“A thousand burdened burros filled the narrow, winding, wriggling trail. A hundred settlers came to build. Each day, new houses in the vale. A hundred gamblers came to feed on these same settlers—this was Creede.”
It would be an impossible task to name and thank everyone who has helped in some way to bring Return to Timberline to life. I have, in some form or fashion, interacted with countless people over the last four decades. And I'm not close to finished. No doubt, many more will cross my path as I trudge ever forward over the next hill.
Some, however, have been pivotal in this experience. This space is reserved for them.
First and foremost: Return to Timberline is dedicated to my wife, my friend, and my companion on this and every other trail.
Her stalwart constancy in pushing me to achieve my goals has been both challenging (at times) and inspiring (all the time). Challenging because it has sometimes been hard to repeatedly hear all those things that I needed to hear. Inspiring because no one has ever believed in me as she has. Nearly from the day we met, she has urged me to do something with my photography, instead of allowing all those negatives and slides to sit fading away in cardboard boxes. She implored me to stop talking about what I wanted to achieve and about how I would achieve it and to do it.
Return to Timberline and my ongoing adventures exist because of her.
While I have struggled from almost the day I met her about having moved south, away from my precious ghost towns, she has challenged me to hold onto my passion, but to also develop a new vision. To see the beauty in the place where God has taken me. And so--with a whole bunch of complaining along the way--I have. My passion for mining history has not dimmed even a little, and it never will. But because of her, my vision has expanded and has taken me in new directions.
Without complaint, she has woken up with me before dawn more times than I can remember to help me photograph in the early morning during the best light of the day. Without complaint, she has stood beside me, freezing in bitterly cold temperatures because it was the right time to take this or that photograph. Without complaint, she has carried my gear while I dashed from one spot to another as quickly as I could so as not to lose a pivotal moment. When I have been frustrated and impatient in the field at times, she has remained consistent and beside me.
Taryn, thank you for believing in me. My heart is ever yours.
Both literally and figuratively, some places are hard to reach. Without my friend of nearly four decades, likely, I would never have seen many such places as Mineral Point or Holy Cross City.
Sometimes it's about reaching a ghost town; other times, it's about reaching another morning. He helped me do both.
Thanks to him, I learned how to drive off-road and bought my first four-wheel-drive vehicle, a much-beloved Ford Bronco II. That vehicle (and those that followed) changed everything and opened the mountains. Places I had never dreamed of reaching before now called to me. But even though I had the means and the will, there were just some places I wouldn't take myself. My friend was always a bit crazier and a bit riskier than me. It worked out well for us both. He would take a trail just for the fun of the experience that I never would. Because of that, I visited some truly extraordinary places that I would not have seen without him.
I will never forget the trip to Crystal City and then on beyond to Scofield Pass, one of the most fearsome and folklorish roads in Colorado. On the uphill side of the pass, at a precipitous angle, we tore up a tire on his Jeep on the sharp as knives slick rock. The tire had to be changed under the most arduous of conditions (which included using a small camping shovel to dig a hole in the earth under the flat tire). While many others would have panicked, he didn't. In the middle of the road, blocking traffic both ways, he just changed the tire like it was nothing, even though it was.
This who he is. This is his character. Whatever "it" is, he handles it.
Andy, thank you for your friendship. Thank you for standing up for me and walking beside me through some of the toughest times in my life. Thank you for telling me the things I needed to hear. Without you, I don't believe that I would have made it through to the other side of those times.
"It's what Bruce Wayne would do."
TO MY PARENTS
As a general rule, ten-year-olds don't often have access to cameras and cars. My parents supported my passion and supplied the tools to pursue it. For nearly two decades, every single weekend was spent in the mountains from early summer to late fall. Many vacations were spent with me on backroads and four-wheel-drive trails. They spent many an anniversary apart because one of them was often with me during that time on a late-summer two-week long photography and exploration trip.
Surely my father had no idea what he was helping to start that day that he agreed to take me to Caribou. And my mother, who knew little about Colorado's mining history before became every bit the "ghost towner" and "four-wheeler" that I did. She was often more excited than even I was when we found a new site (and that's saying a lot).
Without my parents' indulgence in supporting their kid's wild-eyed fascination, I may never have discovered the passion that burns inside me for history and its preservation.
Mom and dad, thank you for spending your time and treasure.
TO THOSE WHO CAME BEFORE
Return to Timberline was directly inspired by those who came before me. They came long before the internet, and websites even existed. Like me, they spent decades hiking, driving, and in some cases riding horses to reach these places high in the mountainous west. Most of these people weren't professional historians or even writers. They were just regular people with a passion for history and a desire to see it preserved.
To Muriel Sibell Wolle, whose books, Stampede to Timberline and Timberline Tailings, are two of my most favorite and the inspiration for the name of this project. I couldn't begin to add up the countless hours I have spent reading about her oft-hilarious misadventures, usually while en route to the very location about which I was reading. Her conversations with people who had at one point lived in these towns or were currently living there are fascinating. Her sketches of the places she visited inspired me to find whatever was left. She touched countless lives through her writing and her art, and she is still touching lives today. Planet Earth lost Mrs. Wolle on January 9, 1977, and it hasn't been the same since.
Mrs. Wolle, thank you for the inspiration, laughter, and history.
To Perry Eberhart, whose exhaustive reference book Guide to the Colorado Ghost Towns and Mining Camps proved so useful over the years. Without it, I wouldn't know the names of many of these places, nor the history behind them. He always included the obscurest of the obscure. When no other author made mention of an empty camp or a single lonely abandoned mine, Perry Eberhart almost always did. If it had a name, he mentioned it. His writing is engaging, and his dry sense of humor adds lively character to the history he imparted. Mr. Eberhart passed away on January 13, 1989; his legacy lives forever.
Mr. Eberhart, thank you for the incredible thoroughness and the exhaustive research.
To Robert Lehman Brown, who wrote some of the very first books on ghost towns in my now extensive library. His books, Ghost Towns of the Colorado Rockies, Colorado Ghost Towns Past and Present, and Jeep Trails to Colorado Ghost Towns, are giants in the genre. They should be required reading for anyone interested in Colorado's mining history. Unlike most authors before him, his books included both directions to the sites he wrote about and modern photographs. Those two facts made it possible to find many of these towns hidden deep in the mountains. Today, we have GPS coordinates and the internet with its infinite resources (some good, others completely wrong). But just a few years ago, directions in a book or names on a map were all we had. Without his directions, I may not have rediscovered many of these locations.
Mr. Brown, thank you for sorely needed the directions.
To Duane A. Smith, the prolific western history author and one of Durango, Colorado's most favorite professors at Fort Lewis College. Among so many others, he authored Silver Saga: The Story of Caribou, Colorado. This one book, more than any other, fueled my imagination and fascination with the western frontier's mining history. It was because of this book that I knew I had finally found Caribou on my second attempt. It was because of this book that I am writing this sentence today. It was because of this book that historical preservation became one of the most important passions in my life. Caribou was the first ghost town I experienced. I was expecting rows of abandoned houses along streets lined with wooden boardwalks. What I found was something quite different. Thanks to Mr. Smith's book, what could have been a disappointing discovery for a ten-year-old boy was, in fact, very much the opposite. The place brimmed with life in my mind. All I had to do was close my eyes to see the streets, and the people, the mills, and the mines, the horses, and the wagons. It was all there, thanks to Duane Smith's book, which brought Caribou back to life authentically and tangibly.
Mr. Smith, thank you for setting a fire in my mind that will never be extinguished
TO ALL THE NAMELESS FACES
There have been a myriad of people whom I have met along the way. In one way or another, these people have been of assistance, even if they weren't aware of it. It is impossible to name them all. But without question, they deserve mention.
They don't remember me, but I will never forget them.
I will never forget the kind elderly woman I met one warm summer day at Lower Fulford. Because of her, I finally located the site of New York Cabins. I had been trying to find it for twenty years. She told me how.
I'll always remember the landowner and his wife on whose land sits the remains of Perigo. Not only did they not kick me off their land, they invited me into their home and shared some history about both Perigo and nearby Gold Dirt that I would never have heard otherwise.
Meeting kindly people hasn't been the exception; it's been the rule.
Much of the land that ghost towns sit on is privately owned. I've been fortunate enough to run into many landowners who never once told me to get lost, but without exception, always permitted me to access their property and often shared some incredible history with me. Once they understood that my intentions were good and that I was as passionate as they were about the history of the land that they owned, they have always been delighted and accommodating.
And what about fellow travelers? I won't forget the kind family who gave my father and me a ride back to our car along the road from Crystal City. That was long before I was old enough to drive. My dad and I had driven as far as we could go in his car. We walked the rest of the way. A ten-mile round-trip hike is exhausting when you aren't used to it. But this superhero and his family drove by. They offered us a drink and a ride back. They will never know how much their kindliness meant to me that day, but I won't forget.
These are just a few of the countless examples of people I've met and interacted with along the way. They all helped in invaluable ways.
To all these good people, thank you for your kindness.