Pandemic getaway to Breckenridge and central Colorado

Open-air restaurant dining on this closed section of Breckenridge’s Main Street was one of many eating and noshing options in this lovely old mining town.
Spouse Susan hiking on the Baker’s Tank Trail outside Breckenridge, one of scores of trails that surround this picturesque part of the Rocky Mountains.

Take a pandemic break to Breckenridge and central Colorado…

As the coronavirus pandemic continued and the West Coast
was enveloped in a grey, smoky haze from wildfires threatening multiple states,
our cabin fever mounted and Interval International’s hundreds of “last minute
getaways” for greatly discounted prices struck us a travel opportunity.

We homed in on Colorado, thinking to eyeball future
skiing destinations and more of the state’s grand scenery, and found a week’s
stay at Grand Colorado Resort at Peak 8, Breckenridge, for well less than $400
for the week and tacked on a similar, discounted week at Snowbird Resort in
Utah.

Our first item was to check the Center for Disease
Control’s travel guidelines, which are very detailed. One of their
recommendations includes checking with state, county and city pandemic
requirements, and for Colorado, it was quickly apparent that all these
government entities took Covid19 seriously. So we packed enough soft drinks and
water for the better part of two weeks, and a sizable supply of bulk walnuts
and dried cranberries for travel snacks.

Prospectors first entered Summit County, Colorado during
the Pikes Peak gold rush in 1859; placer mining just east of Breckenridge
revealed rich gold deposits along the Blue and later, Swan Rivers. Soon deep
rock mining, hydraulic and dredge mining upended streambeds and scarred
mountain slopes east of the town.

In 1961, “white gold” added to the town’s attraction, when several ski trails were
cut on the lower part of Peak 8, connected to the town one mile away by Ski
Hill Road. In the years since, Breckenridge Ski Resort expanded on Peak 9, Peak
10 and other slopes northwest of town, making it one of the more highly
acclaimed Colorado ski resorts.

 

With the highest lift-serviced skiing in the United States, rising to 12,840 feet on Peak 8, the ski resort offers 35 lifts and the town spread at the base of the ski area –  a wonderful layout. During summer and fall months, the resort offers tram and chair lift rides, an Alpine slide and zip lines and a variety of kids activities.

 

Breckenridge is a lovely old town, featuring many turn-of-the-century homes and buildings. Due to the pandemic, a six-block stretch of Main Street is currently closed to autos, allowing for many retailers to offer outside merchandise displays and numerous restaurants to offer outside dining, shaded by umbrellas from the sunny skies. The town is also surrounded by scores of hiking and biking trails.

 

We booked a week at the Grand Colorado Lodge on Peak 8, which offers “people-free check-in”, with extensively equipped lobbies and concierge desks with plastic shields to keep airborne spread to a minimum and free facemasks, latex gloves and hand sanitizer. Their website offers extensive information as to how they’re sanitizing rooms and
common areas, as we witnessed throughout the week. The hotel
complex offered several indoor/outdoor heated pools and numerous hot tubs, all
accessed through a reservation system to keep utilization low and adhere to
pandemic safety guidelines.

 

From our resort, the Grand Colorado on Peak 8, we found
varying hiking routes, several close to our resort on the Peaks Trail
(highlighted by three moose cavorting in a small lake at end of one of our
outings), and others using the AllTrails app on our phones. One of the most
exciting was the trail into the Golden Horseshoe area, about 4 miles east of
town, a hike that promised in its 3.5 mile length examples of placer mining,
deep rock mining (the Country Boy Mine, open for tours) and dredge mining.

 

About 2.5 miles into a lovely hike, after seeing several modern prospectors trying their hand in the creek bed with placer mining using their gold pans and spying several hard rock mines on the surrounding sides of the valley, we came upon the remains of the Reiling Dredge, a huge, 250 foot long floating gold mining excavator and mill, which
had operated from 1898 until 1922. Now lying, half sunk in a small lake bed
among the miles of cobblestones piled up from its operation, it still reminds
one of the tremendous draw of gold that inspired legions of early prospectors.

 

From Breckenridge, a variety of day trips offer options to see other portions of this lovely state. Head south to find old mining towns of Fairplay and Buena Vista, then head west to Aspen, up and over Independence Pass at 12,103 feet, and just below the pass, Independence ghost town, offering the remnants of the old mill and company town that prospered from 1879 to the early 1880s. After the gold ran out, a tremendous snowstorm marooned the final hundred residents, forcing locals to fashion skis out of the battens of the gold mill and ski down to Aspen where most of them relocated. Other day trips can take you north and west to Vail, or east to Denver, with lovely Rocky Mountain
National Park further north.

 

For more information: BreckenridgeGobreck.comCenter for Disease Control, cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/travel-during-covid19.htmlColorado, Colorado.com.

 

Contact Tim, tviall@msn.com, or follow him: blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valleytravel.
Happy travels in the west!

 

The Reiling Dredge, part of the extensive gold mining operations to east of Breckenridge, lies half submerged in a pond amongst miles of tailings from the mining operation 100 years ago.
Bull moose watches over two more in pond near our Breckenridge hotel.
The Colorado River between Vail and Steamboat Springs resplendent with fall colors.

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