July 4th Road Trip: Meeker Range Call, Independence Pass and Leadville

Shooters in Rifle

Kristy at Shooters in Rifle, CO. Note the sticker on the door.

Driving I-70 west on a holiday weekend is a daunting task, so we left promptly at 6am on Saturday to get ahead of the traffic. We had plans to spend the Independence Day weekend with family in one of our favorite Colorado destinations, Meeker, for Range Call 2014. After our 3 hour drive, we stopped in to have breakfast and to support a local restaurant, Shooters Grill in Rifle. They recently made headlines for allowing employees and patrons to “open carry” firearms. Kristy ordered a breakfast burrito the size of a football, which she barely touched, and I had Angus corned beef hash and eggs. Breakfast was excellent and up the road a ways, we arrived in Meeker just in time to catch the parade. After watching the parade in the hot sun, we welcomed the shade at the BBQ afterwards hosted by some friends of the family. We relaxed and visited with some great people and chowed down on the never-ending buffet of fresh barbequed pork and lamb and every side dish, salad and dessert you can imagine.

BBQ

BBQ

The hosts did it up right and spared nothing. From the kegs of beer and fresh lemonade and tea, to the tents and tables sitting on the freshly manicured lawn right on the White River. It was one of the better 4th of July BBQs I have been to.

Rejuvenated from the food and cold drinks, we made our way over to Main Street to watch the reenactment of the famous Meeker bank robbery that took place on October 13th, 1896. With the help of the 100 year old Meeker town historian, every year a group of locals acts out the bank robbery in front of the Hugas Building next to the Meeker Hotel.

Hugas Building

Hugas Building

Using authentic props and a little humor, this historic gunfight plays out in the same location it originally occurred almost 120 years ago. There have been a few minor changes since then; the streets are now paved, a few buildings have gone up and the three would be robbers have a permanent view of their mistake from the cemetery above town. An affirmation to this day as to why our 2nd Amendment is so important.

What would the 4th of July be without fireworks? The festivities came to a close with a great fireworks show that we were lucky enough to watch from Linda and Joe’s deck. What a perfect setting with the Grand Hogback mountains as a shadowy backdrop.

boom

Boom

We always hate to leave Meeker, but the time had come. We ate breakfast with the family and hit the road taking a different route home on Highway 82 in Glenwood Springs and then through Aspen. Leaving on a Saturday we were not in a rush to get home, but we didn’t want to push our trip into the madness heading back to Denver on Sunday. The plan was to drive over Independence Pass (on Independence weekend) and into Leadville and then on to Denver. On our way up the pass, we stopped at the ghost town of Independence. It is one of the better preserved ghost towns in the state and yes, it got its name because gold was struck there on July 4th, 1879. In its heyday it had 1,500 residents, 47 businesses and 5 saloons. After producing $190,000 worth of gold, the winters became too much for the miners and many relocated to the newly named Pitkin County seat, Aspen; and by 1912, Independence was completely deserted. The Aspen Historical Society has done a great job restoring and maintaining what is left of the ghost town. They even restored the old general store and turned it into a small museum with mining artifacts and old photos of Independence. Of course the intact buildings are boarded and locked up in winter, as the snow all but covers them.

Independence Pass

The last time we drove Independence pass was a few years ago and it was the weekend it had re-opened for the season. You could barely make out the rooftops of the mining remains at Independence, there was a lot less snow this time… (Pics below are of the exact same sign).

Spring 2011

Spring 2011

July 5, 2014

July 5, 2014

We descended the 12,095 pass into the twin lakes area and headed north to Leadville. Leadville is another mining town that was founded in 1877 and is still a very active town with about 3,000 residents. It is the highest incorporated city in the United States at 10,152 feet. As Denver is known as the Mile-High City, Leadville’s nickname is the Two-Mile-High City. The Historic District boasts some awesome 19th century architecture and the detail and craftsmanship is amazing. Leadville is home to some notable historical structures such as the Tabor Opera House, the Delaware Hotel (supposedly haunted) and the Silver Dollar Saloon, where Doc Holliday is said to have had his last gunfight before his passing in Glenwood Springs, CO of tuberculosis. Leadville is a really cool town with a lot to do and it is surrounded by some of Colorado’s highest mountains (Mt Elbert and Mt Massive). After a quick bite to eat at High Mountain Pies, which we highly recommend, we headed back to the Mile-High City.

Mountain Pie

High Mountain Pie with Mt Elbert in the background.

See ya in the mountains!

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The Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials

“The worst day in Western Colorado is better than the best day anywhere else.”
~ Bryce the Auctioneer
 

IMG_1821We made an end of summer visit to Meeker to attend the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials.  Ever since moving to Colorado a couple of years ago, this event has been on our “must do” list, so we were glad to be able to finally make the trip this year.  We love visiting small town Meeker, CO and were curious to see what the town would be like while hosting an International event.  The trials included participants from across the world, including Canada, Brazil and South Africa.

While Furry B was not able to attend the trials, we did bring back some recon surveillance for his review, so he could learn some tricks of the trade.

The multi day festivities begin with 125 dogs in the Preliminary Round; the top 30 finishers then move to the Semi-Finals, and finally 12 qualifying dogs make it to the Finals.  The goal of the trials is for the sheepdogs (Border Collies) and handler to work together to fetch the sheep herd and maneuver them through a series of course tasks/challenges.  Border Collies are highly intelligent and ready to work.  This was apparent as each dog appeared with his handler, eagerly awaiting his command to leave post to seek out the herd of sheep, which were positioned on the other side of the pasture over a quarter mile away.  Click here for Herding Dog History.

Meeker sheep are free roamers known for their lack of cooperation and stubbornness.  The free range sheep “migrate from winter range North of Cisco, Utah to the high, lush mountain pastures above Vail and Eagle, Colorado in the summer” and challenge anyone (any dog) who might try to dictate their path.  It was entertaining to watch the sheepdogs attempt to maintain control of  the feisty sheep.  The independent Meeker sheep make this championship trial especially challenging for the Border Collies and their handlers.  With a purse of $20,000, the Meeker Sheepdog Trials attract the best of the best!

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www.meekersheepdog.com

A Meeker Visit with Harvey Wallbanger

Welcome to Meeker!

After a long Friday evening drive on I-70 in the snow, we arrived in Meeker, Colorado for a weekend visit.  Escaping the cold ‘teen temps in Denver, we enjoyed unusually warm 50 degree weather in Meeker. With only a dusting of snow on the ground, it was hard to tell that it was the middle of winter.  But no matter the weather, we were here on a mission – to build our new mobile camp site.

We love our roof top tent, but once you set up camp you are unable to drive your vehicle.  So J came up with a great solution; to mount the tent on our ATV trailer and make it more off road capable with a new heavy duty axle and 16 inch all-terrain tires.  Luckily, we have good connections in Meeker and they just happen to be handy with a welder, so off to Meeker we went.  The weekend was spent hard at work modifying the trailer and creating a base for the tent.  After a day and and a half, the modification is well on its way, but a few more trips will be in our future to finish it.  This summer we plan to be camping in style, have room for our ATV and still have the Cruiser available for adventure.

www.MeekerChamber.com

Our visit wasn’t all work for J, we visited a few local Meeker sheep and enjoyed dinner at the Meeker Bistro.  We also enjoyed a sweet treat from our gracious hosts — a Harvey Wallbanger cake.  This bundt cake is delicious, moist and the recipe is easy.

Harvey Wallbanger

1 pkg. Duncan Hines yellow cake mix
1 small pkg. vanilla instant pudding
1 cup cooking oil
4 eggs
1/2 cup vodka
 3/4 cup orange juice

Mix all ingredients together and beat 4 minutes.  Pour into a well greased and lightly floured bundt pan (9 cup size).  Bake at 350 for 40-45 min. Dust with confectioners sugar and ENJOY.

Meeker

Oh Meeker…The Perfect Place to Be!

Land of Peace and Perfect Scenery.

With Rolling Hills and Friendly Faces

This is One of My Favorite Places.

How I Wish I Could Stay With Thee,

But We Must Return to the Sea of Humanity.

We picked up a couple of traveling companions and began a road trip to Meeker to spend a few days with family in this Western paradise.  Meeker is well-known to hunters, but the area also offers wonderful scenery and outdoor adventures.

With the perfect hosts, we were greeted with a fish and elk fry the first night with friends, family and neighbors.  We ate until we could eat no more!  And thanks to Grandpa J, Furry B was even able to enjoy a few bites of elk. The next day was spent shopping, fishing, and then rounding up the crowd to head to the Elk Camp.

Elk Camp!

By hunter’s standards, the camp was almost luxurious; with electricity, satellite tv, and a commercial kitchen, this hunting cabin should be featured on HGTV.  We grilled up a few burgers and headed off to the mountains in search of elk.  Since it is the breeding season, we hoped to see lots of elk gather in the vallies in search of mates.  Up the mountain, we stopped for several photo ops and enjoyed the view of the rolling mountains.  We reached the ridge, and almost immediately could hear the elks’ bugles.  About the second valley we stopped at, we were able to spot at least a dozen elk gathering in the field below.  We stayed on the ridge until sunset, and then drove back down to camp.  After a few snacks, we cleaned up camp and headed back on the road.  On the way home, we saw multitudes of mule deer and then had a movie worthy moment when a huge elk appeared in the middle of the road!  Thankfully, our brakes were in good condition and we were able to stop before the truck became an elk slayer (or the elk becoming a truck destroyer).

Trappers Lake

Our last evening at Meeker was spent at Trappers Lake Lodge.  On the scenic drive to the lodge we passed the $55 million Seven Lakes Ranch owned by golfer Greg Norman and beautiful property owned by American businessman Henry Kravis.  As we neared the lake, we saw the devastation of the 2002 fire, which burned over 22,000 acres including the original lodge.  The lodge has been rebuilt, and includes a restaurant and small store.  We had made reservations for dinner and in true Meeker style, even brought lettuce and tomatoes for the kitchen (since the nearest town – Meeker – is 39 miles away).  The dictator restaurant, where they dictate what you eat, served Navajo Tacos on Indian Frybread with a choice of chicken or ground beef.  And they were delicious!!!!  After dinner, we took a stroll over to Trappers Lake, which is one of Colorado’s largest natural lakes.  It was late in the evening, but there were still a few fishermen and kayakers enjoying the calm waters.

The next morning it was sad to go, but we were glad for the good memories. Meeker is the perfect Colorado retreat!

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