Escapades around Manitou Springs

25 Oct


We took a drive ouIMG_1420t from Manitou along a dirt road called Gold Camp Road, the track is partially an old railroad route which transported the gold ore from Cripple Creek and Victor, gold rush towns.Now the rocky canyons and abandoned tunnels make a wonderful  dusty scenic drive.

  We stopped off to walk the trailIMG_1425 to Silver Falls and look back at Colorado Springs miles away in the valley. The water has worn the rocks smooth and we wondered what the cascade would be like with melt water flowing over it – quite spectacular I would think.

The town of Victor once was home to 17,000 people but now there is only one old mine and around 400 people are living there. We drove through on our way to Florissant but as the camera battery had died we decided if possible we would return to take photos of this deserted and yet picturesque village.

The fossil beds of Florissant hold thousands of insect and plant fossils along with a large number of petrified trees, all preserved thousands of years ago by the dust from volcanic eruptions. It is a small but interesting National Monument and we enjoyed the explanatory video and walked the trails to view the petrified tree stumps which are above ground.

Next day with battery recharged we set off for another dirt trail, Phantom Canyon Road, which to begin with disappointed us. After the previous days scenic route this one seeIMG_1472med tame until we got to the centre of the trail where the rocks grew higher and the road grew narrower. The rocks fascinated us, Robert was sure the shiny bits must be gold, after all the gold mines were not that far away! We spent some time picking up and examining quartz rocks and what we now think may be mica flakes – not gold however, we have still to make our fortune.


The road led us back to Victor to enable us to explore and take the photos we missed the day before.The land is barren from all the mining activity over the years and abandoned mines and mine buildings litter hills. One large mine now operates, extracting any gold left in the workings and restoring the area where possible. So many of the buildings are just sitting falling apart and bits of mine workings are everywhere you look.

IMG_1504The town itself needs major finance to restore some of its lovely old shops and historic buildings, I am sure in the summer they get quite a few visitors but on the day we visited its ghostly normality was obvious. We did however find one shop alive and very active. Victor Trading Company is housed in one of the old buildings in the centre of town and Karen, one of the owners was busy hand making brooms IMG_1500which they sell in the store and on the internet, her partner operates a printing press and they also make reproduction tin food cans,cookie cutters and various mining memorabilia, the shop houses all sorts of interesting bits and pieces both old and reproduction.

After two long days out driving, the weather warm and sunny if a little cool high in the mountains, Wednesday was due to be cold and snowy, we were hoping to have a little retail therapy at an out of town retail park. Robert was in desperate need of new trainers, he had walked through the soles of his old ones and now had stones coming up through them – I did say he was desperate!

In Manitou it was cold and a little snow was fluttering around every now and then, we decided that by lunch time we could venture out as the highway would be wet rather than snowy if there was any snow at all. We had not realised  the road north, whilst a four lane highway alsoIMG_1517 rose to 7,500 or so feet, height matters around here when it comes to  weather and by the time we got to the retail park we had clods of snow on the front of the car and it was around two inches thick on the ground. The snow storm continued whilst we shopped, successfully, thank goodness and Robert drove home the proud owner of new trainers, the old ones getting binned the following day!


At last the day we had waited around for arrived and on Friday we took haRVey back to the RV Dr’s to get his parts fitted, we now hope the long saga with the fridge is over. We have a drain pipe to take the defrost water away and the turkey baster we have been manually extracting water with is redundant! The other parts were fitted too and our only outstanding job now is a small area of paint we feel needs attention, this maybe will get fixed in Pheonix if we can agree with Fleetwood, we will see.

We have enjoyed our protracted stay in Manitou Springs. The Pikes Peak Campground has been very comfortable for us and our hosts very accommodating and friendly. We are ready to move on and continue our journey, however an annual celebration in the town due to take place on Saturday made us decide to hang around one more day.

Emma Crawford came to Manitou in the late 1800’s for the air, she suffered from consumption but improved in the clear mountain atmosphere and grew to love the red rocks and the area. She was arranging her wedding to the engineer of the Cog Railroad when she had a relapse and died. She had asked to be buried on her beloved Red Mountain and so she was. Some years later construction on the mountain led to her coffin being moved and a later storm exposed it and washed it away down the mountain side. By this time she had no known relatives and the local people re buried her in the cemetery. There she had finally found peace until the modern community needed one more reason to party! The town is known for its strange events, and the Emma Crawford coffin race takes place every October,we felt this was a “must see”, a fruit cake hurling event in January being one of the others (record is over 1,000ft). IMG_1549

By the start of the hearse parade every vantage point in the small town was taken, many of the crowd, including local dogs dressed for the event!  (one we spotted was a dachshund with pretend bread roll on either side and an imitation mustard squiggle down his back) The hearse were followed by a parade of the coffins, each one had an Emma and four pushers plus an entourage of followers, 45 coffins were paraded along the main street, each one should have raced but a few backed out before the start. The heat produced four teams to race off for the final winning positions, there was also a race between two local fire crews and their coffins, prizes awarded for the best Emma, best coffin, and of course the fastest team. Great fun to watch and the competitors seemed to enjoy themselves too, most of the restaurants and bars were holding after race parties and the sun shone continually for the fun! (lots more pictures in the web album

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