Family Travel: Visiting an Old West Ghost Town

Ghost towns dot the map of the United States, and extremely prevalent in the former wild west states.  As a card carrying history nerd married to another history nerd and world geography teacher, historic sites are a big part of our normal travel itinerary.  Ghost towns in particular have long fascinated me, so much so that I did my senior history thesis on Cadron Settlement, a long lost Arkansas ghost town.    

 One of the activities at Trail West Lodge is a 4×4 Jeep tour up to St. Elmo, a real Old West ghost town.  We jumped on board.  St. Elmo used to be famous for mining, now it is famous for chipmunks.  Oh, how time changes us all.  :)

Let me just recommend Jeep tours to anyone with a kid who needs a good nap.  We did a lot of off road driving in Colorado and New Mexico, and it was the Bear’s kryptonite.  He couldn’t fight it.  Out like a light every time.

The most popular thing to do in St. Elmo is feed the chipmunks.  I freely admit that I enjoyed this more than anyone else, maybe ever.  I had a Disney princess moment, y’all.  

 The Bear, on the other hand, was a bit suspicious of the little critters.  He really liked them, laughed and pointed, but wanted no part of them touching him.  It was probably better that way.

 Jed even fed the little buggers.  This is a huge deal for a non animal lover.

 The second most popular thing about St. Elmo is the scenery.  It is serene and so beautiful.  A lovely mountain stream flows through the middle of town, and mountains surround you on all sides.

 Even the one room schoolhouse has an alpine view.  How did teachers educate a room full of kids of all ages?  This mystifies and amazes me.  My grandmother taught in a schoolhouse much like this in El Paso, Arkansas.

 The pioneer cemetary is on your way in to town, if you come up the jeep route.  The graves reside among lovely trees in an aspen grove, and date back to the mid 1800s.

 This is a replica of what the inside of the courthouse and jail looked like around the time of the town’s boom (late 1800s).

 The original Miners’ Exchange building is now home to the St. Elmo General Store.  There you can buy a snack for you or for the chipmunks, books about the town and Colorado history, postcards, and lots of souvenirs.

 There are so many of the original buildings still standing.  We really got a glimpse into mining life during the gold rush.  As we walked the dirt streets we pictured miners and their families grinding out an existence high atop a mountain in rugged Colorado.

 On our second trip up to St. Elmo, my parents joined us.  I inherited my history nerd gene from both of them, so they thought it was awesome.  My dad was a big fan of the cable series Deadwood, and we could picture that kind of action happening on the main street.  It was a great little outing for the whole family.

Do you or your family enjoy historical travel? 
What’s your favorite history travel outing?

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