Friday, June 15, 2012

2012-18 Canyon City and Salida Colorado


Canyon City, Colorado

Salida, Colorado

Poncha Springs

Map shows my recent and future travels thru Colorado

Campground:  Heart of the Rockies Rv park,  Highway 50 West, Salida, Colorado 81210
(719) 539-4051 June 11-17, wkly $149. =  $21 per night.  Great mountain views.

Tip of the Day:  You can click on any picture in the Blog to blow it up to full size for viewing.

Royal Gorge.  Last weeks report was getting just a bit long so I’ve saved Royal Gorge for this weeks report.  Canyon City is only about 35 miles from Pueblo West and made for a pleasant trip.  Hwy 50 is a great road for Rv’ers with wide shoulders and often expanding into a 4 lane divided highway.  Canyon City a great mountain town and well worth exploring.  It has the countries most secure Federal Prison with a museum attached which I’ve been told is very interesting to visit, but I didn’t visit it on this trip.  As I drove into the Canyon City area, I could see a number of prisons on the outskirts of town, but don’t let that sway your decision to explore this area as the area is truly a great vacation getaway.  Besides the Royal Gorge attraction one can take a train ride and have breakfast or lunch onboard as one travels the deep Gorge on it’s way to the spectacular suspension bridge over the mile deep gorge.

Royal Gorge

Even though I love trains, I opted to drive to Royal Gorge where a corporation now owns and runs the facility.  The price of admission gives the visitor the right to use the gondola ride across the gorge, suspended on a thin wire 1,500 feet above the floor of the canyon.  Or take a ride down a steep  incline railway to the bottom which I did.  Of course walking across the bridge itself is perhaps the main attraction.  It has no sway which is a good thing, though one could feel the timbers on the roadway bounce as vehicles drove back and forth with pedestrians scooting off to the side to let them through.  A trolley also goes back and forth across the bridge if you’d prefer an easier way of crossing.  I enjoyed the walk along the bridge peering over the edge of the bridge into the deep, steep sided granite walled gorge.  The Arkansas River running below it with the occasional white water rafters bouncing along on the  choppy current.  The rail line hugging the edge of one side of the river with steep walls on either side.  Shops, food vendors and entertainment are available throughout the day (magic shows and musicians), but the bridge and the gorge itself are still the main attraction.

Old wooden stave water pipe

An old wooden stave pipe bound by wires is still visible along the rivers edge below.  It once carried water to Canyon City.  Old technology that worked for over 70 years.  A section of the railroad tracks is held up by the only suspension bridge to suspend a railroad over a river.  It always amazes me the amount of work it must have taken to build railroads and bridges like this one.

Dinosaur tracks can be viewed, upside down, along the skyline drive just outside the city.  And Canyon City has a small museum with many dinosaur bones that were found in the area.  Some really great hiking trails surround the area, from easy (for me) to the more challenging.  I’ll definitely come back to this area for more exploring.

Salida Colorado

A new week and I’m continuing my trek west on hwy 50.  The road gradually becomes a two lane road and the wide shoulders I so love have disappeared.  Still the road is a good one as it gradually gains in elevation and there are more and more tight turns as it winds it’s way into the Sangre De Cristo and Rocky Mountains.  I stop along the way and enjoy the sound of the Arkansas River which I’ve been following all the way from Dodge City Kansas.  Meeting a fellow camper who’s heading back into Pueblo where he has a job in one of the four or five steel mills in the area, now owned and run by Russians. He has an older rusted out truck, towing a 1960 aluminum trailer and an ATV sitting in the bed of the truck.  He met up with his girl friend who brought two horses to their campsite.  Enjoying 12 days off from work and knowing how to enjoy life and having the toys to enjoy it with.

My campsite is on an open sloping hillside with parallel rows leveled off for the campers.  Mountain ranges surround me.  It’s sunny and 70 degrees at 11am as I set up my campsite.  A simple chore that doesn’t take long and then I’m off to find a local restaurant for lunch.  A stop at the visitors center to get some good info on the local area and it’s back to the campsite to enjoy a quite afternoon.

The name of the campground is “The Heart of the Rockies” (in Poncha Springs) and I feel as if I’ve made it to the heart of my summer destination.  From here on out, I’ll simply be exploring the west.  Following the road where ever it leads me.  The strong smell of sage and pinion pine is in the air.  A great combination of scents for the senses.

The next day, after doing laundry this morning, I’m taking the day off.

Wednesday, I planned on driving into the mountains to go to a ghost mining town, a hot springs and just exploring the country side.  I’ll give you a heads up right off the bat, this is the type of thing I really enjoy doing.  So after having a cup of coffee and a breakfast bar, I headed out.  Hwy 285 north is the route into the 14ers.  Those are the dozen or more mountains that have heights of 14,000 feet or more.  The highway continues to increase in elevation as I head north reaching 8,500 ft, then onto a county road 162.  I pass Mt Princeton Hot Springs which I’ll come back to later in the day.  CR-162 is paved most of the way as the mountain ranges get closer and closer on either side of the road.  Numerous National Forest campgrounds are along the way and I even stop in one, just to check it out.  They’re all dry camping and most are way too small to fit my 5th wheel camper.  With an old fashioned water pump and pit toilets.  I love seeing the signs that state “you are now entering public lands”.  Gives me a good feeling knowing much of this western land has been preserved in my name and yours as well.

Cedar and pinion pines and large groves of aspen line the road as it winds along a rushing river.  A hard packed dirt road completes the last 6 miles as it winds around a few mountain ridges, one side descending steeply with nary a guard rail in sight.  Just a thicket of aspen to stop any vehicle that might go off road.  And I arrive at St Elmo ghost town.  It sits in a valley surrounded by all those great mountain ranges.  The dozen or so buildings on the main street are all privately owned with two or three open for business.  A sundry store, a shop that caters to the 4 wheeling community.  Renting ATV’s for $250 plus a $1,500 deposit.  There’s even a three story bed and breakfast that has a sign out front “do not enter, for guests only”.

The couple that runs the store are the son and daughter-in-law of one of the few residences who lives here year round.  A most desolate location when winter arrives and the snow blocks all the roads leading in and out of St Elmo.  You’ve got to love solitude to stay here year round.

For me, just being able to walk around one of the best preserved ghost towns in Colorado is a joy.  The fresh air that quickly warms up with the clear blue skies overhead.  The smell of pine and dusty roads.  The scene is quiet after the 4 wheelers head on out on their adventure and I’m told later on the town will fill up with us tourists running around snapping our pictures and learning the history of one more mining town that went from boom to bust in just a matter of years.  Come to find out, the wife of the shop keeper lived in Orlando at McCoy Airforce Base at the same time I got my first Government job working at the McCoy commissary.   It is a small world isn’t it.  I continue to walk around, taking my pictures, looking at those grand mountains surrounding this valley.  Historic cottages tucked away in the surrounding forest, used only for summer getaways.   Yeh, I could live up here for a summer.

On my drive back, I stopped at Chalk Lake and watched a dozen teenagers learning how to fly fish and then it was onto the hot springs for a dip in the warm spring fed pools.  Even walked out to the rivers edge where rocks and boulders were aligned to create shallow pools of hot and cool spring fed basins to soak up all that goodness.  What a great day.

You know you’ve read a good book when you think about it a couple of days after you’ve read it.  I just finished reading “Ill Wind” by Nevada Barr.  She’s the writer of the Anna Pigeon series about a National Park ranger who ends up solving mysterious deaths in what ever National Park she’s in.  As I began reading this one which takes place in Mesa Verde I was surprised to see references to my home town of Houghton Michigan and Isle Royal.  Now I usually like to read books about places in the general area I’m visiting, hence the Mesa Verde connection.  But to read references to Houghton Michigan just took me by surprise.  Well it was a good read and I’d recommend Nevada Barr if your into mystery writers.

I think that’s enough for this report, or I’ll just keep rambling on.  Until my next story, enjoy your own adventures along the way.

You'll find about 9 albums in Picasa on the above trip.  The area is great for picture taking.

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