Jill, Day Hiking Ambassador
We were the living who had come upon the ghosts of past. Our hearts were beating quickly. Our blood was coursing through our warm bodies when we came to a stop and set our eyes on the remains. The air was still yet we could hear faint screams of resistance as they fought to stand under the weight of the snow. If I didn’t know the sound of waning wood structures I would have sworn there were ghosts.
This afternoon we were breaking snow in the ghost town of Ironton, CO. Settled in 1883 Ironton (originally known as Cooper Glen) was a staple in the transportation of supplies between mining operations in Red Mountain Town and Ouray, CO. It was a booming junction that had three hundred buildings raised within the first three weeks of settlement, which later on grew to a peak population of over 1000 people. The town remained active and operational into the early 20th century until mining operation declined from which the population dwindled out of existence.
In the present day winter Ironton serves as a divine playground for Nordic Trail snowshoers and cross country skiers alike. The parks trails can take you on a variety of adventures from the ghost town loop, up the mountainside, to old closed mining sites, and down forgotten roads.
There we stood catching our breath in our 30” Wilderness Tubbs Snowshoes. With built in crampons mounted on our feet the bit fiercely into the icy ground. We stood there for several moments gazing around at what was left of this once mining metropolis. With only the visual of a few buildings standing against the test of time and countless harsh winters we weren’t there taking in what was now but what was past. In silence we split off snowshoeing in wonder towards the different phantoms that spoke to us with softly spoken creeks on the light breeze.
My snowshoes carried me to what appeared to be a rather decadent two story homestead that remained surprisingly intact compared to its neighbors. By the standards of the mining days this was a mansion for someone who was of great wealth. My thoughts stole away to the peeling paint, rotting wood and other details of the house. As a cat chases a mouse my imagination was chasing countless questions around this house.
After telling myself five wild tall tale mining stories I realized how lonely and forgotten this homestead had become over time. It was an eerie feeling to think of forgotten memories that could never again be told. “Unable to speak and but still alive.” I told myself. Sigh.
Circling the perimeter of the house my fiancé came into view. He was finagling his way into one of the houses while wearing his snowshoes. Ready to come to his rescue in case he needed me I headed for him and kicked up the fresh powder with my feet.
The rickety structure from within my fiancé now stood was feeble and grey. The glass that was once present had been smashed and evolved into deteriorated square holes. The walls wore peeled wall paper and speckles of paint that refused to rot away. The floor was missing floor boards that had been violently ripped away. As I continued to look into the house a blast of wind pushed me against the door frame. While stepping back and getting my balance my imagination swore it saw this building start to sway.
With that I hurried my fiancé out of the house and made him stay out for the remainder of our time in the Ironton town. As a gentle snow began to fall I couldn’t help but think how amazing it was to snowshoe among the ghosts of old.