Phantom of the Mountains

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 Road Junkies 0 Comments

MELLOW YELLOW, Chapter 12:

Day 12:  Castle Rock, CO, to Cañon City, CO.  We started the day determined that we would not push ourselves so hard as we have for the last 10 days or so. We slowed things down, didn't leave the hotel until 10 a.m. and started moseying through the Colorado backroads.
It was another gorgeous day. We drove out to Mueller State Park (pictured above), missed the turn for Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, and we didn't care. We followed the road we found ourselves on through some twists and turns and aspen gold.
Prepare to swerve.
Eventually made our way to the town of Cripple Creek.  One of the richest gold claims in American history was filed in Cripple Creek in 1890. At the height of its boom, Cripple Creek was a city of 16,000, an important financial center with three stock exchanges. Today it is a gambling mecca for senior citizens, some of whom were snorting O2 through their oxygen tanks in casinos where other gamblers were smoking.
One of Cripple Creek's numerous casinos, the Brass Ass 
We left Cripple Creek, headed to its twin mining town of Victor, and made our way to Phantom Canyon Road. This gravel/dirt road follows the old railroad grade that was once the Florence & Cripple Creek Railroad. Through the floor of the canyon, the narrow road was quaint and fascinating.  Along the edge of the canyon rim, it triggered nail biting and white knuckles.
The Phantom is part of the Gold Belt Byway, a network of narrow unpaved roads that run through canyons and other geological features.  The route has two tunnels and numerous high wooden bridges.  Its placement along slender ledges with steep unguarded drop-offs inspires a dread of approaching vehicles.
No room for error
The road passes through the original (1890-1910) railroad tunnels.
As we left the Phantom Canyon Road behind, Ken finally found some horses near the roadway. He had brought some apples on the trip, remnants of treats he doles out to three horses who live on the trail he hikes for three miles daily at home. 
These two were glad to share Ken's snacks.
We actually made it into our hotel for the night by 5 p.m. We're spending the night in Cañon City, Colorado. Tomorrow we'll head east on the way home. Not sure how far we'll get... but we're going where the flow takes us. No stress!