Monday, October 24, 2011

Crystal, Colorado Ghost Town

Crystal, Colorado is famous for its picturesque "mill", but it is difficult to get there.  I was on my second trip of the year with photographer friends from California.  We knew that the road into Crystal is not for the casual driver.  It requires an ATV or a high clearance vehicle, preferably four wheel drive, and not too big.  The driver should be experienced on very rough roads, and unafraid of driving on narrow, rocky benches with big drop-offs.
In this photo, Bruce Gregory's Nissan Xterra approaches a short bench through a rock slide zone as Stephen Johnson walks the road.  The canyon is so steep that much of the road is in shadow in the middle of the afternoon.

The reward for driving the spectacular road is the Crystal Mill.  This mis-named building was not a mill, but actually housed a huge compressor which was powered by water from the Crystal River that dropped down the vertical penstock.  The compressor ran drills in nearby mines.  The building was built in 1893 and retired in 1917.

We met Chris Cox, owner of the famous "mill", who told us that it is shored up with cables on the inside.  Local volunteers have done concrete work to support the penstock, and have donated their time and labor to replace the roof.  Without their help, the building would have collapsed long ago.

We heard that most people photograph the "mill" and go home, not knowing there is a ghost town just down the road.

There are a dozen or so buildings in a picturesque mountain setting with plenty of aspen trees.

The Cox family has owned the town for five generations.  They have fixed up five of the buildings as rentals that are popular with photographers.  Some of them even have hand-cranked telephones to connect with each other, but not with the outside world.  We thank Chris Cox for his hospitality and information about this beautiful ghost town.