Weather and wildfires made us change our plans for the next loop around Colorado. However, we didn’t let them stop us from enjoying ourselves. We just kept rolling with the punches.
We originally planned to leave on Tuesday, but the weather forecast was calling for a winter storm of 5 to 8 inches in the Denver area. We decided it was better to leave a day early so we could drive the mountain passes in summer temperatures and hang out inside the van on Tuesday during the storm. It was hard to believe a snow storm was on its way when it was in the 90’s the whole weekend. We were able to book an additional night at our first overnight destination, Bogan Flats Campground, although not for the same camp site.
The wildfires were still burning. The Pine Gulch Fire in Grand Junction and the Grizzly Creek Fire in Glenwood Springs were well contained, but not out. However, being able to use our Hanging Lake Trail Permit on Wednesday was still out of the question. The Cameron Peak Fire north of Rocky Mountain National Park had exploded over the weekend, going from about 20,000 acres to over 50,000 acres and was hardly contained at all. The latest news was that it had entered Rocky Mountain National Park and Trail Ridge Road. The main road connecting the east and west sides of the park, Trail Ridge Road, was closed due to heavy smoke and poor visibility. Sunday afternoon, the smoke at our house was bad enough that we stayed indoors. Ash was falling on our deck and cars outside. Right Buddy’s (RB) and our daughter’s eyes were stinging. Sneezing and blowing noses were common sounds in the house that evening. It was time to hit the road and find better air to breathe.
On the way to Bogan Flats Campground, which is near Marble Colorado, we stopped in Georgetown and Leadville to walk around their historic downtowns. As we headed into the mountains on I-70, the smoke was so thick, we couldn’t even see the mountains. To make up for the lack of a view, the buffalo herd was hanging out near the highway for a change.
There were not many people on Sixth Street, the main street in Georgetown. Several blocks of the historic downtown were closed to vehicle traffic, allowing only pedestrians. The shop in the historic Hotel de Paris was open, but it didn’t look like they were giving tours. Although we drive by Georgetown often, this was the first time Left Buddy (LB) has walked around the downtown area. RB was there helping to chaperon our son’s fifth grade class about 17 years ago. Our kids’ elementary school teaches Colorado history to the fifth graders, so they take a field trip to Georgetown at the end of the school year. Georgetown is an old mining town.
There is a narrow gauge train, the Georgetown Loop, which includes a tour of the old Lebanon Silver Mine. The train actually departs from the neighboring town called Silver Plume. It was a fun trip for the kids in our son's class, riding the Georgetown Loop and taking a guided tour of the Hotel de Paris. RB found the tour of the old hotel fascinating, but the kids seemed more excited about the rock candy at an old fashioned candy store across the street. Not growing up in Colorado, RB learned a few things during the mine tour, like what a Tommyknocker was. Unfortunately, the year our daughter was in fifth grade, the Georgetown Loop train was broken down. Instead, our daughter’s class toured the historic Argo Gold Mine in Idaho Springs and did not have the opportunity to tour Georgetown. This year, we did not take any tours or train rides, we just walked down Sixth Street, enjoying the architectural details of the old 19th century buildings in Georgetown. A strong gust of wind blew up the street, kicking up dust, knocking over an outdoor food stand, and blowing over the street barricade gates. That added a little more excitement to our walk.
From Georgetown, we took Colorado 91 south from Copper Mountain, past the Climax Molybdenum Mine at Fremont Pass, to Leadville. Leadville is another historic town with deep ties to mining. Our first impression of Leadville, when we were still newcomers to Colorado, was not that great. It was a rainy and gloomy day during our first visit to Leadville. We took a driving tour around the many old mines near Leadville (the Route of the Sliver Kings perhaps?). The area was a muddy mess, with the multi-colored mine tailings of the various mines oozing down the hill. It was not what we would call scenic. Our opinion of Leadville has much improved since that first visit a couple of decades ago.
Unlike Georgetown where the historic downtown is off the beaten path, the highway goes straight through the downtown area of Leadville. We found a city park, Huck Finn Park, a few blocks away from the highway to have our picnic lunch. Afterwards, we checked out the downtown buildings. There are quite a few interesting murals painted on the sides of some of the buildings. The mural on the corner of Harrison Ave and W 6th Street depicting Ski Joring especially piqued our interest as we learned what the sport was. Ski Joring is an annual Leadville winter event in which a horse and rider pull a skier down the street through an obstacle course.
For dessert, we found an ice cream shop, D’Love Gourmet Coffee ’n’ Ice Cream. For some reason, LB was not in the mood for ice cream and had coffee instead. Was he feeling alright? We think he was just a little anxious about the drive over Independence Pass as he remembered it being worse than what it was and he was concerned how much traffic there would be on it since it was Labor Day. After our treats, it was time to get back on the road and continue on to our destination for the day, Bogan Flats Campground.
Despite the smoke, we had enjoyable day on the road. The view would have been better on a clearer day, but it was more exciting than staying at home. Road trips are never perfect. It’s the less-than-perfect days that help us appreciate the days with clear skies.
Check out our related video: Georgetown and Leadville Colorado