Miles Driven Today: 67 Total Miles Driven: 4721
Today was a day we will always remember: just a day in a million. The weather helped. Another brilliant blue sky and temperatures in the 20Cs. We have been exceptionally lucky with the weather on this whole trip.
We had a walk around the historic district of Leadville this morning (after a lovely continental breakfast at the Delaware) and enjoyed seeing the old buildings, the fabulous Opera House and the Saloon. The Opera House is under refurbishment and has a long and distinguished history. In the late 1800s it was the main opera house between St Louis and San Francisco. It looks really lovely and I would have loved to have had a tour but they didn’t start till 12 and we were already booked for then. In its day, many famous people performed here or attended performances: Oscar Wilde, Harry Houdini, Lily Langtry… all the great and good of the late Victorian era. We had a coffee sitting out in the sun and then headed up the hill to visit the Healy House and Dexter Cabin, both dwellings belonging to well to do citizens back in the 1870s+. It was only $6 to have a personal tour of both houses, given by a super knowledgeable guide who even dressed in costume. We had about 75 minutes of enjoyable tour.
The Dexter Cabin was a sort of hunting/gambling cottage owned by a very rich man, James Dexter. The inside is incredibly well preserved and decorated and is full of extremely interesting artefacts including a travelling food dispenser of great ingenuity. Also cup with moustache guards, a unique pencil sharpener, beautiful wooden cupboards. The Healy House, which is part of the same museum, was built as a dwelling for a rich investor and his bride and then passed through several hands, becoming a boarding house for teachers at one point. It is lovingly preserved with some magnificent wallpaper and stoves plus lots of ladies dresses and outfits from the period. There was so much information, it was really good value.
By the time we had finished the tour, it was lunchtime and we made our way to the Leadville, Colorado and Southern railroad station for our trip on the historic route. We had booked to ride out along the track in the open coach and back in the cab with the engineer. The trip up was amazing, about an hour along the mountain ridge, looking down into the valley with the headwaters of the Arkansas river below and the hillsides studded with golden aspens. We had a commentary again, very good. The track is about 12 miles long and the train (electric/diesel these days) tinkers along pretty sedately. The trip ends at a water tower up in the mountains and you got about 30 minutes to stretch your legs. The train had a buffet car and loos or you could bring your own food. It was most pleasant.
We were called to the engine cab for the return journey and we were really surprised and very pleased to find that we would be the only 2 passengers riding there. I think that must be always the case, but I hadn’t realised it. The driver gave us a safety briefing and said we were welcome to either sit in the cab with him or go out onto the little platform right on the front of the train!! Well… no contest…. we rode the whole way back sitting on the front of the train. It was heavenly and complete 180 degree unobstructed views of the way ahead. Lovely. A once in a lifetime experience, we felt. Oh, and I lost my sunhat within minutes of venturing out there!!!!!! My donation to the mountain. Bob lost his yesterday so we are a pair. Really it was excellent. I highly recommend paying the $40 extra for the experience if you go on this train.
After the train ride, we headed off south to our overnight stop in Salida, Colorado at the Salida Palace Hotel, another historic inn. Salida is another really fabulous Victorian town on the Arkansas river. Got a really trendy vibe, lots of pavement cafes. It was much warmer than Leadville and Grand Lake. 26C at 7pm. Like the Palace, every room is a little suite with a full kitchenette and a large living area. We had stopped in Walmart and picked up a rotisserie chicken for tonight and some top up food for tomorrow night. Ate our chicken dinner and then went out at 7 for a walking tour of Salida by Night: Murders and Ghosts. It was about 90 minutes of amusement and mild chills depending on how sceptical you are. The first half was about historical murders and lynchings that have occurred in town and the second half about hauntings and ghost sightings. Quite enjoyable.
At the end we were totally tired but happy.