Tuesday, May 17, 2016

St Elmo Ghosttown

We knew that this area had a lot to offer as far as the outdoors but is also an interesting area with lots of tales to be told. There are plaques as we drive up Chalk Creek Canyon with stories about the Love Ranch and Agnes Vaille that show the hardy ladies of times gone by.

The Agnes Vaille Waterfall in the canyon along Chalk Creek is named after a hardy woman from the 1920s, who had spent time in Paris working with the Red Cross before moving to Colorado.
 Agnes Vaille was an experienced and fearless climber who had scaled a number of fourteeners. She 
decided to ascend Long Peak in January of 1925 but fell, sliding down a snowy bank more than 150 feet, she landed in the snow below and was immobile. When the rescuers came upon her frozen body, Agnes lay with her prized axe in her hand, her head pillowed on her knapsack. At that time, aids such as sophisticated protective gear and equipment for mountain climbers, were not available.

 You can no longer hike to the falls since the trail was closed and rerouted after a family of 5 were killed in a rock slide in 2013. There is now a trail to view the waterfall named for Agnes by a friend who owned the Love Ranch nearby.

Another peaceful place to lay our heads or at least we thought so. I was glad that we were on the opposite side of the campground from the rock slides. Kind of silly to think that short distance would make a difference if it decided to let go again. But our peaceful nights in a very dark valley were disturbed by a critter that won. He would climb under the front of the end cap into the walls and party all night. The second night when he showed up, he was a little less rowdy but convinced us to leave before the third night we had paid for. I bet he went back into his hole and high fived the other mice that he beat us down. He actually creeped me out a lot.

Cascade Campground is way up in that valley between Mt Princeton and Mt Antero, both 14ers. We had no Verizon signal, hookups or neighbors, other than the mouse. The nights were as dark as a cave until the stars came out.

We took the short drive of 6 miles up a dirt road to the ghost town of St Elmo after we got settled at our site.

 Nearly 2,000 people settled in this town when mining for gold and silver started. The mining industry started to decline in the early 1920s, and in 1922 the railroad discontinued service.  It is one of Colorado's best preserved ghost towns. Now, there are 8 full time residents.

This is 4 wheeler paradise with people from all over the US. One guy from Minnesota asked if we knew where to get "high". I guess we looked a little loopy from the altitude. I suggested he check in the general store. Then, they headed up Tincup Pass....

The walk from the campground along the old railroad bed was a nice easy 2-3% grade overlooking Chalk Lake and Mt. Princeton.

 We were feeling stiff and with the discounted rate for Monday thru Thursday and very few people, who could pass a day at another hot springs.
 The Mount Princeton Hot Springs were first frequented by Native Americans.

In 1860, a way station, hotel, and freight depot were built near the site of the present hotel to serve freighters traveling over Tincup Pass, bound for the mines of Ashcroft and Aspen; and over the Altman Pass toward Gunnison.

We climbed down along side the creek to soak in the rocks.

The bathhouse

The grayish white Chalk Cliffs emerge from Mount Princeton and are unlike any other mountains in Colorado. Though they look like chalk, they’re actually made of granite, which changed colors when other minerals leached out of fractures. Legend has it that gold was hidden in the cliffs’ crevices by 17th-century Spaniards and is yet to be rediscovered.

We had planned another day with a hike or a visit to Buena Vista but the mouse won. Creede is not too far down the road and we now have mothballs.


  1. We loved the Chalk Canyon area! So doesn't the mothball smell permeate the trailer? We've stuck to peanut butter in traps and that has always worked best for us. We just got rid of 3 hitchhikers the other day!

    1. We only left the mothballs there until he made his exit the next day. I hear they have peppermint too but none since.


Lake Wenatchee, WA

  Another state park Our plans this year have been constantly changing due to the heat and fires in Oregon. We chose hosting this summer sin...