Day 199 – Peak-to-Peak Scenic Byway

Day 199 – Peak-to-Peak Scenic Byway, June 29, 2011

I’m back on the road again.
The first day back is always an adjustment as I leave the luxuries of a
full size kitchen, bathroom and bedroom.
In addition, I go from being stationary to being a nomad.  There is a lot to be said for being able to relax
in one place, even it is for a short period of time.  Finally, I leave my friends and family and
the social aspect of my life.  Knowing I
will likely spend days at a time without having a meaningful conversation in
person with anyone, makes it difficult to press on sometimes…and I’m not even
that social.

After a few days, however, I get back into the groove and
enjoy exploring the nature and beauty surrounding me.  Finding interesting, new places and
revisiting ones I’ve come to love make the journey a special endeavor.

I said good-bye to my Texas friends on Tuesday afternoon,
took VANilla in for a final tune-up, visited Verizon (hopefully for the last
time) to work the kinks out of this pitiful mi-fi card, and finally arrived at
Chas’ house around nine, where I spent the evening chatting with him and his
girlfriend Ellen.

Chas is an old family friend who ran his own fishing guide
business in Louisiana prior to moving to Denver where he earned his MBA.  He currently wishes to enter the consulting
business full-time and is willing to relocate.
He is a great guy that can talk to anyone.  If you need a consultant, he’s your man!

After a coffee and scone at the neighborhood coffee shop,
Wash Perk, Chas sent me on my way beginning the next four month segment of my
travels across the USA.  I took I-70 west
to Central City, located just north of Idaho Springs.  Central City, once an old mining town, became
known as “richest square mile on earth” when $2 million of gold was gouged from
the nearby hills in 1859.

The resulting boom financed several Victorian style
structures that still stand today, including the Teller House and the Opera
House.  The Teller House was constructed
in 1872 and was said to be the finest hotel west of the Mississippi River.  In 1873, President Ulysses S. Grant came to
visit his good friend Henry Teller, who later became the first Senator from
Colorado, and stayed in the hotel.  To
impress the president, gold mine owners laid 26 ingots of solid silver to make
a path for the president to the entrance of the hotel so that he wouldn’t have
to dirty his boots when he stepped from the carriage.  It is said, that this angered Grant, who
instead used the boardwalk.  At the time,
Congress was debating whether gold or silver should back the dollar, and the
president did not wish to show any favoritism.

The Opera House opened in 1878 and was frequented by
luminaries such as Buffalo Bill Cody and Oscar Wilde.  The glory years were short-lived as the
Central City mines were played out and the opera house fell into
disrepair.  A volunteer effort led to the
restoration of the opera house in 1932 when it reopened featuring Lillian Gish
in Camille, launching an annual tradition of summer festivals.  The Central City Opera Company is the
fifth-oldest in the nation.

Just west of Central City is the ghost town of Nevadaville
where a steep, dirt road led VANilla by slopes scarred by mining.

After winding along the top of the mountain,
we descended to town and took 119 north through the Roosevelt National Forest,
where we stopped at a scenic overlook.  I’d
call it an “underlook” if there were such a word.  Peering up through the pine trees, I caught a
glimpse of a towering, grey peak with areas still cloaked in snow.

A few miles further up the road, Longs Peak, standing at
14,255, comes into view.  Its summit, visible
to half of Colorado, long served as a landmark to westward-bound pioneers.

Across the highway, a monument to Enos Mills
was built to honor the founding father of Rocky Mountain National Park.  His one-room cabin, still filled with books,
photographs, and climbing equipment is nestled in nearby pine trees beneath the
Twin Sister Peaks on private property.

We reached Estes Park in the late afternoon, where we passed
by the historic Stanley Hotel, featured in The Shining.

We found a campground with showers not far
from the Rocky Mountain National Park just before sheets of rain drove from the
sky.  I turned in early, but not before
enjoying the view from by bedroom window…a deer foraging in the tall grass. ETB


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