Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Salida, Colorado

September 20 - 27, 2015:

It was a short and sweet 62 mile ride on route 24 to Buena Vista and then on routes 285 and 191 to Salida.  I just had to make a stop at Buena Vista to check out the historic district.  It’s another beautiful Colorado town to visit.

The historic Lariat Saloon in Buena Vista

The Pearl Theater

We had made reservations for a week at the 4 Seasons RV Resort just outside of Salida, but as fate would have it, we missed the turn for the campground, had to go 1/4 mile down the road to turn around and saw a BLM free site there.  As it's not going to be so cold here and we can get by without electric for heat, we decided to shorten our full hookup RV park stay to two days, then go to the free BLM site.  Twinkles is thinking that will save enough money for her to buy some new clothes to better fit her new trim body.

The campground surprisingly has the best WiFi we have ever had in a campground, but otherwise the facilities are kind of run down.  The lower high rent area by the river is much nicer.  We also have weird neighbors, that happens occasionally and you really just want to get away from them.  It’s a man and woman, not sure and don’t need to know their relationship, who each have a vehicle that they are living in along with several dogs in a regular campsite.  If they were young kids, I would think they were an adventurous road trip, but these are middle age people, more likely poor, desperate or maybe just crazy. 

We took a ride downtown with the first stop being (of course) a quilt store.  Twinkles loved the store and there goes some of that spare money ?  We then walked around a few blocks and first impression is that this town is really great.  We heard music being played in a park, followed it and found a benefit going on for domestic abuse in coordination with a Crest Crank bike tour event.  It was nice to sit in the sun, toasty warm, listen to the music with a good beer from a local brewery.  

We did enjoy Salida very much

Great ghost signs in Salida

View of Tenderfoot Mountain from downtown

Popular sports in Salida

Great signs on the Manhattan Hotel

The Victoria Bar

Nice Salida mural

Beautiful buildings in Salida

Mural of Salida from Tenderfoot Mountain

There are many potential road trips in the area.  We start with a ride on routes 175 and 184 from Salida to Turret.  The road becomes mainly dirt and dusty about half way there and of course I had just washed the Jeep, but no stopping now.  We pass an old quarry area now filled with water that is quite beautiful.  Turret is a remote old town, just a few houses and residents now, but back in the late early 1800’s it was a bustling mining town of about 400 people.

A very scenic ride

Old mine site filled with water

Tuesday morning finds us packing up for the short 1/4 mile move down the road to the free BLM camping area.  We drive down in the jeep first to scope it out and pick a site before moving in with the RV, this makes it so much easier.  This is just your basic basic rough open area overlooking the Arkansas River with a few bumpy access roads.  It's not so bad, in fact it’s great to be dry camping again, sitting here amongst the weeds and wildflowers with a view of the river and surrounded by the mountains.  Twinkles was thrilled to spot four Bighorn sheep across the river on the railroad tracks in the morning! 

View form the camper

Campground view

We then went a couple of miles down the road to the Salida Hot Springs and Aquatic Center where for for $5 each we soaked in the 100 degree hot mineral pool for an hour, you can also swim in the lap pool and get a real shower.  This is really great for campers like us who are roughing it.

Salida is a town with a few neighborhood type bars which occasionally have live music.  Benson Cafe is one which on Monday night had a touring singer songwriter, Rachael Vanslyke.  She turned out to be really good, attractive and personable, the total package.  She has won a few songwriting competitions and I very much like her style.  Her latest CD, “Help is on the Way” is great !  I also liked the Benson Cafe, it had a very friendly vibe.

Rachael Vanslyke

The closest thing to an old western saloon in Salida is the Victorian Bar which the locals refer to as the “Vic”.  I stopped there for a beer, but actually only wanted to see it inside.  It has a nice original looking bar back, wooden floor, tin ceiling, pool tables, shuffleboard table, a few assorted old photos along with the usual tacky beer signs.  There was nothing going on so I left.  Walking back to the jeep, I saw a sign in a store window for David Jacob-Strain and Michelle McAfee performing at the WanderLust Road whose show had started 1/2 hour ago.  It turns out this is a boutique clothing shop was about a block away and rushed right there.  I had seen David Jacob-Strain somewhere last year and he is a great guitar player.  He is one of those guys who was so good at an early age that he was labeled as a “blues prodigy”.  He resume is now pretty impressive and he has developed a singer songwriter side in addition to his extreme blues slide guitar playing.  It was a unique setting for the concert, sitting in a folding chair inside the boutique clothing store.

Inside the WanderLust

Friday night I attended a concert by Ray Bonneville and Cary Morin at the “Salida Powerplant” which is the original Salida power plant that has now been turned into a theater.  Ray Bonneville is a most interesting musician with an incredible bio, who has a truly original and most poetic groove.  Cary Morin is also a unique blues guitar player in that he is a Crow Indian, kind of rare, plays well and has a good voice.  He has won the Colorado blues challenge solo championship for the past two years and was a solo semifinalist in the 2014 International Blues Challendge. After the concert I stopped at the Victoria Bar for a beer and to check out the band. Sad to say, it was a very bad reggae band and it was just wrong in so many ways, I drank quickly and left.

The Salida Powerplant

Ray Bonneville and Cary Morin

A return was made to Buena Vista for a more thorough look.  The town appears to be doing very well.  The historic downtown is beautiful and they have a newly developed area that is quite well done.  I usually hate these things, but this one actually looks attractive.  They also have developed a real nice park area along the river and have built what they call “play pools” in the river.  They have placed boulders in such a way as to create rapids for kayak practice or competitions.  Salida also has a similar thing in their downtown area, I think these are the new rage for towns with a river fronts. 

The old Train Depot

Arkansas River in Buena Vista

Salida is hugely into outdoor sports centering around the Arkansas River which is a mecca for fly fisherman, white water kayakers, rafters and bikers of all levels.  I have never really been a bike guy, but I’ve got to admit, I’m attracted to the mechanics of these high end mountain bikes.  In the winter there is cross country skiing, downhill skiing at nearby Monarch Ski Area and snowmobiling trails all over.

Salida has many restaurants and coffee options.  We had a great lunch at the “Rivers Edge” which as the name suggests is overlooking the Arkansas River front.  Our meal, the service and the ambiance were great, best meal in a while.  We also had lunch at the “Boathouse Cantina”, also overlooking the River a short distance away with about the best view in town.   

WatchingLariat the Paddle-boarders while having lunch at the Boathouse

Twinkles enjoying the meal

Tenderfoot Mountain is a pointed peak overlooking Salida with the “Spiral Drive” to the top along with hiking and biking trails crisscrossing all over it.  We took a ride up the narrow road with Twinkles just a little uncomfortable.  The views of the city from the top are impressive.

View of Salida from the top

Heading up the Spiral Drive

I go off on an adventure to Hecla Junction which is a recreation area on the Arkansas River north of Salida.  This is part of the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area which follows the Arkansas River on its journey for 152 miles from Leadville to Pueblo.  The Arkansas River is one of the most popular white water rafting, kayaking and fishing rivers in the country. At Hecla there is a super nice campground, a boat ramp, a picnic area and hiking trails.  I took a trail along the river where it cuts down into a canyon that was most scenic.  

The Arkansas River from the trail

Across the river was the abandoned rail line
with telephone poles covered with old
glass insulators

I did another 5 mile hike along the Arkansas River and the abandoned tracks of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad near the town of Howard.  There is an unpaved,rough, county road in Howard that runs through the area.  I could have driven the road the whole way, but wanted to walk so I parked the Jeep.  I walked the tracks over a bridge and through a short tunnel along the route.  This rail line doesn’t appear to have been abandoned all that long ago, all the tracks and ties and still there.  I expected to find lots of spikes, tie plates and assorted debris, like along any NJ Transit line, but it was clean, no trash at all.

There are active mining claims in this area

This is a BLM area where you can camp free, but not so easy
to get an RV into

Old rail bridge

The tunnel ahead

Of course the graffiti artists have been here

Arkansas River view

Miner operating a portable Dredge in the river

The mountains are now alive with the brilliant colors of the Aspen’s.  We took a ride up Poncha Pass and for several miles beyond where there were beautiful views. We then explored county road 20 to the old town of Shirley which was a railroad terminus for the mines in the late 1800’s.  It is all gone now, but the area is now a major ATV and winter snowmobile trail area.  We saw a sign for O’Haver Lake which was reached after a 2 mile steep winding dirt road.  The Lake is at 9,200 feet with mountain views all around and has a beautiful campground and picnic area. 

A nice Aspen view

Love these country roads

O'Haver Lake is pretty nice

The Aspen views on the way to Monarch Pass were OK too.

Heading uphill

There are so many unpaved county roads here, it is a jeep, or better yet an ATV paradise.  I could spend much more time in this area, but they are starting to recognize me on the street, time to leave town.

Next stop is a place I am very familiar with, Pueblo, Colorado,

Twinkles and Slick 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Leadville, Colorado

September 17 - 19, 2015:

As I get up in the morning, it was raining and the mountains were covered in clouds.  As we had no WiFi signal there was no way to check the weather forecast and I was thinking that maybe we should delay our travel a day.  I’m a little nervous about driving the mountain passes in the clouds and rain.  Twinkles on the other hand is ready to go, she is not the “worrying kind”.  Ok, so some days you just need to act like you have a pair, (if you know what I mean) throw caution to the wind and go for it.  The first part of the ride was pretty dismal as expected, but amazingly an hour into the trip the rain stops, the clouds part and the sun breaks through. In fact, it becomes a most beautiful day with dark blue sky and big white cumulous clouds.  The final 30 miles on route 24 over the Tennessee Gap with the aspen covered mountain views were spectacular ! 

A rainy view ahead

Fifty miles down the road it's all blue skies

And great Aspen views

We get set up in the Leadville Corral RV Park which is in downtown Leadville with full hookups at the half off Passport America rate.  The sites are a little tight, but it’s within walking distance of everything in downtown and everything works including cable TV, I like it.

The Leadville Corral

We did a walk around town checking out the many old buildings, stores, coffee shops and bars.  We always look for a good coffee shop with some bakery items, working WiFi and adequate seating and we found it all here at "City on a Hill Coffee and Espresso".  We then went into an antique store that has a great selection of stuff, the “Western Hardware Antique Mall” which originally was the “Manville and McCarthy” hardware store built in 1881.  All the original shelving and drawers on the walls are still there and being used.  The store is for sale and hopefully will be taken over by someone who keeps it original.  I ended up buying a couple of old postcards which is sort of becoming a new obsession of mine. 

Antique store interior

Lots of cool stuff for sale

Upstairs and downstairs

After that we needed a beer so we stopped at a historic bar, the “Silver Dollar Saloon” built in 1879.  This town is loaded with these old buildings that haven’t been totally gutted in the name of restoration and made to look brand new.  The most priceless antique cars are the unrestored originals, the same goes for antique buildings in my mind.  This place had a great back bar and much was still original, but unfortunately they have plastered the walls with an excessive number of tacky photos, pictures, animal heads and beer signs. Overall however, I approve, I’m sure they care ?

Bar interior

We next went for pizza at the highly rated “High Mountain Pies” and we now understand why.  It’s a small building with minimal inside seating, more outside with a friendly energetic staff and a sort of a new age hippie vibe.  Most importantly, the Pizza was great even by our New Jersey standards. We ate in and were amazed how busy they were with take out orders.

They may need to expand one of these days

Twinkles is all smiles after the Library sale which was the highlight of her day, best ever !!!  I added quite a number to the box also.

They had great books and dirt cheap

Leadville began as a gold strike in 1860 which was short lived, but was followed by a major silver strike.  The silver was found in a lead ore, hence the town became known as Leadville.  Leadville became a very prosperous mining boom town in its day with many classic buildings that remain today from that period.  The most famous person in town was Horace Tabor who started as a poor merchant, then invested in a mine which hit very big where he made his fortune.  He became the mayor, went on to become leutenent governor, then state senator, but sadly it all ended terribly bad.  He divorced his wife of 25 years for a younger woman who became known as "Baby Doe". He spent lavishly and lost his fortune when silver prices dropped after the Sherman Silver Act in 1890 and he died a bankrupt man.  Baby Doe lived on in a small shack at the mine until her death in 1935.

Every town should have an Iron building

Nice mural

The Pioneer Hotel

The Delaware Hotel

Steam train on display at the Depot, they run diesel excursion
trains on weekends

Boom days are an annual event at Leadville involving
rock drilling contests like in the old days

Ornate Hyman Block building

The famous Tabor Opera House

Manhattan Bar is another old one 

The Golden Burro is a local favorite, but I really didn't see why.
The sign however is a great one.

There are several museums and tours in town along with a scenic train ride, but we settled on one museum, the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum.  It is a great one, but exhausting, we took a break half way through for lunch at the "Golden Burro" then returned to finish it.  

The Climax Mine near Leadville was one of the largest
Molybuenum mines in the world.  It was closed, but has recently
been reopened

A model of the "Ice Palace" built from ice blocks in Leadville in 
1895-96.  It was built for tourism and was huge and incredible.

A small section of the Leadville Mining map

They had exceptional mining diaramas 

The famous Horace and Elizabeth "Baby Doe" Tabor,
a sad story of great wealth lost and dying penniless

The hills above Leadville are riddled with old mine sites, a few of which are still operating.  There are roads throughout the area with old mines, head frames and several ghost town sites.  There is a self guided road tour, the Route of the Silver Kings, which I did a portion of. Parts of this road are pretty rough and I was glad to have 4 wheel drive.  It was a beautiful ride and very scenic with huge mountain views.

An old rail spur going into a building

All that remains are the foundations

The views are great

Another view

On Saturday there was the final farmers market of the year with free hamburgers and hot dogs followed by a Saint Patricks day Parade.  The Parade was small but they did have bagpipers and a good crowd was on hand.  Leadville obviously still has a sizable Irish presence. There was an old couple on the sidewalk playing banjo and Fiddle to old folk songs who were so cool. 

These guys were original

Not sure why the Shack Club ?

They sounded real

That is Gary Snider who is running for mayor, you gotta love this town

Leadville at 10,152 feet elevation, depending on which sign you believe, is the highest incorporated city in the US.  The temperature fell during the weekend to freezing temperatures.  Time to move south again.

Next stop is Salida, Colorado
Twinkles and Slick