Dirt Road Journal

Ghosts at old mining boom towns are worth the pass (if you’re up for an adventure)

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The 1870s around Silverton and Ouray Colorado were a boom with silver and gold speculators.  If you’re an adventuring type (and have the right vehicle, or enjoy the long hike) the history, views and treasures you’ll see in the mountains around this area never seem to end.  There are remains of old mines and old mining towns dotting the mountainsides, and ghosts (if you believe in the them) hang out in the trees with you for lunch.

My family and I spend a long summer weekend exploring every year and never get tired of driving and climbing around the mountains getting a better understanding how our pioneering neighbors survived at 12,000 feet in the winter, and how their dreams of a better life encouraged them to travel over extreme mountain passes with massive machinery into beautiful valleys to build their lives.

I’ll post a few individual posts on some sites, like Tomboy Mine and Mary Murphy Mine, both of which deserve special attention because of their amazing and beautiful stories.  Most recently my family came across Ashcroft, Colorado, a ghost town near Aspen via Pearl Pass, which I’ll try to post an individual story on as well.  But in total, months of exploration of southern Colorado ghost towns and mining culture exposes a rich and adventurous people who came into a unknown wilderness. Much of this spirit I think still shapes our rural west.  As we drive these old roads and turn a corner into a scree field or a valley, I often wonder how a woman birthed a child or baked bread for her family in these conditions; how a man tended his horses and hauled firewood to maintain some warmth at the altitude.  It is a humbling experience to arrive at these towns in our Land Rover; I wish I could meet the women who did it horse and wagon.

If you’re up for an adventure, the old mining sites are a sight and worth understanding the boom and bust of the late 1800s and early 1900s in our history as you adventure Engineer and Cinnamon Pass.

Engineer Pass (a central point of the old west mining activity: and you need a four-wheel drive to get here!)
Hotel at Ashcroft, Colorado (Ghost Town near Aspen)
Chute at Hurricane Pass
Mining machinery at Mineral Point
Alta; Ghost town near Ouray, door of cabin the boarding house
Frisco Mill circa 1905

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