Sunday, October 18, 2015

Trinidad, Colorado

October 13 - 15, 2015:

Pueblo was great, but my attention span is short and I’m thrilled to be back on the road again.  It’s an easy 90 mile drive on Route 25 south to Trinidad, Colorado.  My trip started good when I stopped at a Donut Store leaving Pueblo which happened to be a Vietnamese owned Donut shop.  The store people, obviously a family affair, were so courteous and friendly, welcoming everyone into the store, handing out free samples and thanking everyone leaving, something you hardly ever get at American owned stores.  

Trinidad Lake State Park has a beautiful campground overlooking the lake that is located within a few miles of downtown Trinidad. The Purgatoire River is damed to form the lake for irrigation, flood control and recreation.  The Purgatoire River’s full name is “El Rio de Las Animas Perdidas en Purgatoria” (try saying that) which translates to the river of lost souls in purgatory.  The name derives from early Spanish explorers who turned up missing, most likely killed by the indians, who deprived of their last rites, were condemned to wander forever in purgatory. Interestingly, the Purgatoire River spelling changed from Spanish to French at some point.

View of the Lake from behind our campsite

Scenic highway 12, called the Highway of Legends, runs past the State Park between Trinidad and Walsenburg.  This is coal country and you can easily see the veins of coal along the hillsides of the highway.


Coal is plentiful

Like a super Walmart

We went a few miles away on highway 12 to see the remains of the coke ovens at the small town of Cokedale.  Coal was heated in these ovens to burn off the impurities and convert it into Coke.  The Coke was then transported to the Steel Mill in Pueblo to produce Steel.  Cokedale was originally a company town, built in 1906 and at it’s peak had 1,500 residents.  There were 350 coke ovens that produced 800 tons of Coke a day !  Just a memory now !

Remains of the Coke ovens

Trinidad is looking better than I remember it from a couple of years ago when we last passed through.  There are totally redoing Commerce Street and most of the old buildings appear to be under renovation with many new businesses opening.  Trinidad seems to doing the right things to develop this downtown area.

Savoy Cafe with the street work in background

Skateland was interesting

Old newspaper building in Trinidad

The old Columbian Hotel 

Memorial to the Coal miners in Trinidad

Many of the famed lawmen frequented Trinidad

Beautiful Pottery piece on Main Street

The Ava Maria shrine in Trinidad

The Mighty Miners logo is a great one

The Fox theater needs some help

The streets of Trinidad are paved with Trinidad bricks

Hopefully restoration is underway at the Opera House

The Santa Fe trail ran right through present day downtown, but the city wasn't founded until 1862 shortly after coal was discovered in the region. The city really prospered when the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad  arrived in 1878.  BNSF currently runs freight service and Amtrak runs passenger service through Trinidad.

Steam  Locomotive and cars on display in Trinidad

We visited the A. R. Mitchell Museum of Western Art on Main Street. A.R. Mitchell is not exactly a household name, but he was one of the most prolific western illustrators of pulp western magazines.  He was a native of Trinidad and did much to start the historic preservation movement in town.  The Museum is housed in a very impressive building that was once the Jamieson Dry Goods Store with tin ceilings throughout and a horseshoe shaped Mezzanine.

Mitchell illustrations

Interior of the museum

I took a ride over the Raton Pass and across the state line to Raton, New Mexico. Raton is another historic wild west town.  The BNSF railroad passes through town, same as Trinidad and there is even a daily Amtrak train.  Raton has a very beautiful county building, a couple of nice old theaters and several historic buildings, but overall is not as vibrant a downtown as Trinidad.

The Raton Theater

Art Deco County administration building

Historic store in Raton

On return in Trinidad, I found the beautiful, El Rancho Club which really seems to be a real club as there were several cars out front although the door was locked.  I really wanted to see what was inside.

Need to know more about this club

Back at the campground, I went for a short steep hike that goes down to what they call the cove at the end of the lake.  Along the way, I had a run in with a Bull snake.  I wasn’t really paying attention as I haven’t been in snake country in a long time, but I must have walked very close or possibly even stepped on it.  I need to break that habit now !  The snake was very agitated and was coiled up and ready to strike.  It looked like a rattler, but there was no rattle, very dangerous, they should all be rattle equipped !  Anyhow, Bull snakes are not poisonous and it was a good wake up call for me.

A very mad big snake

That’s enough of Trinidad, next stop is a return visit to Las Vegas, New Mexico;

Twinkles and Slick

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