To visit Victor, the hamlet west of Colorado Springs, is to step back in time. While neighboring Cripple Creek bustles as a casino destination, Victor stays quiet.
Indeed, the town feels frozen in time. More than a century removed from the gold rush, relics still stand. They’re here along Vindicator Valley Trail: rusted, splintering structures like skeletons in a land of lost dreams.
Within the hilly mosaic, you’ll get the solitude of a classic Colorado trail. You’ll also get an education, with history waiting at the turn of every corner.
First along the wide path is Theresa Mine, represented by a neck-craning tower. A sign tells of the mine producing $2.5 million in gold in its brief life, beginning in 1895.
Signage accompanies the many landmarks ahead. They include brick-and-cobblestone bunkers that once stored explosives and the ghostly town site of Independence, scattered with ruins.
The trail rises through young pines, planted as part of a collaboration between the land-owning mining company and the Southern Teller County Focus Group that maintains the trail. If suddenly out of breath, note the altitude above 10,200 feet. Before winding toward the abandoned settlement of houses, sheds and hoists, enjoy the high point view of the Pikes Peak massif and Sangre de Cristo mountains.
The path is clearly marked by fencing. The barriers block one from straying onto unstable land still being mined. Company trucks roam beyond, about the only sound we heard on this day, along with the crows and the creaking and groaning of these storied remains.
Vindicator Valley Trail, Victor
Trip log: 2 miles (loop), 366 feet elevation gain, 10,230 feet max
Getting there: From Colorado Springs, go west on U.S. 24 to Divide. Turn left onto Colorado 67 and continue south to left turn for Victor, on County Road 81. Trailhead on the right in about 5 1/2 miles.
FYI: Open dawn to dusk. Foot traffic only. Dogs on leash. No camping, fires or shooting.
SETH BOSTER, THE GAZETTE