– Silverthorne, Colorado to Santa Fe, New Mexico –
Today was a long day. We did quite a bit of driving. We also didn’t have time to run, which always makes me a little sad. With so many things to do for the day, we had to get on the road, so we were out the door pretty early this morning.
Our first stop was in Breckenridge, which isn’t far down the road from Silverthorne. I visited Breckenridge one winter a long time ago, when I was a kid, and we’ve driven through together on another road trip. It’s just a cute little ski town, as are most of the towns in this area. Breckenridge feels a little fancier, and a little less hippy than some of the others around here, which can be nice depending on what you are into. We didn’t stick around for long, just took a few photos and moved on along the road. Mark took a courthouse photo, which was the major reason for the visit.
It was about another hour and a half to our next stop in Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. As you might expect, it is just outside Florissant, Colorado. To be honest with you, before this trip, I had never even heard of it. It’s a very small park, easy to drive right past if you aren’t really looking for it.
I don’t know about you, but when I picture fossil beds, I always think of things like dinosaur bones and ammonites, but the Florissant Formation is made up of almost entirely plants and insects. In particular, the area is famous for its fossilized trees. The fossils were preserved by volcanic activity.
So, what kind of trees, you’re wondering? What makes it cool? Redwoods! Did you even know they had redwoods over here? I didn’t. I was pleasantly surprised by this park, as I knew very little about it going in, and the little grove of preserved redwood stumps is actually really awesome. Like I said, it’s small, a little loop around a grove of trees, and a lot of the petrified wood was stolen a long time ago, until the site was finally named a national park in 1969. Still, it is definitely worth the stop if you are in the area, even if you only have an hour. It doesn’t take long to see the sights.
The park also has a little house you can visit, the Hornbek Homestead, or the Pioneer House, which was built in 1878. It was apparently the first house in the area to have more than one story, and is quite large by the standards of the era, with multiple rooms and many windows. We did not take a tour, since we had Ripley along with us and she isn’t allowed inside, but we did drive by to take a look.
From Florissant Fossil Beds, we took the tiny Teller County Rd. 1 down to Cripple Creek, which is a strange little town that started as a gold mining town, but now has a casino to draw visitors. The little town of Victor, also on the way down to our next destination, is much the same. Many of the mountains and hills in this area are now flat on top, and surrounded by slag piles. It’s a sad, but interesting, view.
Again, with this trip, Mark has been obsessed with using his 4-wheel drive, so one of of our major destinations for today was Phantom Canyon Road, which is a small dirt road that goes south from Victor through to Highway 50. It’s only about 30 miles, but it is close to a 2-hour drive, especially if you are stopping a lot.
Parts of the road used to be portions of the railroad, which is long gone now. There are 3 ghost towns along the way, though we didn’t see much in the way of ruins in any of them.
The road is mostly nice, and I don’t think you would even need a 4-wheel drive to do it if you were inclined to take it anyway. The views are gorgeous as the road winds through the canyon and along the tiny Eightmile Creek next to the road. I’d like to say the road is well-maintained, and it mostly is, but there are also a few washouts that can seem a little sketchy in the moment. I definitely would not take the road when the snow is melting in the mountains.
Another interesting thing about Phantom Canyon Road is the multitude of train tunnels that you can drive through. Mark was pretty excited about it, and we stopped for several pictures in the middle of tunnels along the way. There are a few camping spots along the road, and we saw several campers out, though it is worth noting that the camping back here is quite rough, with no water or nearby bathrooms. You can stop in two places to visit pit toilets, and they aren’t terrible, but they are not really anywhere near the camp sites. There is at least the creek for water, I suppose.
In any event, the area is gorgeous, and we did not see much traffic along the road today as we drove through. I’d say we passed perhaps five other visitors in total, not counting those that were camping. It’s a very quiet place, if you are into that sort of thing.
It took quite a while to finish the road, longing than we were expecting, so by the time we made it out we were starving. We stopped at a Jimmy John’s for sandwiches on our way back to Salida, then from there we went south to Saguache. Mark was missing the courthouse there, then drove down through Alamosa toward New Mexico.
Just before we crossed into New Mexico, we stopped in Conejos and took a picture of the courthouse there. With that finished, Mark promised to take me to a castle. I was skeptical, being that we were in the middle of nowhere in a tiny town in Colorado, and I was right to be. Cano’s Castle, which is in Antonito, can only be called a castle in the strangest sense imaginable.
The internet describes it as “beer can folk art,” which I guess is true, as it is basically the remnants of a very old house, covered in thin sheets out metal and built out to have floors and turrets and such. The crazy man that built it claims that god did it for him. Interesting, no? This one is not worth the stop in my opinion, and for us, it was a terrible time of day to take a picture of the monstrosity, as the face of it was backlit by the setting sun. Oh, well.
It was still a little over 2 hours from there to Santa Fe, and we finally made it here a little later than we would’ve liked. We stopped for a quick sandwich at a Schlotzsky’s after quite a hunt for something still open, and the lazy employees took forever and a day to make our food while they chatted with their little friends inside instead. It was still half an hour before closing time. It’s not like we were forcing them to stay late to make one big veggie sandwich. I’m so sorry doing their jobs was such an inconvenience.
At any rate, we finally managed some dinner, got into our hotel, and crashed.
Tomorrow will be a good day for Mark, since he is getting his breakfast burrito at Tia Sophia’s here in Santa Fe. We’re also going to take the run we like here so much, so that should be nice, then we will be home by evening. It’s been a good trip, but I’m starting to miss my own bed.
– Trip Total : 2,668 miles –