Not far from Del Norte is Creede, Colorado. I read about Creede last year in Pam Houston’s book Finding Hope in the High Country and was intrigued. Creede is a small town with, it claims, a population of 300. However, it’s a touristy town and swells with outdoor enthusiasts this time of year. A lot of people come for the mining history, some come for the fishing, others to jeep, and some to hang out in the quaint town.
This silver town was incorporated in 1892 and named for Nicholas Creed whose 1889 silver vein discovery at the Holy Moses Mine was the largest silver strike in the West. The population swelled to 10,000 as the mining camps grew. The Sherman Silver Purchase Act passed in 1890 requiring the government to buy 4.5 million ounces of silver a month and Creede thrived until the economic plunge of 1893. I could go on and on about the history, but boom and bust seemed to be the theme.
Bachelor Loop was 18 miles with 2727′ of climbing. Dozens of mines dot the route. This route is gravel and extremely steep at the start. Starting at 8,896′ you climb right away and by mile 8 we were at 11,100! Someone in a two wheel drive truck ahead of us started losing traction on the steep gravel and became paralyzed with fear and couldn’t even reverse back down for fear the truck would plummet off the cliff. Luckily others were stopped to help and we continued on by. The loop has 16 interpretive stops along the way and we stopped at most to check them out. Some of our favorites:
The site of the 1901 constructed Humphrey Mill was impressive. In it’s day, it was a wooden structure on permanent foundations built at the junction of East and West Willow Creeks with a daily capacity of 275 tons. The mine was a water-powered operation that also could be steam-powered when water levels were insufficient.
The town Fire Department is built in a cave! In keeping with Creede’s history as a mining town, it was agreed that the firehouse would be built into the side of a mountain. Badass!
A lot of these mine sites have undergone reclamation for all the contaminated materials in the area. The Midwest Mine is one such site. Check out this slideshow if you have any interest. The process is INTENSIVE!
We rode the out and back to Equity Mine which itself isn’t much to look at, but the terrain was beautiful! The Equity mine was one of the few mines in the Creede district that developed profitable ore. In 1910, $70,000 in gold and silver was recovered from the mine. Rumor has it moose have been spotted in the area but we didn’t see any.
Bachelor City was home to nearly 1200 people between 1892 and 1896, and boasted a dozen saloons, four hotels, five grocery stores, two barber shops, two bakeries , several restaurants, a school, jail, and city hall. Now it’s just a meadow that sits at 10,500′.
With most of the climbing out of the way in the first part of the loop, we flew downhill to check out the cemetery and Bob Ford’s grave. Bob Ford was best known as the “dirty little coward” that killed Jesse James.
We finished minutes before a downpour and drove back to camp thinking of all the cool things we saw.