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.

August 11th 2016 – Outback Tour Day 2 of 10

This morning we woke up early at 5:30. Breakfast was a simple Australian bush style breakfast of toast and basic cereals. I have not had cereal in years, but I had some corn flakes with skim milk, as well as some toast with jam. We set off towards Jim Jim falls at 6:30am. The drive took us down a 1 hour extremely rutted and bumpy gravel and shale road. After about an hour we came to the 4×4 trail where I hopped out and locked the front hubs on the truck to put us into 4×4. We took the 4×4 trail at a reasonable pace in order to not bottom out the truck but still at a reasonable rate of speed. About 15 minutes down the 4×4 trail we then came to the parking spot for Jim Jim falls.

During the fall Jim Jim falls has a very high flow rate, and you are not able to see it from land. The good photos that you see from the internet are from an airplane or helicopter. Luckily we came during winter so we could actually see the area where the waterfall would be, but also swim underneath. After parking the truck we walked about a half hour to a beach below Jim Jim falls. Most of us went in the water, while a few stayed behind because they were scared of crocodiles, or couldn’t swim. We swam a bit out from the beach towards some rocks, which we climbed over, to the other side where we saw a beautiful plunge pool. The water in the plunge pool was a little warmer, but absolutely beautiful. I swam to the other side of the plunge pool and relaxed under the barely trickling waterfall.

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Afterwards we hopped back into our 4×4 and drove back to the same camp that we stayed at the night before. We had leftovers and sandwiches, which were delicious. After lunch I helped hook the trailer back up to the 4×4 (we couldn’t take the trailer with us this morning due to the extremely bumpy road).

We started driving towards Mount Bundy, three hours away, where we are going to stay tonight but made multiple stops along the way. The first stop, an unexpected stop, was to clear a tree that fell right in front of us because of a small bush fire. We had to come to a sudden stop. The tree took five of us to move and two people to watch traffic in either direction. The second stop was a massive cathedral termite mound, which was taller than I was. The cathedral termite mounds grow 1 metre every ten years, so it is a slow process. The cathedral termites build their mounds from dirt, water, grass, and poop.

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The next stop was the Buklukluk Lookout. We learned about the foliage in the area and how the indigenous people made baskets and bracelets out of some of the foliage by weaving the fibres. We made bracelets, which took about 10 minutes, so image how long it would take to make a basket.

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Along the way to our next stop I was nominated to be a trivia quiz master, so I asked a series of ten questions each about World History, Animals, and Australia. The questions and answers were already prepared for me. The best team got 22/30 correct and won a prize of candy at the next stop. The next stop was pine creek, and old mining town, where we got ice cream, beer for camp tonight, and watched some caged snakes eat mice. I also received a bag of candy for being a quiz master, which I shared with the group. Gold mining was, and still is huge in the area, so many little towns along the highway were founded in the mid to late 1800’s. So much gold was found in the area that they were short of workers, so they got Chinese people that were serving time in Chinese jails to come work in the Australian gold mines, in return for freedom after a period of time. They did their time and stole gold by smuggling it back to China in urns of deceased family members, and then became quite wealthy. It is unknown how much gold was stolen, but it was suspected a fair amount.

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We got back on the main highway, called the Stewart Highway, towards Mount Bundy. The Stewart highway received its name from the explorer who was the first person to travel from Southern Australia to Darwin in 1861. The first telegraph in Australia was made in 1871 to England through Asia and Europe, which apparently took six years to complete.

We arrived at Mount Bundy, which is a beautiful farm area that has wild dingos, a bull, some horses, a miniature pony, and an alligator pond. When we arrived I setup my tent, and plugged in all of my equipment to charge (these tents all had electricity, which was nice). I took my camera and went in search of wallabes and the bull to take pictures of. I didn’t have the correct lens to take a picture of the wallabes, but at least I was able to capture some. After that I met up with the rest of the group who were sitting around drinking and talking politics, before we had to start preparing dinner. Dinner was mashed potatoes, buffalo steaks, sausages, and cooked vegetables. After dinner we went in search of toads and crocodiles by flashlight. We were unable to find any crocodiles, but did find some poisonous toads that if you lick them you will get high.

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I went to bed at 11:00pm. Check back tomorrow for more of my adventures!

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