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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3rd Annual 100s in the Hills

After months of emails, texts and conference calls with the 3 other Co-Directors, it was finally time to hit the road. Bandit and I had the Cruiser and trailer packed up and we were off for the 3rd Annual 100s in the Hills event. Some of you might remember a few years ago a trip we took to the San Juans to camp and wheel with some friends. Well, this small excursion has grown significantly in the past three years to a nationally recognized event. This year we had almost 30 vehicles from all over the country, 65 people in attendance and twenty-three sponsors. Located in a remote area where everyone is to be self sufficient, we require all participants to practice the leave no trace principles. This event takes quite a bit of logistics and planning, which was completely worthwhile. No one left disappointed.

Unfortunately Kristy was out of town on business, but she is sure to attend next year. I wrote an article that was published in the November/December issue of Toyota Trails magazine on this years event. Please click below for the online edition of the article page 19:

Toyota Trails Nov/Dec 3013

Below are more pictures and a link to the 100s in the Hills Facebook page:

Facebook/100s in the Hills

Day #1: Clear Lake family fun run

Day #2: Ophir Pass & Imogene Pass

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Day #3: Black Bear Pass

Day #3 continued, Directors run back to camp and night run:

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Golden, Colorado: Where the West Lives

Since it is in our backyard, we decided to visit the Golden History Center, Astor House and the Clear Creek History Park.  The Golden History Center is located off of 10th and Cheyenne Street in downtown Golden and has lots of historical artifacts dating from the Gold Rush to present day.

Founded during the Gold Rush in 1859, Golden had grown from a dusty mining camp to the capitol of the Colorado territory from 1862 until the capitol seat was moved to Denver in 1867.  The first Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil was found near Golden, it is home to Buffalo Bill’s grave and museum and of course home to the largest single-site brewery on earth, Coors.

During Prohibition beer production stopped and Coors started new lines of business to keep their employees working. Coors began producing porcelain dishes and malted milk, which they sold mainly to Mars candy company.

After visiting the history museum we crossed over Clear Creek and headed to the Astor House.  It was originally built in 1867 and was the original hotel in Golden, serving patrons from miners to Territorial Legislators who met nearby.  In its later years it turned into a boarding house and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.  The Astor House stayed in continuous operation as a boarding and rooming house until 1971.  It has now been restored to it’s late 1800’s historic charm and truly is a walk in the past.  It had one of the first bathtubs in town and for $0.25 a traveler could take a hot bath; I am sure it was appreciated.  From the pull chain toilet to the water pump sink in the kitchen that still works, it is a must see.

A short walk behind the Astor House is the Clear Creek History Park.  This park encapsulates Pioneer life as it was in the 1800’s.  The winters were harsh, life was tough and it took sheer will to survive.  Some of the restored structures that are on display were moved from nearby areas of Golden and ranches outside of town.  There is a schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, cabins, barns and even a root cellar.  On select days there are costumed interpreters who help bring the area to life.  The park is about a block from Washington St, so it is another one for the list if you’re in Golden.

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Our walk through Golden’s history would not be complete without a stop at the Old Capitol Grill, one of Colorado’s most historic buildings and best restaurants.  It served as the capitol building to the Colorado Territory and was home to some of the first legislative sessions, until the move to Denver.  Over the years, the building has held many different businesses.  The Colorado School of Mines had early college sessions here, Colorado Central Railroad had offices inside and it served as a mercantile until 1971.  Ok, enough history, it’s time to eat.  K ordered the fish and chips and I had the Buffalo Melt, and both were very good.  I complimented my Buffalo with a Coors Batch 19, which is a pre-prohibition style lager, only available in select cities.  A true sports bar atmosphere in the original Capitol of the Colorado territory: Awesome.

Golden, CO: Home of the 2 Hour Vacation —> www.2hourvacation.com