Riding the Georgetown Loop Steam Engine, Silver Mining and Panning for Gold, Dinner in Leadville Historic Hotel

Miles Driven Today: 120 Total Miles Driven 4654

We packed up after breakfast and bid a fond farewell to our little wooden cabin in the Rocky Mountains. Headed south through Granby and then took scenic route CO 40 to Silver Plume. It was – as usual, sorry reader – an absolutely beautiful drive. I must interject here an aside about Granby. This picturesque resort town has an infamous past (well, only 15 years ago!!!) when it was the location for the rampage of the Killdozer read the story a rather tragic tale of one man’s fight against bureaucracy.

Back to the journey. A brilliantly sunny and blue sky day. About 20C by midday. The road winds through the mountains and the Arapahoe National Forest, climbing to cross our old friend the Continental Divide again at around 11,000 feet. Views are stupendous especially as the trees are a little better here and there are many more yellow and golden aspens. There were quite a few lakes too and gushing streams. We saw quite a few ski resorts: Winter Haven, Copper Mountain and more. The slopes and chairlifts clearly marked but still just grass.

We had tickets to ride the Georgetown Loop Railroad.website The railroad was begun in 1872 to serve the incredible silver and gold finds in the Georgetown area, which was called the Silver Queen of the Rockies. Billions of dollars (in today’s money) of silver came out of the mountain here and the mountain on the opposite side of the valley was rich in gold. The miners originally came from Cornwall and Wales and they brought their traditions with them, including the traditional lunch cans and pasties. We had booked a mining tour extension. The steam trains are immaculate and they pull a collection of different classes of cars from open wagon style to closed parlour coaches. We were in the cheapest coach class which was absolutely fine and in fact better from a photographic point of view. It winds its way through the woods and along the river, across a high bridge in a loop between Georgetown and Silver Plume. The distance travelled is only a few miles but because of the looping track, it actually takes about 1/2 an hour to move between the two.

We got off at the first stop for our tour of the Lebanon Silver Mine. But first we panned for gold. Got a tiny vial out each – perhaps $8 each. It was fun. The gold sand is brought in from another part of Colorado. The gold here was mined from the mountains, not panned. Then we had our silver mine tour. We were the only 2 people doing it which was amazing. The lady who took us around – over an hour – really knew her stuff. We saw the miners’ changing rooms where they had to don and doff working clothes to prevent them stealing silver in their clothes. We also heard how they circumvented this security by eating and err…. passing….. silver nuggets. Children worked in the mines, carrying the explosives (powder monkeys), carrying the wooden “potties” in (runners) and out (the miners worked a 10 hour shift and so…..), and other jobs. It was all hard and very dangerous work and many died as a result. We saw the offices and then went about 500 feet into the mine tunnel itself. It was quite low inside and wet. When the mine was working, there were 6 levels and some of them were knee deep in water. Rats were used as gas detectors. The rock is a form of granite so collapse was not a big risk. It was a really interesting tour.

Afterwards, we came out and caught the next train as it came along and rode the loop back to Silver Plume. The whole trip took about 3 hours. Most enjoyable.

We then continued our journey to Leadville, high in the mountains at about 11,000 feet. Leadville is a wonderful historic town, also a product of its rich history of silver and gold mining. The historic centre is still incredibly atmospheric with many Victorian buildings , shops and restaurants. In its heyday, there were 30,000 residents in Leadville, hundreds of saloons and brothels. Today it is much less rambunctious but holds the record for Colorado’s highest town, dwarfed by Colorado’s two highest 14ers. We really liked our first sight of it – lots to explore here tomorrow, interesting houses open to the public, museums, shops and another historic train ride!!!!

We are staying at the historic Delaware Hotel. website A Victorian era hotel with an interesting history, lovingly restored to its former glory. It was founded by brothers who came from Delaware to make their fortunes. They bought the block upon which the hotel stands, opened the bottom floor as a store and the upper floors as a hotel. The current owners continue this tradition. The bottom floor as well as hosting the reception is also an antique store – everything is for sale. All the bedrooms are furnished in antiques. Ours is very comfortable and spacious, huge tester bed and private bathroom. Back in the day there were only about 6 public bathrooms serving the 35 rooms. So, very happy with our accommodation. It’s got some mixed reviews on TripAdvisor which I cannot understand.

We ate out at a restaurant called The Treeline Kitchen, website just across the road from the hotel. Full of locals on a Tuesday night (good sign) and really good food and drinks. Very buzzy. We shared some crab wontons to start and then I had fried chicken with creamed spinach greens and Bob had beef stroganoff. Both were excellent. Probably amongst the best chicken I’ve ever had. The crispy coating was barely there and the meat very succulent. We washed it down with one of the house speciality cocktails: Kickass Mule. This was a drink served in an icy copper mug, and a mix of lemon juice, lemoncello, vodka, ginger beer and ginger liquor, ice. Delicious!!!!! Bob had 2! They had a firepit outside.

I think we’ll sleep well

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