Friday, August 10, 2012

Switzerland Trail, Central City, Coors

We were looking for a nice backroad which would take us through the Rockies.  It didn't have to be a 4-wheel drive, but we did want it to be scenic.  Phil asked Max to lead the trip.  Max, Joyce and I checked it out the day before we lead the rest of the group. 
While we were out, we spotted this beautiful young buck.

The next day there were three vehicles who took the ride.  

Up to Mount Alto picnic area for lunch.  The picnic trail was once a stop on the Switzerland Trail.  The Switzerland Trail is a historic narrow gauge railway, operating between the mining towns of the Front Range around 1900.  The entire route is on the National Register of Historic Places.  We were taking a historic trip.  At this site was once a lodge, where tourists would take the train.  The fireplace is about all that is left.  Most of the lodge was removed and taken to Glacier Lake.

After making it over most of the Switzerland Trail, we decided to break off and try to get to Glacier Lake via Pennsylvania Gulch Road.  Now this turned out to be a true 4-wheel drive.  We even had to stop several times and move large rocks out of the way.  But we all made it, and none of the vehicles had any permanent damage.  Whew!

One day Max, Tom and I decided to visit Central City and Blackhawk before heading to Golden for a tour of the Coors Brewing Plant.

The famous, Face on the Floor, painted back in 1936 by Herndon Davis, on the floor of the Teller House Bar.  It is still on the floor, but the Teller House is no longer open all the time and you can only see the Face on a tour of the Teller House or if you attend one of the Central City opera's. Unfortunately we were not able to get a tour or attend an opera, so this is simply a picture of a picture.
The story behind the picture started in the 1890s with a poem written by Hugh D'Arcy, about a penniless soul who wandered into a bar and offered to paint a picture on the floor for a drink.  Herndon Davis, a staff illustrator on the Denver Post, attended a Central City opera in 1936, and ended up in the Teller House Bar later in the evening.  He told the bartender he would paint a picture on the floor, if he would let him stay after hours.  The next morning there was the famous Face on the Floor.  Although he would never say who his model was, it became known eventually, that it was Herndon's wife.

The Teller House today.

The Opera House across the street.

Central City and Blackhawk were mining towns.  Once the mining boom busted, the town dwindled to just a few hundred people.  Then in 1990, Colorado legalized limited gambling in Central City, Blackhawk and Cripple Creek.  In many ways, my personal opinion is they ruined a historic area, but I guess the dollars are keeping the place alive.  I was glad to hear the entire area was declared a historic development and the outer facade of the buildings cannot be changed.  Nor can they tear buildings down, unless they are falling down and a danger.  So while you are driving around the town, you will see many buildings, restored to what they would have looked like in the late 1800s.

Even the small town of Central City, population 515 as of 2000, has a Elks Lodge.
Gold was found in the area in 1859 and by 1860 there were 10,000 people living in the area.  As the gold rush declined, the population declines too, leaving only about 3000 people as of 1900.

They even took the old mill, with its old metal buildings, and turned it into a casino.  It truly looks on the outside much like it did a hundred years ago.

You can almost imagine you have gone back in time, except for the cars and sounds of the slot machines.
Footnote:  I thought cheap meals in gambling towns were long gone, but we found a $2.99 prime rib dinner at Blackhawk.  A 5 oz prime rib, baked potato and fresh veggies.  What a deal.

There is no doubt when you arrive at Golden.  

At Miller-Coors you get in line and wait for a tour bus.  They said the wait could be up to an hour or so, but it was only 30 minutes.  And they had misters going, so we really did beat the heat.

No, that is not a phone up to my ear.  They no longer have guided tours, instead it is now a self-guided tour, using an audio device.  

These large copper kettles hold enough beer, that an single individual could be provided with an unlimited supply for life and it wouldn't empty the kettle.

I was impressed that Miller-Coors not only sells their mash to local farmers, but also sell off ethanol, a by-product of the Colorado refineries.  

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