Friday, July 27, 2012

Camp Hale and Silver King Loop

The last of our stay in the Leadville area had us making the long trip around once again to do one last day of exploring the Leadville area.
Down in the valley, outside Leadville, is the headwaters of the Arkansas River.  It's hard to believe that just several hundered miles further south this river has Class V rapids.

This loop drive is about a 20 mile loop with 14 marked stops.  It is a self-directed drive and you pick up brochures in town.  You see several old ghost towns, the old mines and mills.

California Gulch, where the first gold was found in 1860.

The head frame at the Wright Shaft of the Denver City Mine.  This is a fine example of the "A" shape frame, predominate of the tin mines in Cornwall, England.

Baby Doe's cabin at the Matchless Mine.  Baby Doe Tabor, wife of Horace Tabor, silver tycoon who lost his fortune when silver prices plummeted, believed her fortunes would return.  She was found dead in her cabin, living above the closed mine.

Remnant of an old silver mine.  The silver days began to decline when the U.S. government adopted the gold standard, causing the silver panic of 1893.  During the panic, an agreement was signed with the miner's for an agreed to wage of $2.50 per day.  But in 1896 the miner's struck for higher wages of $3 per day.  The strike closed 90% of the mines and the Coronado Mine was burned and three men were killed.  The strike ended in 1897, the strikers returning to work without any pay raise.  Pumping began to de-water the mines, but the water had carried sand into the mines, sealing them.  As a result, many of the mines were closed permanently, thus ending the silver boom.

The site of Stumptown, which began in 1879 and was largely abandoned by the 1930s.  Once a thriving community, including the early residence of the famous "Unsinkable" Molly Brown of Titantic fame.

Johnny Hill and Little Johnny Mine, a part of the Ibex Mine Complex.  J.J. Brown developed the Little Johnny Mine.  As a mine manager, he overcame some drainage problems for Ibex Mines and they awarded him 1/8 ownership in the mine for his services.  This was the start of J.J. and Molly Brown's fortune.
Although some men did make their fortunes, they say for every man who made it rich, such as J.J. Brown or H.A.W. Tabor, there were a thousand miners who worked 10 to 12 hours a day, barely able to make a living.

Looking across the valley, Leadville is at the bottom with Turquoise Lake in the distance.  Mt. Elbert is on the left and Mt. Massive is on the right, the two tallest mountains in Colorado, both over 14,000 ft.

Quincy's has no menu, only your choice of the size steak and how you wish it cooked.  You also get a baked potato and a salad.  The steaks start at $8.95.  We had reservations for about 25-30, but because of the collapse of Hwy 24, only 10 of us made it.  But the restaurant was ok with the change, they were happy to have any business at all with the highway closure.

Great meal, good friends and a great time.

The hole under the road.  One day a group of us drove up to the road closure, then walked up and talked to the CDOT engineer on site.  He wouldn't let us get any closer, but did take our cameras and took some pictures himself.   

The collapse actually uncovered an old railroad tunnel.  It had been closed off many years ago and even the opening was closed over.  Somehow the thawing caused the wood framing started collapsing.  The CDOT will eventually fill in the holes with a lightweight combination of foam and concrete.  

They were drilling to find out exactly how bad the cave in is before they start filling in.

An old cabin on top of the mountain at Camp Hale.

At the top was this hut.  It is available for hikers and skiers.  The 10th Mountain Division Huts is a non-profit organization which provides over 30 huts along 200+ miles of mountain trails.  Reservations are made by phone or in person at their office in Aspen.  You can find out more about the organization at

One of the primary purposes of Camp Hale was to train men for mountain warfare and created 3 Army Regiments of Elite Ski Corps.   Camp Hale opened in 1942 and was decommissioned in 1945.  It once boasted over 1000 buildings and up to 15,000 soldiers.  

Our group camp site at Camp Hale.

One morning we spotted something hanging off Brent's antenna.  Upon closer inspection, it was a bat.  It had gotten its tail wrapped around the antenna and couldn't get loose.  Mike got his leather gloves and freed the bat and he flew off.  

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