Fall Preview

Pavilion Point Trail

Location: Silver Plume

Length: 3.75 miles one way

Altitude gain: 900 feet

Highest point: 10,000 feet

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Of yore, mighty trainloads of silver-laden argentiferous ores poured down the slopes of Leavenworth Mountain on their way to distant smelters. Savvy prospectors can still find riches aplenty on Leavenworth’s steep flanks, although gold is king in Silver Plume these days, and his gala coronation is conducted anew each autumn in nature’s grand cathedral.

Silver Plume dons its autumn finery




For connoisseurs of fall finery, it doesn’t get any better than the Pavilion Point Trail, a relatively indulgent off-road amenity offering a delightfully intimate look at Clear Creek County’s most public seasonal spectacle. To stake your own claim, exit at Silver Plume, jog south under Interstate 70, and sidle west for a quarter mile along the dirt access road that parallels the highway. Then get out your camera, because you’ll need it.

A subtle mosaic


Plunging into dense pine and spruce, you’ll find yourself sauntering due east, and gaining height steadily, but not hastily. Within just a few hundred yards you’ll behold one of Clear Creek’s least-seen and most-enchanting panoramas – Silver Plume laid out beneath you in its pioneering entirety. But don’t fill up your photo-chip at the very first vantage, because the view only gets better.

The trail carves five long switchbacks through the forest on its way up the mountainside, and offers a remarkable showcase of Clear Creek’s sterling historical pedigree. That’s because it lies atop the ancient Argentine Central Railroad grade, which provides both an ascent gentle enough for heavily burdened steam engines and lightly conditioned pedestrians alike, and a very personal look at artifacts, great and small, from the Argentine’s bright mineral past. Massive ore-chutes lumber past at intervals, and mossy, dry-laid stone revetments support the ground beneath your feet. Short spurs projecting ahead at each about-face in the trail should be explored to the fullest, because each comes equipped with its own fascinating freight.


The bones of ancient industry


For our purpose, the trail concludes four miles from where it began, although persons of particular energy can follow the broad rail-bed into the high Argentine if they feel like it. You’ll know you’ve reached Pavilion Point when you meet a lonesome-looking stone chimney standing watch at a spot that, were it less densely wooded, might supply fine views of Georgetown. Promoters with more ambition than good fortune once undertook to construct a posh mountain resort in that place, but little besides the solitary smokestack remains.


End of the line


To the remote observer, Leavenworth Mountain appears only casually painted with Colorado’s signature softwood. And yet, be it by design or happy happenstance, the Argentine Central seems to steam straight through the heart of every quaking grove on the mountainside. In many places, towering specimens reaching up to catch the westering sun blaze like molten gold. In many others, dense concentrations of thin, white trunks press close enough to muffle all sound except the quiet swish of your feet through a carpet of brilliant doubloons.

Paved with gold

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of autumn on Pavilion Point is that so few people appreciate its unique gifts. But that just leaves more gold for you.

Picture perfect

Lost Dutchman II – The West of the Story

Mayberry, Arizona

Apache Junction, Ariz., February, 2010 

Those who know me best – you know who you are, and you’ll keep your traps shut if you know what’s good for you – know that I’m not about personal recognition, or public accolades, or large financial considerations; I’m about tourism, and the tackier the better. After our 12-mile stroll through some of Mama Earth’s least hospitable real estate, we headed down the road to Goldfield, a total surprise to me and one of the cheesiest tourist traps I’ve ever had the pleasure to be taken in by. Apparently, for a brief period in the late 19th century, Goldfield was and honest-to-gosh gold-mining boom-town, although, thankfully, it’s pure, unabashed camp, these days. We quickly set about mining the town for adventure, and immediately got the shaft.

Local color

Here’s a likely tableau in front of Goldfield’s deliciously conventional calaboose. What the hell do these people do in the off season? Or maybe I’d rather not know. Christa says “calaboose” is Chukchi for “stupid,” which I can’t easily refute, as I spent that week of Chukchi 101 camped out for REO tickets.

Authentic goods and services

This is Madame Lily, a Tempe soccer mom who earns a little extra money for gas and Ritalin by playing the lead “Soiled Angel” in Goldfield’s ersatz House of Ill Fame. But make no mistake – Lily’s more than just a flouncy dress and big hair. For the low-low price of $10, she’ll give you an extensive tour of the brothel, scads of fascinating insights into the life of a frontier hooker, and an enduring case of drug-resistant ovine gonorrhea. It’s all part of the show, folks!

It’s so ‘food’!

For lunch, we took an elegant patio table at the swanky Mammoth Saloon, making it doubly embarrassing when Christa’s unspeakable puns brought my entirely forgettable barbecue sandwich back up for a second presentation. And get this – Christa ordered the fish sandwich, and Doug ate half of it. I know, it’s incredible. They ordered one thing, and they BOTH ATE ON IT. It’s like they’re from some totally other planet, isn’t it? Inspired by the view of the peaks we’d so recently conquered, or perhaps by my explosive regurgitation, Doug composed – on the spot – a stirring sonnet about Lost Dutchman that easily stands alongside the best amateur park-related commemorative verse ever produced.

Saguaro reveries

By Douglas Lucian Belle

The trail we took was kind of rock

Y, which made it hard to walk

On, but it’s a good thing I brought extra T

P, because Christa really nee

Ded it after she saw that

Freaking bat

Audentes fortuna juvat!

So stunned by the beauty of his recitation, my ears started bleed profusely, and I scribbled those timeless words on my sham-newspaper menu in my own blood. I’m a great patron of the arts, you know.

An educational interlude

It’s always fascinating to me when people reveal unsuspected layers of tediousness. An avid recreational geologist, seemingly, Christa droned on at some length about how the great mass of Lost Dutchman’s stony crown is, in fact, an ancient volcanic plug that was lifted high about 10 million years ago by the expansion of a vast magma chamber lying far beneath. She also maintained that “magma” comes from the Latin for “stupid,” which I hadn’t heard before. Imagine, for a moment, how much super-heated, highly pressurized stupid was required to raise several million tons of rock nearly 1,000 feet into the air. It’s called science, people.

Group picture

Just outside, it appeared some shady-looking types were filming what I took to be a music video, or some similar affront to the culture. It was very exciting, until the star was arrested for beating his girlfriend, two of his back-up dancers were hauled away for possession-with-intent-to-distribute, and the producer took a half-dozen bullets in a drive-by shooting from a low-riding stagecoach.

Our Sensei

As the son of a Welsh miner, the grandson of a Welsh miner, the maternal niece of a Welsh miner, once removed, and someone who can identify the business-end of a shovel in 1 out of 3 tries, Doug’s got mining in his blood, so I wasn’t surprised when he suggested we let the good folks of Goldfield extract a little more of our hard-earned tourist dollars by touring the Goldfield Mine. It was surprisingly entertaining, starting with a bogus elevator ride, a candlelight soliloquy, and some remarkably inaccurate ad libs by our sturdy tour guide, Big Augie. Of greatest interest to me were the square-set shoring timbers supporting the mine’s lofty roof. According to Christa, “square-set timbers” is Welsh for “stupid”, but then I imagine that just about everything in Welsh is Welsh for stupid. Speaking of curious ethnic coincidences, it turned out that a small boy in our touring party claimed to be a Son of Wales, which is notable because, under normal circumstances, the only other instances when one might expect to encounter two Welshmen together in the same place would be at a police line-up or in the dumpster behind Denny’s at about 2 p.m. on any given Sunday.

Wave bye-bye

Taken together, it was a delightful morning and we all learned a lot about Arizona’s rollicking pioneer past, and about ourselves, as well. Christa learned that prickly pear cactus isn’t really edible until you take all the needles off it, and that the best way to make a friend is to be a friend, which I hope she remembers when Augie makes good on her off-the-cuff invitation to stay in her crawl space if he ever finds himself in the Denver area, and you can bet he will. Doug learned that stope-mining originated on the little island of Wales, that (physical evidence to the contrary) Wales is a little island, and that the only stupid question is the one never asked, if you don’t count when he asked Madame Lily how come, in her entire cat-house, he didn’t see a single pussy. For my part, I learned that it takes exactly six hours, nine full day-packs, and one car trunk to transport the storied treasure of Nils Van der Vanderhoof from Lost Dutchman State Park to my capacious suitcase, and that money very assuredly can buy happiness, starting with Professor Lily’s extremely comprehensive tutorial on the world’s oldest profession.

Well, there you have it – natural splendor, violent intrigue, talking rock creatures, barbecue vomit, sex workers…yes, Lost Dutchman had it all, and I hope you found my little account of it instructive, but not legally actionable.

Yours in Jebus,