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Runtrails' Rocky Mountain Journal
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"Things were brisk and bustling there then,
with three hotels and, needless to say, several saloons." 
- Elizabeth Rule Harrington on Dayton, 1867


The little town of Twin Lakes, about twenty miles south of Leadville, began as a mining community in the 1860s but lives on as a thriving home for several families  and a popular vacation stop for campers, hikers, climbers, anglers, boaters, photographers, historians, LT 100 runners/cyclists, and motorists on their way to Independence Pass or Aspen via Hwy. 82.

No ghost town, this!

You've already seen photos of the lakes in this journal on July 23 when Cody and I ran and hiked around half of the lower lake on the Colorado Trail. If you look real closely, you can even see them in the little photo in the upper left corner of this page, as viewed from Hope Pass, and in another photo in the introduction, from Mt. Elbert, Colorado's highest peak. The town of Twin Lakes lies at the southeastern base of Elbert, six miles west of Hwy. 24.

In this entry, I'll emphasize the town itself, and show you some interesting scenery as you travel north toward Leadville.

First, a bit of history. Indigenous peoples have lived in the Lake Creek Valley for thousands of years. By the 1860s the village of Dayton was developed as a center of commerce for area miners searching for gold and a stage stop on the way to Aspen and points west. It became the county seat for a while, until the gold ran out and it became a virtual ghost town.

The name was changed to Twin Lakes in 1879 during the silver boom that briefly revived the area.

After the silver boom in Leadville in the late 1870s also waned, Twin Lakes was transformed into a popular summer resort. Interlaken Resort was built during this time frame on the south side of the lake, catering to wealthy patrons who came to enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery and Colorado's largest glacial lake. Several resort hotels were also built in town.

The Interlaken Resort fell into disuse after the lakes were dammed and the water level in the reservoir covered the area where the resort lay. Several buildings have been restored but I don't believe visitors can stay overnight there. The only remaining hotel in town is the Clarion, still standing but no longer in use.

Several buildings from the 1800s situated on the south side of Hwy. 82 in Twin Lakes are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There are two large informational boards on the grounds that relate the history of the buildings and display photos from the era:


I took photos of four of the preserved buildings but was there too early to see inside any of them. I'll try to see more someday when the visitor center is open. It is located in the old Red Rooster Tavern, once a popular drinking establishment and brothel. This is the view from the front:

LT100 runners may recognize Hope Pass, in the background to the left of the visitor's center.

This is the rear of the visitor's center. There are several picnic tables and lots of grass in this historic area, encouraging folks to stay for a while.

The next photo shows a cabin (on the left) that once served as the assay office. On the right is the Clarion Hotel, constructed of adobe bricks made from native soil and straw to try to keep the building warmer in winter and cooler in summer: 

This is the Fine Cabin (right) and a shed:

This is another view of the assay office (foreground) and Fine Cabin, with Mt. Elbert as a scenic backdrop:

Most of this side of the road is part of the San Isabel National Forest and includes the parking area and trail used by LT100 runners to reach Lake Creek and Hope Pass. Jim and I have been here many times, but today was the first I've read all the informational signs nearby. (I was crewing for him while he ran about 24 miles from the Fish Hatchery to Halfmoon to Twin Lakes to Hope Pass to Clear Creek Canyon/Winfield Road.)

On the north side of the highway you can find a restaurant (today's special was trout tacos - yuck!), inn, general store/grocery, cabins to rent, and several arts and crafts stores:




There are also private residences on two streets, about three blocks long. The runners pass through the residential area on their way to and from the aid station located a block off the highway. Twin Lakes is a very crowded place on race day with 500 runners coming and going, plus their crews and pacers (pacers are allowed on the way back to Leadville).

This is my favorite photo from Twin Lakes. As I was driving into the town this morning from the east, I noticed a barn in a field on the south side of Hwy. 82 that I'd never seen before, mostly hidden behind trees near the parking lot. I walked back and got this shot of the abandoned building. I don't know how old it is, but I thought it was very photogenic:

I put the photo on our laptop desktop and waited to see how long it would take Jim to notice I changed it. Not long! Although he's never noticed the barn before, he recognized Hope Pass in the background AND saw something in the large photo that I didn't see - a bird on the peak of the roof! I couldn't have planned that.


Speaking of barns . . .

After driving by the following collection of dilapidated ranch/farm buildings on Hwy. 24 between Twin Lakes and Leadville for the past two weeks, I finally stopped this morning to take some photos.

We've seen a couple other vehicles parked precariously alongside the busy road, their occupants shooting the scene - so I know I'm not the only one drawn to them!

It's sad to see these buildings abandoned and in disrepair, yet I'm fascinated by their stark beauty against the backdrop of Mount Massive in the early morning light.

It's a classic scene repeated all over America as our society has morphed from agricultural to industrial to technical. It's hard to sustain a ranch or family farm nowadays. I was raised (until age ten) on a hilly farm in Ohio, land now under water in a Corps of Engineers lake, and this scene brings back fond memories of our creek, barns, animals, and crops.

Driving by this old ranch is a nostalgia trip for me.


Today Jim wanted to run from the Leadville Fish Hatchery, location of one of the aid stations during the Leadville Trail 100-mile race, to the trailhead on Clear Creek Canyon Road past Hope Pass, a distance of about 25 miles.

As I was driving him to the hatchery early this morning to begin his run, I suddenly stopped along Hwy. 24 to take this photo of Mt. Elbert as the sun was rising, coloring the summit a bright reddish orange color:

There were a lot of low clouds that made Mounts Elbert and Massive look quite dramatic across the fields from the highway.

Turning west onto CO-300 toward the fish hatchery, I observed another scene that I was determined to capture after I dropped Jim off. This ranch, still in operation, looked very serene in the early morning light framed against Mt. Massive:


This fish hatchery is the second-oldest federal hatchery still in operation in the United States. Opened in 1889, the hatchery sits on 3,072 acres of beautiful sub alpine land at the foot of Mt. Massive six miles from Leadville. The site was chosen for its cold, clear water supply and abundance of native cutthroat trout to use for breeding.

Although now the hatchery supplies trout only in Colorado, it has previously distributed fingerlings all over the country. There are two ponds, 16 raceways, 20 nursery tanks, and two ponds for public fishing on the lower hatchery grounds.

The hatchery supports both the 100-mile bike race and the run. It is the location of an important aid station during the run, the second one that is inside a nice, warm building (the white building in the rear, right, in the photo below). Runners check in here at about 23 miles outbound and 77 miles on the return.

This was the second morning recently that Jim has begun a run from the hatchery. A few days ago we walked over to the holding tanks out front to talk with a young woman who was working.

She told us the hatchery currently raises two kinds of trout, rainbow and Snake River cutthroat, but will add a third kind next year (green-back cutthroat) to add more variety to the lakes and streams they stock. These are some of the 6" trout in one of the tanks:

We forgot to ask how big they much be before they are released into area lakes and streams.

The hatchery encourages visitors and questions. They have an educational program and offer tours of the buildings and grounds. Some of the things visitors can do are view and feed the fish, hike miles and miles of trails, picnic, fish, use the playgrounds, view wildlife, watch birds, take photographs, access the wilderness (trails lead up to the Colorado Trail and the summit of Mt. Massive), ice fish, snowshoe, and cross-country ski.

For more information about the hatchery, see their informative website at http://www.fws.gov/leadville.

Next up: CT Segments 9 and 10, Tennessee Pass to Halfmoon Creek.

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

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2006 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil