Leadville Life

SOLD: The “We ♥ Leadville” Property Sells . . . FINALLY!

Lake County's iconic

Lake County’s iconic “We ♥ Leadville – Great Living @ 10,200 feet” sign sits at the north entrance to America’s highest city: Will it stay or go? The new developer makes plans to break ground for the mixed use project in spring 2017. Photo: Leadville Today.


By Kathy Bedell © Leadville Today

After years of speculation and a handful of broken dreams, the ink on the sale of the “We ♥ Leadville” property is finally dry. On October 4, the deed to the area, more commonly known as Poverty Flats, transferred hands from the Seven Saints Land Company to High Country Developers, LLC.

The $1,350,000 price tag provides nearly 40 acres of land, from the intersection of E. 12th Street and Highway 24 next to the Family Dollar Store, moving north in front of (and including) Leadville’s beloved landmark sign, spanning as far north to the property behind the Silver King Inn and Malette Gas Station. It’s a sizeable stretch of property.

But what about that sign? What will happen to The Cloud City’s most notable landmark at the north entrance into town? To understand the answer to that question, Leadville Today introduces you to John P. Lichtenegger, the man behind High Country Developers, and the new owner of some of Lake County’s most talked about property.

John Lichtenegger, the new owner of the We ♥ Leadville sign.

John Lichtenegger, owner of the We ♥ Leadville sign.

“My passion is real estate development and law related to real estate,” said Lichtenegger in an exclusive interview with Leadville Today. A seasoned attorney from Jackson, Mo., Lichtenegger is winding down the law component of his career, shifting more of his focus to his passion for real estate development.

In fact, according to Lichtenegger, High Country Developers was formed in 2009 for the exact purpose of buying that piece of Lake County property. That same year, he made his first offer on Poverty Flats.

So what happened? What was the hold up? After all, this particular piece of land has always been considered to be the most prime for development, the best place to build out some commercial and residential space.

“We became aware of the property about nine years ago and had it under contract then,” explained Lichtenegger, “but as we found out, sewer service was not available at the time.” Without a major sewer line, Lichtenegger’s initial interest was stalled because of the lack of utility access needed for basic infrastructure, a concern that has been echoed in Lake County real estate circles for years.

The game-changer came in 2011 when the Leadville Sanitation District undertook a 1.7 million dollar upgrade project. Prior to that, the original sanitation system was built to serve only the city’s population, thereby presenting persistent overload issues as more and more homes and businesses were tied into the system. Eventually, the proverbial problem hit the fan and the district was charged to address the situation.

Looking east from the corner of 14th & Harrison Avenue is the end of the line for Leadvile Sanitation District, although that will change as High Country Developers breaks ground at Poverty Flats for a new dvelopment project in the spring 2017.

Looking east from the corner of 14th & Harrison Avenue is the end of the line for Leadvile Sanitation District, although that will change as High Country Developers breaks ground at Poverty Flats for a new development project in the spring 2017.

According to General Manager Scott Marcella, “We replaced some old line, put in some new line. We got a bigger line to 14th and Harrison.” Prior to the improvements, the concern was always that if a big subdivision were to be built on Poverty Flats, it would overload the system coming through town.

But even with the sewer situation resolved, it would be another 5 years before Lichtenegger returned to the negotiating table, prompted by a former colleague, rather than any publicly funded economic development efforts.

Another variable that sweetened the deal was the Colorado Department of Transportation’s promise to move up a project planned for 2021, to next year’s priority list. The intersection at Highway 24 and Mountain View Drive is scheduled to become a four way intersection, allowing a more formal portal into the proposed development on the north end.

And with 39 acres to work with, the project will be significant. There will definitely be some commercial/retail built along Highway 24, designed with Leadville’s heritage and culture in mind, explained Lichtenegger. The housing development is anticipated to consist of a mix of single family homes, townhouses and apartments.

“I think that workforce housing can be integrated into what we are doing in an absolutely wonderful way,” Lichtenegger stated when pressed about any plans to offer affordable housing for the working, middle class.Spac_50


Spac_50At this stage, it’s one step at a time for High Country Developers, but they wasted no time in taking that the first one last week, with their application for annexing 37 of those 39 acres into the City of Leadville. Why the annexation?

“It’s next to the city, it seems to be part of the city and so, it’s my opinion that it ought to be in the city,” explained Lichtenegger, a sentiment not historically echoed by local residents anytime the topic of annexation rears its head in Lake County. However Lichtenegger expressed that their plans would move forward either way.

But what about that We ♥ Leadville sign?

Like most, when it comes to America highest city, Lichtenegger’s business decision is yoked to a more emotional connection than an upgraded sewer line or the promise of a new intersection.

“I’ve been enchanted with Leadville for years!” he announced enthusiastically. “The historic architecture and charm left behind by the Leadville pioneers for us to enjoy, it’s simply spectacular!”

However, local history buffs might find some irony in his statement, as the $1.3 million price tag does not fit the nickname of his recent acquisition, more commonly known as: Poverty Flats. Yes, that’s right, not all prospectors who came to the Leadville Mining District struck pay dirt! In fact, many left penniless with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.

As noted on the Mineral Belt Trail’s interpretative sign located in the heart of this section: This area (Poverty Flats) has become a visual reminder of shattered dreams and the final resting place of the worldly goods left behind. Personal possessions painstakingly transported by Conestoga wagon and mule trains across the vast prairies and over treacherous mountain passes were abandoned in heaps and scattered piles too heavy to carry on to the next strike or back east to their point of origin.

Unfortunately, for a growing number of folks wanting to hang their hats and hopes in Leadville today, that last sentence has more than a small ring of truth to it.

Looking west from the Mineral Belt Trail, this view is likely to change as developers anticiapte a spring 2017 ground breaking for the mixed use project.

Looking west from the Mineral Belt Trail, this view is likely to change as developers anticiapte a spring 2017 ground breaking for the mixed use project.

For many, mountain-living dreams have been stymied due to the lack of housing, much less affordable housing.

And while the local politicians continue pontificating about conducting another survey, holding another meeting or worse yet, consulting with neighboring resort communities with dismal track records when it comes to workforce housing, residents can only hope that a developer from the mid-west can provide the leadership necessary to make Poverty Flats just another page in the Leadville history books, rather than a daily reality for hundreds of Lake County residents. So in that regard, welcome to the neighborhood Mr. Lichtenegger, you’re good intentions are welcome here!

But what about the sign?

“Well, I love the sign. I want to retain the wall in some form or fashion,” answered Lichtenegger honestly. “I don’t know if it will be exactly the way it is today, but we’re going to integrate that sign or something similar into the plans once we know where everything is going.”

Some say, that change is a sign of the times. But in America’s highest city, it comes with the hope that one sign may never change: We ♥ Leadville. Great Living @ 10,200 feet!

Kathy Bedell owns The Great Pumpkin LLC, a digital media company located in Leadville, which publishes two online news websites: LeadvilleToday.com and SaguacheToday.com. She may be reached at info@leadvilletoday.comSpac_50


Leadville Celebrates and Welcomes The Irish

The Queen City Pipe Band makes its way down historic Harrison Avenue during the St. Patrick's Day Practice Parade in Leadville on October 1. Photo: Leadville Today/ Brennan Ruegg

The Queen City Pipe Band makes its way down historic Harrison Avenue during the St. Patrick’s Day Practice Parade in Leadville on October 1. MORE Photos: Leadville Today/ Brennan Ruegg


DeLIMITations “Obelisk” Project Showing in San Diego

By Kathy Bedell, © Leadville Today

Have you seen them? Their proper name is obelisks, but they look more like mini Washington Monuments made from metal. There are two located in Lake County and they are part of a sizeable art project called ‘DeLIMITations,’ whose mission is to trace the original, 2,300-mile border between the U.S. and Mexico.

The number 21 obelisk seems to mimic Colorado's tallest, Mt. Elbert in its location. Can you tell its location? Photo: Leadville Today

The number 21 obelisk seems to mimic Colorado’s tallest, Mt. Elbert in its location. Can you tell its location? Photo: Leadville Today

Leadville Today originally published the story back in 2014 when locals started inquiring about the two pylons that seemed to magically appear one summer day. Today, it’s clear to see that obelisk #21 is still in its proper place out by the Hayden Meadows Reservoir, but is hard to tell if obelisk #20, before Stork Curve en route to Fremont Pass is still standing. Anyone?

Regardless, the art project is now on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego. So if you’re planning a trip there or know someone in the area, let them know that they can see a little slice of Leadville in the coastal town. The show runs through Nov. 27 and additional media details can be found HERE.

Some Background about DeLIMITations:

DeLIMITations is a collaborative project by artists Marcos Ramírez and David Taylor. During the month of July they traveled from the Pacific Coast to the Gulf of Mexico, marking the 1821 border between Mexico and the United States. That boundary was never surveyed and its brief, 27-year history exists mainly in the form of treaty documents and antique maps.

The 1821 Mexican/U.S.border outlined by the obelisk monuments, two of which are in Lake County. Map: Delimitations Blog.

The 1821 Mexican/U.S.border outlined by the obelisk monuments, two of which are in Lake County. Map: Delimitations Blog.

The group intent was to make it visible for the first time, by placing 47 obelisks, marking the boundary line from the Adams Onis Treaty set in 1819, adopted by the US, when Mexico won independence from Spain in 1821. That historic border runs through the Arkansas River Valley here in Lake County. Their journey began in late June 2014 and they came through Lake County, placing markers 20 and 21, sometime in late July, according to the artists’ DeLIMITations blog.

Since then, the obelisks have been discovered by locals and created a bit of a buzz. The first Lake County obelisk discovery was made down by the Hayden Reservoir area. In the pull-off spot for a popular fishing area, it appeared one day. No explanation, but several clues, including a number (21) a QR code (those square bar codes you see on everything these days), and the word “DeLIMITations”

So the hunt for the story began. A quick scan of the QR code printed on the side of the monument brings hunters to the group’s blog, a fascinating account of their journey, and certainly worth the read.

Artist Marcos Ramírez assembles one of the Delimitations monuments during their journey this past summer. Photo: Delimitations Blog

Artist Marcos Ramírez assembles one of the DeLIMITations monuments during their journey this past summer. Photo: DeLIMITations Blog

And it’s in that report that you’ll also discover there is another obelisk in Lake County – number 20. Have you seen it? Can you tell where it is? Since it was not possible for them to transport fully fabricated obelisks, they made them out of 20-gauge, galvanized steel, neatly stacked in pieces, ready to be assembled along the way.

So now that you know the where, the what and the how, you’ll have to check out the official blog for the why? There are lots of great photos and video, including descriptions of their journey and route.

Once you understand that, then you’ll understand why there are two DeLIMITations obelisks in Lake County! Then go try to find them, take your picture with one or both, and send those along to info@leadvilletoday.com or post to the LeadvilleToday Facebook Page.


Memorial Plaques For Fallen Heroes Unveiled Friday

This Friday, Oct. 7 the public is cordially invited to the dedication and unveiling of the memorial plaques for the Fallen Heroes Highway, also known as Colorado Highway 91 between Leadville and Copper Mountain.

Lake County Public Works Director Brad Palmer readies the Fallen Heroes Highway sign for this Friday's Memorial Plaque ceremony at 1 p.m. at the Summit County highway sign near Copper Mountain. Photo: Leadville Today

Lake County Public Works Director Brad Palmer readies the Fallen Heroes Highway sign for this Friday’s Memorial Plaque ceremony at 1 p.m. at the Summit County highway sign near Copper Mountain. Photo: Leadville Today

In 2010, this stretch of highway connecting Lake and Summit Counties was renamed the Fallen Heroes Highway, dedicated to LCPL Nicklas Palmer USMC with the passage of SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION 10-040. An effort driven by Nick’s parents, Rachele and Brad Palmer of Leadville, the highway’s re-dedication was supported by then State Representative Christine Scanlan and State Senator Mark Scheffel who helped secure the road’s dedication. Part of the original plan was to include a plaque which would record the names of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their community and country.

For those readers who may not know, Nick Palmer graduated from Lake County High School in Leadville in 2005 where he played football. After graduation, Nick joined the United States Marine Corps. He was killed in action December 16, 2006 while on patrol in Fallujah, Iraq. He was just 19 years old.

The second name now engraved on the plaque honors a Summit County emergency responder.

Patrick Mahany will also be honored on Fallen Heroes Highway.

Patrick Mahany will also be honored on Fallen Heroes Highway.

In July 2015, Pilot Patrick Mahany died not long after his Flight for Life helicopter crashed into the parking lot of St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco shortly after take-off.

Mahany was a Vietnam veteran who first started flying helicopters shortly after he joined the military in 1970.

On Friday, Oct. 7 at 1 p.m. the families of Nick Palmer and Patrick Mahany, along with Lake and Summit officials, residents and local media will gather at the Fallen Heroes Highway sign on the Summit County side to commemorate the plaque as it gets put into place with the names of local heroes.

The plaques are “dedicated to Nicklas J. Palmer, and any Military, Peace Officer, Emergency Responder or Firefighter of Lake & Summit Counties who have made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Attendees for the unveiling service are asked to gather at the highway sign on southbound Highway 91 just past Copper Mountain before the highway road closure gate. Local officials and media will gather at 1 p.m. at the small turn-out where the blue sign for the Fallen Heroes Highway is currently posted.

Brad Palmer (center) stands with the Snyder Memorials team located in Grand Junction who has had the honor of engraving the Fallen Heroes HIghway Memorial Plaque, as well as the Lake County Veterans Memorial at the Evergreen Cemetery in Leadville.

Brad Palmer (center) stands with the Snyder Memorials team located in Grand Junction who has had the honor of engraving the Fallen Heroes HIghway Memorial Plaque, as well as the Lake County Veterans Memorial at the Evergreen Cemetery in Leadville.

The engraving of the highway signs in addition to the Lake County Veterans Memorial at Evergreen Cemetery in Leadville have been done by Snyder Grand Valley Memorials of Grand Junction, Colo.

Nick’s parents Brad and Rachele Palmer still live in Leadville. Brad is the director of Public Works for Lake County and Rachele works in the Treasurer’s office at the courthouse. nick_palmer

Nick’s brother Dustin also lives in Leadville with his family: wife, Jesse, daughters Kylie and Ariana and his son and brother’s namesake Nicklas J. Palmer.Spac_50

Big Truck Night Big Hit with The Center’s Little Ones

The children from The Center/Pitts Elementary School got a chance to climb abaord the big rigs at last week's

The children from The Center/Pitts Elementary School got a chance to climb aboard the big rigs at last week’s “Big Truck Night” MORE PHOTOS Leadville Today/Brennan Ruegg


Irish History Weekend Comes to Leadville Saturday

Ten years ago, Colorado author Jim Walsh’s dissertation research on 1800s immigration to the Rocky Mountain region led him to the Evergreen Cemetery in Leadville and a previously unwritten chapter of history. colorado-irish-history-weekend-flyerThere he came upon the “Catholic Free” section beyond the back of the cemetery, which extends for acres into pine forest. Records indicate that over a thousand Irish immigrants—averaging only 26 years in age—are buried there in unmarked graves. During the 1870s and 1880s, impoverished Irish miners flooded into the Rocky Mountains, often never to be heard from again. Rather than finding fortune in the gold and silver boom era, many met with untimely deaths. Walsh, a Clinical Assistant Professor at CU Denver, who now researches and lectures on labor and immigration issues, has felt compelled to find some recognition for those unacknowledged souls.

“These Irish immigrants, many from the copper mining region of the Beara Penninsula in west County Cork, were buried in what was called the Catholic Free section of Evergreen Cemetery between 1878-1890. The sunken graves include hundreds of infants and children. These are the forgotten Irish: destitute, transient, and facing dangerous working conditions. A massive miners’ strike in 1880 led by Irish-born Michael Mooney, failed to improve pay or working conditions for the community. On October 1, we will resurrect their stories and make sure that this space is recognized as sacred Irish space.”

CU Denver’s Political Science Department, Irish Network Colorado, the Consulate General of Ireland, Austin and the Molly Brown House Museum are co-hosting a “Colorado Irish History Weekend” to celebrate Irish and multicultural immigration to the Rocky Mountain region and to commemorate the unmarked paupers’ graves in Leadville. Other support comes from the Romero Theater Troupe, Auraria Casa Mayan Heritage Society, and the Rocky Mountain Labor Education and Arts Collective. Some of the events below will include Celtic musical performances by local artists, which are in the process of being confirmed.

The Molly Brown House Museum is a house located at 1340 Pennsylvania Street in Denver. Photo: HistoricDenver.org

The Molly Brown House Museum is a house located at 1340 Pennsylvania Street in Denver. Photo: HistoricDenver.org

The weekend will launch with a reception and talk on “The Irish in Colorado” at the Molly Brown House Museum on Thursday, Sept. 29, with honored guest Adrian Farrell, consul general of Ireland, Austin and talk by museum director Andrea Malcomb. RSVP required: irishnetworkco.com

On Friday, Sept. 30, in the Student Commons Building on the Auraria campus, there will be a screening of 1916: The Irish Rebellion, with introduction and comments by Adrian Farrell and Jim Lyons, Denver’s honorary consul of Ireland. A tour of the Ninth Street Historic Park will follow the screening. This will include comments on Auraria history by Jim Walsh and Gregorio Alcaro, who runs the Auraria Casa Mayan Heritage non-profit. RSVP required: irishnetwork.com.

On Saturday, Oct. 1, the residents of Leadville will graciously host visitors from the Denver metro area for the day, kicking off with an 11 a.m. St. Patrick’s Practice Day Parade on Harrison Avenue. At 1 p.m. at Annunciation Church, Adrian Farrell will welcome all and introduce Jim Walsh, who will offer the presentation, “The Irish Road to Leadville.”

The St. Patrick's Day Practice Parade will be this Saturday. Oct. 1 at 11 a,m,

The St. Patrick’s Day Practice Parade will be this Saturday. Oct. 1 at 11 a,m,

Following that talk, Walsh will be joined by Colorado historian, author and statesman Dennis Gallagher to conduct a historic tour of the area. At 3 p.m., people will gather at the “Old Catholic” area of the Evergreen Cemetery, where Father Rafael Torres-Rico of Leadville’s Holy Family Parish will join Adrian Farrell, Jim Walsh and Dennis Gallagher in a commemoration of those buried in the unmarked graves. For those wishing to stay on into the evening, Irish Network Colorado president Maura Clare will lead the open discussion “Imagining a Memorial to Irish Immigrants in the Rocky Mountain West” and Luke Finken, former Leadville City councilman and organizer of the Leadville St. Patrick’s Practice Day Parade is hosting a celebration at Wilde’s Green Hour.

Full details on these events and facility to make reservations (required for the evening events in Denver) may be found HERE. Other questions may be directed to: Maura Clare – President, Irish Network Colorado at mc@mauraclare.com or by phone at 303-884-7091.


Local Author McHargue Wins EVVY Award for Novel

Earlier this month, Leadville author Laurel McHargue was presented with a 2nd place Silver EVVY Award in the highly competitive fiction/fantasy category for her novel Waterwight: Book I of the Waterwight Series.

Leadville Author Laurel McHargue wins Silver EVVY Award. Congratulations!

Leadville Author Laurel McHargue wins Silver EVVY Award. Congratulations!

The CIPA EVVY awards is one of the longest-running book awards competition on the Indie publishing scene. It is sponsored by the Colorado Independent Publishers Association (CIPA), along with the CIPA Education and Literacy Foundation (ELF). It is an international competition with entries from all over the world, including England, Belgium, South Africa, Russia and Dubai, averaging over 200 entries in 39 book categories.

CIPA EVVY entries are judged and scored according to established minimum acceptable criteria. Only those entries that attain the minimum acceptable score become finalists with the highest scores in each category used by the judges to help determine each category’s winners, if any.

McHargue is currently working on Book II of the Waterwight Series along with two companion resource books for English teachers. Contact her at laurel.mchargue@gmail.com for speaking engagements, classroom talks and book club events.


Colorado’s Tallest Peaks See Snow Dusting in August

Winter begins the slow march into Leadville Today as a considerable dusting of snow appeared on Mt. Massive, Colorado's second highest peak. Photo: Leadville Today/Brennan Ruegg

Winter begins the slow march into Leadville Today as a considerable dusting of snow appeared on Mt. Massive, Colorado’s second highest peak. Photo: Leadville Today/Brennan Ruegg


Mary Jo Copper: Boom Days Parade Grand Marshall

It only seems appropriate that this year’s Grand Marshall for the Boom Days Parade should be Mary Jo Copper. After all, she should finally get to see Leadville’s biggest and grandest parade for herself!

Mary Jo Copper; The Boom Days Parade Grand Marshall

Mary Jo Copper; The Boom Days Parade Grand Marshall

“I never really got to see it, because I was always working,” explained Copper as she sat down recently with Leadville Today to discuss the upcoming honor. And while her family’s retail store – Bill’s Sport Shop – was always housed somewhere along Harrison Avenue, the busy, festive weekend, rarely offered Mary Jo time to stop working, and get a glimpse of the Cloud City’s longest, and most impressive parade.

Mary Jo Copper moved to Leadville in 1950, so this year will mark her 66th Boom Days. For those keeping track, this year also marks year 66 for the annual celebration; in other words, Copper was there from the start! How many can say that?!

And while her background includes a stint in healthcare and a real talent for the numbers that bookkeeping offers, many remember Mary Jo’s smiling face and sunny disposition that often greeted them at the family’s successful retail store. Known as a dedicated mother and wife, she was married to Bill Copper who, by the way, will be inducted into the Leadville/Lake County Sports Hall of Fame tomorrow, August 5.

It’s been six years since the popular sports shop closed its doors for good, but most long-time locals can still fondly recall the different locations it called home during its more than 60 years in business. From the historic Vendome (now the Tabor Grand Apartments), to its first spot directly across from the courthouse (where a portion of Leadville Community Threads is now housed), to their last mainstay at the corner of 3rd and Harrison (now Leadville Outdoors), until they closed their doors for good in 2010, you could say that Bill’s Sport Shop always had a good vantage point for Leadville’s grandest march.

And though the busy sports shop rarely afforded Mary Jo the luxury of leisurely viewing the Boom Days Parade, she did often hear it. So maybe that’s why Copper was a big advocate of the event finally including a marching band. If she couldn’t see the passersbys, at least she could hear the festive music!

“When they first started I was really disappointed because they didn’t have any music, no marching band” stated Copper reflecting on her 66 years of Boom Days celebrations. “Although it’s good to see that has improved over the years!”Spac_50


But if she had to pick, it would be the mining events that Copper enjoyed the most when she was able to get out and enjoy the fun. Of course, today its Cooper’s grandkids (10 and counting) and great grandkids (17 and counting) who get out to enjoy all of the Boom Days competitions, reporting back to Grandma Jo on their placing in the pie-eating and costume contests.

When it comes to memorable Boom Days stories, it’s the burro race that rises to the top. Bill Copper, although not a regular racer on the circuit, actually won the Boom Days Burro Race back in 1951 with his trusty burro Bosco. But his return in 1952 to defend his crown saw a slightly different outcome. As is often the case, once the leading runner-and-beast team hit the pavement on historic Harrison Avenue, that stubborn beast had a different end in mind.

Bill Copper was lucky enough to be married to Mary Jo and will finally be inducteed into the Leadville/Lake County Sports Hall of Fame on August 5. Photo: LLCSHF

Bill Copper, who was lucky enough to be married to Mary Jo and will be inducted into the Leadville/Lake County Sports Hall of Fame on August 5. Photo: LLCSHF

“Bosco just stopped; it was only about 39 feet from the finish line,” recalled Mary Jo. Seemingly there was nothing that Bill was going to do to get the burro motivated to complete the race, keeping his glorious victory crown in place.

In fact, it was only when the team in second place passed the Copper/Bosco team and continued on to the winner’s circle, that the stubborn ass finally got some renewed giddy-up-and go, dragging his teammate across the finish line in second place.

No doubt. Mary Jo’s venture down Harrison Avenue on Saturday as the Grand Marshall of the Boom Days Parade will be much smoother, where the only planned stop is for the National Anthem at the courthouse.

“I’m a bit anxious to be in the limelight,” concluded Copper, wondering aloud if a Victorian costume was required for the Grand Marshall stint, and if she should bring along a hat. Regardless, many will recognize this great lady as she rides in the wagon behind the color guard at the beginning of the 2016 Boom Days Parade.

So, be sure to give Mary Jo an enthusiastic parade wave and extra loud, good for you, from the sideline. After all, it’s one of the first parades after 66 years she’ll be able to see, from one of the best seats in the house. Enjoy every moment of it, Mary Jo! You deserve it!


Lake Fork is Full of Pride

by Brennan Ruegg, Leadville Today contributor


The first Lake Fork Pride Community BBQ was held Tuesday, July 26. Photo: Brennan Ruegg/Leadville Today

The first ever Lake Fork Pride BBQ was held last Tuesday, July 26, in the Lake Fork Manufactured Home Community at 150 State Highway 300. The park is just south of Leadville and Stringtown on the way to Halfmoon Creek, and home to over 100 Lake County families. The free BBQ, championed by resident Amy Small, was a successful attempt to provide continuous character-building activities for the kids of Lake Fork, and an open discussion space for adults to voice their concerns and ideas about making Lake Fork a better place to live.


Lake Fork Manufactured Home Community at 150 State Highway 300. Photo: Brennan Ruegg/Leadville Today.

Lake Fork is owned by property management company Ascentia, and managed by Lee Rager. Privileged in location and view, the park sits in the shadow of Mt.’s Elbert and Massive, the open Arkansas Valley laid out at its foot. Most families that live in Lake Fork are Hispanic and have several children between the ages of six and fifteen, most of which enrolled in the Lake County School District.


Exploring the firetruck and ambulance. Photo: Brennan Ruegg/Leadville Today.

After a bullying problem became apparent among the children, and other adult concerns talked about but never forwardly handled, Amy Small decided to take the high road and engage both the children and adults of the community in an alternative and positive way. Picking up a pen and paper Small began to piece together a BBQ to spotlight the community and provide avenues to voice and solve the concerns of her neighbors.


Jena Finch teaches the kids about respectful living. Photo: Brennan Ruegg/Leadville Today.

Representatives from Full Circle of Lake County, Project Dream, Sol Vista Health, St. Vincent’s Hospital, and the Fire Department all showed up for burgers and dogs, and on a volunteer basis met with and made themselves available to the people of Lake Fork. Firetrucks and Ambulance’s were open for kids to explore, while the first responders taught about what they do.


(Left to Right): Park Manager Lee Rager, Amy Small, and translator Eudelia Contreras manage the discussion at Lake Fork. Photo: Brennan Ruegg/Leadville Today.

After everyone ate, the children went off with volunteers Dawn Penso and Jena Finch of Project Dream to talk about the Seven Principles. These were drawn up by Small as guidelines for respectful living, and as a way to earn Lake Fork Dollars, a local currency for which the children earn rewards year-round. The Seven Principles are:

  1. Play Nicely
  2. Be Respectful
  3. Volunteer
  4. Help Others
  5. Perform Good Deeds
  6. Clean Up
  7. Practice Good Behavior

Meanwhile the adults had their meeting, discussing everything from four-wheeler’s, to babysitting, to establishing neighborhood watch and safe houses.

Small is from Long Beach, Cali., no stranger to neglected communities. “I was twelve years old when the Rodney King riots broke out,” Small said, “and that experience was very real for me. After leaving there, I knew I never wanted my children to grow up in an environment like that.

Small also had a few things to say about the way outreach programs are often operated. “When I was growing up, whether Boys & Girls Club of America or other outreach programs, they took us out of our neighborhood to do really fun incredible things, but we always had to go back home at the end of the day. They never initiated change from within our community, made us appreciate what we already had.”


Amy Small with help from the kids making Lake Fork Dollars. Photo: Brennan Ruegg/Leadville Today.

Nothing worth doing is ever easy, and its always easier to complain and point the finger. Small had to stick with her convictions to make the event happen, and in the matter of a just a few weeks. With great help from park manager Rager, from neighbors, the program representatives, and the kids themselves, the BBQ had an incredible turnout with every intention of the event fulfilled.

“My goal was already achieved before the BBQ even took place,” Amy said. She’s seen the kids already practicing the 7 Principles, helping each other, volunteering, cleaning up, and settling their disputes peacefully. “My vision is for other neighborhoods to have similar events, and that all the communities here can come together for healthy competition in games and forward-thinking problem solving.”

These are the kind of organic plans that render change from within. They don’t rely on rescue or grant dollars; Lake Fork already has all the tools it needs to become an even better place to live.


The view of Mt. Elbert from Lake Fork. Photo: Brennan Ruegg/Leadville Today.

Brennan Ruegg lives down the way from Lake Fork, near Halfmoon Creek.


Wildflowers Are in Bloom in the High Country

Lupine, Columbines, Trumpets – It’s Wildflower Season!

It’s hard not to notice them. They seem to be everywhere, more vibrant and plentiful than in recent years. It’s wildflower season in the high country!WildlfowersInBloom copy

And you don’t need to go very far to see all the color and variety. A simple walk along the Mineral Belt Trail or the Nature Trail out at the Leadville National Fish Hatchery should provide plenty of good viewing. Another option is riding the special Wildflower Train aboard the Leadville, Colorado & Southern Railroad this Saturday, July 16. This is peak season for Mother Nature’s high alpine garden, so make sure you take some time to stop and smell the (wild) roses!

Publisher’s Note: Please do not pick or use (medicinally) any wildflowers without knowing what you’re doing. The following is merely informational, not instructional. Don’t let the altitude clear your mind of good, old common sense!

Here are some of the beauties currently in bloom.

The Columbine: These majestic beauties are Colorado’s state flower and known for their purple spurred petals. In fact, it’s the shape of those petals that give this flower its name. The word “columbine” comes from the Latin for “dove,” due to the resemblance of the inverted flower to five doves clustered together.

The Columbine

The Columbine

The Lupine: This flowering plant is from the legume family, as in bean! Lupines are high in protein, dietary fibre and antioxidants, very low in starch, and, like all legumes, are gluten-free. Lupines can be used to make a variety of foods both sweet and savoury including everyday meals, traditional fermented foods, baked foods and sauces. The legume seeds of lupins, commonly called lupin beans, were popular with the Romans, who cultivated the plants throughout the Roman Empire; hence, common names like lupini in Romance languages.

The Lupine

The Lupine

The Purple Alpine Aster: Aster alpinus (Alpine Aster) is the only species of Aster that grows natively in North America; it is found in mountains. And here’s an interesting fact: The Hungarian Revolution of 1918, became known as the “Aster Revolution” due to protesters in Budapest wearing this flower.

The Purple Aster

The Purple Aster

The Fairy Slipper: This Calypso Orchid, also known as the Fairy Slipper or Venus’s slipper, is a perennial member of the orchid family. It has a small pinkish-purple flower accented with a white lip, darker purple spottings, and yellow beard.

These little purple blooms can be a pleasant sporadic sight on hiking trails like the one along Busk Creek, out by Turquoise Lake. The plants live no more than five years, and they are classified as threatened or endangered. The Fairy Slipper relies on “pollination by deception”, as it attracts insects to anther-like yellow hairs, but produces no nectar that would nourish them. Insects quickly learn not to revisit it.

The Fairy Slipper

The Fairy Slipper

Indian Paintbrush: This plant got its name from a Native American legend. In the legend, a young Indian wanted to paint the sunset, but became frustrated because he could not produce any colors that matched the beauty of a sunset.

He asked the Great Spirit for help. The Great Spirit provided him with paintbrushes with the beautiful colors on them which he used to create his painting. When he was done, the young Indian left his used paintbrushes scattered around the landscape. These paint brushes blossomed into plants and were thus named Indian Paintbrushs.

American Indians also used this plant for various purposes including as a hair wash, to enhance their immune system, as a treatment for rheumatism, and to treat sexually transmitted diseases.

Did you know that The Indian Paintbrush is Wyoming’s state flower?

The Indian Paintbrush

The Indian Paintbrush

Fairy Trumpet: Also known as a Skyrocket, or Rocket flower. It blooms throughout the summer, and is a favorite of hummingbirds and hawk moths. The petals are fused into a trumpet-shape with a long narrow tube and spreading lobes.

Medicinally, this plant has been reported to be boiled up as a tea, and heals everything from blood diseases to rheumatic joints. An infusion of the roots is also used as a laxative and in the treatment of high fevers, colds.

The Fairy Trumpet

The Fairy Trumpet

Leafy Cinquefoil: Also known as Biscuits, Five-fingers, and Flesh and Blood. Known as a real creeper, the stem runners of this perennial herb can often reach up to five feet in length.

That said, the herb is a rather pretty and dainty species of plant. The name of the cinquefoil is after an Old French word that means “five-leaf.” The five leaflets of the cinquefoil was a symbol for the five senses of the human body, and served as a motif for the Medivial man who had achieved mastery over the self. Have you ever noticed the cinquefoil’s five-fingered leaf symbol on a knight’s shield? The right to use this heraldic device could only be granted to knights who gained mastery over the self.

The cinquefoil was also linked to many other powers in superstitious medieval times, for example, the herb was supposed to scare off witches. Medieval lovers often used the cinquefoil in preparing love potions and as an instrument in romantic divinations. Medieval fishermen often fixed the herb to their nets to increase their catch of fish.

Herbalists through the ages have been familiar with the cinquefoil as a remedy to reduce a fever. It is also used as an herbal analgesic for alleviating the pain of a toothache and in a gargle for treating oral sores.

The Leafy Cinquefoil

The Leafy Cinquefoil

Yarrow: This aromatic perennial with its lovely, fern-like foliage is also called “thousand leaves,” because of its finely-divided leaves.

Introduced to North America by early colonists, yarrow soon became a valued remedy used by many tribes of indigenous people. Human relationships with this healing plant reach back to ancient times. The fossilized pollen of yarrow has been found in Neanderthal burial caves from as far back as 60,000 years.



Yarrow has also been associated with magic and divination, and is considered by some folk herbalists as a sacred plant with special spiritual powers to offer protection. The herb was also believed to be useful in love potions.

Yarrow accompanied soldiers into battle and was relied upon for its hemostatic action to treat wounds. Achilles, the Greek hero is said to have used yarrow in the Trojan War to staunch the blood flowing from the wounds of fallen comrades.

And for all you follicly challenged, infusions of yarrow have been used as a hair rinse in attempts to prevent baldness.

So there you have it – those are just some of the alpine beauties you can see in bloom this time of year! Colorado’s alpine meadows are home to some of the country’s most vibrant and colorful collections of wildflowers. And in Lake County, you don’t have to go very far to see any and all of them!


Movie Cameo Could Hit Big for Leadville Bartender

Leadville is the new Hollywood! And while Linda “Mom” Jones hasn’t had to get an agent – yet! – she will be the latest starlet to hit the big screen in an indie film that is winning big on the festival circuit. And next Monday, June 27, locals will have an opportunity to see the film at a private screening in Lake County.

Bartender Linda

Bartender Linda “Mom” Jones makes a cameo in the critically acclaimed indie film West of Her which was filmed, in part, in Leadville in July 2013. Photo: Leadville Today

It’s been three years since scenes from the indie film West of Her were filmed in Lake County. (STORY LINK). And while long-time, beloved Scarlet bartender Linda “Mom” Jones who makes a cameo in the movie, hasn’t been mobbed by legions of screaming fans, yet! – the movie is capturing critics attention on the festival circuit, including a screening at this weekend’s 2016 Intendence Film Festival (IFF) in Denver.

But fear not, for the Leadville film hobnobbing set because the Leadville red carpet will be rolled out on Monday, June 27 with Director Ethan Warren making a special appearance to discuss the film, a Corner Piece Production (Update: Warren will not be able to attend the Leadville screening due to a medical emergency).

“I love talking about the movie, how it made people feel, and what it made them think about,” said Warren in an interview with Leadville Today. “This film doesn’t tend to be one that goes in one ear, and out the other.”

A movie crew with Corner Piece Productions shot a scene from West of Her in Leadville's Scarlet Bar in July 2013. Photo: Leadville Today.

A movie crew with Corner Piece Productions shot a scene from West of Her in Leadville’s Scarlet Bar in July 2013. Photo: Leadville Today.

West of Her is a film for anyone who’s ever longed for adventure, romance, and a life of meaning; all while traveling across ten states in iconic American locations. And well, Leadville’s downtown historic district is its own star in the indie movie, stealing the backdrop show in several clips from the trailer alone! Movie-goers will also make note of Turquoise Lake in other scenes which were filmed in the area nearly three years ago.

But it’s the local starlet and bartender at The Scarlet, Linda “Mom” Jones who made the cut!

“I didn’t run want to do it,” recalls Mom Jones. “But when Chuck and Lee called, I couldn’t say no” she explained regarding the July 2013 filming the crew did in the area, including at the popular downtown watering hole.west of her

And it sounds like Mom made the film! Warren was able to confirm to LT that Jones does make an appearance in the film, and is noted in the end credits.

“She appears out of focus behind the bar throughout the scene,” noted the director. “We cut down a ten-minute dialogue scene dramatically, and audiences will thank us, even if it did mean sacrificing Mom’s one line: ‘Here ya go.'”

Regardless, fans will cheer wildly and likely to make her more of an iconic Leadville character than she already is – Go Mom!

The West of Her screening will be shown locally with two screenings at The Scarlet Bat at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Monday, June 27. Warren explained that there is about ten minutes worth of footage in Leadville, including some street shots, a sequence at Turquoise Lake, and a long scene shot at the Scarlet Bar in downtown Leadville.

soem scenes from the indie film West of Her were filmed at Turquoise Lake, near Leadville. CLICK to review entire CLIP.

Some scenes from the indie film West of Her were filmed at Turquoise Lake, near Leadville. CLICK to review entire CLIP from official website.

Of course, besides all of the local scenes that will make it worth seeing, the film has been doing well on the festival circuit, winning five awards at its premiere, including “Best Narrative Feature.” Warren has been hoping to bring the film to Leadville ever since he shot here.

“We had a wonderful time in town, and the citizens have been very interested and supportive ever since,” he stated. So come and check out America’s highest city on the big screen, as Leadville’s makes its latest appearance in West of Her.

Oh, and don’t forget the autograph book, just in case Mom Jones makes an appearance!


The Dog-Serpent of Twin Lakes Village, Colorado

by Brennan Ruegg, Leadville Today contributor

A beast green like the slimy wash on the underside of a boat, with black eyes “encircled with a rim of red” and a mouth “filled with glistening fangs.”


An artistic rendering of a Twin Lakes monster sighting.

For more than a century words like these have circled around Lake County referring to a Loch Ness-ian monster who allegedly inhabits the Twin Lakes Reservoir. It is a creature of varying reported size who makes a periodic journey from its subterranean rest to appear above the surface at the audience of select townsfolk, if only to inspire continued fear of its legend. Tales of anchors being dropped into the lake only to be swept off in an underwater current to unknown depths has led to rumors of the creature’s home below the lakes. No photos have yet been taken of this grisly abomination, only stories have been told:

“The reported appearance of a marine monster in Twin Lakes revives a bit of strange and undoubted history. In the summer of 1881 a young man named Herman Wolf, and a boy whose identity has passed out of recollection, were fishing late one evening in the lower lake. Several people were watching them from the bank, when Wolf, who was rowing, suddenly dropped the oars, and, rising to an erect position, began to walk backwards out of the boat, his eyes fixed on the water in front of him, and an expression of speechless terror on his face. As he rose, the boy, who was seated in the stern, looked over his shoulder, and leaping up, sprang with outstretched arms after his companion. Both disappeared at once and did not rise, and although the spot was carefully searched, the bodies to this day have never been recovered.” [Carbonate Chronicle, 6-1884]

Here’s another story with a more vivid description of the beast:

. . . James Powell, a miner and prospector, who lives close to the Twin Lakes house, was walking with a party of several, armed with fishing poles, near the shore of the lower lake, when their attention was attracted by an unusual commotion in the water several hundred yards out. As they looked they were appalled and bewildered to see a GIGANTIC HEAD rise from the surface. They stood petrified with amazement and terror as a neck fully twenty feet long reared itself out of the waters and poised there for a moment. The contour of the monster was that of a colossal serpent… During this time it was seen not only by the fishing party whose attention it originally attracted, but by several other people near the bank of the lake, who fully corroborate the description given.” [Orth Stein, 1884]


An issue of the Carbonate Chronicle, which ran as Leadville’s weekly news publication from the late 19th century until 1987.

These tales, while ominous, give no indication to the legend’s origin. Some hunting through the annals of local history uncovers the first story ever recorded on the subject, from that summer of 1881. On a Monday afternoon, a man named Hulbert was walking the edge of the upper lake when he sighted a thrashing beast in the water. After racing back into the village, and only a half-hour of convincing entreaty, several townsfolk agreed to accompany Hulbert to the place of the disturbance.

“To the afrighted Twin Lakers [its head] seemed as big as a cracker box, and of a vividly green color… It was like to nothing in the heavens above or the earth below, and as it seemed to be heading directly their way, the spectators did not tarry any longer, but made some of the best time on record out of the vicinity. Between the spot where the monster appeared and the village, the terrible head grew to at least four times its original dimensions, and the description they gave it was fearful and wonderful in the extreme.”

There's always something interesting going on in Twin Lakes. Maybe it's time for a visit! Photo: ColoradoGuy.com

There’s always something interesting going on in Twin Lakes. Maybe it’s time for a visit! Photo: ColoradoGuy.com

In short order a small army of twenty men and boys armed with rifles made their way to the water’s edge, and carefully approaching began to throw sticks and stones into the water. Evidence of the creature’s thrashing was visible, but they could not incite an appearance. They deliberated the truth of Hulbert’s claims, and even considered throwing Hulbert into the lakes to settle the matter, as either it would bait the monster and encourage an appearance, or would serve as his punishment for such a crafty ruse; but instead the band of warriors turned home, the matter still a shrouded in mystery. It’s where the story reaches its conclusion that we get the first solid hint at the true nature of the beast:

“Meanwhile a shock had been preparing for their nervous systems, at the village. They had not been gone more than five or ten minutes before a strange creature wandered in. It required a scrutinizing glance to recognize it as a big New Foundland dog that had been disfigured in some extraordinary manner… It seems that a gigantic but superannuated canine that had passed its days of usefulness and basked for months at the village store, had been enticed to the bank of the lake by a couple of Twin Lakes humorists. Here he had been tied while they applied a coat of green paint to his head, touching up the eyes with a few artistic strokes of vermillion. The result is better imagined than described.


A Newfoundland Dog Monster

It was their original intention to create a consternation among the villagers by simply turning the animal loose, but a far more brilliant idea struck one of the wags. It was immediately acted upon, and the luckless dog taken to the bank of the lake. A rope was attached to one of its legs, a big stone fastened to the other end, and the animal anchored far enough out in the water to permit only its head emerging. In this melancholy condition it was left, while one of the jokers gave the alarm. At the time the crowd rushed to see the monster, however, the dog’s frantic efforts had succeeded in breaking the detaining cord and rushed out of the chilling waters. The denouement took place as soon as the gang got back, and the village saloon did a thriving business for the next ten minutes. So ended what bid fair to be the biggest item ever gleaned in the locality.” [Carbonate Chronicle, 9-10-1881, R386]

And thus the first account of the Dog-Serpent of Twin Lakes comes to an end. It becomes a cautionary tale for domestic animals of that region for the lengths Twin Lakers are willing to go for a good gaff. Though people have continued to report sightings of the creature, they are more careful now about who they tell, for fear of enticing the wrath of a far greater beast, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Brennan Ruegg swims only in shallow water.


Standing Tall Through It All: Mt Elbert – Colo’s Highest

by Brennan Ruegg, Leadville Today contributor


Mount Elbert in late summer/early fall. Photo: Brennan Ruegg/Leadville Today.

Think of it as a portal to wilderness adventure – but which door will you pass through? The unincorporated village of Twin Lakes provides entry to the summit of Mount Elbert by several routes, acting as gateway to the highest peak in Colorado, and the Rocky Mountains. The perfect Lake County summer tradition, most every fit and able adventurer can reach the mountain’s peak, walking away with the impressive claim of literally standing at the top of the Rockies.

Mount Elbert is the unofficial mascot for Leadville and Lake County. With two flanking false peaks, an evenly pointed cap like a pyramid, with a giant bowl and four descending ridges etched on its northeastern face, it is maybe the most recognizable peak in the Sawatch Range.

While it stands tall at 14,439 ft, it is one of the most accessible fourteeners, having been ascended with virtually every type of vehicle since its first recorded summit in 1874 by H.W. Stuckle as part of the Hayden Geological Surveys.

For example, Dave Morrison rode a 24-year-old bicycle to the top in 1951, and orator Anna Elizabeth Dickinson reached the summit on a government mule. A helicopter delivered an issue of The Denver Post to the summit in August of 1959.

Over the years, there have been promotions to build a road to the peak and to develop ski resorts on the mountain, but all have failed, leaving Mount Elbert unmarked by mankind but for a few primitive campsites, fire-rings, and signposts along the trail. While it is decked with climbers in the summer, the majestic giant stays mostly a private conquest in winter.


Samuel Hitt Elbert.

The mountain was named for opportunist Samuel Hitt Elbert of Ohio, who came to Colorado in 1862 to work as secretary to Territory Governor John Evans. In 1868 Elbert married Evans’ daughter, and in the subsequent five years worked his new-found political muscle, making friends and enemies, and sacrificing his federal post to create the Colorado Republican Party.

In 1873, when the people of Colorado petitioned to remove Governor Edward M. McCook Territorial Legislature, President Ulysses S. Grant appointed Elbert in his place. The new leader immediately arranged the first presidential visit to the Rocky Mountains and accompanied Grant in a meeting with Ute leaders to create a treaty that would open more than three million acres to the Union for mining and railroad development.

In fact, it is the miners who bestowed the mountain with Elbert’s namesake, and for this reason his favor among the people, initially. However, that first blush of popularity would not be enough to retain his power. Before serving a full year in office, in 1874 he was removed by President Grant without explanation and replaced by his predecessor, Civil War hero and fellow Ohioan, Edward McCook.


Mount Elbert in early winter. Photo: Brennan Ruegg/Leadville Today

Mount Elbert’s height and even its status as highest Colorado peak has been disputed since it was named such in 1933. It’s northern neighbor Mount Massive, which sits only 12 feet shorter than Mount Elbert, lends itself to hardier enthusiasts for the mountain’s size and physical demands, and a war of building and destroying cairns on the summit of Mount Massive to manipulate its height have ensued between fan clubs of both mountains since the 1970s. Mount Elbert, with Class 1 trail accessibility, has kept its place as the tallest.

The most popular route to take to summit is the East Ridge, Class 1, which starts at the South Elbert trailhead. Turn right onto County Road 24 from CO-82 heading west towards Twin Lakes. 2WD vehicles can park at the scenic outlook and take the lower trailhead which follows the Colorado Trail 1.8 miles up to the upper South Elbert Trailhead. 4WD vehicles however may continue up the cut road straight to the start. Round-trip clocks in at 8.5 miles from the upper trailhead, and 12.5 from the paved lot.

The Southeast Ridge is a Class 2 route with mild exposure, starting at the Black Cloud Trailhead. From US-24 South, turn west onto CO-82 toward Twin Lakes and drive about 10.5 miles before turning right at the Black Cloud Trailhead sign. The trail begins behind the first two parking spots on the right. This trail totals 11 Miles round-trip with 5,300 feet of altitude gain.

The most difficult route is referred to as Box Creek Couloirs, accessible by the same County Road 24 used to access the South Elbert Trailhead. Continue 50 feet past the lower trailhead, and turn left onto 4WD Forest Service road 125.1B, where 1.8 miles ahead the trailhead may be found. This is a Class 2 route with moderate exposure, so use caution.

The Twin Lakes General Store is the perfect spot to pick up supplies and get up-to-the-minute trail conditions from owners Carl and Katie.

The Twin Lakes General Store is the perfect spot to pick up supplies and get up-to-the-minute trail conditions from owners Carl and Katie.

When climbing any fourteener, always get an early start, heading off the trailhead at 6 a.m. at the latest, to avoid afternoon storms above treeline.

See Carl at the Twin Lakes General Store for questions, tips, tricks, and to fuel up before and after the hike. They have a new ATM, and a “Wookie Corner” of Bigfoot mystique and memorabilia. Happy trails, and always be safe and smart!

Brennan Ruegg is another Ohioan staking (small) claims in Colorado.

A Sign Of The Times: We ♥ Leadville (Still)

by Brennan Ruegg, Leadville Today contributor

Heading into Leadville from the north end, it’s impossible to miss the “Leadville Wall.” Standing nearly 10 feet tall and 100 feet long, it reads “WE ♥ LEADVILLE  GREAT LIVING @ 10,200,” in giant black capital letters. 

Yesterday, May 22, volunteers gathered at the Leadville landmark with ladders, paint, and rollers to touch up the wall, whose face was weather worn, and recently tagged by a rogue artist. The graffiti read, “In Loving Memory, Jordan Gausman” referring to the recent death of the local 31-year-old bartender. While the graffiti may have sparked the action to restore the wall, plans had been in place to repaint the sign long before Gausman’s death. More appropriate locations to properly memorialize Gausman are being considered. Read Jordan’s story HERE.


An unofficial memorial to Jordan Gausman, killed May 2, 2016. Photo: Brennan Ruegg/Leadville Today

But yesterday, under bright blue skies the sign was restored to all its glory, ready to provide the backdrop for hundreds of visitors this summer, capturing their trip to America’s highest city.

Of the hearty group of volunteers, three were original painters of the sign: Julie and Henrik Lundgren, and Frank Bradach. Bradach and the Lundgrens laid the first coat of paint in 1988. That year, the Leadville Raiders spearheaded the initiative, hosting an open contest to choose what the wall’s message would read. Of course, between bad memories,  and bad record keeping,  no one can recall who came up with the message we see today. But, thanks  to the Leadville Lions Club who put up the money to repaint and restore the well-known sign, it will continue to welcome people in from the north portal to town.

Publisher’s Note: Thanks to the social media exchange on the Leadville Today Facebook Page, reader Mandi Lee was able to provide some helpful information regarding the wall’s message creator: Longtime resident Helen Hurkes – my mother-in-law – was the one who came up with the message on the sign, she won $50! Now you can put this in your records so you know who came up with this!!


Julie Lungren gets a strategic angle. Photo: Brennan Ruegg/Leadville Today

Though the wall is currently on private property, permission to manage its condition has been granted several times through the years. And a host of rumors circulate concerning the fate of the wall: from complete redesign, to the city obtaining its ownership, to the destruction of it, in efforts to develop the property into hotels and low-income housing.

 Yesterday, the goal was to keep it looking as it always has, and the volunteers, donned in overalls and painting clothes, finished the job in a few hours. For the three original painters, returning nearly thirty years later, it must have been a special experience. Among story-swapping under a bright spring sky, Henrik Lundgren said, “This is why we love Leadville. We all stick around and get to know each other.”


Volunteers help brighten up Leadville’s iconic welcome sign: We ♥ Leadville. Great Living at 10,200′. Photo: Brennan Ruegg/Leadville Today

Brennan Ruegg loves Leadville, which has been his home for just under two years.


Leadville/Lake County Senior Citizen News!

It’s time to check in with the Leadville/Lake County Senior Citizen Center and see what’s been happening with this group of active older adults.

The Leadville/Lake County Senior Center is located at 621 W. 6th Street.

The Leadville/Lake County Senior Center is located at 621 W. 6th Street.

As reported earlier in the year, the Senior Citizen Board meets monthly to review the concerns and needs for older Lake County residents, as well as plan activities and social events, essential to the mental health and well-being of aging people.

Here’s the latest edition of their newsletter. Please note that they are still looking for assistance with Meals on Wheels – this does not take much time, so please consider giving of your time. Also if you’re part of a group that is starting to plan summer activities or community service projects, this is the best group of folks you can bring into the picture! Details listed below in The Leadville/Lake County Senior Citizen Newsletter!Spac_50Senior Newsletter March 2016 Page 1Spac_50Senior Newsletter March 2016 Page 2


The Sleeping Indian and Horse – Can You See Me Now?

Sleeping Indian_Robert Gonzales photo

Mt. Arkansas, also known locally as The Sleeping Indian, can be seen from Highway 91 at the top of Fremont Pass. Photo: Robert Gonzales.


Sleeping Indian_Robert Gonzales illustration

Robert Gonzales paints in the picture of The Sleeping Indian AND horse, also known as Mt. Arkansas located north of Leadville on Highway 91. Photo: Robert Gonzales.

Spac_50Championship Snow Course Re-purposed for TV Shoot

Some are calling it one of the biggest recycling efforts in Lake County since the Household Waste Round-up Day at the Landfill.

Local street crews haul away the Leadville Ski Joring course snow to rebuild a TV commercial shoot in Lake County. Photo: Leadville Today.

Local street crews haul away the Leadville Ski Joring course snow to rebuild a TV commercial shoot in Lake County. Photo: Leadville Today.

After all, when you’re re-purposing 40 truckloads of the snow that it takes to build a first class Leadville Ski Joring course, to shoot a commercial at another location in Lake County, well, it propels conversation about conservation! Add to that a $1,200 check to the county to cover crew costs, and a visiting film crew of nearly 50 staying at local hotels and eating at local restaurants and some might say it’s the pinnacle in recycling efforts.

Last week, Colorado Film Locations owner Brooke Johnson returned to Leadville to shoot another round of what’s called “run shoots” in the industry. This is the type of footage viewers see for local dealership commercials, promoting new vehicle models taking on the challenges of winter driving.

Crews with Colorado Film Locations set up production on a side street adjacent to the snow laden

Film crews with set up production on a side street adjacent to the snow laden “runway,” recreated with Ski Joring snow. Photo: Brennan Ruegg/Leadville Today

“Leadville is one of the most cooperative places in the state with the friendliest people, and that’s why I bring commercials here,” stated Johnson from the grandstand as Ski Joring competition wrapped up for the weekend and road crews got ready to start clearing the snow off historic Harrison Avenue. Directly after the races, truckload after truckload of snow was piled up and brought to the Mountain Pines subdivision where it was put back onto the roads to recreate snowy road conditions for the “run shoots.”

As usual, this production shoot was a closed set, however Johnson’s latest commercial for Ram Trucks featured an impressive snowmobile flip and can be seen regularly airing on Denver TV stations. This commercial was filmed in late January out at the gravel pits by the Halfmoon Road.Spac_50


Johnson has been a professional motion picture producer, production manager, and location manager in Colorado since 1977, and has always reserved a special place in his heart and business for Leadville. As a former Leadville Ski Joring champion, and Coloradan at large, Johnson has been spending summers and winters in Leadville for more than thirty years, making him a regional expert for film trade.

Johnson has assembled artistic crews around Leadville and Climax for international companies like Audi, Coors, Dodge, among many others, and helped orchestrate the famous Marine Recruitment commercial, which aired on national television for several years.


Let’s Hear It For the Seniors, Citizens That Is!

While much has been done for youth and families in recent years, Leadville doesn’t hear much about a very special group of citizens – the Seniors! After all, someone had to have all those kids, right?!

If you are unfamiliar with where the Leadville/Lake County Senior Center is, you can find it adjacent to the new million dollar Huck Finn Skate Board Park, and the new $380,000 Warming Hut for the Ice Rink. It’s in an older maroon building which was originally brought down from the town of Climax over 50 years ago.

The Leadville/Lake County Senior Center is located at 621 W. 6th Street.

The Leadville/Lake County Senior Center is located at 621 W. 6th Street.

The Senior Citizen Board comes together monthly to review the concerns and needs for older Lake County residents, as well as plan activities and social events, essential to the mental health and well-being of aging people. From the Meals on Wheels program to annual trips down to the gambling towns of Central City and Black Hawk, this appreciative, active group does their best with what they are given.

While their needs are simple, they often go unmet, or the seniors are given left-over, broken down equipment to use at their aging facility. Recently, the group’s request for toilet lifts (it can be a long way down when your knees aren’t so good!) was denied.

While the group's efforts were able to secure a new (safe!) gas stove for the kitchen, it sat for weeks, waiting for hook-up. Photo: Leadville Today.

While the group’s efforts were able to secure a new (safe!) gas stove for the kitchen, it sat for weeks, waiting for hook-up. Photo: Leadville Today.

Or, if work orders are fulfilled, they are not done to order – for example, a request for coat hooks were installed so high up that they are ineffective and unusable for the shorter set.

After their regular November board meeting, the group of senior citizens reminisced with Leadville Today about times in the not-so-distant past. The photographs that line the wall, tell the story of a different time, when the center was often filled with children’s laughter and visits, bringing their lives full circle, and helping to build a generation of caring adults.

So Leadville, it’s time to balance the scales! If you, your group or business can help these golden gals and guys, please contact The Senior Center at 719-486-1445. Or if you prefer to communicate electronically, email info@leadvilletoday.com and your message will be relayed to the group.

So with honor and respect, Leadville Today is excited to bring readers this new, regular addition to community reporting: The Leadville/Lake County Senior Citizen Newsletter (see below).

Let’s hear it for the oldest and wisest in the community: The Grandmas! The Grandpas! The Nanas! The Papas! Three cheers for the Senior Citizens of Leadville and Lake County!

The Leadville/Lake County Senior Citizen Board share a laugh with Rachel Crocker with the Chaffee County Dept of Health & Human Services during their November meeting. Photo: Leadville Today

The Leadville/Lake County Senior Citizen Board share a laugh with Rachel Crocker with the Chaffee County Dept of Health & Human Services (picture far right) during their November meeting. Photo: Leadville Today


Senior Newsletter Jan 20161 copy
Spac_50Senior Newsletter Jan 2016_2

Donner, Party of One: Your Documentary Is Airring!

The wintery scene opens in a high alpine setting; it’s mid-December and supplies have run extremely low. The rapid succession of snowstorms has limited access to the outside world. Even the toughest mountaineers feel trapped in the unforgiving terrain, that seems to be closing in by the minute. . . . Spac_50


While some Leadville residents might call this desperate scene: Tuesdays in winter, for the producers of the 2-hour documentary about the infamous Donner party, it’s the scene that gave an “Open Call” for Leadville extras and local talent. The production company choose Leadville, because as the Highest City in North America, it was most likely to have the necessary snow for the storyline. And as usual The Cloud City didn’t disappoint.

Some Leadville talent was cast in supporting roles, and their BIG moment is about be realized.

“If they don’t cut the last scene, you’ll never look at me the same way (and you might have trouble sleeping!),” posted Leadville actress Laurel McHargue on the Leadville Today Facebook Page.

The Weather Channel documentary airs, starting  Thanksgiving Weekend. The first scheduled time is listed as Friday, Nov. 27 at 7 p.m. (local) on The Weather Channel.


According to Wikipedia: 

“The Donner Party was a group of American pioneers who set out for California in a wagon train. Delayed by a series of mishaps, they spent the winter of 1846–47 snowbound in the Sierra Nevadas. Some of the migrants resorted to cannibalism to survive, eating those who had succumbed to starvation and sickness.

DonnerPartyThe journey west usually took between five and six months, but the Donner Party was slowed by following a new route called Hastings Cutoff, which crossed Utah’s Wasatch Mountains and Great Salt Lake Desert. The rugged terrain, and difficulties encountered while traveling along the Humboldt River in present-day Nevada, resulted in the loss of many cattle and wagons, and splits within the group.

By the beginning of November 1846 the emigrants had reached the Sierra Nevada, where they became trapped by an early, heavy snowfall near Truckee (now Donner) Lake, high in the mountains. Their food supplies ran extremely low, and in mid-December some of the group set out on foot to obtain help. Rescuers from California attempted to reach the emigrants, but the first relief party did not arrive until the middle of February 1847, almost four months after the wagon train became trapped. Of the 87 members of the party, 48 survived to reach California.

Historians have described the episode as one of the most bizarre and spectacular tragedies in Californian history and in the record of western migration.”


Leadville is slowly getting layered up in its winter white as shown in this beautiful alpenglow photo by Meghan Buzan, taken in Leadville this morning.

Leadville is slowly getting layered up in its winter white as shown in this beautiful alpenglow photo by Meghan Buzan, taken in Leadville this morning.

Spac_50Leadville’s Ted Mullings Honored at “Meet The Artist”

By Sue Jewel, Leadville Arts Coalition

On Friday, Oct. 16, Harperrose Studios and the Tennessee Pass Cookhouse are co-hosting a “Meet the Artist” to honor Leadville’s icon Ted Mullings. 

A cowboy at heart Ted Mullings still loves to saddle up!

A cowboy at heart Ted Mullings still loves to saddle up!

The event will be held from 5-8 p.m. at Harperrose Studios, 601 Harrison Avenue. The public is invited to visit with Mullings who will be signing The Climax, a book that features his cartoons and drawings.

For more than thirty years, Ted Mullings worked for Climax Molybdenum Mine as an artist, designing and drawing safety manuals, maps, and cartoons.  This new book features a compilation of cartoons and drawings Mullings created from 1954-1982 for the Moly News, a Climax publication. These cartoons reflect an important part of Leadville’s history that resonates today.

After retiring from Climax, Mullings continued to share his artistic talents with Lake County.  For years, he painted the Boom Days rocks used for the drilling competitions, and he designed numerous Boom Days belt buckles. Many of his safety manuals have been reprinted, and his artwork plays a role in the Climax display at the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum in Leadville. An octogenarian, he continues his artistic endeavors at his downtown Little Cottage Gallery on West 8th Street.

Mullings will be selling and signing copies of his new book

Mullings will be selling and signing copies of his new book “The Climax” at the Friday evening event.

This special “Meet the Artist” celebrates Leadville’s talented gem: Ted Mullings.  Ann Stanek of Harperrose Studios/ Gallery and Goods designed Mullings’ book.  Stanek added, “We are so excited to be able to share this evening with Mr. Mullings.  He has preserved our mining heritage and has been an influential Leadville artist for decades.”

The Climax will be available for sale, as well as framed prints. Refreshments are catered, compliments of the Tennessee Pass Cookhouse.  This event is sponsored in part by the Leadville Arts Coalition.Spac_50

Mural Completed One Tile at A Time

A big round of applause to Artist and Project Manager for the Geological Mural which is now complete, thanks to Good and a host of volunteers. This beautiful piece of art can be seen on the retaining wall on the south side of the Lake County Courthouse, off W. 5th Street. Photo: Leadville Art Coalition

A big round of applause to Artist and Project Manager for the Geological Mural which is now complete, thanks to Good and a host of volunteers. This beautiful piece of art can be seen on the retaining wall on the south side of the Lake County Courthouse, off W. 5th Street. Photo: Leadville Art Coalition. More photos: CLICK

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