Sunday, August 08, 2021

Leadville or Bust

Unnamed mine with massive dump behind

When we drove to Bozeman a month ago, we passed through Leadville the once booming mining town between Buena Vista and Breckenridge, CO. As we neared the sputtering burg of 2,800 we saw an abandoned ranch of the west side of Highway 64 followed and then a shuttered mine. Eureka as they say. I had to return. The silver mines that flourished from 1880 to 1894 are my kind of subject. The silver boom bones of Leadville’s historic downtown were made the visit a necessity. 

The view of Leadville from the Denver City Mine

Part of the Denver City Mine Complex

The burned remains of the fire that destroyed part of the Denver City Mine. Ten miners working 300 feet below ground were trapped by the burning head frame. Workers from all the mines in Leadville quickly arrived on the scene and dropped air hoses to provide oxygen to the desperate miners. 100 rescuers used cables to pull down the simmering frame and lowered ropes to extract their trapped brethren. All ten were saved

Ore bin of the Denver City Mine

I could have used more time to see all the mines. I stayed at a hostel Tuesday night, I’d say “youth” but well. For $60 a got private room with a shared bath. The going rate for a standard chain motel was $150 plus tax. The difference more than covered an adequate filet, baker, salad and a beer at the bar at Quincy’s. That was $27.00 tip included. Who knew the tax on a restaurant meal in Colorado is 1.85%? It wasn’t good but it sure was cheap.

Once you leave downtown Leadville is a shabby mill town sitting at 10,153 feet. It claims to be the highest census designated place in the US of A. Nearby Fairplay vies for the mantle. So does Twining, NM the home of Taos Ski Valley. I’ll flip a coin and tell you my decision.

Anyway, gold was discovered in Leadville in 1859. That fizzled quickly and silver took its place in the early 1890s. It was the biggest silver camp in the world for a Nanosecond. Bolstered by a US Treasury silver purchase program that lasted till 1894 Leadville grew to 15,000, second only to Denver. When the government ended the program the price of silver plummeted to 60 cents an ounce. At that price it wasn’t worth extracting and Leadville withered. The Climax Molybdenum mine north of town, summer tourism and adventure sports keep the lights on today. The Leadville 100 trail and mountain races among many extreme sports contribute, too. In fact, the third stage of the Tran-Rockies Trail Run started in Leadville Wednesday morning at 8am. I was able to grab a latte at On a Hill Coffee which was literally at the start line. I watched 360 participants start their run to Camp Hale a mere 25 miles into the high mountains.

I admit to getting a little pre-race tingle and the slightest itch to try something like it. Relax. I may be stupid but I'm not crazy.

1 comment:

Blacks Crossing said...

Once again, the clouds take center stage in these gorgeous renderings of the Denver City Mine. Plus, the text and history you provide about the area, Steve. One thing that is nice about Leadville is that its geography and geology still attract people to the area, even if for different reasons. That thin, rarefied air is perfect for extreme sports and training. And the place is gorgeous. Add a latte at the start of the Trans-Rockies Trail Run had to be the topping on the cake. Thanks for another beautiful post!