End of the Season at Estabrook

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Two of the last three weekends I’ve gotten to spend at Estabrook, what a treat! Of the two weekends, the first one I spent much of the time hiking the Colorado Trail with Bart, Sue and Jim and I blogged these events. I also took my token walk up to the Bear’s Cave with Jim, Brian and Erin. For some reason, following Craig Creek through the unkempt forest and crossing some dangerously old bridges never gets tiresome. We continued on over the hanging bridge, to Johnson’s Gulch, and followed the logging road along the mountain top back to the house. Along with hikes we enjoyed margarita night, s’mores and fireside chats.

This past weekend called for closing time. Cat and Suman helped me out with the chores, but not before we had some fun. While Cat got in some practice mountain biking time at Buffalo Creek for her upcoming race, Suman and I ventured to Georgetown to ride the train! We took the long, pretty way over Guanella Pass into Georgetown. It was a perfect choice. The yellow aspen twinkled beneath the bright sun in the brisk morning breeze along Guanella Pass Road. The bighorn sheep seemed to think the best grass was roadside…what a treat to see them!

After a leisurely drive to and through town, we arrived at the Georgetown depot early enough to browse the shop and shoot some photos along the creek before boarding the train from Georgetown to Silver Plume for the 12:10 departure. I believe the round trip is just over an hour and the Georgetown Loop Railroad offers a variety of options and departure times. We chose a Parlor Car which provides tables and chairs, free snacks of the Crack Jack style and Coke products, alcoholic beverages for purchase, and the car is enclosed. This first class experience cost us $35. Coach cars, which are open air and bench seating without food and beverage service are $9 less. Dinner options are also available.

The train was completely full. We stretched our legs in Silver Plume for ten minutes, but were not able to explore the tiny town, hopped back on board, and returned back to Georgetown where we spent the afternoon browsing the antique shops and then enjoying tea at the Dusty Rose Tea Room. We just went back in time about 100 years I think. If only we had dressed for the occasion! http://dustyrosetearoom.com/

Regardless it was a fun time to stroll through the old town and to learn the history of the short-lived Georgetown Loop. In 1877 word of monumental silver discoveries in Leadville spurred a rush to the new ore fields 45 miles southwest of town. Union Pacific, anxious to join in the bonanza, planned several routes, one west from Georgetown over Loveland Pass. Unfortunately, Clear Creek Valley at Georgetown posed a problematic 6% grade, too steep for a locomotive. Union Pacific’s chief engineer was able to design a track that looped over itself and reduce the grade to 3.5%, but by the time the remarkable feat was completed three years later, other less complicated routes had been discovered and plans to continue the Georgetown line over the Divide were abandoned.

The Loop’s ingenuity, however, became a tourist attraction, and people from all over began taking the railroad from Denver to Georgetown and over the loop to Silver Plume. From Silver Plume, visitors took the Argentine Central Railroad to the top of Mount McClellan or rode the Aerial Tramway up Sunrise Peak. Tourism lasted until WWI and the arrival of the automobile ended the Denver line, but the reconstructed Georgetown Loop is here for anyone to enjoy. http://georgetownlooprr.com/

We took a different way home through Evergreen and enjoyed a night of margaritas and Settlers before we opted for another somewhat different activity on Sunday. We ventured to Castle Mountain Recreation at Wellington Lake and attempted hiking to the “castle”. Obviously, hiking is not a different activity, but actually paying to go to Wellington Lake hasn’t made the list often. It is a lovely site. The lake is large (167 acres). The giant rocks overhead look like their namesake, the “castle”. The mild and sunny October day with yellow aspen sprinkled in the forest of evergreen along the mountainside couldn’t have made for a better setting. http://www.castlemountainrec.com/

IMG_6604 beg of hike

Camping, fishing and boating is also available, though I can’t say much about that as we were simply there to hike. After we paid $5/person and $5/car, which seemed a bit steep, we began our adventure on the other side of the lake near the boy scout camp. The manager told Cat to follow the trail from the parking lot to the waterfall and at the waterfall we would find the trail to the castle. He said we would climb 2,000 feet in 2 miles.

To start, there wasn’t a trail at the parking, only a road! Luckily, some folks were just finishing up their hike, so we asked them. The husband made the hike sound like a simple loop, “the road forks, the right side is easier, or you can go left and follow the creek up a steep trail.”

Great, we thought as we walked 100 feet and found several forks in the road. We followed the fork to the farthest right though in hindsight should have headed toward the picnic tables in the middle. Our road took us to an opening in a fence with a sign “” with arrows on each side. Above “scouts” was “waterfall” with an arrow pointing diagonally to the left. Trails went to the left, right, and somewhat straight but veered to the left. Logically, we went straight, veering left as the diagonal arrow seemed. This was wrong. We should have followed the due left scouts arrow. We found this out two hours later after a grand adventure to the castle.

For much of the way, we did follow a steep trail up the mountain. Overlooks afforded us fantastic views of the lake. We kept looking for the waterfall and could hear water once in a while, but we could never find it. We continued up, even when the trail became poor and non-existent mostly because the boulders were awesome, the adventure was fun, and we were hopeful to find a trail to walk down as we didn’t want to descend the same way we went up!

Unfortunately, we eventually reached a point where we were not going up or around, so we found a decent place to descend. So while we didn’t reach the top, we certainly created our own experience. We never felt afraid either, as despite being lost, we always had our reference to the lake so we knew where we were, just not the trail. Suman, however, has decided she will no longer hike with me or Cat! Though we descended in a completely different spot, we ended up at the misleading sign. This time we chose left. In a few hundred feet, we found another sign pointing to the “castle” trail.

I can’t believe we made it so difficult on ourselves. It’s amazing how much difference a few hundred feet make in so many things in the world. For that matter inches and centimeters at times. Anyway, after a leisurely lunch by the waterfall, Suman indulged us and let Cat and I attempt the climb to the castle again. We didn’t want her to have to wait too long, so we hiked as fast as we could up the rather steep, granite scree trail.

We made it to the base. Climbed up the edge of the rock on one side then stop. It looked like we could have hike around the front face or maybe the back, but it would have required some investigating, time and energy that we may have had, but needed to save for another time. After enjoying the view for a minute or two, we faced a treacherous return. I’m not sure if the loose scree or the packed trail was harder to hike down, but many times it was harder to stay on our feet than our bushwacking earlier in the day. I would have enjoyed having my hiking poles on this one. I really enjoyed the hike, and I think I will have to donate to Castle Mountain Recreation again, as I want to spend more time on the summit.

I understand it can be reached from the Rolling Creek Trailhead for free, though it requires leaving the trail and bushwacking as well. It is also much farther so a $5-$10 may be worth it! Overall, it was a wonderful two weekends at Estabrook with good friends and fun activities. ETB


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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.

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