Posts Tagged ‘Ghost Towns’

Day #29 feautures Boston, Colorado

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Boston, at the head of Mayflower Gulch

Boston is an 1890s era mining camp situated at the head of Mayflower Gulch in Summit County.  There are around a half-dozen log cabins in varying states of decay, the sagging ruins of the boarding house, and rusted mining implements scattered around the site. Boston sits in a natural bowl, or ampitheater, and is surrounded by snow capped crags on three sides, making for some great photos. When I visited, there was a dense fog, and I was not able to capture the rocky spires that make a stunning backdrop to the camp.

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A cabin along the trail to Boston

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A combination hiking trail/seldom used 4×4 trail leads two miles into the site from a parking lot just off the side of Highway 91 that runs from Copper Mountain to Leadville. It is a popular hiking spot, and it is usually overrun with people on weekends. It is best to visit Boston early in the morning on weekdays to avoid crowds. Unfortunately, easy access also means Boston has suffered heavy vandalism and the trail in to the site is strewn with garbage from unscrupulous hikers who think it is the Forest Service’s job to clean up after them. Some “visitors” have even torn down log cabins at the site and burned the logs in bonfires.

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Day # 26 features Modena, Utah

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Modena was a railroad town born in December of 1899 when tracks from the Utah and Nevada Railroad reached the area. Located west of the iron mines at Iron City, Utah, Modena  grew into an important shipping and supply center, as well as a water stop for the steam engines of the railroad.

 

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It is said the town was named after the Chinese cook on the railroad crew who laid the tracks to the site- He would call from his stoves “Mo dinna! Mo dinna!” (More dinner! More dinner!) each evening. Another tale claims the town was named after Modena, Italy. There was also famous mountain man in the Rockies at one time named Manuel Modena. Exactly how Modena was named seems to be lost to time.

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Brigham Lund established a freighting business serving the region, based in Modena, and successful mercantile/hotel in the town.  In 1903 a U.S. government Weather Station was established in the town. By 1905 the Los Angeles and Salt Lake City Railroad routed its line through Modena and brought more commerce to the town.

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Water tank and pump house for the Utah and Nevada Railroad at Modena

 

 

 

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Today Modena is largely abandoned or vacant, a few residents remain in the residential section of town, but the old business district is vacant.  The train still passes through Modena, but no longer stops. Brigham Lund’s Merchandise & Hotel building dominates the town site. A false-fronted shop next door to Lund’s Hotel along the dirt main street looks could be a still shot from any “Wild West” movie of the 1950s. Modena sits just a few feet off the railroad tracks, and it must have been quite an experience to be a guest in the hotel when the steam engine came rolling into town, blaring its whistle more than a Century ago.

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Lund’s Merchandise and Hotel

 

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Day #23 features Lincoln City, Colorado

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Lincoln City is one of the oldest settlements in Colorado, dating to 1861. A man named Harry Farncomb discovered enormous amounts of gold in the gravels of the creek in French Gulch, in the unusual form of strands and clumps of wire. “Wire gold” as it is known is of fine purity, and most could be used immediately in the minting of coins and manufacturing of jewelry, which made it even more valuable than “regular” gold which normally required some sort of refining. Farncomb knew the source of the wire gold must be the hill above French Gulch, so, even before staking claims, he bought the hillside, and much of the bottom land in French Gulch.

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An example of wire gold, similar to that found in French Gulch

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When Farncomb began mining operations in French Gulch, and news spread of his discovery of pure wire gold, a mad rush into the gulch followed. Fortune seekers were irate to find that Harry Farncomb already owned all of the land in upper French Gulch and violence ensued.  Gunfights were common between Farncomb and would-be prospectors who felt he had unfairly grabbed the land. Cases were taken to Court, but Farncomb had legally purchased the land, and the prospectors had nothing legal to stand on in their complaints.

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Tensions eventually reached a crescendo one day, and a shootout between the warring parties took place in Frenchg Gulch that lasted seven hours! Three prospectors were killed and numerous others were seriously wounded by Farncomb and his allies that day. After the battle, Farncomb agreed to sell parcels of his land in French Gulch, and he was paid handsomely for the rich claims. Today, Farncomb Hill at the head of the gulch bears his name.

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The town that sprang up around the claims Farncomb had sold was called “Lincoln City” in honor of President Abraham Lincoln, and as a slight to the nearby town of Breckinridge, which was named after former Vice President John C. Breckinridge, who had recently joined the ranks of the Confederate Army as General, and who would go on to become the Confederate Secretary of War under President Jefferson Davis. The town fathers of  “BreckInridge”Colorado quietly changed the spelling of its name to “BreckEnridge” in 1867 to hide this inconvient truth. (Breckenridge is now a fashionable ski resort and summer recreation spot, and few knows of the town’s controversial name change.)  

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General John C. Breckinridge, Former Vice President of the United States, Confederate Secretary of War, whom “Breckenridge” Colorado was named after, the town fathers altered the spelling in 1867 to hide this fact

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Passions were strong in the Civil War days as roughly 40% of the population in Colorado at the time was southern-born, and fights oftne broke out in the mining camps based on regional alliances between northern and southern factions. Such was the case between the townsfolk of Lincoln City, and the people living in Georgia Gulch on the other side of the mountain from them. Bands of drunken men would leave one gulch and appear in the other where fist fights, broken noses, and the occassional gunfight would erupt between the opposing groups. The “war” between Lincoln City and Georgia Gulch carried on for years with no serious loss of life, but plenty of spirited jawing and bruises.

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Old newspaper article about the pro-south faction in Georgia Gulch, Colorado near Lincoln City

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In the 1880s the gold deposits around Lincoln City began to play out, but silver and galena ores were discovered which kept the town alive. Around 250 people called the spot home in the mid-1880s. A smelter was built to process the lower grade ores and the silver now being mined. Dredges were scraping the last of the placer gold from the creek below. Mills crushed hard rock on the hillsides around the town for the last specks of gold to be found. Lincoln City boasted a general store, Post Office, and two hotels. In the decade between 1885 and 1895, Lincoln City all but died, dwindling from 250 residents to only 25.  In the 1940s when ghost towning legend Muriel Sibell Wolle visited, only two old grizzled prospectors remained at Lincoln City.  Today, Lincoln City is no more, it is just a cluster of tin-roofed and tin-sided shacks, some cabins, mining debris, and a lone grave nestled in amog the pine and aspen trees. Modern-day Breceknridge has absorbed the old Lincoln City townsite, and modern luxury homes dot the pines all around the old shacks and cabins. Sadly, some have even called for the removal of the lone grave so they spot can be turned into a parking lot for the mountain bike and hiking trails that begin at the old town site. The future does not look bright for the sparse remnants of one Colorado’s oldest towns.

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Some have called for the removal of this tombstone dating to 1864 so a parking lot can be built for hiking and biking trails that start near the Lincoln City town site

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Day # 19 features Engleville, Colorado

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A solitary sunflower contrasts with the ruins of two Engleville homes

 

Engleville lays just a short distance southeast of Trinidad, Colorado at the base of Fisher’s Peak- A local landmark which can be seen for miles signalling one’s approach to Raton Pass and the New Mexico border.

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Engleville, in the shadow of Fisher’s Peak

Engleville was a coal town dating back to around 1877. Locals in the trinidad area had always supplied their stoves and furnaces with the plentiful coal found in the region, simply loading carts with it from the open coal seams that dotted the hills around town. In the 1876, when the Sante Fe Railroad reached El Moro, a town just north of Trinidad, Colorado Coal and Iron, which would later become the famous Colorado Fuel and Iron Co., took note, and established large coke ovens at El Moro to supply the railroad. Sortly thereafter, Colorado Coal and Iron developed the coal seams at the foot of Fisher’s Peak and the company town of Engleville sprouted. A peak production figure at Engleville was recorded in 1881 when the mine there produced 200,000 tons of coal for the ovens at El Moro.

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A crumbling adobe at Engleville, piles of leftover coal from the mine can be seen in the background, slowly being reclaimed the earth

Engleville remained a steady producer through the early days of the 1900s, then faded as the railroads were replaced by the automobile and airplane, and gas and electric replaced coal as the nation’s top heating sources. Today, five or six abandoned dwellings remain at the Engleville site in the shadow of Fisher’s Peak, all on private property, but easily viewed and photographed from the county road. One old dwelling peers out over the vast expanse of the southeastern Colorado prairie offering an amazing view for countless miles. There is also a cemetery at Engleville, located beyond the fence line of a private residence which remains occupied.  Mountains of black coal, deemed too low-grade to ship at the time still surround the town site.

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The view over the mesa from this Engleville house, and out across the southeastern plains of Colorado is breathtaking and goes on for miles and miles

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Another shot of the same house, surrounded by blooming cholla cactus and a random sunflower here and there. Engleville is a picturesque ghost town in the summer months.

 

Engleville is easy to reach in dry months with a passenger car, or an SUV in wet or snowy conditions by taking Engleville Road southeast out of Trinidad.

 

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Day #11- Folsom, New Mexico

This sleepy little semi-ghost town in northeastern New Mexico dates to the 1880s when the Colorado and Southern Railroad laid tracks through the site, bypassing, and thus killing the Folsom’s predecessor town of Madison 8 miles to the southwest. Many of madison’s citizens relocated to the tracks and established a station, the camp that sprang up was initially called “Ragtown” because most of the early dwellings were tents and canvas roofed shanties. The town settled on a new and better name “Folsom” after Francis Folsom fiancee of President Grover Cleveland visited while traveling by train met many of the locals.

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Business district of Folsom

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Folsom storefronts

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This remote corner of northeastern New Mexico along the Cimarron River was a favorite hunting ground of numerous Native American tribes for centuries. The buttes, hills, canyons, and bluffs became a favorite hiding place for Old West outlaws and their gangs such as Black Jack Ketchum, and Captain Coe and the Robber’s Roost gang of nearby Kenton, Oklahoma. A small stone structure just outside Folsom at the Emery Gap was a toll gate for travelers to and from Colorado. The Granada Road, an early military road connecting Fort Union, New Mexico and Fort Lyon, Colorado passed through the area. In the late-1800s the largest stockyards west of Fort Worth, Texas were located in Folsom.

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Toll gate at the Emery Gap north of Folsom

Today Folsom has a few residents left, but the business district is abandoned with the exception of one storefront which has been turned into a seasonal museum, and the Post Office. Several shops along the main street are photogenic, and the highlight of town is the sandstone block Folsom Hotel which rests under of dense canopy of trees. When I visited the only locals I encountered were a herd of about 15 great big fat cats and a dozen or so wild turkeys wandering around town.  Folsom is situated in a beautiful little pocket of hills and must have been fine little town in its heyday.

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Folsom Hotel

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Day #2 of A Ghost Town a Day For 30 Days is Wall Street which is located in Boulder County and easily accessible in the warmer months by following the signs in Four Mile Canyon.

Wall Street began its life around 1895 as a mining camp called “Delphi.” From 1895 to 1898 Delphi grew in size and numerous gold claims were staked in Schoolhouse, Melvina, and Emerson Gulches which surrounded the camp. For a little over two years a Post Office operated under the Delphi name.

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One of the older shacks at Wall Street

In 1898 Charles Caryl, a wealthy industrialist from New York arrived and bought up nearly all of the claims in Delphi. Caryl renamed the camp “Wall Street” in homage of his home in New York City.

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The boom days at Wall Street

Charles Caryl funded the construction of a gold mill, built atop a towering stone foundation, that used a cutting-edge (at the time) chlorination process to extract gold from the host rock being processed. Today the mill buildings are long gone, but the enormous stone foundation still dominates the old Wall Street site.

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The Wall Street chlorination mill in its prime.

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The towering foundation of the mill today.

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Some more of the stone foundation works that can be found around the mill site today.

Wall Street had a Post Office from 1898 to 1921 when the mining operations subsided and the population moved on.  Wall Street today has a small year-round population, as well as a number of summer residents. The town site today is a mixture of old and new, occupied, and vacant- The old schoolhouse has been converted into a residence, and the Assayer’s Office is now a museum open to the public in summer months.

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Wall Street school house, converted into a residence in recent years.

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The James F. Bailey Assayer’s Office- Now a museum in the summer months

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A view down main street shows the chlorination mill and the Assayer’s Office sometime in the glory days of Wall Street, the town boomed between 1989 and 1921.

 

Wall Street suffered some damage in the floods of 2013, and a large two-story house at the mouth of the canyon was damaged so severely it has since been torn down.

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Sadly, this old Victorian house was damaged in the flood of 2013 and has been torn down since this photo was taken. Note: Front lower wall is bulging outwards due to flood damage.

 

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Rexford, Colorado is the first featured spot in “A Ghost Town a Day For 30 Days” which will last the month of April.

Rexford was the small settlement that sprang up around the Rexford Mining Corporations claims on the high upper reaches of the Swan River near Breckenridge, Colorado. Rexford dates to 1881, following the discovery of gold veins at the site by Daniel Patrick in 1880.  Rexford faded into oblivion sometime around 1900.

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One of the first cabins you will encounter as you approach Rexford, this cabin sits on a hillside about a few hundred yards from the main part of the Rexford mining camp

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Another view of the same cabin on the outskirts of Rexford

Rexford consisted of the mines, a general store, an assayer’s office, a large log bunkhouse, a number of small personal cabins, and a saloon. Today the remnants of all of the buildings and the giant cast iron bioler from the mine workings remain in a beautiful meadow at the edge of timberline along a rugged 4×4 trail.

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According to an description of the town this tiny log foundation was once the Assayer’s Office

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One of the small personal cabins remaining at Rexford

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Rexford dwelling

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These are the ruins of the giant log bunkhouse at Rexford

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A pine tree now calls this miner’s cabin home

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This is the collapsed facade of the Rexford General Store

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A view from the collapsed General Store looking across the 4×4 trail through town, the logs in the distance mark the spot of the boarding house at Rexford.

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Another cabin nearly lost to time and nature

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Remains of the Assayer’s Office and Saloon at Rexford

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Wildflowers at Rexford

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Mine wrokings and the old cast iron boiler at Rexford

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I first became aware of Hoyt, Colorado around 20 years ago when a friend and I went and bought a Model T Ford roadster and some other old car parts from a farmer who lived there. Hoyt struck me as strange even back then, it was an hour or so east of Denver, and situated near the dry, cottonwood lined bottom of Bijou Creek. About every third house or ranch was occupied, leaving the other two abandoned.

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This old house in Hoyt was torn down some time since my last visit

There was no actual “town” of Hoyt left, just scattered dwellings in every direction. In what seemed like it might have once been Hoyt’s business district were a number of abandoned homes and garage type structures. Old cars in various states of decay ranging the 1920s to the 1960s littered the pastures and lots. One auto wrecking business on a short, dirt spur road seemed to be the only commerce left in town 20 years ago, and we stopped in for a look. I do not remember anything spectacular other than a 1958 Cadillac collecting dust on a far corner of the salvage yard.

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This block beauty can be found north of Hoyt

My friend and I located the farm we were seeking and loaded up the Model T. We were then led to another nearby property and were shown a line of rusted Model T Fords tucked discreetly into a row of trees, and then were allowed to scrounge through an old barn through a mountain of antique Ford parts. With a full trailer we left Hoyt.

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A small building on the road to Hoyt

A couple of months ago I decided to return to Hoyt, with another friend riding shotgun, to snap some photos of the abandoned buildings around the area. Much like last time, Hoyt just seemed “strange” you can’t help but feel like you are always being watched when you drive through.

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It always feels like someone is watching you as you approach Hoyt

 

We were slowly driving up and down the two or three streets that roughly mark the center of Hoyt, taking photos of abandoned buildings. One lot had a number of particularly photogenic buildings, and I wanted to get shots from different angles so, I made a number of passes by. 

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One of the more picturesque buildings at Hoyt

When we reached the far end of Hoyt, and stopped in the Hoyt Community Center parking lot, and I looked over my map for any other place nearby that would be worth a look. We pulled back on to the county road in search of a dot on the map called “Leader.” As I turned onto a southbound dirt road, I stopped again to admire a 1956 Chevy station wagon next to an old storage building. Out of nowehere a Jeep appeared in a cloud of dust and slammed on its brakes next to us. I rolled down my window and the driver of the Jeep angrily asked “Can I ask why you are staking out my property?”  I told him I was merely taking photos of the abandoned buildings around the area. The man in the Jeep did not seem to believe me, and explained that he did not appreciate us “staking out” his land. Again, I reassured him that I was only taking photos of abandoned buildings, showed him my camera, and apologized. He continued to glare at me from his Jeep. I decided it would be best to just drive off at this point, as we did, a ATV began to approach at a high rate of speed from an adjacent dirt road, and the driver stared us down as we drove by. It was clear that visitors are not welcome in Hoyt, or at least not on the day we visited!

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Another of the buildings left in what looked like the town center at Hoyt

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Made it out to Bonanza, Colorado and the surrounding area a few weeks ago for some ghost towning.  Here is a collection of photos I snapped.

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Once a year, around the second or third week of September I make a pilgrimage to a very tiny and almost forgotten town in Colorado- Vicksburg. Some call it a ghost town, but to me, it does not fit the bill, Vicksburg is different, it doesn’t feel like a ghost town, although almost always void of human presence when I visit, and having only once in my yearly pilgrimages seen another soul in town, it’s well-cared for, and none of the cabins are ramshackle or in disrepair.

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Vicksburg, founded around 1880 and named for Vick Keller, an early prospector and resident of the town, sits just beyond the eyes’ reach, off of Chaffee County Road 390 which follows the path of Clear Creek, and across the road from the Missouri Gulch trail head. A tiny parking lot and a steel gate are located at Vicksburg itself, or you can park at the Missouri Gulch trail head lot. From either parking lot you will not be able to see Vicksburg, which is less than a hundred yards away hidden amongst the trees. On busy summer weekends, hundreds of campers, fisherman and hikers drive right past Vicksburg without even knowing it exists. To me, this is what makes Vicksburg so special- You literally can not see the town until you are standing in the middle of it!

From the iron gate at the little parking lot along County Road 390, a short, maybe 50 yard walk, takes you into a dense aspen and pine grove, you’ll first notice a tumbledown outhouse, then some old cast iron mining machinery which has been painted with a protective grayish primer to ward off the winds of time. Then, you will start to see the cabins that make up Vicksburg.

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A neat and tidy row of low-roofed log cabins is situated along a lone lane with ruts worn in it decades ago by horse drawn carriages and wagons. On both sides of this lane, towering Balm of Gilead trees, planted in the late-1800s offer a shady canopy for the sleepy town hidden within- In mid-September that canopy turns golden and fiery orange, and fallen leaves drift down the lane on gusts of wind. Other than the wind, all is silent and serene.

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All of the cabins in town have been restored or maintained and are privately owned and used as summertime hideaways. Running the length of the lane is a wooden fence, simple wooden mailboxes nailed to posts line the way. On the edge of town, near the parking lot, are two cabins which have been dedicated as museums and are open to the public during the summer months, the yard around these two cabins is filled with antique mining equipment, old wagons, and other daily items of a long-ago time when Vicksburg, and it’s contemporaries of Beaver City, Rockdale, and Winfield along Clear Creek were more boisterous than they are today.

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Vicksburg, to me, is as magical as it is frustrating- I personally think Vicksburg, at any time of the year, but especially in the early-fall, is the embodiment of paradise, solitude, and peace. But, trying to capture the magic of Vicksburg on film is maddening! This little gem is so shadowy and overgrown, the cabins so low to the ground in relation to the towering Gilead trees, that it is impossible to snap a photo that catches the idyllic and almost “lost in time” or “fairy tale” setting of Vicksburg. What you see with the eye, can not be seen in any photo I have ever taken. Vicksburg is a place you just have to see for yourself!

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