There were too many stories of Emme and our hikes together to include in one book—this is one such story.
Distance: 2 miles
Start: 10,820 feet at the westerly ruins of Independence Village
End Elevation: 11,600 feet
On July 4th, 1879 there was a gold strike up high on a pass only traveled by the hardy from Leadville, the town that was the center of mining in that one area of Colorado. Immediately after discovery, four mines appeared that attracted hundreds who created the town of Independence overnight. The town reached its peak in the mid-1880’s with a surging population of 2000. Later in the 1880’s the mines declined, and the focus shifted down to the newer town of Aspen. The ruins of Independence joined the many mining ghost towns of the gold and silver rush. They can still be seen off the side of Highway 82.
There is a hike that is not well known which starts right at the westernmost ruins of Independence. I conferred with my hiking buddies Shan (a human) and Emme one day, and we decided to explore the ghosts of Independence. We hiked down to the creek on the edge of the ruins and then bushwhacked towards a trail that we could see switchbacking up a steep slope. On the way, we passed a bunch of cabin remains tucked in the trees which reminded us of how hardy that bunch of miners must have been.
Eventually we got up to a ridge overlook at about 11,600 feet. We could see all the way up a rough old dirt road called Lincoln Creek Road that leads all the way to another ghost town called Ruby.
The views were panoramic and they impacted us greatly, but so did the threats of a storm cell that was building rapidly and heading our way. It soon enveloped us. Our view cut to a mere thirty feet in any direction.
There we were, in the middle of summer, beset by a hailstorm at about 11,600 feet. While I was grateful there wasn’t lightning, the hailstones were large and we were getting pelted hard enough that it hurt. Shan and I tried covering ourselves overhead with our pack. I went to hover over Emme to cover her from the pelting “bullets.” But she had her own idea: she made a purposeful walk towards the downhill way we came up. I thought, “Well that’s clever. Her instinct is to get off the ridge.” We followed as she moved quite purposefully, barking angrily at every hail hit. It became obvious to us that she had more than just descending in mind.
A short distance down we came upon a mine entrance. We must have passed it on the way up, but I hadn’t noticed it. The interior of the mine had caved in long ago, but there was about six feet into the mine past the entrance that was still intact.
Emme went straight into that mine, turned around and looked at us. She had a look that expressed: “Hey dummies, are you going to stand out there and get pelted or come in here where it’s nice?” We obviously joined her. How cool is that?
The hail lasted about another twenty minutes. When it stopped, we came out with our rain gear on (including a raincoat that I had for Emme in my pack) and marched right back to the ridge to make sure we were done with the storm.
After rewarding ourselves with some eats, we hiked back down and got to our car with no more incidents.
Emme was my Lassie once again!