Tuesday, September 25, 2012


On a  rainy day we traveled 50 miles south of our RV park on Blue Mesa Reservoir to visit Lake City deep in the San Juan mountains. It is a few miles east of Silverton via either Engineer or Cinnamon passes. The town was reached by a Denver & Rio Grande branch but the rails were torn out long ago.

One of Lake City’s dubious claims to fame is that the Alferd Packer cannibalism case began here. Mr. Packer has signed his first name both Alfred and Alferd, perhaps depending on his mood. Alfred is on this birth record, and Alferd was tattooed on his arm. I will use Alferd here.

He was born in 1842. In 1873 he agreed to guide 5 prospectors from Utah to Los Pintos Indian Agency in Colorado. Although warned by no less than Chief Ouray when his party was near Montrose CO not to enter the San Juan mountains in the winter, Alferd led them there anyway. They became lost near present day Lake City (which  not exist in 1874). The party experienced severe weather and ran out of supplies. Only Alferd Packer survived. In the spring the bodies of his companions were found, with signs of their having been murdered and eaten. Alferd was arrested and jailed in Saguache. Before he could be tried, he escaped and was on the loose for 9 years.


Alferd’s first jury trial was in this courthouse in Lake City. It is the oldest courthouse in use in Colorado. The courtroom is on the second floor. He was convicted of 5 murders and sentenced to hang.




This sign in the courthouse explains the story and has a time line of events of Alferd’s life.


This is the courtroom in which Alferd was tried the first time. It is still in use.


The courtroom had on display two nice Elk mounts (6 x 6).



This account appears at the site of the “massacre”. Alferd’s death sentence was set aside on appeal, and upon retrial in 1886 in Gunnison after a change of venue, he again was convicted  but this time of 5 manslaughters and sentenced to 40 years at the Canon City penitentiary. After serving 15 years he was paroled in 1901 and lived in the Denver area until he died in 1907.


This is the memorial site at the place of the camp about 5 miles outside Lake City. The bones of all of the victims are buried here. They were studied by forensic anthropologists in 1989, and other studies were made in 1994 and 2000. They concluded that the bodies indeed were cannibalized and that they had died violent deaths.. There was some evidence to support Alferd’s defense that another member of the group killed the remaining members while Alferd was away from camp and that upon his return Alferd shot him in self defense.


This plaque names the victims buried there.

Alferd is memorialized at the cafe on the University of Colorado campus in Boulder. It is named Alferd Packer Grill  - Have a Friend For Lunch. Another sign was in the grill for a while reading The Alferd Packer Memorial Grill with a motto: “Serve All Mankind”. Another account was that the motto was Serving All Mankind Since 1874.

A book is available on Amazon titled Alferd Packer’s Wilderness Cookbook in which the author goes into detail abut Alferd and gives a few recipes.





Fall colors were nearing their height around Lake City.





This store is a popular stop for 4 wheelers driving the Alpine Loop from Silverton over Engineer or Cinnamon passes to Lake City.



How long has it been since you have seen a soda fountain like this? It is inside the store shown above.


Yes, a bank actually does business in this quaint building.


And here is a bar named for Alferd.


On the way back from Lake City we saw this area of changing colors ranging from green, to yellow green, to yellow, to nearly orange.

Monday, September 24, 2012


On Sept. 21 we rode the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad its entire length of 64 miles from Antonito CO to Chama NM, taking the bus back to Antonito. Riding the full length and bussing back was just $17 more than going to Osier and returning to Antonito.  I took over 50 pictures on the trip, and the following are the better ones. This  part covers the  trip up to the lunch stop at Osier. (Photos taken by Canon AS1100 IS  12 mp.)



Passengers are hurrying to board at the Antonito depot.  A group of French speaking people was aboard, with a translator for the Docent’s information.



The first landmark from Antonito is Hangman’s Trestle, here obscured by discharge of contaminated boiler water from the blow down cock. The trestle accidentally was burned in filming a Willie Nelson movie made there in 1988 and was rebuilt a the expense of the movie producer. The first several miles from Antonito are through sagebrush, but the scenery gets better when the train gains altitude. Our train was pulled by a model K36 Baldwin engine built in 1925, no. 484. It and its sister engines numbered in the 480 series are the most-used engines on the railroad.



The next landmark is Lava Tank. It was necessary when smaller locomotives with smaller tenders were used on the line. The larger engines used by the C&TS do not need to take on water there.



Here our train is climbing up to the ridge on the horizon, taking the curve leading to Whiplash curve at the end of the next straightaway to the right. The roadbed near the top of the ridge can be made out just below the tall pine on the horizon. One of the pictures below was taken from the train on the upper track. The tall pine also is a landmark for nearby petroglyphs.


Climbing up to Whiplash Curve



Completing Whiplash Curve at the top of the ridge, we saw at Big Horn mountain on the horizon. The track goes past the base of the mountain where a wye is located.



This is the curve  before the Whiplash Curve taken from the track barely visible in one of the above shots.



Our first water stop was at the station Sublette, named for a Mountain Man. The building at the left is the bunkhouse for workers who maintained this section of the track, and the larger building is the section house for the station agent and his family.


After Sublette, the train continued to climb. Here is the downstream end of the Toltec Gorge with nice color from turning aspens toward the left.


We are entering Mud Tunnel, so named because of the loose material through which the tunnel was bored. It is completely lined by timbers.



More color from turning aspens. The changing is just beginning here.


Yet more color.



And still more, with the Rio De Los Pinos in the foreground.


Here we are nearing Osier and lunch!


Trains from both ends (Chama and Antonito) meet at Osier for feeding the passengers, cafeteria style. Entrees on our day were meatloaf, turkey, or soup and salad. The portions of meatloaf were quite large. Both trains are at Osier for about an hour.



Osier dining hall



Jo in our car.



Me at front of locomotive. That is an engineers cap in my right hand.



Here is a good side view of our 1925 Baldwin K 36 locomotive at Osier.


Leaving Osier this nice spot of color appeared.


As we continued up the valley of the Rio de Los Pintos homes began to appear.




The tracks are close to one another at Tanglefoot Curve which was necessary gradually to gain elevation to reach Cumbres Pass


Great view down the Rio de Los Pintos valley from near its head. We are in the upper track of the Tanglefoot Curve approaching Cumbres Pass, the highest point on the railroad at 10,015 ft.



Shortly after watering up at Cumbres Pass, the line continues around Windy Point, as does the highway, CO 17. The roadbed is higher than the highway, at the base of the nearly vertical rocks.


The locomotive discharged water with concentrated impurities, and I was lucky enough to capture the image of the rainbow in the droplets of water.


Here is a better shot of Windy Point where both the road and the railroad grade are visible.




Here is the Lobato Trestle as we neared Chama. The trestle was burned in June 2010 requiring the railroad to truck a locomotive, tender and cars to Cumbres Pass which served at its western terminus for a year until the trestle could be replaced.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


 On Sept 18 we had a great day trip on the Gold Belt Tour roads north of Canon City. We took Phantom Canyon road up to Victor, the  heart of a gold mining district. Almost all of the road is on the roadbed of the Florence & Cripple Creek Railroad which carried gold ore down the Eightmile Canyon to Florence CO for processing. The canyon was prone to flooding, and the grandfather of many floods in the canyon 100 years ago took out 16 bridges. The roadbed was not rebuilt and rails were torn out in 1915.  I love driving back country roads on old railroad beds as the curves are gentle and grades easy. (These pictures were taken by a Samsung 5 mp Digimax D 53 camera.)


Back Country Byways designated by the BLM are on paved or unpaved roads generally passable to ordinary cars.  We saw a grader smoothing the road as we neared Victor.



Here a car was exiting the first tunnel.




And here is the second tunnel.


This sign gives the brief history of the railroad completed in May 1894. It was the first to reach the Cripple Creek mining district.


And here is the only remaining bridge of the F&CC.


The aspens were beginning to change colors, more so in the higher elevations than the lower. The light area on the center left skyline is some of the overburden from the Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Company open pit mine between Victor and Cripple Creek.



DO NOT TRESPASS on the Strong Mine. It is near the open pit gold mine which may someday encompass it.


Left side of the pit.


Can you pick the mine trucks hauling ore or overburden here? This is the middle  part of the open pit. We could hear the roar of the engine exhausts this far away from them. The gold is extracted using a leaching system.


And here is still more to the right of the middle view.


These aspens at over 10,000 ft. elevation are turning quite nicely, from green to yellow-green to yellow/orange. These shots were taken from the American Eagles Scenic Overlook accessed  from county road 831 north of Victor. The access to the overlook was changed from our visit about 5 years ago.



After walking around downtown Cripple Creek (seeing mainly casinos) we found the Shelf Road to return to  Canon City. The road  follows Fourmile Canyon and the above is quite typical of the upper parts – broad, smooth and easy. Lower parts were steeper and had more curves. A sign advises that the road is best for 4 wd and high clearance trucks (pickups). I would not hesitate to drive a car on the road. I would prefer to drive up the road rather than down because of the steepness in the lower southern part,



   Window Rock loomed above the road.



Close up of  Window Rock



Many miles of the road were on a shelf like this one. When narrow there were wider spots for meeting opposing traffic. We did not need 4 wd low anywhere on the road. The last 8 miles into Canon City were paved.