If any of you are very familiar with the great state of Colorado you may have heard of the Shelf Road that runs between the towns of Canon City and Cripple Creek (lots of Cs in that part of the world). It’s a mountainous dirt road with steep drop offs, hair-raising corners, and not even a hint of a guard rail on the whole 24 miles.
The Shelf Road is actually part of the Gold Belt Byway, a string of scenic roads in Colorado so called because of the gold mining in the area.
The average person wouldn’t drive this road, but my husband is not your average person. After buying a pick up in Texas and a camper to sit on top of it in Colorado, he chooses to christen our new rig by taking it on the Shelf Road. Let me just say right now, as the person who sat on the side of the ledge, that it was total insanity. It may have been enjoyable in a Jeep or something but as it was, our huge lumbering beast met a small truck and I was so busy white-knuckling it that I forgot to take a photo!
Below are photos of the drive, with some captions that you can see if you click on the image and scroll to the right, and below those are some photos of Cripple Creek and the mountaintop mine nearby.
Beautiful unassuming red dirt road…
…until you look down!
Truly on the side of a mountain.
A cross and some lovely metal art to memorialize someone.
One lane, around a corner !?!
It’s a really long way down.
24 miles of this!?!?
That’s an old collapsed barn down there.
Strange to find a big warehouse out in the middle of nowhere but there are mine accesses, tours, and roads to 2 ghost towns also.
Having a great time I’m sure, while his wife has a heart attack.
A great blue heron flying overhead.
Looking back the way we came.
That’s quite a road but I don’t really understand why it’s here, considering how much it probably costs to maintain.
Not taking his eyes off the road.
It had snowed recently, hence the puddles.
Another turn !?!
Beautiful valley VERY far down there.
How long does this go on??
Yay, falling rocks too!
Finally heading down the mountain.
The rig’s doing a pretty good job.
Some interesting drainage ditches.
A great blue heron flapping it’s wings in the breeze, practicing?
Still a lot of one lane portions, but it’s easier to breathe.
Notable rock formation.
I suppose Jack would just love to explore that old mine, thank goodness it’s locked.
What is a house doing out here and how did it get here??
A wild turkey gets startled by our lumbering beast.
Our reward for completing the harrowing Shelf Road was getting to Cripple Creek, a town that is clearly proud of their mountaintop removal! Here is a satellite image of the mine and some from the town itself. Hope you get there someday if you haven’t been already.
The view driving toward Cripple Creek
A satellite image of Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mine.
A nice dusting of snow livens up the scene.
It’s amazing how big that mine must be.
This old structure is called the “Morning Glory Ore House” and was moved here in 2012 for preservation.
Another dark hole in the side of a mountain.
Now THAT is a retaining wall!
Don’t know the story behind this monster but there’s got to be one.
Tailing piles, I suppose.
Not sure if I’m going to be on board for this again. Luckily we’re leaving in a different directon.
Lots of historical buildings around here.
They sure love their donkeys, maybe too much. A bartender told us a story about the townspeople going after the donkeys that left town and bringing them back whether they liked it or not.
During the day…
and on a chilly night with some snow.
We left about $200 up, not too bad!
More mining stuff on the way out of town.
Would love to come back some day when we have more time.
Here are more photos of our late summer camping trip up the Steese Highway. Chilly, but hardly a cloud in the sky…
You’ll see Davidson Ditch, a water pipe built in 1920s, that runs 90 miles along the Steese Highway. It used to bring about 180,000 gallons of water per day to the gold dredges in Fox, Alaska from the Chatanika River.
(Click on the first one and scroll to the right.)
Sitting around our campfire, the northern lights decided to give us a show.
Jack, lovin’ life.
An ember from the fire timed itself perfect for our long shutter speed.
The Steese Highway, one of the less populated camping destinations.
There are several nice roadside memorials on Alaskan highways, but we both agree this is the best one we’ve seen.
It’s only late August, but that means fall up here, about 60 miles north of Fairbanks.
Even farther north at Twelvemile Summit Wayside (about 80 mile Steese).
Probably the best time to drive the Steese Highway, late summer.
State camp, Montana Creek Station (road maintenance station).
Lots of mining on the Steese Highway.
And lots of burnt forest.
Davidson Ditch snakes its way to Fox, Alaska (about 8 miles north of Fairbanks).
Davidson Ditch is practically in this house’s back yard.
Chatanika Lodge, a most important place to visit if you come to Alaska. Tons of interesting stuff in there. About 40 mile Steese Highway.
This is directly across from Chatanika Lodge, a very old mining site with a gold dredge (on the right) that used to float.