Children, stop your bickering

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When I resumed my scenic drive north of Salida today the first town I came to after proceeding past the turnoff to Independence Pass was Leadville (Lead is pronounced like lead in a pencil).  In addition to being a mining town, Leadville has a feature which most towns don’t, but others are trying to steal the spotlight.

Leadville is the highest incorporated city in the United States (10,152 feet).

There is a town south of Breckenridge, Colorado, Alma, which I went through later in the day which is the highest incorporated town in the United States (10,578 feet).

When I was in Taos, New Mexico about 2 weeks ago I posted that Taos Ski Valley resort is in a village which is the highest municipality in the United States (the highest dwelling there is at 10,350 feet).

There are probably other “highest” claims which would make these comparisons even more confusing but these are the three I have encountered so far and I wanted to point out the distinction between them.



10th Mountain Division

Pam, who was also staying at the Airbnb in Salida, told me about the significance of this memorial, which is located at the entrance to the Ski Cooper resort a few miles north of Leadville, Colorado.  It will require more research that I have time to do now so I will provide the details in a future post.  It is a fascinating story.  Camp Hale was where they trained US troops during World War II for high altitude combat in mountainous and snowy terrain. That training paid off in a big way in northern Italy during the war.




Various places north of Salida

Thursday was another travel day.  My destination was Colorado Springs which is east of Salida, but I had some unfinished business to attend to.  I drove north, past all the mountains I took pictures of yesterday and resumed the clockwise scenic loop I started the day before.  Once I got past Leadville, and the location of the Camp Hale memorial  at the entrance to Ski Cooper resort, I continued north on Route 24 towards Vail and Interstate 70.  Eventually my loop would take me south of Breckenridge where I would resume travel on Route 24 east to Colorado Springs.

Here are some of the things I saw along the ride:



Shortly before getting to the dreaded interstate I came across the little town of Red Cliff.


I didn’t understand the significance of the bridge on the sign until I turned left and took the access road down in to the town.  When I turned right at the bottom of the hill I understood.


That is the Red Cliff Arch Bridge which carries Route 24 over the Eagle River (and over the Water Street bridge which I was about to traverse to get to the town of Red Cliff which is beyond it).  I often call little towns “cute”.  Sorry, Red Cliff, but I honestly can’t say I can call you cute.  It is an old town built on rugged terrain with bad streets and not many attractive structures.  Functional, perhaps, but not exactly postcard material.  The only thing I saw which I was inspired to take a picture of was this tricked out Dodge, which has evidently been converted to a high-profile 4-wheeler (note the license plate).


Here is a view of the bridges from above, after I went back up to Route 24 and crossed the high bridge to continue north.  On the right is the road leading down to Red Cliff, which is to the left of the bridge from this vantage point.


While researching information online I found this picture of the high bridge, taken in the winter:


(Photo credit:

Route 24 then climbed up over Tennessee Pass and when I stopped to take some pictures of the view I noticed this modern “ghost town” of Gilman down in the valley below.  You’ll see more of Gilman when I post close-ups taken with the digital camera.  I think tomorrow I’ll do a bunch of “close-ups” posts since I am getting a little behind on those.

Gilman was a mining town which was abandoned in 1984 due to the underperformance of the adjacent mine and multiple environmental issues.  It is private land and no longer accessible to the public.


I finally reached I-70 and took it east for about 30 miles, passing Vail and going over Vail Pass.  For those of you hoping to see pictures of Aspen and Vail, sorry to disappoint you.  I visited those towns years ago when I drove to Colorado with my youngest brother and have no desire to revisit them.

When I got to exit 203 I got off the interstate (they had it down to one lane several places and I was very happy I was here mid-day and not during rush hour or in a snow storm).  And speaking of snow, I had heard that this area had received over a foot of snow on Monday.  There was little evidence of that now.  There was some snow in shaded areas but the road itself was clear and dry.

When I got off the interstate I started heading south.  I went through Breckenridge, where I had stayed briefly about a month ago, and took Route 9 south.  Here is a picture of Breckenridge ski area, west of town, with new snow on the slopes.  My brother worked at a ski shop here for one season after graduating from college.


When I got south of town I started to climb Hoosier Pass.  Here I did see more snow which had accumulated next to the road.  I think this was at around 10,500 feet elevation.


I crossed the Continental Divide yet again at Hoosier Pass…


… and had an impressive view of some 14er’s (mountains taller than 14,000 feet) off to my right.



When I got to the town of Alma I saw a few businesses with interesting names.  I dedicate this one to my friends Eric and Shawn…


… not because it is a liquor store but because they are both from Indiana.  I’m sure this will be the very first time they’ve heard the phrase “Hoosier Daddy” (yeah, right).

Note that the owners have highlighted the “420” part of Alma’s zip code (marijuana is legal in Colorado and 420 is a cultural reference to smoking it).

This little guy was perched on the railing in front of a house.  It was mounted on a spring and swayed back and forth in the wind.  I thought it looked pretty cool.




Fairplay, Colorado

Fairplay is a little town located about 20 minutes south of Breckenridge.  I had actually driven through it a few weeks ago on my way down to Colorado Springs the day that my nephew was moving in to his apartment there before starting his senior year at college. At that time, I didn’t realize the significance of Fairplay and the surrounding area.  I now do.  I’ll cut right to the chase.  This area is what the fictional town of South Park, Colorado is based on.

South Park is an animated TV show on Comedy Central which has been aired for over 20 years.  It is hilarious, and contains current day themes as it is produced each week very close to the air date.  A recent episode referenced Trump and his proclivity to tweet about North Korea.


South Park actually refers to the area of southern Park County and includes the towns of Fairplay, Alma and Como (and probably others).  Even before getting to town I saw this sign on Route 9 (which refers to the area, not the show):


Before getting to Fairplay I drive through Alma, which bills itself as the highest incorporated town in the country.  It is very near one of the first “gold rush” towns which formed in the 1860’s.  If you look at the lower left corner of the brown sign above you’ll see the words Gold Rush with a red slash symbol through it.  Evidently open mining has resumed in the area and many of the locals are NOT happy about it.

In Alma there was this business, which I missed the first time I drove through town:


It bills itself as the “Highest Saloon in the USA” (those words appear in the shade at the top of the sign).  Given that marijuana is legal in Colorado, I suppose that phrase can have multiple meanings.

Fairplay hosts an area called South Park City which is a restored mining town and is now a museum.  Next to that area is the current town of Fairplay, which has many active businesses, only one or two of which make any reference to the South Park show.






The storefronts, both in the”historic” town and the current town, resemble those in the show.  I looked and looked but did not see a Rhinoplasty establishment anywhere.

In addition to the T-shirt store out on Route 9 which had the “cutouts” sign (the gray faces are the gravel in the parking lot) there was only one business, about four buildings away from the “South Park City” area, which was one block west of Route 9, which had some South Park references outside it.


Fairplay also hosts an annual Pack-Burro competition (since 1949):



Mules (burros) played a big role in mining operations before technology took over.  Next to the race-winners sign was this memorial: