Friday, September 6, 2013

Minturn, RedCliff and Gilman

Before driving into Vail I wanted to make a little side trip that included some reminiscing...

When my husband and I first arrived in nearby Vail in the winter of 1963 the closest town we could find with a house to rent was Minturn, Co. (founded in late 1800s and based on mining).

At that time Vail was still, mostly on the drawing board.  The ski lift was in operation ($5 per day) and there were 2 lodges (each with a restaurant), a liquor store, a pharmacy, a deli, 1 restaurant, a gas station and a working ranch.

The primary source of employee housing (and employee recreation) was in this faltering little town.  When we arrived Minturn was showing signs of fading away into history as just another Colorado ghost town.

I was truly pleased to see that most of the town is still intact, though pressure from nearby Vail has expanded Minturn's population several times over.

There are a number of healthy looking businesses...

...and a nice sense of humor.

During those early years the minister's wife, June, was a very close friend of mine and together we would venture out into the nearby mountains to hunt for old bottles discarded from the early mining days.  One summer day while we were on a hike just up from the railroad track on that hill above we found the original dump.  It was the most exciting discovery and daily for weeks we trekked up the hill carrying shovels, buckets and our lunch, pushing a wheelbarrow, and all the while accompanied by 2 dogs and my baby, Tom (sitting in the wheelbarrow).
I remember June telling me once, "Just look nonchalant, Toni, we don't want the whole town to find our treasure."
I still giggle when I remember that.  The whole town could see us up on that hillside and I am sure they were wondering what those two silly young women were doing digging in the garbage dump.
I was very sad to learn that June died this past winter.  She was on my list of friends to reconnect with and once again I was too late.

I tried to find the house that Roger and I lived in that winter but I think it is gone now.  The one above was a neighbor's house, ours was very similar and just a few doors away.

A few miles further up the mountain was the town of Gilman, founded in 1886.  It became a company mining town in the early 1900s and at mid-century employed up to 400 people mining silver, lead and zinc.

In 1984 the mine was closed by the EPA and declared a 'super fund' site due to the pollution left by 8 million tons of mine waste.  A fence surrounds the town now,

 every house is vacant and some even have trucks or cars abandoned nearby.

I thought again of Butte, Mt. and an enormous lake of waste and water left by that mine plus the potential hazards the lake poses to the town. 

There was a sign posted here at Gilman on the fence that surrounds the town that said, "No trespassing, no hiking, no bicycling, no camping and Hazard Alert, Don't drink the water!

How do we stop fouling the land?  Our hunger for natural resources  seems to know no bounds.  And what is lost?  Take a look at the view of Notch Mountain that was seen from every window in that town. 

Continue around the mountain from Gilman,  down a narrow windy road and you will find the very old town of Red Cliff.  

It is so tucked away that you have to know it is there to find it.

It is also another community of housing for the maids, dishwashers and busboys in Vail but it is also becoming a community of artists.

The houses are being lovingly restored and cared for...

and the town shows no hint of the commercialization of the rest of the area. I think if I were to ever move back here it would be to Red Cliff.

Next stop--Vail.


  1. Your most fascinating post yet. I went through that area on the train in the late 60's, and even though I wasn't much into scenery at the time, I will never forget has awe-inspiring that part of the world was.
    More and more Terry and I are thinking about a road trip next summer, because we really haven't seen as much of our country as we want to.
    Won't we have a lot to talk about in Oct!

  2. And if you cover your trip on your blog I promise I will follow it. Do you have an idea of where you want to travel? I am planning the next leg to be New England and Nova Scotia. But I started out going to Nova Scotia two years ago and I'm not there yet so I'm not making any more plans just yet.
    I am especially looking forward to meeting you face-to-face. I truly feel like we've already met.

  3. We have a lot in common, like dealing with Mary! I'm going to see her today. She is cranky, and Jim is being saintly.