After a fitful sleep I descended from Squaw Pass on Old Bear Creek. In the past a mountain toll road, in the present this undriveable and nearly unwalkable mess could easily be mistaken for a road in Costa Rica.
Eventually I stumbled down to Soda Creek, which took me into Idaho Springs. That the search for shiny mineral wealth had birthed this town was immediately apparent. The main street is called Miner Street. The high school is nicknamed the Golddiggers. I was unable to confirm whether Kanye West is performed by the marching band.
The rush to Idaho Springs was begun by one George Jackson, who arrived in the area in January of 1859. George was initially reluctant to approach when he misinterpreted steam rising from the local springs as smoke from Indian bonfires. Someone who would show up in these mountains in January must have a lot of perseverance. Obviously Jackson had the chutzpah (or I would be writing about another man) and was rewarded when he struck gold. The news spread like wildfire (a metaphor currently banned in Colorado) and the Gold Rush of 1859 commenced.
The bonanza lasted until 1863 when the limited technology of the day tapped out the last reachable vein and gold addicts moved on to more fertile ground. Mining continued in Idaho Springs, with less valuable minerals such as zinc, copper, molybdenum, and molyringwold being sought.
Skiing and other outdoor sports such as biking, rafting, and zip-lining are the main draws these days. Those I spoke to lamented how the warm winter had cut the ski season drastically short, hurting the town's economy. Will climate change continue to deal such devastating blows? Will Al Gore finally stop Manbearpig? Only travelers in the fourth dimension know for sure and they won't tell for fear of damaging the space/time continuum.
For now the town was caught up in drama of another sort. An employee at the water treatment plant had fallen asleep at the wheel, allowing the town's water supply to be contaminated. The water had been unusable for four days and businesses were suffering. Beau Jo's Pizza, which I visited, claimed losses in the thousands of dollars already. I sampled their wares and can only pray they survive this disaster. The toppings were superb and I have never had a better crust. The thick, sweet dough tasted like a crescent roll and I followed the waitress' suggestion to dip it in honey. The result was absolutely sublime.
By early afternoon I was ready to head towards Georgetown. My maps had me confused so I headed over to the ranger's station for clarification. The woman inside had little additional information on my intended route, but recommended I just follow the frontage road between the two towns.
I followed her advice even though this meant paralleling I-70. Most interstates are boring, but few have an accompanying clear running stream and peaks rising thousands of feet above on all sides. Georgetown Lake, sitting at the base of one mountain, makes a fitting finale. I would say I've had plenty of duller walks than this - say from Indiana to Denver, for example.
19 miles/2586 total miles