Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fall Color, Gold Fever, And One Man’s Castle

The blog post today is going to be a little heavy with pictures. So the blog may take awhile to load.
Monday, Max and I decided to take the motorcycle back up the mountain to Victor and Cripple Creek Colorado. Our main purpose was to look at the scenery on the way up and to walk thru the “Vindicator Valley” which is riddled with the remains of gold mines.
Below are some of the pictures we took on our ride up the mountain to Victor. No explanation is needed. I will let God’s beauty speak for itself.
"Gold!" was the cry in the heyday of the Vindicator Mine - the 1890s. A miner named Winfield Scott Stratton struck gold in 1891 and a frenzied gold rush followed.
In the ensuing decades, this valley looked like a giant anthill, with dozens of mine head frames surrounded by piles of rocks dug from the ground. All told, 500 mines dotted the landscape and 50,000 miners and their families lived and worked here, searching for the elusive veins of gold they knew were underfoot.
When the gold rush ended in the early 1900s, more than 22 million tons of gold had been claimed and most of the mines were closed.
The town of Independence was abandoned. Nearby Goldfield City and Victor faded to sleepy mountain towns. The Vindicator Valley was silenced.
Today, the valley is owned by the Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Co., a massive operation just over the mountain from Victor. Dotted with rusting metal, weathered wood head frames and covered-up shafts that reach hundreds of feet into the ground, the historic valley has been closed to the public for decades.
The Community new that it had a rich history and wanted the public to experience it. They got together with the current Victor and Cripple Creek mining company and created a trail system that would allow people to get close to the mines. There are so many tunnels and shafts in the area that they had to bring in ground penetrating radar to plot out the course for the trail.
This trail is about two miles but is in very steep terrain. Max and I had to stop several times to rest. Below are some of the mines in the “Vindicator Valley”
VINDICATOR. Yielded $27 million; open 1895 to 1959. It was the site where Harry Orchard set off a bomb and killed two mine supervisors in 1903 during a labor war. He went on to blow up the train station in the town of Independence; 13 were killed.
INDEPENDENCE. Owned by Winfield Scott Stratton, whose gold strike in 1891 made him rich. The strike started the Cripple Creek-Victor Gold Rush.
THERESA. An iron marvel, it was open from 1895 to the 1950s. The head frame burned and was replaced in 1934.
Cable hoist inside the Theresa mine
Various other mines and buildings
Explosives building. There were several of them in the valley
American Eagle Mine 10,500 foot elevation
The Victor and Cripple Creek Mining Company is a modern “Open Pit” gold mining company. It is an impressive operation and they give tours but they end on labor day weekend for the season so we missed out. They do allow access to the top of the mountain so people can see down on their operations. Here are a few pictures. Our elevation is 10,500 feet.
Visiting the mining area of Victor was very interesting. It was so quite around all the mines you could almost hear the ghosts of the past. Unfortunately we did not find any missing pieces of gold that those ghosts missed.
After we left Victor we decided to ride about an hour or so further south to the San Isabelle National Forest close to the town of Wetmore ,where an eccentric individual named Jim Bishop has been building his castle for over 40 years. It is called Bishop’s Castle and he is the sole builder of his castle. He gets his rocks from the national forest and has battled the state and federal government over his right to build this structure. He is a very outspoken individual and will go on a rant at any given time.
The structure is amazing and a little scary to climb to the top because I am sure building codes and regulations are not in his vocabulary.

Notice the dragon head
Iron work balcony’s and walkways
Jim Bishop
This was a very interesting experience and was glad we made the trip. Whether you agree with Jims political or religious views it is an amazing thing to see. 
Here is a link to a You Tube video I found where you can hear Jim rant and rave. It is not safe for children and has foul language.
On the way home we stopped for dinner at Texas Road House and enjoyed some good ribs. We made it back home at around 9:00pm and we were exhausted and called it a night. We will relax for the next few days and will be researching our next adventure.

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