Thursday, November 26, 2009

CREEDE, COLORADO PART II

The Bachelor Loop

(Left click on any picture to enlarge it)

Above the town of Creede is a road, "The Bachelor Loop," following the old mining road along which there are many old mine remains, and starting at the canyon at the north end of town, seen as a notch in the rocks above.

I think the loop is about 18 miles long, unless you take some of the side roads requiring 4-wheel drive and high clearance.

As you enter the canyon you immediately come across substantial mine constructions.

Some of these are perched precariously on the steep sides, but have remained in place for the better part of a century.

These constructions, as the track to the tipple seen here, required lots and lots of wood . . .

. . . and big timbers. I am amazed to see in historic photos that there were some trees still standing in this area .

The mine shafts were built strong and deep, and some have been active until a few years ago. For a history of Creede from the Denver Post click here, and for a history of mining in the San Juans try HERE .

Midway through the trip we stopped for a spot of lunch.

The town of Bachelor, for which the loop is named, in the hills above Creede, had an exciting start, but a very brief life.

Not much left of Bachelor today, and not much left for this post. See you at another SW Colorado highlight on the next one.
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Sunday, November 22, 2009

CREEDE, COLORADO - PART I

Creede - Meadows, Mountains and Mines





In late August to early September we explored western and southern Colorado as an RV caravan with our good friends Bill and Dana. We travelled every few days, beginning in Glenwood Springs, working south to Durango, and back east across the state to Colorado Springs. The previous post about the headwaters of the Rio Grande was from this trip. Instead of posting a chronological series of "we were there, then here, then there" comments, I will extract some of the highlights of the trip, not necessarily in chronological order, and try to spare you from boredom by way of leaving a lot of our wanderings at the proverbial cutting room floor.



I first was introduced to Creede, CO by Joan and Mike Hansen, who had posted pictures of their visit (also in a motorhome) a year or two ago. Creede sits in the Weminuche Wilderness area at the entrance to a steep canyon and the junction of the East Willow and West Willow Creeks. On the north edge of town is the canyon with hundreds of mining ruins and artifacts, and to the south of town are the meadows along the Rio Grande.


As usual, left-click on a picture to enlarge it

The picture above is a view looking southwest from above Creede, which is the compact collection of buildings and streets in the mid-foreground. Beyond Creede is the Rio Grande and adjacent valley meadows. In 1890 Nicholas Creede discovered a high-grade silver vein on Willow Creek, a tributary of the Rio Grande, and founded the Holy Moses Mine, starting a series of boom and bust to the area. It is off all the major highways, but the attraction of the wilderness and beauty keeps people in and coming to the area.


Dana, Barbara and Bill standing about 30' from where we had setup our RVs. It was a very nice RV resort, but was closing for the winter about 2 weeks after our departure.


Same thing, with me in the picture for a change. In the background you can see the steep V-shaped canyon with Creede at its entrance. Many mines were established in or close to this canyon, and Creede was the center of support for the mines and miners.


Creede is NOT a big town, having a population of only 737 at last count. It is certainly not a town in decline though, with some reasonable stores that for the most part avoid the T-Shirt tackiness. People really live here, and the tourism tends to be younger people heading for the wilderness outdoor experience, and older ones interested in the local history, fishing and hiking, and the less extreme outdoor activities. The Bachelor Historic Loop (next blog post), an interesting drive through the local mining ruins and high mountain meadows starts at the entrance to the canyon at the north end of main street.



One of the more surprising findings in Creede is the Creede Repertory Theatre, a professional theatre company resident in Creede from May through September yearly. We made one performance there and thought it overall an excellent performance. The quality is consistent and good enough to draw enough people (from a considerable distance) to sustain it for the past 44 years. In fact, it has been so successful that construction is underway for an new, additional performing facility in town.



There is a B&B in the north end of town with this small garden adjacent to the cabin. The holes in the rock behind the garden are left from drilling contest periodically held among the miners during the Creede's heydays.

One of the most unexpected structures in Creede is a guest house built in the style of a Norwegian Stave Church. There is a very interesting story of how it came to be, but it's too long to tell here, so you will have to read the link.


Like other mining towns, Creede had it's share of notorious characters. The list included gambler Bob Ford, the killer of Jesse James. Ford himself was shot in the back by a disgruntled patron of his gambling hall, Ed O'Kelley. O'Kelley was tried and convicted for slaying Ford and put in jail, but shortly thereafter was pardoned, as many in Creede felt O'Kelley had done the town a service.


After Ford's death, Soapy Smith ran an extortion racket out of the Orleans Club. Smith had a cut of every gin joint, bawdy house and gambling casino in Creede. After the Silver Panic of 1893 slowed the economy of Creede to a crawl, Smith moved to the Klondike. His competitors in Skagway objected to him establishing the same type of business he ran in Creede. Smith was shot to death in 1898. (Barbara and I had visited his grave when we visited her brother in Skagway several years ago. This is another one of those "connections" I was talking about in the previous post.)


Today Creede survives as a tourist center, but it's remote location probably guarantees that it will never go the way of Telluride. If you're on a tour of Southwest Colorado, take some time to visit. Barbara and I will certainly be returning. It's off the beaten path, but well worth it.

For a history of Creede from the Denver Post click here,

My next post will be about the Bachelor Historic Loop in the mountain above Creede.


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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Connections


Eve Shpritser’s highly dimensional, geometric “Connections.”

I am fascinated when my readings in completely different sources that are seemingly unrelated touch closely on the same subject. For some reason I feel good when I see such "connections" in the world. The following is an example of what I am talking about.

There seems to be an endless variety of Christian religions in the world. One that came to my attention recently was the "Dunker" religion. The Dunkers, so called because they practiced "full" baptism by three full immersions, originated in Germany and for a while flourished in American. I was first put on to this by a few paragraphs in Benjamin Franklin's autobiography which I have been reading of late. I realized that this connected to another story I had read in a Mark Twain biography.

Benjamin Franklin spoke well of one of his Dunker acquaintances and his humility regarding the certainty (or actually of lack of it) in their doctrine:

"These embarrassments that the Quakers suffer'd from having establish'd and published it as one of their principles that no kind of war was lawful, and which, being once published, they could not afterwards, however they might change their minds, easily get rid of, reminds me of what I think a more prudent conduct in another sect among us, that of the Dunkers.
I was acquainted with one of its founders, Michael Welfare, soon after it appear'd. He complain'd to me that they were grievously calumniated by the zealots of other persuasions, and charg'd with abominable principles and practices, to which they were utter strangers. I told him this had always been the case with new sects, and that, to put a stop to such abuse, I imagin'd it might be well to publish the articles of their belief, and the rules of their discipline. He said that it had been propos'd among them, but not agreed to, for this reason:
"When we were first drawn together as a society," says he, "it had pleased God to enlighten our minds so far as to see that some doctrines, which we once esteemed truths, were errors; and that others, which we had esteemed errors, were real truths. From time to time He has been pleased to afford us farther light, and our principles have been improving, and our errors diminishing. Now we are not sure that we are arrived at the end of this progression, and at the perfection of spiritual or theological knowledge; and we fear that, if we should once print our confession of faith, we should feel ourselves as if bound and confin'd by it, and perhaps be unwilling to receive farther improvement, and our successors still more so, as conceiving what we their elders and founders had done, to be something sacred, never to be departed from."
This modesty in a sect is perhaps a singular instance in the history of mankind, every other sect supposing itself in possession of all truth, and that those who differ are so far in the wrong; like a man traveling in foggy weather, those at some distance before him on the road he sees wrapped up in the fog, as well as those behind him, and also the people in the fields on each side, but near him all appears clear, tho' in truth he is as much in the fog as any of them. "

The Dunkers were pacifist and also anti-slavery. They advocated for slave owners to free their slaves. In later years, John T. Lewis, a "free negro" and a Dunker, appears in the biography of Samuel Clemens.

In this event, Lewis was startled to see a carriage pulled by a runaway horse, erratically careening about the road with three very frightened women aboard. He pulled his wagon to the side of the road, just in time to leap from it onto the bridle of the spooked horse. He managed to successfully bring the horse and carriage to a complete stop, at which point he became acquainted with the occupants: Mrs. Charles Langdon, her daughter Julia, and a nurse. General Charles Langdon, the grateful husband, and Mrs. Langdon were the parents of Olivia L. Langdon who married Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) in 1870.

Lewis was thanked with large dollar gifts from General Landgon, and a personalized set of books from Samuel Clemens. He subsequently became the Langdon's personal coachman and thus frequently saw the Clemens.

"He (Lewis) and Clemens became very good friends. Later, when Clemens was writing his famous novel Huckleberry Finn, it was the warm and friendly personality of John T. Lewis which served to inspire the personality of Jim, the runaway slave and friend of Huck. “I have not known an honester man nor a more respect-worthy one” - Samuel Langhorne Clemens. "

There you go; Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain - connected across a century by the respect of a Dunker acquaintance. I love it!


Monday, November 2, 2009

The Rio Bravo del Norte


(Click on picture to enlarge)

A RIVER IS LIKE A LIFE; IT HAS A BEGINNING AND AN END

My life, as it happens, began at the end. That is, at the end of the river - the Rio Grande. Any further south in Texas and I would be a Mexican (in Mexico this river is known as the Rio Bravo del Norte.) Later in my life, I was living several hundred miles upstream in El Paso. Finally, last September during a RV trip to Colorado I found the chance to visit the streams and lakes that form the headwaters of the Rio Grande . . . its beginning. I am getting older now, and more frequently wallowing in a bit of comfortable reflection on my years past and possible years future; it was one of those moments.

At these times I tend to go mellow. Sometimes I turn on music; The Parson's Project "Time" is my all time favorite music for melancholic (not to be confused with depressive) reflection. It is a good background for contemplating the Buddhist teachings on the impermanence of life. The Buddha used the river to teach that life is series of impermanent moments - i.e. moment by moment death and rebirth - and made the analogy of wading through a river; you can do it only once, because if you try to wade back across it's not the same river - the water you originally waded through has flowed on and now you are wading through new water. (By the way, I'm not Buddhist - I once thought I might be - I admire many of the teachings - but I'm really not.)

I could continue to enjoy this comfortable soliloquy and progress to considerations of the cosmos and what we really are ( think Dust in the wind by Kansas.) You may not want to go there though, so I will end the blog, pour a short single malt, and turn on Joni Mitchell's Woodstock rendition of "We are Stardust," the original "Hair" soundtrack, or perhaps Leonard Cohen's "Bird on the Wire" and thoroughly enjoy the depths of my melancholy.

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