Ride the Rails for Colorado Fall Color

Aspen1 Colorado celebrates autumn with golden hillsides of aspen, scrub oaks in hues from crimson to burnt umber  – and, the occasional dusting of snow on the high peaks. No season is more colorful for a scenic train ride – narrow or standard gauge. Many of the railroads offer special events during the fall. All aboard!

  • Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad – A steam powered narrow gauge train makes a 4-mile, 45-minute trip into the historic mining districts of Cripple Creek and Victor. This is an excellent choice for families with young children or those with limited time. Operates daily until October3, 2010, 10am-5pm, train runs every 40 minutes. Lots of aspens along the route make this a great fall foliage feature. Read more…

  • Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad – This popular excursion weaves along the Colorado/New Mexico border. Special fall events include the Moonlight Dinner Train on September 24 featuring a catered dinner and a classic murder mystery presented by Adams State College. On September 30th the Galloping Goose #5 makes its Fall Colors Classic run. The scenic railroad has scheduled trips through October 17, 2010.

  • DSNGR in Silverton Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad – Passengers step back more than a century when they board this historic train that has operated continuously since 1882. The route through Colorado’s San Juan Mountains offers unparalleled scenery. Autumn specials include the 21th Annual Fall Photo Special Sept. 25-26 & Oct. 2-3, Cowboy Poet Train/Durango Cowboy Gathering Oct. 1, Durango Heritage Train Oct. 9, and Peanuts The Great Pumpkin Patch Express Oct. 16 17, 23 & 24. Night Photo Sessions are set for September 24-25, & October 2-3. Check their website for full descriptions of the Fall Photo Specials, the Night Sessions and tips for riding the photographer special trains. Reservations a must! Read more…

  • Train_Locomotive with Light On Georgetown Loop Railroad – Georgetown and Silver Plume are only two miles apart via highway but the elevation gain of 600 feet required amazing railroad engineering. The steep climb includes many twists, turns and trestles. Trains operate daily through Oct. 11, weekends after that date. The last Moonlight in the Mountains Dinner Train of the season runs Saturday, September 18, 2010. September 25th a Wine Tasting and Hors d’Oeurvres evening special will feature wines from Pasa Robles, California. Pumpkin Festival events are planned for the first two weekends of October and Oktoberfest the last three weekends. Read more…

  • Leadville, Colorado and Southern Railroad – Leadville claims title to the highest incorporated town in North America (10,152’) and thrived on mining and the railroads. Rail buffs relive that golden age along the Leadville, Colorado and Southern tracks. Trains run daily through Oct. 3; weekdays at 1pm, weekends at 10am and 2pm. A Fall Photo Special – at the normal fare price -  on Sept. 18 will include special photo stops. Read more…

  • Manitou Cog Railway Manitou and Pikes Peak RailwayScale Pikes Peak on the world’s highest cog railroad. The three-hour round trip to the 14,110’ summit qualifies as the most relaxed climb up the well-known mountain. Swiss diesel locomotives ratchet bright red cars filled with tourists up slopes with grades as high as 25%. Morning and afternoon trips through Oct. 24, Thereafter check the website for scheduled departures; the cog railway is now open year round but not daily in the off-season.

  • Rio Grande Scenic Railway – Departing from Alamosa and LaVeta the Rio Grande Scenic Railway gives passengers multiple trip options (distance, time and price) including a visit to Great Sand Dunes National Park. The autumn schedule includes Rails and Ales Oktoberfest Oct. 2, 2010 complete with brats, ales and oompa band music and a Pumpkin Patch Ride Oct. 23, 2010. “Golden Ticket” senior discounts during September and October allow passengers 65+ to purchase one senior ticket and get one free. Does not apply to special event trains.

  • Royal Gorge Route – Travel along the banks of the Arkansas River and beneath the worlds highest suspension bridge, more than 1,000-ft. above the gorge. Passengers can select seating in coach or vista dome cars, both with access to an open air car for outstanding views and photos. The Royal Gorge Route offers Colorado’s only regularly scheduled rolling gourmet dinner service. Oktoberfest Lunch special trains run Fridays Saturdays and Sundays from September 17 to October 10, 2010. In addition to their regular menu items the Oktoberfest menu option includes veal brats, mustard spaetzle, braised red cabbage and apples, Black Forest torte; and of course, Oktoberfest beer on tap. Royal Gorge Route trains run daily until October 31 and weekends until December 31, 2010. Read more…

Also consider:

  • Amtrak – Passenger service between Chicago and the West Coast traverses the Colorado Rockies west of Denver. The route through the Moffat Tunnel, Grand County and along the Colorado River offers superb scenery. Trips from Denver to Glenwood Springs  or Grand Junction offer getaways without driving busy I-70. Nancy’s Caveat – One shouldn’t have a tight schedule when traveling via Amtrak, delays can and do occur – especially the east bound trains.

  • Colorado Railroad Museum  – Located west of downtown Denver in Golden, the museum houses a large collection of rolling stock and railroad memorabilia. Youngster love the yearly Day Out with Thomas (The Tank Engine scheduled for September 18, 19, 25 & 26, 2010 – reserved admission tickets required. The seasonal Trick or Treat Train will operate October 30 & 31.

  • Tiny Town In the foothills just off US285, Tiny Town attracts the pre-school set to the oldest kid-sized village and railroad in the United States. The miniature railroad, powered by coal-fired locomotives, loops through the village of more than 100 buildings and along the hillsides of Turkey Creek Canyon. After riding the train, investigate the 1/6-scale structures handcrafted by volunteers; be sure to peek into windows and skylights. A playground and picnic area encourages families to linger. Open weekends, 10am-5pm, during September.

A Walk with the Spirits

Crested Butte Cemetery Arch A leisurely walk through an historic cemetery relates intriguing details of the region’s settlement and struggles. Styles of enclosures, markers and headstones reflect cultural, ethnic and societal influences. Inscriptions tell of epidemics, natural disasters, gunfights or the steadfastness of a man’s character. A chiseled boulder in the Cripple Creek Mt. Pisgah Cemetery states, “He died as he lived, honest, loyal and an upright man.”

Children’s graves were frequently enclosed with wooden or wrought iron fencing, or carefully laid stone borders. Headstones with carved lCrested Butte Child's Graveambs denote infant burials. Poetry abounds. Especially memorable is a monument in a Central City cemetery marking the graves for one family’s five children – all who died before reaching their first birthday.

Graveyards near ghost towns and mining camps remain worthy of investigation. Spend a crisp autumn afternoon strolling the distinctive cemeteries near Alma, Central City, Cripple Creek or Leadville for a Colorado history refresher coarse.

The Littleton Cemetery on South Prince Street is the permanent (?) resting place of Alfred Packer, the only man in United States history to be convicted of the crime of cannibalism.

An October tradition in Aspen is “Walking with the Dead” in the Ute Cemetery. Tales from the grave are told by young pioneers. Aspen Walking Tours offers the hour-long cemetery walks every Saturday of October, the last two Fridays and Halloween Sunday (Oct. 2, 9, 16, 22, 23, 29, 30, & 31, 2010) at 5:30pm. Grave - B Cost is $20/person; call 970-948-4349 for reservations.

Meet the Spirits of Boulder’s Columbia Cemetery (also known as Pioneer Cemetery) on October 17, 2010 from noon to 5pm. Victorian mourners, funeral music, vintage hearses, and a solemn Masonic burial service reenactment will enhance the stories told by costumed “spirits” risen from their graves for the afternoon. Ghost Hunters with ParaFPI will demonstrate  equipment and techniques used in paranormal research. The elite TAPS Family team is currently investigating the Columbia Cemetery.

Tickets will be available at the cemetery gate at Ninth & Pleasant Streets, Boulder, on the day of the tour. Cost is $10/adult, $5/children and studens under 16. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the Historic Boulder office, 1123 Spruce Street. A rain date of October 24, 2010 is schedule for “Meet the Spirits” if weather conditions cause cancellation on the 17th.

Madame - B The tombstones in Cripple Creek’s Mt. Pisgah Cemetery tell numerous stories of the town’s famous and the infamous. On September 18, 2010 the Gold Camp Victorian Society plans a day of Mt. Pisgah tours with character reenactments throughout the cemetery. Tours start at the Cripple Creek District Museum located next to the Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad Depot. The tour begins with a ride aboard the historic trolley. The first tour leaves the museum at 9:30am; the last departs at 2:00pm. Donations to benefit the society’s historic preservation efforts are $8/adult, $15/couple and $5/child under 12. I’m sure you’ll meet Pearl.

Crested Butte Cemetery Open Gate

Tom “Dr. Colorado” Noel pays respect to Denver’s pioneer movers and shakers at Riverside Cemetery on Saturday afternoon, October 30, 2010. Meet Nathan A. Baker, whose daughter claimed he, “Loved horses more than his own blood kin.” Baker lies under a life-sized stone Arabian stallion – named Frank. Perhaps the daughter was right. Numerous other Colorado “characters” will make appearances including governors, miners and businesswomen.

The 2010 Riverside Halloween Tour is sponsored by History Colorado and Dr. Noel and hosted by the Fairmount Heritage Foundation. Reservations should be made at 303-866-4686; cost is $25 for History Colorado members, $30 for non-members.

In Glenwood Springs costumed historic characters recall their lively pasts as lantern led tours visit the “spirits” of Linwood (Glenwood Pioneer) Cemetery. Doc Holliday is reportedly buried here … or is he? Join the Annual Historic Ghost Walk to hear the story. The walks are planned for Oct. 15-17, Oct. 22-24 and Oct. 29-31, 2009. Tickets are $15/person and go on sale Oct. 1. These annual walks sell out quickly, purchase tickets as soon as they go on sale by calling the Frontier Historical Museum at 970-945-4448.

We’ve tramped around many of Colorado’s cemeteries through the years, especially those near early mining camps. Each has its own distinctive Leadville Sunken Gravescharacteristics and slate of citizens with fascinating stories. Leadville’s Evergreen Cemetery contains graves from 1879 to the present, graves with ornate headstones and those with rotting crosses. One early section with sunken graves ranks as the spookiest I’ve ever visited. Judge Neil Reynolds introduces the spirits of  Evergreen Cemetery during Halloween Tours Oct. 29-30 at 8:00pm each evening. This popular event usually sells out – call 719-486-3900 or 888-532-3845 for tickets, $10/person.

Leadville Grave with Aspen

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Mt. Pisgah Speaks

Mt. Pisgah Speaks

2010 Cemetery Tour – September 18th

Cemetery Tour - B

The personas of Cripple Creek’s famous and infamous, millionaires and paupers, celebrities and commoners, come to life during the yearly Mt. Pisgah Cemetery Tour. Members of the Gold Camp Victorian Society assume the roles of former residents buried in the mountainside graveyard overlooking the historic mining district.

Tour Guide on Trolley - B Tours begin in the parking lot in front of the Cripple Creek District Museum and the Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad Depot. A historic trolley transports each tour group to the cemetery. As we travel through town a costumed guide sets the stage with historic background.

“Digger O’Dell Martenson” welcomes the tour to Mt. Pisgah and describes how graves were once “dug” by dynamite. Approximately 4,000 souls – including 2,000 paupers without headstones – and one horse lie in final repose.

From extensive research the reenactors are well versed in the lives of their “characters”. We meet Vitus Neilsen – Cripple Creek’s blind piano man, Civil War veteran David McClintok and George Smith leader of the Elks band. Each tells “their” story incorporating historic fact and interesting antidotes.

Doc Susie - B Following graduation from the University of Michigan in 1897 Susan Anderson practiced medicine in Grand County, Colorado until she was 86. “Doc Susie” inspired the 1990s television series Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. An unnamed nurse from St. Nicholas Hospital relates the high rate of children deaths, “In the first years up to one-third of the graves were of children under six. I hear there are some of my patients still walking the halls of St. Nicholas, now a hotel.”

Mabel Barbie Lee tells of teaching in Victor where Lowell Thomas was one of her history students. She later taught at Colorado College and served as administrator at numerous universities including Ratcliff, Bennington and the University of California. In retirement she wrote memoirs including Cripple Creek Days about the gold rush boom days and Back in Cripple Creek.

Sheriff - B Sheriff Hiram Wilson recalls that, “The bad guys and prostitution were my problems. Proper ladies didn’t want to see those ladies of the night. They could only come to Bennett Avenue to shop on Monday mornings when the proper ladies were doing their laundry.” As we turn to leave his gravesite he closes with, “Thanks for coming today, gives me a chance to get out of my grave and stretch my legs. I died of a heartache, nobody shot me.”

Cripple Creek’s most renowned lady of the night was Pearl DeVere, madam of the Old Homestead House brothel. Always liking the finer things in life, legend has it that Pearl was buried in a $1000 designer dress from Paris paid foMadame by Bob - Br by an anonymous Denver donor. Pearl’s funeral procession was led by four mounted horsemen and a 20 piece band from the Elks Club. Carriages filled with businessmen, girls from “The Row” and miners followed the lavender casket up Cripple Creek’s main street, Bennett Avenue, to the slopes of Mt. Pisgah. More than a century later Pearl’s grave is one of the most decorated in the cemetery.

Working downhill through the cemetery we meet more than a dozen “residents.” The tour group enjoys lemonade, coffee and cookies as the they wait for the return trolley. We’re delighted we came to Mt. Pisgah Cemetery where history comes to life one day each fall.

 

When You Go: The 2010 Mt. Pisgah Cemetery Tour is scheduled for Saturday, September 18th. Tours leave from the Cripple Creek District Museum parking lot, 5th Street and Bennett Avenue, every half hour starting at 9:30am. The last tour will leave the museum at 2pm. It’s advisable to arrive early.

Donations benefit the Gold Camp Victorian Society’s historic preservation efforts – $8/adult, $15/couple, $5/child under 12.

With an elevation of over 10,000’, the uneven terrain and standing for over an hour the cemetery tour may be a challenge for people with health issues. Wear sensible shoes and dress in layers as weather can change quickly.

 

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Johnny Nolan's

 

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Cripple Creek and Victor Railroad

 

A Stroll Through Albuquerque’s OlOld Town Churchd Town

 

Quintessential New Mexico, the shaded plaza, adobe church, shops, galleries, restaurants, music, arts and crafts keep visitors returning to Old Town. Most Albuquerque tourists who spend time in Old Town circle the Plaza, admire jewelry spread on blankets, and pop into stores for souvenirs. Those who follow winding, brick walkways into quiet courtyards discover the essence of the Southwest – a slower pace, a musical duo, shaded patio cafes and one-of-a-kind shops.

Kaleidoscopes Colorful magic fills two rooms at La Casita de Kaleidoscopes. The gregarious owner encourages “try them all” as we gawk at the variety – miniature scopes on necklaces to massive floor models. Eighty artists from around the country handcraft these optical wonders. Descriptive names – Marble Scope, Passport to Paris, Dreamdrops, Eye on the Ball – entice us to pause for calming views.

 

Old Town Tour Guided walking tours sponsored by the Albuquerque Museum offer a historical and informative insiders view of Old Town. Museum docents lead the seasonal tours, mid-March through mid- December, pointing out details we’d miss own our own. A self-guided walking tour brochure is available at the museum for those whose visit doesn’t coincide with a guided tour.