Walking about 2 miles total for the day gravel or paved paths, stairs and inclines at Mining Museum and in Creede. Driving approx. 230 miles total; about 2.5 hours in both morning and afternoon with stops.
At the lodge, we’ll have a hot buffet with choice of breads, cereal, fruit, eggs, breakfast meats, yogurt, and a variety of other items including juice, milk, coffee, tea, and water.
Along the Silver Thread Scenic Byway, we’ll travel through Colorado’s two least populated mountain counties with a combined population of about 1,500 people as we pass beautiful areas of natural wonders, all with rich geology. Geologists believe three eras of volcanic eruptions created the Byway’s terrain. One eruption about 26 million years ago, labeled the La Garita, is believed to be the single largest volcanic eruption in Earth’s history. The caldera is about 45 miles across and we’ll drive through part of it on the byway until our arrival in Creede. Located in a narrow mountain canyon at an elevation of 8,844 feet, silver was discovered here in 1889 and mining since became the area's main industry through the years until 1985. Creede now has a population of about 300 residents. After the mines closed in the 1980s it has depended entirely on tourism for survival. In its heyday, Creede was one of the roughest mining towns in Colorado. Robert Ford, who shot Jesse James, was the “boss.” He ran the saloons and brothels until he met his demise at the wrong end of a shotgun. Harsh cold and snowy winters were hard on fire trucks and the town needed a place to keep trucks so they would start in the winter. The concept for an underground facility began in 1976, when a local miner proposed building an underground fire station where the temperature remains 50 degrees year round. This project was so well accepted that in 1990 local citizens decided to build a community center and mining museum underground with the fire trucks, which we will visit while here. While the museum has never been used for the commercial production of silver, it was 'mined' from solid rock and is an authentic example of the methods and techniques used in the 'boom' days of Creede, Colorado. Local former miners are the docents who will provide the intriguing story of mining in the San Juan Mountains.
On your own in Creede to explore the local fare. There are several very small family owned restaurants where participants can visit with local residents while dining.
We’ll then continue on the Byway following the Rio Grande River lined with willows and boggy meadows which provide perfect habitat for moose. Stopping at a cluster of waterfalls on North and South Clear Creeks, we’ll see the North Clear Creek Falls drop of about 100 feet from the edge of the sand colored volcanic tuff to the boulders below. It is possible to get views from several angles at this excellent photo stop. Carrying on, the Byway continues to the summit of Spring Creek Pass and enters dense spruce fir forests. The Slumgullion Earthflow is another geologic wonder on this Byway and has been designated as a National Natural Landmark. The huge multi-colored earth flow (slide) occurred about 700 years ago when the cliff face collapsed and ran downhill. It moved significantly again about 350 years ago. The United States Geologic Survey (USGS) tracks the movement of the slide. We’ll also see a marker on the road marking the Alferd Packer massacre site that took place in the winter of 1873. Our Group Leader will tell us the interesting story of how Packer set out with several companions on a prospecting venture, became lost during snowstorms, and were forced to spend the winter in the mountains near Lake City. Only Packer stumbled out alive in the spring. Eventually, however, darker details surrounding these events began to surface. The tiny (population 375) town of Lake City is the only incorporated town in Hinsdale County. It was a mining and transportation center in the 19th century. The entire town is on the National Historic Register. This is the perfect community for a stop to independently explore the Victorian buildings housing unique locally owned shops. We will arrive at our hotel in Gunnison in the late afternoon.
At a local restaurant in Gunnison, we’ll dine on a plated meal including coffee, tea, lemonade, and water; other beverages available for purchase.
At leisure. Gunnison is home of Western State College on the Gunnison River and in the heart of rich farming and ranching country; it’s also frequently recorded as one of the coldest places in the U.S.