It felt good to be back in our old stomping grounds where our kids grew up skiing. As we stood on the Continental Divide, looking down on Monarch Ski Resort, the memories came back making me nostalgic.
On our last visit to Turquoise Lake, we rode in the Buena Vista Bike Fest put on by our Colorado Springs Cycle Club a few years ago. The 100 mile ride started in Buena Vista to Leadville, around Turquoise Lake and the Mineral Belt Trail and back to BV. This time we enjoyed a shorter ride.
We loved the peaceful feel and cool temps of our USFS campground. Most of the people chose to stay in the campsites along the lake. We were good with Father Dyer campground on the hill and would go to the day use area to enjoy the lake.
In the 1890s, the discovery of gold brought the first miners to this two-mile high city, but it was the discovery of silver that made Leadville the nation's wealthiest city at the time.
When Oscar Wilde entertained his audience at the Tabor Opera House, more than 40,000 people lived in Leadville! Our population is a lot less now.
The legends of the West were no strangers to Leadville: Horace and Baby Doe Tabor, the Unsinkable Molly Brown, Doc Holliday, Billy the Kid and even a John W. Booth whose headstone graces Evergreen Cemetery.
Leadville's Mineral Belt Trail
The Mineral Belt Trail is 11.6 mile with numerous trailheads and access points. Approximately six miles of this trail meanders through the historic Leadville Mining District with views of the Sawatch and Mosquito ranges. We added a route around Turquoise Lake and were sucking air when we reached 10,606 feet elevation. Who needs oxygen?
We did some heavy breathing on the climb but was worth the downhill and great views.
Horace Tabor and Baby Doe's Matchless Mine was quite a story of rags to riches to rags.
Leadville, a Victorian-era mining town, was once home to 30,000 residents. In its heyday, it had saloons, dance halls, and brothels. Thanks to the profiting gold and silver mines, there was also a lot of wealth, which afforded the construction of hotels, Victorian mansions, and the Tabor Opera House.
70 square blocks of Leadville’s downtown were designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966. Since then, extensive preservation efforts have put much of the town’s rich history on display. With such notable structures as the Healy House, Heritage Museum, Delaware Hotel, and Tabor Home a walking tour should have been in order. I think we will be sure to catch it the next time we return.
The altitude was starting to affect me by the third day. We headed down to Buena Vista.
Buena Vista, CO
Buena Vista is located in central Colorado in the Upper Arkansas River Valley, often referred to as the "Banana Belt", due to its relatively mild winters. Buena Vista lies in a wide valley and is a high mountain desert at the base of the 14,000+ peaks of the Collegiate Peaks, Mt. Princeton, Mt. Yale, Mt. Columbia, and Mt. Harvard, of the Sawatch Range. In summer, Buena Vista is a popular access point for world-class whitewater rafting, kayaking, and fly fishing on the Arkansas River, and mountain climbing and backpacking on local 14ers and the Colorado Trail. Sizable elk and deer herds attract hunters in the winter months, and bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and antelope are also indigenous to the area.
Buena Vista grew as a railroad town serving the local silver, gold, and lead mining industry, with three rail lines. Many of the existing buildings of Buena Vista date back to the 1880s and 1890s.
We passed this old school house of days gone by on our 23 mile bike ride on the backroads to Mt Princeton Hot Springs. It was much easier riding at an elevation of 7900 feet after being in Leadville.
These Pronghorn were waiting for us to pass so they could catch up with the rest of the herd across the road. They are not jumpers like deer but got through the fence just fine.
The downtown has been rejuvenated over the years. The prices in the restaurants reflected this.
The decorating reflected the cycling community in this area.
You can't beat the many good food trucks.
We met several couples at the Snowy Peak RV Park that come for all or part of the season. The time slipped by as we shared good wine, good cheese and good stories.
Our time here was too short and we booked a return trip when the leaves start changing before we leave Colorado.