Monday, January 10, 2011

Rocky Mountain High!

We left home early one cold morning and headed across Denver, trying to beat the worst of the freeway traffic. We'd been told that Winter Park, a famous ski area, was worth seeing, so we made that the farthest point in our day, hoping to see some interesting little towns on the way. There isn't much snow in the foothills directly above Denver, but up high at the 10,000-12,000 foot elevations we found all we could wish for. The ski area was jam-packed with happy skiers, and was very beautiful.

Here's a sign I have not seen before — Moose Crossing! We were not so lucky to see the real thing, however.

Several little old mining towns in the foothills proved very picturesque. This one, Empire, boasts of the "Original Hard Rock Cafe´". It said so on our map, too, so we believed it. We did not go inside, since we'd just eaten breakfast at a McDonalds. If we'd only known! Driving through parts of the Rockies, I now understand the term "hard rock"! I used to think it had something to do with rock music. Not so!

In the town of Idaho Springs we found a completely frozen waterfall and an old wheel with a sign that said, "Charlie Tayler used this waterwheel to power a stamp mill at his gold mining operations on Ute Creek. Tayler, who attributed his good health to the fact that he never kissed women or took baths, built the waterwheel in 1893. It was moved to its present site in 1946, a gift to the people of Idaho Springs by his estate." We had to hike a trail under the highway to see this amazing sight up close.

This huge building was another intriguing sight in Idaho Springs. "In 1893 construction of the Argo Tunnel began. It would be 17 years before it would reach Central City, over 4.5 miles away. The tunnel would provide water drainage, ventilation and economical transportation of the gold bearing ore from the many mines it would intersect along the way. The Argo Mill was constructed to process the gold bearing ore from these mines. When completed, the Argo would be the largest mill of its type in the world. The mill processed over 100 million dollars of gold ore at the old time prices of $18 to $35 per ounce and stands today as a memorial to the hard rock miners of the day when gold was king!"

Our main destination for the day was the quaint Victorian village of Georgetown, begun in 1859 as a mining town. The first thing we saw was this large, completely frozen lake, with cars driving around on it! Up close we read a sign saying that permits were necessary to drive on the lake, and there were orange cones set up on the ice, maybe to mark the safest spots. I don't think I'd want to try it anyway!

There are many very old buildings in Georgetown. This was the original school, built in 1874. It looked as though it was still in use.

As we shopped for birthday gifts for our daughter, we asked the sales clerk if she would recommend a good place to eat lunch. She sent us to this restaurant where we did find wonderful food and a good atmosphere. We were amused by the sign!

Many of the very old storefronts in the town have been carefully restored and kept up, but this one seemed to be deliberately left to rack and ruin on the outside, but was a lovely souvenir shop on the inside. I loved the ghost town effect! I've found, in our travels, that the towns I seem to like the best resemble this one, all old mining towns. Among my favorites are Deadwood and Lead in South Dakota, Silver City New Mexico, Wallace Idaho and Phillipsburg in Montana. Now I can add Georgetown, Colorado to the list! May we find and explore many more!

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