and overcast weather.  When the weather finally broke we got another nice view of Pike's Peak, but from the east side.  Note the new snow on the mountain; it snowed on us the previous day, but happily we were in their home when the storm hit.

From Black Forest we headed west again back to Divide, CO to visit our friends Kent and Taydie.  Taydie is quite the horsewoman and they have a huge indoor arena with hay storage and horse stalls.

They have a very nice home as well and we watched deer browse nearby pastures from their dinner table.

From Divide we headed south toward Victor, CO and nearby Cripple Creek.  As we crossed over Victor Pass, we got a sweeping view of the Sangre de Christo Mountains in the distance.

Across the road from the viewpoint, nearly at the crest of the pass, there was an abandoned railroad passenger car rotting into nothingness.

On the descent from Victor Pass we encountered this head frame from one of the local gold mines.

Victor struck me as a low-budget Leadville with the same classical turn-of-the-century architecture.  Note the dates on the buildings.  We were able to park Thor right on the main street.

We checked out several places to eat, but settled upon the Fortune Club.  It was only after we had eaten a great lunch that we saw this sign on the side of the building.

Victor is a very small town as noted by the combined mall/hotel.

Across from the restaurant was another old building currently being used by Newmont Mining as part of administrative offices for their local gold extraction efforts.

Across the street was a "museum" of mining artifacts.  There were plenty of old devices and components from the local mines.  Above is a hoist drum used with wire rope to hoist ore from deep underground.

The drums had an impressive gear train to drive it.

No exhibit of mining artifacts is complete without an ore cart.

From the museum area we could see a number of old head frames from the abandoned mines.  Tailings were dumped nearly everywhere.

We left Victor and continued on toward Cripple Creek and passed this huge "heap leach" mountain being run by Newmont.  I could not confirm the exact business arrangement, but it seems that they are moving old tailings to their leach field and using chemicals to extract any remaining gold.  Back in the old days, arsenic was used to leach the gold, but I am not sure they use the same process today.

This herd of deer were grazing on the side of the road near the leach pile.

Another mile down the road we passed another huge leach mountain.

It seemed as if nearly every hill had a head frame on it.

I spotted equipment moving at the top of the mountain and managed to stop Thor in time to get a shot of one of the earth movers dumping on the mountain.

On a different ridge of the mountain we spotted another truck dumping.  These trucks are huge with tires 3m (9 feet) in diameter.  Occasionally, the bank collapses sending the truck tumbling down the hillside.

Kent, who is very familiar with the area, told us that we needed to take Shelf Road from Cripple Creek into Canyon city, so we did.  The road was quite steep and required nearly constant use of Thor's exhaust brake.  Into the main canyon we came upon a window in a dike of volcanic rock.

A few switchbacks further down the trail and we were on the downhill side of the window.

We did a bio-stop below 7,000 feet altitude and spotted this fellow in the middle of the road.  (Altitude is important to reptiles as the temperature determines there activity level and therefore their ability to survive.) I saw him for some distance so we were able to stop and not run over him.

Rattlesnakes have always looked evil to me.  And, over the years, they have cost me a ton of money.  Back in the day, one of our mares got bitten on her snout by a 2 foot rattlesnake.  Her head swelled up so bad that it impacted her ability to breathe.  We had to put in a tracheostomy tube and leave it in for 4 days until the swelling decreased so she could breathe again.  Some days later I found and killed the snake but that did little to address the multi-thousand dollar vet bill.  Later, my dog was bitten by a different snake.  Snake venom is a hemolytic enzyme and it plays hell on mammalian tissue (rather like what human saliva does to white bread -- it dissolves it).  Hot tip: stay clear, watch where you walk, look before you squat and don't get bit.

We rolled into Canyon City, CO with the expectation of going to the Royal Gorge train terminal and getting tickets for the following day's tour.  No such luck as the office was closed.  But, as a consolation prize we did see the train.

The motor looked new, but it is likely just a new paint job.  We will get the technical low-down tomorrow during the tour.

The train station was next to the Arkansas River right in the center of Canyon City.  The city had a nice park area along the banks of the river.  The train tracks follow the Arkansas River west into the mountains through Royal Gorge.

Tomorrow we will take the train through Royal Gorge.  It should be an interesting trip with plenty of good scenery.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2018, all rights reserved.
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