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Dates of visit:
Sept. 30, 2006 -
Oct. 18, 2006

We rate this trip a:

Trip Highlights:
 Scenic byways
 Ghost towns
 Mountain vistas
 Hiking
 Autumn colors
 Small towns
 National Parks
 National Monuments
 Las Vegas
 

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*** Colorado ***
*** Wolf Creek Pass ***
*** Creede Ghost Town & Bachelor Loop ***
*** Lake City & Henson Ghost Town ***
        Travel Route
        Southwest 2006 - An introduction
        Highway 149, Creede, and Bachelor Loop
        Site Gallery - Creede and Bachelor Loop
        Lake City and Henson Ghost Town
        Site Gallery - Lake City and Henson Ghost Town
Southwest 2006 - An introduction

Northern New MexicoWhy the Southwest? This region is not a single destination but a series of destinations ... from the desert to the mountains. Scenic back roads offering the allure of serenity and tranquility and slower paced travel ... small towns that invite you to linger a while ... mountain vistas that bask in the changing colors of the autumn season of golden aspens and cottonwoods ... snow capped peaks that foretell the oncoming harsh season ... canyons of all manner that lift your spirits at the first light of day when the sunrises wash the cliffs in orange to the deep shadows of sunsets when the same cliffs are crimson and blood-red.

Unless you are a hardened curmudgeon with a heart of stone or lacking emotions, this American jewel of a place will surely reward you with a renewed appreciation for nature’s handiwork. A trip like this must be taken every so often.

An example of the majestic Rocky Mountains ...

Wolf Creek Pass Overlook

** Location of Wolf Creek Pass **

If interested you may wish to read our extensive Southwest 2006 journal newletters ...Peaks, Plateaus, and Canyons.

Highway 149, Creede and Bachelor Loop

Bachelor Loop - Ore HouseHighway 149 ... also called “The Silver Thread” – Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway. In 1990, a portion of Highway 149 was given the distinction of becoming a National Forest Service and Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway. This historic route carries you on a 75-mile journey between the towns of South Fork and Lake City, including the historic town of Creede. Traveling the byway, one discovers that there are very few towns along the way. 96% of Mineral and Hinsdale Counties consists of lands that are federally-owned. The county populations are sparse, especially when compared to populations during the boom of the mining era.

In the 1860's, when prospectors began exploring the mountains, the Utes fiercely protected their territory. Negotiations with the Utes and their Chief Ouray took place over several years. The government "gave" the Utes a large parcel of land further west of here near Montrose. This relocation of the Utes was part of an agreement between settlers and the Utes in 1873 known as the Brunot Treaty.

Once the Utes moved, the rush was on! Miners desperately wanted to mine the precious metals of the San Juans, primarily silver and gold. (The San Juan Mountains are the most highly mineralized mountains in Colorado.) Indian footpaths were not sufficient to bring in the miners and take out the ore.

Due to problems in creating roads over this rugged and treacherous land, private enterprise was allowed to build the roads and pay for the cost via tolls. Tolls typically ranged from 25 cents for a horse and rider to $1.00 for a wagon with a team of horses. For a two-to-three-day trip on an established stagecoach, the cost was $16.00 including meals and lodging.

** Location of Creede & Bachelor Loop **

Creede: Creede was probably the wildest town in all of Colorado during its heyday of three short years. Creede was founded in 1890 after Nicholas Creede struck it rich in 1889 with silver at the Holy Moses Mine in North Willow Creek. In just one short year, Creede became a hopping boom town. The population increased by 300 people daily in 1890 and grew to more than 10,000 people before the town's sudden demise in 1893 due to plummeting silver prices. Compare that with a population of approximately 590 for all of Mineral County today, and you'll get a feel for Creede's popularity and importance when mining was king.

Creede is known for its resiliency. It suffered through major floods in 1892, 1903, 1911, 1917, and 1942. One flood killed more than 1,000 people in the suburb of North Creede. (That is more people than than live here today.) The town was rebuilt after four devastating fires; the first was the same year as the first flood, 1892. Other large fires occurred in 1895, 1902 and 1936.

A famous poem written by Cy Warman, Creede's newspaperman, refers to the extraordinary effort by the townspeople to rebuild their town after the 1892 flood. Everyone pitched in and worked day and night to rebuild.

"While the world is filled with sorrow,
and hearts must break and bleed,
it's day all day in the daytime,
...and there is no night in Creede."

Another interpretation of "no night in Creede" stems from the fact that the street lights were left on all night and most saloons were open 24 hours a day.

Creede, situated in a narrow box canyon, was also known as Stringtown for its two-mile long main street consisting of more saloons than anything else.

The Creede cemetery housed mostly God-fearing residents of Creede. In the nearby Shotgun Graveyard, or "Boot Hill", all of the outlaws and gunshot victims were said to be buried. A little known burial ritual was practiced here. Regular citizens were buried facing east to west to face the rising sun on Resurrection Day. Bad guys were buried as they allegedly lived, "crossways" the world, or north to south.

Bachelor Loop: COMMODORE MINE The parking area here affords you a breathtaking view and photographic opportunity of the most beautiful scene in Western American mining. The first locations of mining claims, in what is known as the Creede mining district, were made in 1883 by John C. Mackenzie and several companions. During the spring and summer of 1891 the famous Amethyst Vein was discovered and in April 1891 Mackenzie located and staked the 'Commodore' claim. The Amethyst Vein follows the base of the cliff to the east of the mine buildings which are located on the five different levels of the Commodore. 'One of the greatest silver mines on earth', ore production spanned from 1891 to 1976. There are almost 200 miles of tunnels and underground workings lying within the mine. The Commodore is the southern most mine lying on the Amethyst Vein.

Across West Willow creek one can see remnants of an old haulage track lying against the steep canyon hillside. This is the route that horses and mules used to haul ore, from deep within the mines lying above here, through the Nelson - Wooster - Humphrey Tunnel to the top of the Humphrey Mill. Ore from the Commodore was not concentrated at the Humphrey Mill but was shipped by rail to be processed. A flotation mill was constructed in 1937, just south of town on Hwy 149, and ore from the Commodore was then processed there.

COMMODORE ORE HOUSE AND CHUTES - Here ore from the Commodore Mine was loaded into wagons for the trip to the end of the railroad line, where the ore was then loaded into waking cars for its journey to distant mills for processing. Later the ore only had to be hauled to the mill at the south end of town for processing. The ore house and chutes where last used in 1976.

AMETHYST & LAST CHANCE MINES - The two richest silver producing mines of the Creede district during the 1890's. Because of these fabulously rich ore finds, the town of Creede experienced a boom that rivaled anything in the earlier history of western mining camps. The lower buildings are the ore house and main support buildings of the 5th level of the Amethyst Mine. Uphill, approximately 350 feet from the Amethyst 5, are several buildings of the Last Chance Mine. Several shafts, 1,000 - 1,500 feet deep and dating from the early 1890's, are located in this area. The Last Chance is developed by a 1,400-foot incline shaft with 13 levels. Ore developed on the Chance 6 level was more than 100 feet wide. The Amethyst workings consist of 12 levels. Silver float material in boulders weighing up to a ton and vein outcrops assaying as much as 1,500 ounces of silver per ton were found at the original discovery site.

Burros played an important part in the discovery of the Last Chance Mine. In June 1891, two butchers from Del Norte grub-staked Theodore Renninger and his partner with $25 and three burros. In August, while prospecting, the burros wandered off. Renniger trailed them, cursing the entire way, and found them grazing on the slopes of Bachelor Hill near here. According to one account; when Renniger failed in his attempts to budge them, he sat down and with his pick began to chip away at some rock outcroppings. He struck a vein showing mineral in such rich quantities that he asked Nicholas Creede to come up and look at it. Creede looked at it and begged Renniger to define his claim at once. Renniger, offering up thanks to the three burros, did so, and named it the 'Last Chance.'

Sources: Ghost Towns of Colorado, Philip Varney, Copyright 1999, ghosttowns.com, and site tourist brochure.


Video recorded: September 2006
HINT
: If video starts/stops often, PAUSE the playback for 15-30 seconds to allow the video buffer memory to fill. To resume playback press PLAY.

Site Gallery - Creede and Bachelor Loop
 
On Highway 149 to Creede
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General Views of Creede
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General Views of Bachelor Loop
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Elevated View of Creede and Cemetery
Bachelor Loop Bachelor Loop Bachelor Loop

Lake City and Henson Ghost Town

On the way to Lake City, three significant attractions greet the traveler ...

Bristol Head Mountain ... Bristol Head Mountain

North Clear Creek Falls ... North Clear Creek Falls

Slumgullion PassSlumgullion Pass and Earthflow ... What's in a name? Slumgullion Pass Summit, elevation 11,361 ft., is said to be named after the popular miner's stew, which is multi-colored due to the variety of vegetables and meats found in it.

Others say that New Englanders named it Slumgullion because the slide resembled the multicolored "refuse" from butchered whale. In fact, if you happen to get to view the ground just after a hearty rainstorm, you'll notice that the colors turn to red and brown, or multi-colored.

A third explanation is that the nearby Slumgullion Earthflow resembles the muddy deposit left in the miners' sluice boxes, (ore-separating troughs.) Finally, it just might be so named because of the makeup of the word - slump meaning to sink, fall, or slide down suddenly in large chunks and gull meaning to seep away or wear down.

Lake City in autumn ** Location of Lake City **

Lake City ... Welcome to the charming historic town of Lake City! The town was founded in 1874 by Enos Hotchkiss, although mining activity occurred here earlier. In 1871, the Ute-Ulay mine was founded by Henry Henson, Albert Mead, Charles Goodwin and Joel Mullen. After the Brunot Treaty, which relocated the Utes, was finalized, the men returned in 1874 to what was to become one of the richest lead and silver mines in the San Juans.

Enos Hotchkiss had been contracted by Otto Mears, the Pathfinder of the San Juans, to build toll roads here. While working on the wagon road from Saguache to the San Juans, Hotchkiss took the time to prospect. He found silver. Hotchkiss built the Hotchkiss Mine, which was renamed the Golden Fleece Mine. Throughout the 1880's, Lake City's boom years, the mine was sold often, as each owner made his fortune and moved on to other endeavors.

Otto Mears established the first hotel in Lake City. He also financed the first newspaper in Lake City, The Silver World, in order to advertise this exciting new mining town to the world. The Silver World was the first newspaper published on the Western Slope of Colorado and is still published today.

Though most mining towns were rough and laden with saloons, Lake City boasted culture, class and churches.

Since winters were severe in Lake City and surrounding areas, many of the mines did not operate. In response, Lake Citians were diligent in developing a cultural center of which to be proud. In fact, Lake City was considered to be one of the most cultured mining towns, no small accomplishment given the town's size. (Never more than 5,000 people lived here at one time.) People came from all over Western Colorado to shop in the plentiful stores.

Boasting one of the first telephone systems in Western Colorado, residents of Capital City, a small town to the west of Lake City, held telephone vocal and instrumental concerts over party lines between their town, Lake City, and Silverton in 1881 and 1882. In addition, many circuses, magicians and theatrical groups performed in Lake City as they traveled through.

Lake San CristobalDespite the culture attributed to Lake City, it did have a red-light district. However, the cultural climate of Lake City attracted a fair number of preachers. The preachers, sometimes nicknamed "sky pilots", were creative in finding pulpits from which to reach this element. Often times they simply entered a crowded saloon and stood on a barroom table to deliver their message. Legend has it that one minister, upon refusing to give a funeral for a fallen woman, was horse-whipped by two of her fellow prostitutes.

Like Creede and other towns along the Silver Thread, Lake City had a short boom. Lake City was founded in 1874, and the boom was over by the early 1890's. But the extreme beauty of the area combined with the exceptional hunting and fishing were never forgotten. Lake City was rediscovered after World War II as a popular vacation area, as it is today.


Video recorded: September 2006
HINT
: If video starts/stops often, PAUSE the playback for 15-30 seconds to allow the video buffer memory to fill. To resume playback press PLAY.

Henson Ghost Town ** Location of Henson Ghost Town **

Henson (Ghost Town) ... Just down the road from Lake City, towards Engineers Pass, lies Henson. Henson was named for prospector Henry Henson, who, along with three others, filed a claim in 1871 for the Ute-Ulay Mine. However, they could not exploit theclaim until the Brunot Treaty of 1873 opened the San Juans to settlement.

Henson's group sold the mine in 1876 to Lake City's Crooke brothers for $125,000.They in turn sold in 1880 for $1.2 million, a tidy return on their investment. A town was platted near the mine and named for its discoverer. By that time Henry Henson was a senator, and he later became a judge.

Henson today is a ghost town on private property, but you can still see most of it, because the road to it bisects the town. As you enter Henson, south of the road you will see waste dumps, sheds, tanks, assorted mining equipment, a mill, and a mine building with two brick chimneys. Across the road are two log cabins, a two-story building that likely was a dormitory, and other sheds and cabins. On the west end of the site are more mine structures and a dam, now breached, extending across Henson Creek.


Video recorded: September 2006
HINT
: If video starts/stops often, PAUSE the playback for 15-30 seconds to allow the video buffer memory to fill. To resume playback press PLAY.

Sources: Ghost Towns of Colorado, Philip Varney, Copyright 1999, ghosttowns.com, and site tourist brochure.

Site Gallery - Lake City and Henson Ghost Town
 

Lake City
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Lake City Lake City Lake City
Henson Ghost Town
Henson Ghost Town Henson Ghost Town Henson Ghost Town
Henson Ghost Town Henson Ghost Town Henson Ghost Town

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