Archive for the ‘Road Trips’ Category

Sunshine, Colorado, located just west of Boulder in Sunshine Canyon, sprang to life between 1870 and 1873, after George A, Jackson (who first found gold at the spot which is now Idaho Springs back in 1859) discovered rich gold deposits in the sandy terrain of Sunshine Canyon. George A. Jackson was a lucky man in many ways- He had made the first big gold strike in 1859 at what became Idaho Springs, and can be considered one of the “Founding Fathers” of Colorado, alongside William Green Russell and John Gregory- Were it not for the gold strikes of these three men, the Gold Rush of 1859 might not have happened. Jackson fell in with the secessionist crowd in the months prior to the Civil War breaking out in 1861, and he soon found himself arrested and languishing in the Colorado Territorial Prison in Denver for his allegiances to the rebel cause. In February of 1862, Jackson escaped the prison and made his way to Texas, where he joined a Confederate Cavalry unit. During this period, Jackson was a wanted man in Colorado, and had a $100 price tag on his head- A hefty sum in the 1860s. Jackson survived the war in the Red River country of west Texas, in relative anonymity. Jackson returned to Colorado following President Johnson’s general amnesty of 1868, which restored full citizenship status to former members of the Confederate Army, and absolved them of any charges they may have have been facing for wartime activities. This is when Jackson began prospecting again, and had the uncommon fortune of striking it rich a second time in Sunshine Canyon!  

 

George A. Jackson- Had Luck on His Side

By 1874 Sunshine had a population of over two hundred, and seven mines operating in the surrounding area. Sunshine canyon is narrow and steep, and homes of every configuration sprang up in unusual places at odd angles and on steep inclines. Mine workings intertwined with the residences giving the town a chaotic look. Down towards the bottom of the narrow gulch was the business district with a haphazard row of false-fronted shops and saloons. It is said, at its peak, Sunshine even had seven hotels! In 1900 a beautiful stone school house was built towards the head of Sunshine Canyon which still stands today.

 

 

Sunshine at its peak
Old dwelling at Sunshine today

Today not much is left of the “old” Sunshine- Much has been torn down or lost to flooding and forest fires in the past 100 years. Much new construction has gone on in Sunshine Canyon in recent years, and most of the homes and buldings in the area are of more recent times. A keen set of eyes can, however, pick out a few remants of the past scattered in among the new at Sunshine. The school house is a must see.  All of the property and buildings in Sunshine canyon is privately owned, so please respect the locals and their privacy if you plan to visit.

 

On a small, grassy, knoll above the canyon is the tiny Sunshine Cemetery where many of the early pioneers of the town are buried. There are a handful of recent burials for current residents as well. A small parking lot is open to visitors, and a simple gate allows access to the graveyard.

 

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25 (More) Abandoned Buildings in Colorado You Must See Before They Are Gone

Cardinal is a realtively unknown ghost town by Colorado standards. Located in Boulder County just west of Nederland on the road to Caribou. (Check out my blog on the Caribou Ghost Town)

 

Cardinal could tachnically be called “New Cardinal” because there was once another Cardinal,or “Old Cardinal” a mile or two up the road from the present town site. Old Cardinal was the weekend recreation camp for miner from Caribou- Caribou residents had voted to make Caribou a dry town with no saloons or brothels, so enterprising bar keepers and sporting ladies set up shop down the hill from Caribou in a small meadow along the railroad tracks. Miners from Caribou could catch the ore train down the hill to Old Cardinal for a wild weekend, then ride the ore train back up to righteous Caribou.

 

In the late 1800s, an ore vein was discovered a couple of miles below Old Cardinal, and a new mining camp sprang up which did not harbor the same puritanical values of Caribou. It only made sense for the working girls and booze peddlers of Old Cardinal to move on down the hill to the new camp.  As they abandoned Old Cardinal, they even moved their buildings down the hill to the new camp, which soon took on the monicker of “New Cardinal.”

 

A freighter hauling mining equipment into the New Cardinal town site

New Cardinal boomed for a few short years around the turn of the last Century. An enormous stamp mill was constructed, an Assayer’s Office overlooked the mine workings, and bunk houses and private homes sprang up, and of course there were the saloons and the brothel.

Assayer’s Office
Mill building around 1920

New Cardinal, as all mining towns do, eventually faded away and was abandoned. The old buildings at the sight fell into decay, and some wetre occupied in the 1960s. In recent years the better homes at the site have been renovated and once again occupied. For a short time, someone was even renting the old Assayer’s Office as a weekend getaway.  

 

In the early 2000s Boulder County Open Space invested substantial time, labor, and money into the restoration/preservation of the mill building at Cardinal in hopes of opening it up as historic park/museum.  Unfortunately, all the restored mill building attracted was unscrupulous rock climbers who scaled the outer faces of the freshly restored building, and Boulder County closed the site to the public, and it has remained closed.

 

 

The mill at Cardinal after restoration efforts
Boiler at Cardinal

I have only visited Cardinal once, using an old guide book that said the site was open to exploration. When I reached the spot, I was unaware that the site had been closed by Boulder County. All of the land and buildings at Cardinal are now privately owned, and at least two houses are occupied. I was met by one of the residents who was friendly and allowed me to look around the old town site as long as I stayed on the dirt road, and took photos from a distance. I appreciated their hospitality, but it was clear that Cardinal is private and the owners would like to keep it that way- I can respect that.

 

 

 

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Photo Blog- Historic Gold Hill, Colorado

Ghost Town Photo Blog- Boyero, Colorado

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Atchee- Photo Blog Colorado’s Least Known Ghost Town- Thank You Gilsonite!

Powderhorn, Colorado- Ghost Town In the Gunnison Country

Took my yearly trip up to Gold Hill a few days ago. Such a great little town!  I am surprised that so few people know about it, but I guess that is also a blessing!

Located in Boulder County in the foothills west of Denver, Gold Hill is an old-timer among Colorado towns, dating all the way back to 1859. Gold Hill is so old in fact that it was once part of Nebraska Territory!

 

As the name obviously suggests, Gold Hill was a mining town from the great Colorado Gold Rush of 1859. Massive deposits of gold ore were found in the hills and gulches surrounding the town site. Prospectors flocked to the spot and the town sprang to life.

 

 

“Mountain District Number 1 at Nebraska” aka Gold Hill has been plagued by forest fires and floods since it’s very beginnings- The first documented forest fire that threatened the town was recorded in 1860, another huge fire in the 1890s ravaged the town, torrential rains caused flooding that threatened Gold Hill in 2013, and as of my typing this in October 2020, a forest fire caused the evacuation of the town yesterday. But somehow Gold Hill always manages to hang on.

 

Today Gold Hill is home to around 120 residents. There town has retained it’s historic feel and very little modern-era construction exists in the town. There are no paved streets in Gold Hill, only narrow dirt roads wide enough for one car to travel. Old trucks af every make and model are scattered around the streets and hillsides of Gold Hill.

 

Gold Hill has an Inn that hosts live bands outdoors in the summer months, an old two-story log hotel, a General Store/Coffee Shop/Cafe and the photogenic Red Store on the eastern edge of town. There is also a school house, museum, and outdoor display of old rusted mining equipment. South and east of town a short distance is the tiny Gold Hill cemetery which was ravaged by forest fire, and still shows the scars.

 

Gold Hill is a true gem and a fun place to explore, but can get crowded on weekends in the summer time. I’d suggest visit on a weekday in the off-season when you can really take in the beauty of this old mining town.

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Took a trip up to Caribou, Colorado last weekend. First time I have visited in about five years. Not much has changed since my last visit other than more graffitti spray painted on the inside walls of the ruins- A sad phenomenon that has become more and more common across Colorado in the last decade.

Ruins at Caribou, Colorado

There isn’t much left at Caribou (which about 10 miles northwest of Nederland, Colorado in Boulder County) just the concrete and stone walls of two buildings on the far eastern edge of the old town site, and one forlorn log cabin, scarcely detectable among the tall grasses and shrubs of the northern slope of the site. It won’t be long until the log cabin is reclaimed by nature.

Caribou at its peak in the late 1800s, today hardly a trace remains

Caribou began life in around 1860 as Conger’s Camp, named after the prospector who first discovered silver and gold at the site. A mine called “The Caribou” was opened, and the camp soon took that name for its own.

The two stone buildings that remain today

Caribou boomed as a top silver producer in the 1870s and 1880s. The town boasted the typical furnishings of any mining camp of the era- A hotel, boarding houses for the miners, a small row of general merchandise stores, and a schoolhouse which only held class in the summer months because the high winds of the other three seasons were too severe- It is said that only particularly windy or snowy days, teachers would string out a rope which the children would cling to as they made their way to class.  Lightning also plagued Caribou residents, many decades after the town had been abandoned it was discovered that the town had been built on right on top a huge, natural, iron dike.

Caribou once had a cemetery, but in the 1960s and 1970s all of the headstones were stolen. Which leads to the question who and why? A short hike over a small rise on the southeast edge of the town site leads to the approximate location of the cemetery, but I have never been able to find any trace of it personally.

Ten years ago, Caribou was relatively unknown except for locals. Today it has become a popular hiking and mountain biking destination, which can be overrun with people, dogs, and cars by 7:00am on a weekend. It is best to visit early in the morning on a weekday of you want to experience any solitude.

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Finally had a chance to get back out on the road and do some ghost towning. This time around I headed to Boyero, a small ghost town in Lincoln County about two hours east of Denver on the eastern plains.

Boyero started life as ranching and supply stop along the Kansas-Pacific Railroad in the latter half of the 1800s, as well as a stop along the Texas- Montana cattle trail. Situated along a wooded bend of Sand Creek, Boyero must have been a welcome sight for cowboys who had just crossed the scorching, featureless frying pan to the east. 

A once impressive two-story home at Boyero, the old tracks of the Kansas-Pacific Railroad can be seen in the foreground

Boyero was granted a Post Office in 1902,which served locals until the early-1970s when the office, and mail was transferred to nearby Wild Horse, which itself is nearly a ghost town today.

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What appears to be the remains of an old garage or service station at Boyero

Boyero still appears on maps today, but the old town site sits on private property, straddling both sides of County Road 39 about twenty minutes southeast of Hugo, just off of Highway 287. 

Buildings at Boyero

All of buildings at Boyero are private property, but can be seen from County Road 39. There are occupied dwellings and modern structures mixed in among the old remnants of the town, and it is comon to see the family who owns the property out working. Please respect their privacy and their property and stay on the main road. 

A friendly local passing by in a pickup stopped to make sure I wasn’t broke down when I visited last.  I assured him I was fine, and just taking photos of the old town. With a nod and smile he wished me a good day and drove on down the desolate road in a cloud of dust.

It is almost surreal to stand in the silence of Boyero, where the only sound is the wind or a random bird, with the knowledge that the frenzied chaos, angst, and in-your-face noise of the Denver metro area is only two hours away- Boyero is proof that there really is two separate, and entirely unique Colorados.

An added bonus awaits just down the road if you know where to look- This awesome old farm house right off of Highway 287 and County Road 2G.

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Abandoned Northern Colorado: Ghosts of the Great High Plains is a collection of photographs taking you on a tour of Colorado’s Northern High Plains region. Author and photographer Jeff Eberle spent much of the last decade traveling the back roads and 4 x 4 trails of Colorado in an effort to capture a few final images of the state’s rapidly vanishing past. Covered in this book are the areas of Colorado north of the Arkansas River and east of the Rocky Mountains. Inside you will find images of the ghost towns, dormant grain elevators, forgotten cemeteries, and abandoned homesteads of Colorado’s prairie. The author hopes to help raise awareness and public interest in the preservation and protection of Colorado’s historic sites and structures. What one might see as merely an old, rusty eyesore, another sees as an aged beauty who stood silent witness to the hard work and struggle that gave birth to the Colorado we know and love today.

 

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Fondis, Colorado

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Not too many people visit Fondis these days. In the hustle and bustle of the modern world which encompasses most of Colorado in nearby counties, Fondis is a forgotten remnant of days gone by.

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No one knows for sure how Fondis was named, some sources say it was named for a hotel in Italy, where one of the town’s first settlers had met his wife. Other sources claim the town was named after the town of Fondi, Italy.

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Fondis came into existence as a farming, ranching, and logging center. Yep, logging on the high plains! The hill country of Elbert County was, and still is, dotted with dense stands of pine trees- An anomaly among the high plains region. Throughout the 1800s and early-1900s, Elbert County supplied much of the wood used to build the cities of Denver and Colorado Springs.

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Fondis dates to the 1890s. A Post Office was founded in 1895 and served local residents and ranchers until 1954. There were a pair of General Stores, on opposite sides of Fondis’ one intersection of roads- One, a wooden frame structure dating the 1890s, the second a red brick building built in 1902. Both stores still stand today, the brick building in an advanced state of decay, and the wood frame store undergoing restoration on mylast visit.

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Fondis is located in the gorgeous, pine dotted, hill country 40 miles east of Castle Rock, Colorado at the junction of County Roads 98 and 69, which are south of Highway 86 and west of County Road 77 (lost yet?)

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There are a hanful of people wholive in and around the old Fondis town site still. There is an operational church, and some of the historic buildings were being refurbished as part of a Veteran’s project when I visited last.

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In the far northern reach of Jackson County northwest of Walden, Colorado, just a mile or so shy of the Wyoming border sits Pearl. Pearl is long-forgotten copper mining town which boomed from the 1880s to around 1910.

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Pearl was home to a couple of mines and smelter- The red brick smoke stack of the smelter still exists today on hillside southeast of the town. The Pearl town platt covered some 14 blocks,  but they never quite filled up. There was however a school, Post Office, a couple of hotels, a butcher shop, and three saloons.

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A few precious stones were also found around mineral- Rubies and diamonds, though rare did exist in the volcanic sands of the area. When the copper mines played out in the early years of the 20th Century, it is said that one of the last die-hards in Pearl bought up all of the abandoned properties, then “salted” the earth around Pearl with rough diamonds and rubies he had purchased in bulk from a jewelerin Denver. The trickster then offered the Pearl townsite up for sale to speculatorsand prospectors. The unknowing buyers conducted samples in the area and were excited to find diamonds and rubies in large numbers. The buyers snatched up all of the land around Pearl, only to learn later that they had been tricked and the gems they had found in their samples had been placed in strategic spots around town.

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Today Pearl is a cluster of around a dozen cabins and frame homes which appear to be used seasonally,or atleast maintained by the current owner of the townsite.  All buildings at Pearl are private property, and the town itself sits just hundred or so yards beyond a barbed wire fence. Photos can be taken with a zoom lens from the nearby County Roads that circle the site.

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Atchee, Colorado

Colorado is famous for its Gold Rush era and Silver Boom ghost towns. South of the Arkansas River ghost towns from Colorado’s “coal belt” are plenty. The eastern and northern plains house the remnants of the farming and ranching centers of yesterday. But the far western slope along the Utah border is almost devoid of ghost towns.

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Cabin along the old Uintah Railroad grade near Atchee

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Another view of the same cabin. The unique tight fit “puzzle” style construction of the cabin is something I have found unique to this isolated corner of Colorado/Utah. Perhaps it was the signature style of a local craftsman, or maybe the hand-select, tight fit, was a regional neccessity to keep the abundant lizards, scorpions, and snakes out- Scorpions, Sun Spiders, Rattlesnakes and Western Coachwhips outnumber humans 100-to-1  in this part of the world!

There isn’t much, and wasn’t much in the far western portion of the state, but chalky, sandy cliffs, scrub brush, and cacti, prior to the oil boom. Towns in this part of Colorado can almost all trace their origins to the railroads that once criss-crossed the region and followed the route of the mighty Colorado River as it meandered its way west to its terminus at Mexicali in Baja Mexico.

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A sense of the desolation and solitude of the area- The County Road today over Baxter Pass into Utah is the old Uintah Railway grade. In the Spring deep, soupy, mud can make it impassable.

Atchee, north and slightly west of Fruita near Grand Junction, Colorado, is now a 100% ghost town, with only one standing structure and the foundations of others, was founded in the 1880s. Atchee occupies a unique spot in Colorado history as one of the few far-western ghost towns in the state.

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A glimpse of Atchee from the railroad grade above as it ascends Baxter Pass

Atchee came to life in the 1880s as a railroad station along the tiny, narrow-gauge, Uintah Railway which served the Gilsonite (huh? what???) mining camp of Dragon, Utah which lay on the western side of Baxter Pass. The entire length of the Uintah Railway was only 62.8 miles in total length, running from Mack,Colorado to Watson, Utah, which was nothing more than a named place with a water tank, coal shed, and wye where the train turned around.

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Atchee, Colorado 1880s

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A Uintah Railway engine at Atchee around 1900

Atchee lay at just under the halfway point of the Uintah line- 28 miles to be exact. Atchee featured a wye, coal shed, water tank, machine/repair shop, and a couple rows of simple houses for railroad employees and their families. Atchee was situated in a arid, but beautiful basin,dotted with sage brush, scrub, and short pines on the slopes surrounding the town. Water was scarce and both summer and winters at Atchee were harsh. Atchee was named in honor of Ute Chief Atchee- A man of which little is known, but must have made a positive impression on his contemporaries.

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Chief Atchee, of whom the town was named

Gilsonite, the mineral mined at Dragon and Rainbow in Utah, where the Uintah Railway passed, was first discovered in the 1860s by Sam Gilson, a prospector.  Gilson discovered rich veins of black, shiny, oily substance in the sandy hills of the Uintah Basin. The substance looked like coal, was flammable, but was hard to keep burning. His discovery was also flexible and sticky. Gilson knew it had to be worth something to someone, but a use for the substance did not exist…yet.

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Gilsonite

 

Gilson tried to refine his strange mineral into a fuel source like coal, but it never could maintain an even slow burn. He discovered it could be used in varnishes and paints with moderate success- But the only color would be jet black, and it never really dried properly, always remaining tacky to the touch, and more troubling, flammable.

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Sam Gilson

 

Around the turn of the 20th Century Gilson, and his mineral, now called “Gilsonite” found their place in the world- Mixing Gilsonite with gravel created a smooth, durable, long-lasting surface for the city-dwellers and their velocipedes and new-fangled horseless carriages to ride on. Gilsonite, a naturally occurring, semi-solid, soluble, hydrocarbon-  The strange, sticky, black muck of the Uintah Basin would become a key ingredient in what we know as “asphalt” or “bitumen” today.

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Atchee at its peak around 1900. The “peaked” building at the far righ of the photo is all that remains today- The machine shop/repair shop for the Uintah Railway train engines.

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The machine shop today.

Atchee is all but gone now- One structure, or more appropriately, the walls of one structure remain- The old machine and repair shop for the steam engines that once passed through the town.  Numerous foundations can be seen in the scrub surrounding the machine shop. All the remnants are on clearly posted private property, but this has not stopped idiots from spray painting their names on the last remnants of the town. The rest of us who respect our Nation’s history can safely and legally take photos from just a few feet away alonmg the county road which passes through the site. The county road is the old railroad grade which crosses Baxter Pass into Utah.  When my brother and I visited winter snows were still melting and had turned the track into a swampy morass that became impassable shortly before we reached the summit of Baxter.

 

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Ghost Town- Rocky, Colorado

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Between Lake George and Hartsel, Colorado, along Highway 24 is a small cluster of buildings,cabins and foundations just off the edge of the road on private property.  I have not been able to confirm with 100% certainty, but these may be the ruins of the long-forgotten town of Rocky.

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Very little information exists regarding Rocky. From 1880s era maps I own, Rocky was situated where these ruins exist today. Rocky was supply station and ranching center, and some small-scale mining was reported in the area as well.

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It appears that Rocky lived and died between around 1880 and 1910.  If anyone has any additional information on this site please contact me.

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