Friday, August 24, 2012

Alpine Tunnel Hike

Before leaving Salida, we wanted to hike the Alpine Tunnel Trail.  It is a 3 1/2 mile trail to a collapsed railroad tunnel.  The Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad, completed in 1881, was the first tunnel through the continental divide from St. Elmo to Gunnison.  Over 1800 feet long and 2 miles above level, it was also the highest and most expensive tunnel for its time.  Taking 2 years to build, they had crews digging from both sides of the mountain, but only made 2-3 feet per day.  In 1889 there was a massive cave in which closed the tunnel for 4 years.  It closed down permanently in 1910 and the tunnel is not accessible.
On the way we passed by many of the old mines in the St. Elmo/Hancock area.
This is part of the Mary Murphy Mine Mill.  The Mary Murphy was the largest and most productive silver mine in the area.

And as you can see, you can even own a bit of history, as it is for sale.

The original bridge to the mine.  The road has been rerouted (for good reason).

More of the Mary Murphy Mine.

I didn't even like driving past this place.  I have no idea what keeps it from falling on the road.  I believe this was the old Abby Belle Mine.
Hancock is what I consider a true ghost town.  Not much is left, just the remains of one of the old saloons. At one time is was an important train stop and home for the builders of the Alpine Tunnel.  Boasting over numerous saloons, 5 stores, a train depot and telegraph office, the town still only had a population of 200.

The old railroad bed is now the Alpine Tunnel Trail, open to hikers and mountain bikers.  You can still see the old rotting railroad ties along the trail.

Like many of the mountain, narrow gauge railroads, there were grades and curves.  From this sign you can see this curve caused lots of problems when the train was loaded with ore.

Standing here now and looking at the curve, I can understand why a train, if it wasn't going the proper speed, would easily tip over.  

They literally carved a ledge out of the mountain for the train.  It now makes a great hiking trail.

What the east portal of the Alpine Tunnel looks like today.  If there weren't signs, it would just look like another bunch of fallen rocks.

But the sign says there was once a tunnel at this location.
Beautiful scenery and a great hike.  I'm really glad I took the time to make this hike before leaving Salida.

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