Day 198 – Colorado Springs Loop – Part 3

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Day 198 – Colorado Springs Loop, June 13, 2011

I met Mike last night while watching the Mavs win the NBA
Finals!  He was rooting for the Mavericks
along with everyone else at the bar.
Mike is from Colorado Springs and recently graduated from college.  He and his friend operate a landscaping
company.  When he’s not working he likes
to go dirt biking.

This morning I drove south, through Fort Carson and then
west through Canon City to the Royal Gorge.
I had visited the gorge about 25 years ago, so I didn’t have a burning
desire to go again especially since it has become more like an amusement park
with a $25 entry.  Visitors may walk on
the bridge, but also take a variety of different rides.  Since I had only planned to stay about 30
minutes, I found a different option…a 3 miles, 30 minute scenic train
ride.  The train was like a kiddy ride at
the carnival…small, open air, and didn’t go faster than 10 mph.  The best part about the ride is dogs were
allowed, so it seemed appropriate, though it didn’t appear that Petey enjoyed
himself.  While it was a perfect option
for me, I think first time visitors should experience the real deal.

After visiting the Royal Gorge, we continued on to Salida
where we strolled around town.  I tried
for a cache at the old steam plant, but there were too many muggles.  I guess I should just start looking
around.  A fellow cacher’s log claimed
lots of people asked them if they lost something and a few knew they were
geocaching, so they didn’t seem to worry about muggles.

Shortly after leaving Salida, I passed my aunt and uncle on
Highway 50.  They had left Estabrook
earlier in the day.  I didn’t think they
were leaving until tomorrow!  It took a
handful of texts while driving to figure out we saw each other.  I’ve never come or gone to Estabrook from
this direction, so I was surprised to find out they were coming this way.  It didn’t cross my mind until a few hours
later that I had heard I-25 was shut down in both directions between Raton and
Trinidad yesterday, due to poor visibility from wildfire smoke, so I sent them
a fair warning.  It turned out it was
shut down again today.  It probably would
have helped if they knew about that a little sooner.  I hope it didn’t reroute them too badly, and
I’m glad I made it through just three days earlier!

About 20 miles north of Salida, I turned off 50 to visit St.
Elmo.  On the way, we stopped for a mile
roundtrip hike to Agnes Vaille Falls in San Isabel National Forest.  Agnes Vaille, born in 1890 of a prominent
Denver family pursued an adventurous life.
During World War I, she joined the American Red Cross in France, and
later came home to serve as Secretary of the Denver Chamber of Commerce.  She loved hiking and planned to explore Colorado’s
fourteeners with her friend Jo Witchery.
Unfortunately, during a climb up 14,255-foot Longs Peak, she slipped on
some ice and slid down the face of the mountain.  While she survived the fall, she froze to
death before she could be rescued.  Her
friend Jo named these falls for her.

The hike to the falls offers a view of Mount Antero, one of
the four collegiate peaks and a view of the railroad grade from the Denver,
South Park and Pacific Railway (DSP&P).
During the Colorado mining boom, the DSP&P and the Denver and Rio
Grande Railway Company (D&RG) raced to complete a route to Gunnison.  DSP&P chose the shortest route through
Chalk Creek Canyon and built the Alpine Tunnel to get through the Continental
Divide.  But due to weather, high
altitude, and equipment delays, the DSP&P arrived at Gunnison in 1882,
nearly a year after D&RG.  The
DSP&P line was used for nearly 30 years to haul ore, mail, and passengers
but closed in 1910 due to the decline in mine production and the high cost of
maintaining the tunnel.

Mount Antero is named for Chief Antero of the Uintah
Utes.  The chief befriended Powell before
his expedition down the Colorado River in 1869 and worked for peace between the
Utes and the early settlers.  Standing at
14,269 feet, Mount Antero is the highest gem field in North America.  Blue aquamarine crystals, smoky quartz,
topaz, purple fluorite, Phenakite, and Bertrandite can all be found beneath its
summit.  Due to the gem-quality stones of
aquamarines found at Mount Antero, the aquamarine has been chosen the Colorado
state gemstone.

Upon completing our hike to the waterfall, we returned to
VANilla and followed the river through aspen groves as we climbed a few
thousand feet to St. Elmo, once a thriving mining town – now a ghost town.  The town is privately owned.  Visitors may wander along the dead end dirt
road past an old store and post office as well as many old residences.  I believe pedestrians could walk to the
Alpine Tunnel as well, but I think it was approximately four miles away, so we
took a short walk around town and then headed to Estabrook.

On the way, we enjoyed the marvelous panorama of the
Collegiate Peaks: Mount Princeton, Mount Yale, Mount Columbia, and Mount
Harvard.  Despite them standing together,
the distance was too vast for me to snap a photo – I needed a wide angle lens,
or I was going to have to spend a lot of time in photoshop stitching pictures

We arrived at Estabrook around 4 pm, unloaded VANilla, ate
dinner with a glass of wine and just chilled.
It is so great to be here!  Posts will be limited the next two weeks…no internet connection here.  ETB

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Published by

Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

3 thoughts on “Day 198 – Colorado Springs Loop – Part 3

  1. Glad you made it to E safely. Enjoy your time there. I hope you have spectacular weather — we did!

    xo’s M

  2. I went across the Royal Gorge Bridge about 20 years ago, and like you, could not bring myself to pay the $25 when I was in the area in 2009!

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