|Trailridge Runners 4WD Club
Holy Cross City Trip
by Ray Comeau
On Saturday August 10th, 2013 three Jeeps from the Trailridge Runners gathered at the Holly Cross trail head. On this day the attendees would be Vic, Ray with a guest Guy, my younger brother., Rick brought two guest with him Mike and his son Carson.
Holly Cross trail is located just a few miles south of Vail on Hwy24 going towards Leadville.
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.
(The additional below history was taken off my last trip write up in 2011, added by Adam Mehlberg. I added this section again mainly for the new TRR members.)
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 Frenchman 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.
Back to Holly Cross Trip 2013
Vic, Ray and Guy left Longmont at 8:00am, there was not a cloud in the sky, with the bright blue sky and the sun warming things up nice we had been blessed with such a great start to our day. We traveled I-25 to I-70 heading West towards our destination. This day is like every other Trailridge Runner trip, as we drive along the hard pavement feeling every bump in our rigs (or at least mine), what will this day bring? Will we make it to the trail head, seems most everyone can tell a story about them selves or about someone else having mechanical problems just getting to the trail head.
(Never really had a mechanical problem myself, but I guess it can happen.) Oh My, I'm going to Hell.
Vic and I had no problems driving down the interstate, stopping at the Vail pass rest area to stretch and do what natures calls for.
Rick and his company had traveled the night before to the area and would be meeting us on the trail head.
We all met, we said are good mornings under a bright blue sky. We traveled to the trail head and preceded with no problems. This would be Vic's first time on the trail, so like always I asked him if he would like to lead and he did just that.
Right away we caught up with two vehicles and after a few hundred yards they allowed us to pass by them, the first couple of miles is not hard but ruff, if you do not pay attention one can get hung up on rocks very easy. Using low four wheel drive and in 2nd and 3rd gear most of the time, there are many times first gear was needed to crawl through an area and maybe turn on a locker. After traveling for about 45 minutes, with Rick being in front of me he did something to this day still bothers him and he is still trying to figure out what happened, he drove off the left side of the road, both drivers side wheels over the embankment , jeep tilting to the left at and angle nobody likes. With in seconds he put the gear box into reverse to see if he could drive back out, doing so the Jeep passenger side wheels came off the ground and he then came to a stop, the wheels came back down to rest on the ground.
By this time, Vic had walked back to give a hand. Vic walked around found a way for Rick to drive himself out by driving forward.
With everyone back in there seats, down the trail we went. After stopping once or twice for breaks we came up on French Creek. French Creek is a obstacle with sofa size and larger rocks with a stream running around the rocks. Some of the rocks are so big, if you were to drive up to the rock, place your bumper against the rock, the rock is still 1 or 2 feet above your bumper. And there are many sofa size rocks and trying to find the best spot for your rig to get threw is a challenge.
I've been on this trail many times over the years, most years it could take up to two hours waiting in line due to rigs being backed up 10 or more deep, everyone waiting for their turn to cross the creek. Not today, the wait would not be long, I think there was only two or three rigs in front of us.
It came time for Vic to give the Creek area a go. After walking around on the rocks, Vic decided to take the line to the right hand side which takes his Jeep up over a very large VW Bug size rock, this would put his passenger side wheels into a crevasse with his Drivers side up onto top of the rock, climbing and finding the correct line with wet tires, working back and forth, getting hung up every now and then, Jeep body and suspension twisted up like it's never been before, with odd and strange noises coming from the Jeep like Vic has never heard before, Vic was able to continue forward with out any winch help and drove out the exit on his own.
Rick and his Jeep would be spectators today and would not be going across the Creek. So I got in my Jeep and took the Center line, after a few try's, finding the correct spot I drove threw and out the exit. No spotter required.
It was around noon time and Vic decided he would drive back down the trail with Rick, which meant driving back threw the creek with VW bug and sofa size rocks, Vic took the same line as when he come up, it would soon to be known it is harder to go back that way than it was to come up. With his rear wheels up on top of the rock, (picture your rear wheels on top a small car, and your front wheels on the ground) the front wheels down at the bottom, he could not turn right because his bumper would hit the embankment going up in front of the jeep. But after what seemed forever, Vic kept working it and got the front end around and drove out.
We all said our good by's, for Guy and I would be spending the night at Holly Cross City, and Vic and Rick and his company would be going back down the trail to home.
Guy and I found a spot to set up camp, I went on a hike to Cleveland Lake for some fishing, Guy stayed behind and took a nap. Camp is just above 10,000 feet, Cleveland Lake is above timber line at 11,000 ft, after a heart pounding 40 minute hike, a short 20 min fishing with no bites, worn out from the hike I headed back to camp. I prepared my dinner and ate. Not being sure about any fire bans I did not want to start a fire. It was 6:30pm, now what to do? Four more hours to bed time, no fire, I'm done hiking...again...4 more hours to bed time.
So we packed up camp, headed down the trail by 7:00pm, not a sole to be found at French Creek and any place else on the trail the whole way down. I was home in my nice warm bed by 11:00pm. I guess I will try out my new tent heater another day.
As always, it was a great trip with great friends playing in our back yard in the Rocky Mountains.