Trailridge Runners 4WD Club
Holy Cross City Trip

by Ray Comeau

On August 12th five of us met at the Loaf-n-Jug in Golden at 4; 00pm, the trip scheduled was Holy Cross.

Holy Cross trail is named after Holy Cross Wilderness and the highest peak in the area Mount of the Holy Cross at 14.005 foot in elevation. The peak was named in 1929 due to the distinctive cross-shaped snow field on the Northeast Face of the mountain. The wilderness is 122,787 acres in size and was established in 1980. There are 162 miles of hiking trails which has taken many lives in years past due to the ever changing climate and hikers not prepared for the unfamiliar area.

All I can find about Holy Cross City trail was it was created to run supplies to a small group of miners from 1880 to 1883. Only 2 cabins remain with several open mines in the area.

Editor additional history: At the start of the Holy Cross City 4WD road, Gold Park was a larger camp than Holy Cross City. It started in 1880 and soon had two hotels, post office, lumber company, and several stores with a population of 400. The mines around Gold Park and Holy Cross City were run by the Gold Park Mining Company which had a large mill in Gold Park that was connected to the Holy Cross City mines with a two and a half mile flume. All of this only lasted a few short years. By 1883 Gold Park was pretty much deserted.

Holy Cross City's name sake is the infamous Cross of Snow that became legend in the early history of Colorado. More and more prospectors saw the cross as the years went by but its exact location was unknown. There was even a kind of curse associated with the cross that anyone prospecting near the mountain and cross of snow met with tragedy.

In 1873 F. V. Hayden set out on an expedition to chart the area and find the cross of snow. Along with Hayden's party was photographer William H. Jackson, one of Colorado's greatest, who's ambition was to photograph the mountain with cross and prove to the doubters back east it existed. After questioning many people they finally met a band of Utes lead by Chief Ouray. Chief Ouray knew where the mountain was and would lead them to it. Jackson got his picture of the Mount of the Holy Cross which became the most publicized of its day.

Mount of the Holy Cross was designated a National Monument in 1929. The cross is formed by snow and ice in a deep crevice on the mountain. The bars of the cross are 450 ft. across and 1,400 ft. tall.

Holy Cross City is to the southwest of the Mount of the Holy Cross. It was started about the same time as Gold Park. Story has it that and old Frechman that lived in the area before the boom began let slip that he had found some gold float. That s all it took to start the rush. Wagons used the old road to haul supplies to Holy Cross City, and gold ore out to the mill in Gold Park. There was a population of 300 people here with a school, the Timberline Hotel, and a few stores. Holy Cross City also faded as fast as Gold Park and was deserted by 1883.

Mill Pond, or Treasure Vault, lies to the west and a little north of Holy Cross City in the Holy Cross Wilderness. From Holy Cross City a short spur road leads to the southwest toward Fancy Pass. From the end of the spur road you hike along the old Fancy Pass road into the Holy Cross Wilderness. It is about 2 miles from Holy Cross City to Fancy Pass. From the pass it is approximately 2 miles down to the ghost town which is a mile and a half below the mine and Treasure Vault Lake. Natives called the site Mill Pond for the colorful pond near the mill. The Gold Bug mine was here as well as other mines close to Missouri Pass. The mill was kept busy processing the ore from the surrounding mines which was then hauled out by wagons over Fancy Pass and on past Holy Cross City. The activity here continued into the 1890's and finally ended in the 1920's.
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The 5 people on this trip included Rick, Gene K., Larry, Mike and myself. On schedule we left Golden Friday evening and headed up Hwy 6 toward I-70. We had to stop along Hwy 6 for Larry had to pull over after exiting a tunnel he noticed a rattle coming from the Jeep, after a few minutes, not knowing what it was we continued on.

We then traveled down I-70 and at this time I was behind Larry going about 60 miles per hour when all of a sudden his two front wheels looked like two bull dogs in a gunny sack trying to get out, his front wheels had what we call death wobble so bad it looked like the wheels would break and fall off. If you have never witnessed this in person, it is really something to see, one wonders what keeps steering arms and ball joints from breaking. The only way to stop it is to come to a complete stop, and that is what Larry did. We tightened the track bar bolts, which is normally the cause and he never had another problem.

We met up with Rick in Vail for dinner, Rick did some research and located a nice restaurant called Moe s Barbeque that we had dinner at. After dinner Rick stayed the night in Vail while the rest of us departed to locate a camp spot for the night.

We camped along 703 the road up near the Holy Cross trail. Larry and Gene set up there tents while Mike and I prepared our Jeeps to sleep in. About 9:30pm we all went to bed. The camp spot was at about 8750 in elevation, and the next morning we awoke to a nice 35 degree temperature.

Rick showed up at 7:30am, we packed our gear, aired down and headed for Holy Cross Trail. This morning as expected we would not be the first one's out at 8:00am. The Holy Cross Trail is one of the best known four wheel drive trails in Colorado and this day would be no different as we found out as the day progressed. On the trail we had no problems at first, we moved along with out any issues until we came up on an obstacle I think is called the Notch, it's not a difficult obstacle for most, Larry on exiting the obstacle popped his front drivers side tire bead on a rock, just bad luck. After trying to air it up using Gene's air tank, and after further investigation the inner part of the wheel was bent therefor not allowing the tire to hold air. At this point other wheelers caught up and we were able to maneuver Larry's jeep to allow the others to pass. After a quick tire change out, we continued on.

Within a very short drive we came up on the famous French Creek. As expected it was already a parking lot with rigs and owners waiting there turn to conquer this ever so famous part of the trail.

After about an hour or so it was our turn. I was first with Mike as my Spotter, forward I went, with spectators on each side, all eye's wondering will this guy make it? With my eyes focused on Mike, I crawled forward. The first line I chose, up the middle, was not in the cards, so I backed up and went further to the right around a large rock. I was able to crawl further but the rock gods decided to hang my rear differential on a rock, after a few tries I won and drove on out the exit. Then Gene crawled forward and decided to try a far left approach only to stop trying and the winch cable came out.

Mike, Rick and Larry decided after watching several rigs struggle to cross French Creek it would be best not to try it, after pondering weather I wanted to venture on alone or stay with the group, the better choice was to stay together. So we had lunch and headed back down the trail to head home.

In the few times I have been on the Holy Cross trail, I'm not so sure I have seen so many off road vehicles turn around at French Creek, I did some research going threw past photos comparing pictures to see how much it has changed, I'm not convinced it's any tougher than years past, rocks have moved. One thing for sure it's not easier. Thinking back, I'm not sure I have seen one new Jeep go through French Creek, most all were older or heavily modified rigs.

After airing up and a potty break in Vail the group decided to eat dinner in Idaho Springs. As a thank you for being the trail leader and not completing our weekend camp out, they all bought me dinner. It was not necessary but was very nice of them. The weekend trip was shortened, but it was still a great two days with great friends playing in out back yard in the Colorado Rockies.


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