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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cripple Creek


     Today we took advantage of a free day and great visibility to head up into the hills.  The plan was to put the Jeep in four wheel drive and drive the Gold Camp Road from Colorado Springs to Cripple Creek.  That little city claims the title of "the World's Greatest Gold Camp".  Back in its heyday the Springs was its base of logistic support.  The lifeline was the narrow, winding gravel road that crept its way for thirty miles or so from one mile above sea level to two miles above.  It supported an endless string of mule drawn wagons up those switchbacks and through the one lane tunnels hewed out of the rock.  Among the tales I remember were those that dealt with the transportation of explosives up to the mines.  Dynamite and black powder was dealt with rather cavalierly, but nitro-glycerin was another story.  Apparently the preferred approach utilized a wagon with a stake at all four corners.  Suspended on ropes from the four stakes was a wooden water barrel.  Suspended in turn inside the water barrel was a smaller barrel of the nitro-glycerin.  The compound shock absorption of the two sets of suspension ropes and the barrel full of water seemed to be the best solution.  Still, when traversing the rougher sections of the road, the mule-skinners dismounted and controlled the mules with a long set of reins!  
     At any rate, there was a closure on Gold Camp Road after about an hour of four wheel driving.  There may have been a detour, but I didn't find it.  So we headed back down from the Cheyenne Canyon Park and back to the Springs and Route 24 west to Manitou Springs, Cascade, Woodland Park and Divide where we picked up 67 south to Cripple Creek.  It is a majestic, high altitude area as the picture shows.  Today there are mine tours, ("descend 1000 feet below ground level"), narrow gauge railroad tours to Victor and back, and a large collection of casinos large and small.  There are many small shops and cafes.  We had planned to eat lunch in one of them.  We assumed that at 10,000 feet it would be cool enough (Durelle had brought a sweater) to leave Baxter in the Jeep with a dish of water and the windows partly open. Unfortunately, it was 88 degrees and no shade.  We were effectively above timberline.  By the time we got back to Woodland Park, we were hungry and did justice to a couple of chicken sandwiches in the Wendy's parking lot.
     On the way back we drove through the Garden of the Gods in western Colorado Springs.  I didn't stop for the iconic pictures of the balancing rock or the kissing camels, but I did get a couple of shots that I may use later.  Now it is time to grill a steak.  Life is good.

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