Thursday, July 12, 2018

Excursion To Viginia Dale

I've always tried to learn some of the local history and geography of wherever it is that I'm currently living. In Dayes Of Olde, I'd get maps and charts of the area to learn where various highways and rivers were located, and then I learned how to refine that skill when I took ground school. Reading maritime charts is very similar, but also has notations of where Underwater Nasty Stuff is located so you don't run aground and/or tear the bottom out of your hull.

I was snake-fascinated when Google Earth came out, and nowadays I use Google Maps quite a bit.

Between Wikipedia, and Google Maps, you can plan some nice little trips to nearby places that are interesting.

Since I'd already pretty much run out of places I found "interesting" in SoCal in the 35 years I lived there, moving here was a welcome change of geography, with lots of new things to see, like Ghost Towns! So with that in mind, I picked a "Beginner's Object" and we drove up to Virginia Dale, the site of (supposedly) the "Last Complete Stage Station For The Overland Trail Stagecoach Line".

Geez....The Overland Trail Stage Line! We read about that, and the Pony Express, back in grade school American History! Wow...real "Wild West" stuff! Let's go see it!

At the time the Wikipedia article was written/edited, the property was up for sale:

The buildings and road are now marked as Private, with plenty of KEEP OUT signs posted, so we stayed well away from the buildings out of respect for property rights.

The turnout on Highway 287 is quite wide there, and could easily accommodate several big rigs, so I parked at one edge while the girls looked around a bit.

I wish this picture could capture the majesty of looking down this valley while the lightning flashed down from the storm clouds in the distance, but it can't. It was 85* in Fort Collins when we left, and we hit some good rain on the 287 North. By the time we got there, the outside air temp was down to 63*, a breeze was blowing in from the Northwest, it had just rained, and all you could smell were pine trees and wildflowers.

So besides lacking in visuals, the picture lacks the "being there" factor.

Looking a bit further North.

And a look back South, from whence we came.

We looked around for this plaque, but couldn't find it. Turns out it's "A few hundred yards North" per the Wikipedia article, and we didn't walk that far North.

So Virginia Dale as a "Ghost Town" was kind of a bust, but at least the building is still there.

I found this website about ghost towns by state, and it has clickable maps of the counties in Colorado, along with a few pictures. Mostly you just find foundations, fireplaces, and the occasional run down looking building. Not quite what Hollyweird portrays them as, but then what is?

I've read there's a couple of old mining places near Laporte, and I think an abandoned saw mill, so I'm going to scout those out on the old Interwebz, and plan a better trip.

And I finally had a good chance to get a solid look at Goat Hill from the East side.

This is part of the Dakota Hogback that runs from just North of Cheyenne, all the way South to Northern New Mexico. The Cache La Poudre River runs along the base under the cliffs, and the the trout farm and Watson Lake, where we spent a pleasant Father's Day are also at the base of the cliffs.

What makes this a "Eureka" moment for me, is that the cliffs of this formation are what we saw every morning when we left the little apartment in Bellvue to go house hunting.

I took this picture the first couple of weeks we lived here, mostly to comment on the radio antennas.

Yup....those are the cliffs in the above picture, but seen from the West side of the Hogback. I had no idea there was a valley with a trout farm, lake, and river living down at the base....

So even though the Virginia Dale visit was kind of a bust, we saw some beautiful scenery, got to witness a big thunderstorm come roaring in out of the hills, and had a nice drive.

And I got to connect some dots regarding local geology and geography. I get a big kick out of actually seeing some of the things I've been reading about.


  1. "Feet on the ground, with information" always beats driving past.

    1. The website that I mentioned shows bunches of "ghost towns" within an hour~90 minute drive from here. I have to plan things like this, and know where I'm going.

  2. For a long time Virginia Dale was a place to let your radiator cool down, get a bite to eat, gas, and a flat fixed. Takes a lot of energy and dedication to keep a place like that going and I think the last proprietors just got wore out.

    1. Oh, yeah, that's exactly what it looks like. I saw plenty of places like that when I was growing up. Hard work, and people come to rely on you. I'm sure they had many repeat customers. And if there were any children, they didn't want to be bothered running business that demanding.

  3. Ghost towns fade.... And it's important to understand their context because of that. Despite the fact that it was a bit disappointing, it's still always good to explore and to study up on what was so you know what you're looking at.

    One day we'll all fade from memory, but not yet.

    1. I'd hoped there'd be more than just the one building standing. Apparently there are some other things, but they're on private property, so we just looked at the building.

      But there are a lot of other things to explore here. I'm not planning on rappelling down into any mine shafts or old missile silos, but at least we can find the sites.

      I'll have to look into geocaching here. It was quite popular in SoCal, and it probably is here, too.

  4. Me and Ridin' Buddy went through Laporte on the way to go dirtbikin' with a gathering of moto-loons up on Rampart Range - way back around...'99? Jeeze it's been a while.
    One of our favorite breakfast places up the road in Pollock is The Sportsman's Hall, which used to be an overnight stop/rider stop on the Pony Express, and a place where they changed horses, besides being a wagon stop on the Mormon Trail.

  5. Laporte is a cool little town, and is really "where it all started". If Camp Collins had been on the North bank of the Cache La Poudre it probably wouldn't have been flooded out, and then relocated downstream to what became Fort Collins.

    Tons of history out here, and I'm soaking it up like a sponge! Have a special section started in my library just for local and Colorado history, geography, and geology.

  6. Replies
    1. I'm going to have to experiment with my various lenses to see if I can capture some of the grandeur of the scenery here. I have to find the right combination of focal length and aperture to both give the picture some depth, and yet bring it in "up close and personal". I've done it before, and my son is really good at it.

      Ansel Adams has nothing to worry about, but I would like to take better pictures....


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