Colorado – Day 3 – Ghost Towns

Today was a day of exploring old ghost towns. We woke up around 8:00am, got ready, and had breakfast at our hotel. Breakfast was French toast, sausages, and scrambled eggs. I ended up skipping the French toast.

First stop was Ashcroft Ghost Town. Ashcroft was a silver mining town that was founded in 1880. At the height of Ashcroft’s boom, over 2000 people lived there. High transportation costs, poor shallow silver deposits, competition from nearby Aspen, and the 1893 silver market crash ultimately lead to the demise of the town. By 1895 the population of the town decreased to less than 100 people. In 1912 the U.S. Postal Service stopped mail delivery, which ended up being the final blow to the town.

Most of the homes in Ashcroft were insulated with burlap or newspapers. This was necessary because the town, nestled around 10000 feet above sea level, received over 18 feet of snow annually and was quite cold. The homes were built in an East / West orientation to receive as much warmth as possible from the sunlight.

At its peak, Ashcroft had 20 saloons. Nearly 75% of the population were single males. Saloons, bars, and men’s clubs offered the lonely miners a distraction from their hard work. The average employee spent about 10-15% of his $142 yearly income on liquor.

After visiting Ashcroft we drove North to Glenwood Springs, and then headed East towards Georgetown. On our way to Georgetown we stopped in Eagle to have some delicious sandwiches at Pickeld Kitchen & Pantry. I had an Italian sandwich, and I can honestly say it was one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had.

After having lunch we continue driving towards Georgetown, with a slight detour towards Eagle Mine, and the historic Town of Redcliff.

Eagle Mine is an abandoned mine near Gilman. Mining at Eagle Mine began in the 1880’s, initially for gold and silver, but eventually zinc in its later years. The mine was operational until 1984. After the closure of the mine in 1984, a 235 acre area, which included 8 million tons of mine waste, was designated as an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund Site. EPA Superfund sites are designed to investigate and cleanup sides contaminated with hazardous substances. 70% of the time the responsibly parties pay for the cleanup, with 30% of the time the cleanup is unable to be funded by the responsible parties. According to the EPA, the mining operations at Eagle Mine left a huge amount of arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead and zinc in the soil and were leaching into the Eagle River, which threatened the dinking water supply in nearby Minturn. By the early 2000’s it was concluded that the remediation efforts of the EPA had significantly reduced the public health risks and improved the water quality in the Eagle River.

After looking at the mine from afar, since it was all blocked off, we drove to Redcliff. Redcliff was incorporated in 1879 and currently has a population of 282 people. It is a former mining camp situated in the canyon of the upper Eagle River. The town site is concealed below Highway 24, which passes over the Red Cliff Truss Bridge.

The Red Cliff Truss Bridge spans 471 feet (144 metres) over the Eagle River, and was built in 1940 for a cost of $372000. The bridge went more than 60 years before needed remediation work. In 2004 the bridge deck was replaced with a widened deck, and the steel was repainted, for a total cost of $3.6 million.

After our little side adventure we continued on our drive to Georgetown. We checked into our hotel, the Georgetown Lodge. It was a no-frills motel with two queen sized beds for about $100/night. After checking into our hotel we walked around town exploring the 1870-1890’s property’s before going for dinner at the Silverbrick Tavern, which is joined to Guanella Pass Brewing Company. We enjoyed a beer and had a meat lovers pizza to share. It was Chicago Deep Dish pizza style, and absolutely delicious.

Colorado – Day 1 – Ghost Towns

It’s been a few years since my Dad and I went on a father-son trip somewhere. This year we decided to go to MColorado. Dad and I had been talking about doing some hiking in Maroon Bells, Colorado for quite a few years.

We flew on a direct United Airlines flight into Denver on an Airbus A319. After landing in the mid-morning we picked up our rental vehicle, a Ford Explorer, and started off on our journey.

First stop was Bass Pro Shop to pickup some bear spray, followed by a quick lunch at Good Times Burger & Frozen Custard. Dad and I both just had a burger, and a diet Pepsi.

After lunch we drove to our first major stop of the day; the Argo Gold Mine and Mill. The Argo Gold Mine and Mill is a former gold mining and milling property located in Idaho Springs, Colorado. The mill at the entrance of the tunnel was in excellent condition, and remains intact over 100 years later. The Argo Tunnel was built between 1893 and 1910. Over $100 million of gold, and $200 million of other high value ores were mined prior to the tunnel closing in 1943 due to a major flooding accident when they tried to blast the Kansas Boroughs area. The flooding spilled thousands of gallons a minute of acidic water (pH 3) all over the area. A federal moratorium was also placed on gold mining during World War II, which didn’t help. In 1976 the mine was purchased by a local investment group led by James Maxwell, who wanted to showcase a prime example of the Colorado gold rush mines. It was renovated and reopened as a tourist attraction. In 1978 the mine was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Working conditions at the mine were brutal, with the average worker only living 3-5 years after starting work there. In 1996 a waste water treatment facility was built to treat the acidic water, which was still flowing at a fairly high rate of a few thousand gallons per minute, because the acidic water was killing the fish. In 2015 a 5 foot thick concrete wall, and a dedicated pipe and valve was built to contain the water and control the flow rate to a more manageable 700 gallons per minute. Overall the mine and mill tour absolutely impressed me.

After visiting the gold mine and mill we drove to our next stop; Blue Lake. Blue Lake is a man made dam that provides drinker water to Blue River and Breckenridge.

It was then time to head to our hotel, Mountain Chalet in Aspen. The drive went over the Independence Pass Continental Divide. Standing at just over 12000 feet above sea level, this beautiful drive offered stunning views of the valleys below. It was pretty chilly up top; only 6 degrees Celsius or so.

Just after passing the top of the pass we found a historic mill site called Farwell Mill #2, which was part of Independence Ghost Town. It was a 20 stamp mill that crushed gold ore. The mill was originally opened in 1879 as a 10 stamp mill, however it was quickly realized that an expansion was required, and Farwell Mill #2 was opened in 1881 with an additional 20 stamps, along with the Brown Tunnel to deliver a greater load of ore. By the end of 1883 the major veins of the mine were fully extracted, and the mine was quietly closed. The mine re-opened in the 1920’s with a new gold rush, however it only produced small amounts, and was later abandoned again.

The total drive from Denver took about 8 hours with all of our stops. I suspect you can get there in 4.5-5 hours without stops. After checking into our hotel we walked to a restaurant called Brunelleschi’s, which was recommended to us by our hotel concierge. I had a pizza, and dad had some asparagus and mushroom risotto.

On our way back to the hotel we stopped at a grocery store to pickup food for tomorrow. I ended up writing my blog, and chatting on the phone for a bit with Julie, before heading to bed.

Chile – Day 8 – Anita & Chacabuco Ghost Towns

Today I woke up at 6:45am coughing uncontrollably. My cold was definitely getting worse. C was still sleeping and I let her sleep until 8:00am and then woke her up. We had the complimentary buffet breakfast in the hotel and then set off to explore.

Today we visited a very famous Chilean ghost town near Calama called Chacabuco. On the drive out to Chacabuco we came across another ghost town called Anita. Anita was an abandoned Nitrate or “Saltpeter” town that was founded in 1902 and abandoned in 1912. The town fell into quick disarray and is not that well preserved. Vandalism covers most of the Anita property. Our next stop was Chacabuco; the main highlight of the day.

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Chacabuco is an abandoned Nitrate or “Saltpeter” town that was founded in 1924 by the Lautaro Nitrate Company and soon fell into ruin as the nitrate mining boom in Chile came to an abrupt end in the 1930’s The Germans had invented synthetic nitrate and by the end of the 1930’s most of Chile’s nitrate industry came to and end. At one point in time nitrate provided 50% of Chile’s GDP. Chacabuco finally shut its doors in 1938, where it remained closed until 1973. In 1973 things took a dark twist and the town was reopened as a concentration camp during the Pinochet regime in 1973. Chile was under a Military dictatorship from 1973-1990.

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I was really starting to struggle with my cold so we drove back to Calama and went to a pharmacy to get some decongestant medicine. We spent the late afternoon resting before venturing out for some delicious corn and egg pizza from La Pizzata; yes you read that correctly it was corn and egg.

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After pizza we walked back to the hotel and watched half of a movie before going to bed.

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