When I was a kid growing up in Canada, my dad used to bring my brother and sister and I on excursions deep into “the bush” to find old abandoned cabins in the rugged back country of northern Ontario. It was great fun.
As a an adult, rather than spending a small fortune on theme parks and pizza places with jungle gyms, I prefer to bring my kids either
a) house hunting, or,
b) scavenging for old abandoned houses or entire townsites.
Since we live in Colorado (a state with a vivid mining past) there are a wealth of antiquated ghost towns that have been abandoned for the better part of a century.
One such area is Summitville, Colorado - a remote area around Wolf Creek Pass in the San Juan Mountains in south central Colorado. The town of Summitville is located, you guessed it, at the top of a mountain. This is in one of the snowiest parts of the state so you can imagine how battered this place has become after being abandoned by the late 1890’s.
The townsite sprang up in the 1870’s after gold was discovered in the area, and when that was quickly mined out, the tiny town faded fast into a footnote of history. Even though mining operations for gold and other materials was attempted a few more times during the twentieth century, none were very succesful and the workers commuted from nearby towns like Del Norte. The weather and altitude up at Summitville (over 11,000 feet above sea level) was and is BRUTAL.
Today, you can visit the ruins of the town of Summitville if you are willing to take a long, bumpy ride up some remote dirt roads in the summertime. Don’t even attempt this in the winter – the roads are impassable!
Since my husband Lupe has worked up there during the summers on two different occasions (doing road maintenance for the state), I have been to visit Summitville a couple of times.
Here are some pictures we took last summer (2011) of what remains of the old wood frame houses:
That’s my husband Lupe and our daughter Tova (above)
And my son Noe (below)
We even brought our little doggie (Poco) along for the family fun…
The kids had a great time running around – all the while we were screaming at them to watch out for rusty nails and broken glass.
These pictures were taken last July (note the snow on the peaks)…
The newer structures off in the distance are part of a water treatment facility, the only other thing up there.
Noe hamming it up.
As I took this picture (below)…
…I realized that my son Noe had found his way INSIDE of one of the ruins! (You can vaguely see him in the window there)
Of course, I had to join him.
We literally had to crawl through a hole in the wall and over beams and broken shards of wood to get inside. The floor was really weathered and rotten out in many spots so it probably wasn’t the wisest thing for a parent to do with a child.
This room was probably the kitchen, but time and weather have ravaged this place so much, it is hard to really tell.
They had a nice view anyway…
Even Tova wanted to get into the action:
Lupe had to hold her back!
Here we are exploring an old outhouse:
Noe: “They had to go outside to go poop in the olden days!?!”
The remarkable thing I find about these houses at Summitville, is that they are the same age as the old house that I now live in! Not that my house is a structurally sound palace or anything close, but the contrast between these relics and my house is amazing.
I guess a few thousand feet in elevation and no one to take care of you for 90-plus years will do that.
If you would like to see the Summitville ruins in person, ACT FAST because some of the buildings that we saw the first time we visited a couple of years ago are no longer standing!