Thursday, August 29, 2013

Creede, Colorado --- The Bachelor Loop

Roger here....  Since the last post, I drove the motor home over the Wolf Creek Pass from Durango to Creede in southwestern Colorado.  Dianne drove the Toyota behind as this particular pass was billed as one that could cause problems --- with the car unhitched it meant less weight, less chance of a problem.  The trip was uneventful (wonderful news).  The engine did not overheat.  The water temperature remained steady.  The brakes did not overheat.  I did not overheat.  It was a slow trip, but a safe one and now we are enjoying a restful return visit to one of our favorite places,  Creede, Colorado.  The photo below is the view from our lawn chairs and from our front window.  The town of Creede is nestled between the rock walls just left of the center of the photo.

Last year, we started to go up one of the unpaved roads north of town in our Toyota Matrix.  We quickly turned back, deciding that we really needed a high-clearance Jeep.  A couple of days ago, I found a nearby resort that rents Jeeps by the day, so we were all set to explore some old mines while traveling 17 miles on the unpaved mountain roads.

Our journey on the Bachelor Loop began in town.  The first leg of the journey began on Main Street, which turns into a twisty, intriguing road between the cliffs that you see at the back of this photo.

Lots of interesting and quirky places to explore in town --- another day.

At the edge of town, we passed the city fire department (totally housed inside one of the rock cliffs), and the Creede Underground Mining Museum --- both places we visited last year.  Soon thereafter, the pavement ended and the road began a somewhat steep incline.  Look behind the sign to the immediate right and you can see the ruins of the Commodore mine in the distance.  A few additional pictures appear below.

The Commodore Mine, which began producing silver from the Amethyst Vein in 1883, was one of the greatest silver mines on Earth.  It remained in production until 1976.  

During our excursion, we passed by several of the many abandoned mines in the area. You will get to see photos of many of the ruins, but I will not be identifying each one by name.

We were in a canyon during the first few miles of our trip following a small stream.

Look what happens to the road after turning the curve past the Commodore Mine.  It looks like we are headed up.

And up.  By the way, driving the jeep over the rough road was fun.  It was nice to be in a vehicle that was meant for the roads we were on.

The scenery changed a bit as we drove out of the canyon.  We found ourselves among the Quaking Aspen trees that are so common in these Colorado altitudes.  Here are a few shots from 10,500 feet:

We passed by a small stream that had been dammed up by beavers.  Look closely and you can see one of the dams (made of sticks and mud) at the back of the pond.

One of the most interesting stops along the route was at the Last Chance Mine.  The very bumpy ride down the Last Chance Mine Road was well worth the adjustments that will need to be made to my spine.

The view from the parking lot alone was worth the extra effort.

As we exited the jeep, a young man who lives on the property invited us to hear the story of how the current owner of the non-operating mine, Jack Morris,  acquired the entire property for $2900 and turned it into a tourist destination.  BTW, the guy portrayed in the statue is Jack Morris.  Another interesting tidbit --- the docent at the Creede Chamber of Commerce, who highly recommended that we visit this mine, told me that Jack played the role of an army officer during the filming of the Lone Ranger in Creede last year.  (Dianne here:  Jack Morris came roaring into camp before we left the Last Chance Mine, and I can tell you that he looks very much like the statue.  Roger and I both remember him from the Lone Ranger movie.  By the way, we both think the movie got a bad rap by the critics -- we thoroughly enjoyed it.)

You can spend the night in one of the miners' cabins that Jack reconstructed from the original frame for an unspecified donation.

The entrance to the thirteen level mine looked a bit ominous; however, the accommodations in the miners' cabins did not look too shabby.  Could be a new adventure?

Dianne and I, being amateur, amateur rockhounds (translation --- we like looking at rocks), were fascinated by the endless trays of rocks that Jack had collected from the mine and around the world.  

I thought it would  be fun to purchase a piece of silver ore from the mine.  That is, until I saw this boulder opal from Australia. $10.  Worth it for me.

Dianne here...  There was a large display of jewelry inside the museum, but since I'm not really a jewelry-kind-of-gal, I was more interested in the rock specimens like Roger was.  This is the one that I liked best.  I evidently have good taste...these apatite crystals were in the $20 tray.  This, along with Roger's opal, will be used as cocktail napkin weights on our tables in Texas during happy hour.  (It's always windy in Texas!)

The museum was authentic and interesting.  However, one of the photographs was phenomenal.  Sorry for the reflection of the sky and mountains in the background (artistic flair :-),     but get a load of the guys in this picture!  Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Batt Masterson, Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, et al. with Teddy Roosevelt.  If this is real, it is amazing.

Dianne again:  It's my task to finish this blog entry, so here goes....  

Jack Morris, when constructing the little house he uses when on site, also constructed a really neat deck cantilevered out over the cliff.  The young man told me I was free to check it out, so I did:

Imagine enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning or a glass of wine in the evening with a view like this!!

By the time we left the Last Chance Mine we were both hungry, so we stopped at a scenic overlook to eat our picnic lunch.  

The next stop in our $2 guidebook (purchased at the Chamber of Commerce) was the site of the former rough-and-tumble mining town of Bachelor City.  Not much remains now, as you can see by the photo below: 

There was a very weathered placard at the site detailing what the town of 1,200 miners was like at its zenith in the 1890s:
Roger made a quick read of the placard and was already half into the Jeep when I announced "I've got to walk around down there!"  He let out a big sigh and settled in to let me do my thing, knowing that this would not be such a quick stop after all.

Here and there I saw patches of what looked like tiny irises which might have adorned a home site.  Mostly what I saw were rusty pieces of tin (roofing I suppose) and a couple of old, rusty tin cans.  There was a lot of broken glass hiding in the grass and shrubbery, too.

My imagination was running wild as I walked around the field, conjuring up gun fights in the dozen saloons.  I thought of the fun I'd have if I owned that land and could go out with a metal detector to hunt buried treasure! 
 Our loop took us down the mountain and back to Creede.

We had a birds-eye view of Creede nestled in the mountains as we drove back down toward town.

 Our last stop on the Bachelor Loop led us to the old Creede cemetery.  

Roger is also not much into tramping around old cemeteries, but once again he humored me and patiently waited for me to get my fill.  
As in all cemeteries, some of the stones were very poignant...

As we drove down the hill, we passed by the picturesque church currently undergoing renovation...
Did I mention how beautiful it is here??  It is one of our favorite places in the whole U.S., so last January 1st (the first day reservations could be made for this summer) Roger was right on it and reserved a prime spot on the back row with an open view of the hills surrounding us.  When the West Fork wildfire --(Click to see an Awesome photo of wildfire) threatened Creede early this summer, we wondered if we'd have to change our plans.  When the fire was finally under control we wondered if this beautiful place would still be as beautiful as it was when we were here last summer.  We were very relieved when we arrived to see the mountains surrounding the town still green and lovely.  

Before returning the Jeep, we decided to take a drive toward Lake City to see if we could see any visible fire damage.  It didn't take long before we saw black, charred hills.  
There aren't nearly as many people here as there were last year, mostly due to the wildfire changing people's plans.  The locals are so grateful to the brave firefighters that there are signs like this one...

...posted around town.  We pass this one each day on our 4-mile morning dog walk.

We plan to spend Labor Day weekend the same way we spent it last year, enjoying the hot air balloons, ATV rodeo, and other local festivities.  

The pet photo of the day shows Tequila in her favorite riding spot as we travel in the motor home -- on my lap!  When I drove separately over the mountain pass, she had the whole passenger seat to herself in the motor home.  Roger said she sat there the entire drive from Durango to Creede, enjoying the mountain views.