Posted by: millspaw | June 5, 2012

Day Sixteen: Waldorf Mine, June 4, 2012

We had decided to ride to Waldorf Mine in the Arapaho National Forest after a peaceful evening at Bruno Gulch. Jim, from Indian Creek, had mentioned a ghost town which had been the mining camp and that really piqued our interest. To do this ride we would have to travel in our RV to an elevation of 11,669 feet over Guanella Pass and then find Forest Road 248 that leads to the mine. The trip was a slow drive at 20 miles per hour around hair-pin curves and switchbacks. Jim’s directions were accurate and we had no trouble finding the rocky forest road that led up to the mine. There was just room to park the RV and horse trailer at an overlook of Leavenworth Mountain. There was a display there about the history of the mines.

On October 25, 1875 the developers of the Colorado Central Mining Company opened the Marshall Tunnel to welcome the townspeople to a celebration acknowledging the opening of the Number 5 lode. An estimated crowd of 800-1000 wheeled their way in and out of the tunnel in ore carts to the huge cavern 500 feet below the surface and 800 feet from the mouth of the tunnel. The tunnel itself extended a distance of 1,400 feet into the Leavenworth Mountain. It cut a number of silver-bearing veins.

The road was full of large rocks and the horses navigated it very slowly as it was a steady climb up the mountain. The increase in elevation made them move very slowly. We saw many pine covered slopes, noisy, forceful streams and sheer rock cliffs. Snow was on the distant mountains. We rode for about three and half hours before we found the mine. We were above the tree line at 11,500 feet. Not much was left of the mine as the entrance had either caved in or been filled in. We could see some stone foundation and timbers. Across the valley we spotted a wooden building that we would have liked to have explored, but a storm was coming and there was no trail leading to the structure which was at least a mile away from the mine. It was disappointing not to have found the whole mining camp.

We put on our raincoats as thunder began, but it was cold enough at that elevation that it was snow, not rain that came down. We hurried the horses down the mountain trail. We traveled faster going down and the weather soon changed to sunny and hot again. The total ride took us about six hours.

As we got to the end of the trail and the main highway overlook, cars were parked behind our trailer, people were viewing the overlook, cyclists were coming up main road and skateboarders were on the mountain highway going down the road and taking the hair pin curve next to where we were standing with our horses. Needless to say, Sayid got very upset and excited as one of the skateboarders wiped out right beside him. I couldn’t believe that these kids were going down the highway at those speeds with cars sharing the space! I was almost unable to hold Sayid as he panicked.

Dan quickly took off Arty’s saddle and got him in the trailer, while I struggled to get Sayid’s saddle off. He practically ran into the trailer he was so scared. I didn’t even take off his bridle or rope halter until Dan shut the trailer door. We drove down to Georgetown intending to find a feed store and a Laundromat. Because of an accident on I-70 we were unable do either and ended up going back up to the national forest and just pulling off the road to camp for the night. Tomorrow we have a long drive to Kannopolis in Kansas as we start our journey home.

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