Calvary 4-Wheelers headed to Russell Gulch near Idaho Springs, CO on Saturday, March 24, 2012 for some early Spring snow bashing and ghost town hunting. We met at the ranger station in Idaho Springs between 9:00 (for those that were on time) and 9:30 (for those that were running a little late). We had 6 rigs for the trip, myself in my lifted Cherokee, Ken in his Maroon Grand Cherokee, Rick in his moderately built YJ, John in his mostly stock TJ, Chuck in his mildly modded TJ Unlimited and Steve in his Silver Liberty.
We had a gorgeous day of sunshine and blue skies as we headed up Virginia Canyon toward Russell Gulch. Russell Gulch is a very easy trail when dry and we weren't sure how much snow we would find, if any. The south-facing slopes were dry and clear as we started up the ridge between Virginia Canyon and Russell Gulch. Once we topped the ridge and started down the north-facing slopes into Russell Gulch we found a little snow. It ranged from hard-packed and very icy to heavy, wet and slushy in the warm weather but it wasn't too deep and we didn't bother to chain up.
Before long I got to playing further and further into the deep side of the drifts and managed to get myself stuck. Rick gave me a quick tug with a strap and we were on our way.
The area between Idaho Spring and Central City was heavily mined back in the gold rush days of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some of the richest gold deposits in the world were discovered here and a lot of remnants of that bygone era remain.
The trail finally led us through the ghost town of Russell Gulch. I suppose, technically, Russell Gulch isn't a true ghost town as there are a few full-time residents but not many compared to the over 2500 who lived there in it's heyday. There are several well-preserved buildings, including the old school house, a large brick and stone store and several residences. There are also many tattered and crumbling properties giving testament to the fleeting nature of earthly riches.
Since we finished the trail early and still had a beautiful afternoon to enjoy, we decided to skirt the edges of Central City, pass through the ghost town of Nevadaville and head over to the nearby Yankee Hill trail. Along the way we stopped for lunch at the Bald Mountain Cemetery. The current residents seemed to be content to let us share their solitude and enjoy our provisions. No one disturbed us even as we poked around their quiet plots.
After lunch we headed on up Yankee Hill. The snow became more frequent and deeper the higher we climbed. Multiple attempts and help from a friend became more frequent. As I was making a third try up a particularly slippery hill my minor power steering leak became a major gush. I had plenty of fluid with me but decided not to push it. Ken was also ready to turn around as he is not a major snow lover. Chuck, Rick, and John decided to forge ahead and play in the snow. I'm not sure how far they got but, from Rick's pictures it looks like they made it back to gravel road somewhere.
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