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Photos: Gallery | Colorado Springs Gazette, News

18 marvelous Colorful Colorado getaways

By: Seth Boster, and from The Gazette's Colorful Colorado series that highlights cities in the Pikes Peak region and the rest of Colorado.

Trappers Lake, the second largest natural lake in Colorado behind Grand Lake, sits on the edge of the 230,830-acres Flat Tops Wilderness Area in northwestern Colorado Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016.   (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

GARFIELD COUNTY - It's easy getting lost.

At least that's what I was told upon finally arriving at Trappers Lake Lodge and Resort. The drive from Colorado Springs to this remote spot in the Flat Tops Wilderness was supposed to take about six hours, but it ended up taking me closer to eight as I made a few wrong turns in the northwestern high country, where cell service often fails. I got back on track one time thanks to a cowboy herding his cattle, another time thanks to a motorcyclist at an out-of-service gas station and one last time thanks to a fisherman deep in White River National Forest.

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CHRISTIAN MURDOCK, THE GAZETTE

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LIFE TRAVEL GEORGETOWN

GEORGETOWN - This is the kind of place where a 10-year-old grabs a piece of candy from a store's old wooden shelves, turns around to an old wooden counter, and the lady behind it smiles sweetly and asks: "Are you paying or am I charging?"

The lady is Coralue Anderson. The store was operated in 1893 by her great-grandfather, pictured in the gold-framed portrait hanging on the back wall. She's worked here since being handed a broom that towered above her. These days, behind the counter, Anderson takes cash or check, but for the 1,000 or so living in Georgetown, she'll put it on their tab.

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STACIE SCOTT

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People soak in the hot springs along the San Juan River at The Springs Resort & Spa in Pagosa Springs, Colo., Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016.  (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

PAGOSA SPRINGS - The lights of the riverside resort downtown shone bright, illuminating the man across the way. Waylon Smith, long-haired and long-bearded, soaked happily along the banks, sitting in a steamy pool with rocks fashioned around it.

The juxtaposition was not lost on Smith as he gazed over at the Victorian-style Springs Resort & Spa, which has enticed the likes of Oprah with its full-service spa and 23 stone-masonry tubs of varying temperatures and sizes. But here in one of the locally known "hippie dips," Smith enjoyed his town's hot springs free of charge.

"I've got everything I need and more right here," he said.

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CHRISTIAN MURDOCK, THE GAZETTE

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Long-time waitress Mo Ferrar visits with customers Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, at the Woody Creek Tavern outside Aspen. Ferrar has been working at the restaurant for 20 years. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

WOODY CREEK - I was warned that I would be an outsider here, and that I wouldn't do myself any favors by asking around about Hunter S. Thompson.

One of the first people I meet is Tex. Tex what? Just Tex. "That's it," he says in a deep, grainy murmur. He's messing with stuff in a messy shed in the overgrown trailer park at the heart of this community, which seems much farther than 10 miles from Aspen.

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CHRISTIAN MURDOCK

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LIFE TRAVEL MEEKER PARK

ALLENSPARK - Traditions have come and gone here at Meeker Park Lodge, but this one around suppertime remains.

The setting sun casts an orange glow on 13,911-foot Mount Meeker and below on the idyllic valley where knotty pine structures stand, some for nearly a century. They were built by the family of the three sisters who now sit on the lodge's porch: Laura Dever, Bonnie Dever and Patty Dever-Cavaleri, beside her husband in the cowboy hat. Also here is a man from Chicago and a woman from Michigan, longtime family friends who have made this rustic resort their summer home, because they can't imagine the season without the cabins and the country from their childhood memories.

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JAMES WOOLDRIDGE

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The community of Nederland raised $700,000 to build a home for the Carousel of Happiness and the carousel opened Memorial Day 2010. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

NEDERLAND - Out on the boat he built to sail the Pacific and try to forget Vietnam's hellfire and everything he saw behind a machine gun and the world gone mad, Scott Harrison stopped beside a whale.

Two months had passed at sea. He was starting to doubt this solo "escape" he launched eight years after he fought; it had done nothing to ease his torment.

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CHRISTIAN MURDOCK, THE GAZETTE

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CENTRAL CITY AND BLACKHAWK

CENTRAL CITY - Mike Keeler is enlivened by the dead of this town.

There he was one day this summer, at one of Central City's 10 graveyards keeping the remains of men who made it big on the gold discovered here 158 years ago. The day was one of Keeler's favorites, the day of the annual Cemetery Crawl in which he and others dress up like pioneers and tell stories. He stood by the grave of James Alexander Gaudard, who died in 1887.

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STACIE SCOTT

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Buena Vista

BUENA VISTA - There's tension here between the people who want their home one way and the people who are OK with the way it is going, and when reflecting on that, Tom Tomson brings up the men who went to great lengths to assure the way of things.

They were men belonging to the so-called Committee of Safety, vigilantes responsible for what history refers to as a war in 1874 in what is now Chaffee County. They went around terrorizing the people of the land, murdering those who opposed them. When a judge called for their arrests, he too was shot and killed.

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Ryan Jones

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OT INDIANA JONES

ANTONITO - A man was being mean at the Indiana Jones Bed and Breakfast, and all Sabra Lynn had to do was stare him down.

She was ready to kick him out after one more racist slur or sexist comment. But he shut up as he noticed the B&B owner's blue eyes boring into him, the glare of the woman self-described as a "6-foot Amazon blonde."

The Amazon. That's what longtime friends call her.

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DOUGAL BROWNLIE

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ICE CLIMBING

ALMA - It's tough living here.

"Definitely, you've got to be a hearty soul to make it a long time," Mayor Gary Goettelman says.

Just ask Erik Mursewick, 41, whose family has been here for decades. He's shoveling the sidewalks outside what used to be Alma's Only Bar, now boarded up like other structures around the place. Shoveling, he says, is how he makes money in the winter so he can live in the surrounding hills spotted with cottages and sideways-leaning shacks.

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STACIE SCOTT

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A driver sweeps the snow off her car after parking in downtown Leadville Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017, as a winter storm dumps snow on central mountains of Colorado. The storm, which could drop up to two feet in the mountain, is expected to hit Colorado Springs Wednesday night into Thursday.  (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

LEADVILLE - The blustery storm did not faze James Duke. There he was amid the raging snow that piled up on his black top hat and froze his white beard. He shoveled the old downtown storefronts, looking appropriately like someone from yester-century.

"I want people to see what people may have looked like walking down these streets in the 1880s," he said.

After all, he is the official town greeter, and he feels this appearance is part of his responsibility. He hasn't shaved since the mayor bestowed the title upon him.

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CHRISTIAN MURDOCK, THE GAZETTE

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LIFE THOMAS BARLOW

VICTOR - Much has come and gone here, but one thing that remains is the sporting goods store on 3rd Street. Gus Conley is still here, slumped behind the wooden counter surrounded by fishing and hunting trinkets and other nostalgic nicknacks, like lanterns and clocks.

Gus, 81, has been running the place for 26 years.

"Can you believe that?" he says to me, a stranger he calls partner, his voice grainy and fading. "The good Lord provides."

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STACIE SCOTT

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Light filters into the library through large stained glass windows at The Holy Cross Abbey in Canon City, Colorado on Thursday, February 1, 2018.

CAÑON CITY - The monks are gone, along with the property's Catholic distinction, but whether the former Holy Cross Abbey is more historic than holy is beside the point. Respect is still requested.

It is now the Abbey Event Complex, the site of weddings and gatherings most every weekend. But anyone who pulls off U.S. 50 to admire the unique structure in southern Colorado should heed the signs around back, marking the old monastery yard a quiet zone. Of course, the Gothic towers and arches of brick, stone and stained glass, the soaring magnificence of it all, should be enough to leave one speechless.

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NADAV SOROKER

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The Hope Lutheran Church, built in 1917, is framed by a stone archway in the park across the street Thursday, April 13, 2017, in Westcliffe, Colo.  (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

WESTCLIFFE - The drive south starts out barren, the empty ribbons of dusty road carving through towns of crumbling buildings and rusting trailer homes, past barbed-wire fences wrapping open land and fields slowly turning green.

Soon the landscape warps. Now Colorado 96 climbs into the San Isabel National Forest, and the rock outcrops show off their shapes and colors, red and pink, gunpowder gray and green with lichen.

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CHRISTIAN MURDOCK, THE GAZETTE

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RED FEATHER LAKES

RED FEATHER LAKES - Main street, as the locals know it, is a gravel lot where a three-legged dog hobbles.

He wanders by the Ace Hardware, a new, strange addition to this mountain village where major commercial names are as rare as cell reception. If the dog has patrolled here over the years, then he's more acquainted with the trading post, the lumber store, the auto body shop, the coffee shop and the post office, where business is business as usual on cloudy days like this before summer. Slow.

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MARK REIS

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Highway 24 crosses over the Red Cliff Truss Bridge, built in 1940, and the upper Eagle River Monday, June 20, 2016, in Red Cliff, Colo. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

RED CLIFF - A bluesy voice could be faintly heard over the river rushing through this town, tucked in a pocket of the White River National Forest. It was Clarence "Frogman" Henry singing from the satellite radio of a Dodge Ram: "I don't know why I love you, but I do."

In his workman jeans, Bill Squires, 72, cleaned the truck parked in his gravel driveway, off one of the town's six streets. He was tuned into an oldies station. "I just like this stuff," he said.

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CHRISTIAN MURDOCK, THE GAZETTE

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Vacant homes line the hill below Highway 24 north of Red Cliff Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, where the mining town of Gilman once stood. The New Jersey Zinc. Co. operated the town from 1912 to 1977. In 1986, Gilman was declared a Superfund site.    (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

EAGLE COUNTY - This winter, maybe on their way to ski resorts off Interstate 70, people will drive west on U.S. 24, passing Leadville and the turn for little Red Cliff to the stretch of road that bends around Battle Mountain.

Maybe they'll pay no attention to the ghost town to the left, seen there at the edge of a cliff, hanging on.

That's Gilman. The highway's paved shoulders give one space to park, to step out and see the homes and buildings of last century's bustling scene gone silent. 

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CHRISTIAN MURDOCK, THE GAZETTE

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geological formations

HUERFANO COUNTY - From Interstate 25, it's as impossible to miss as the wind turbines that break the view of the mighty twin peaks: a 300-foot mound of what looks like black rubble, a miniature volcano in a field of yucca, cactuses and cow pies.

Huerfano Butte is but one "volcanic cone" spotting the plains of Spanish Peaks country, as described in Ross B. Johnson's 1968 report for the U.S. Department of the Interior. The geology, he wrote, "has inspired men for untold centuries," long before the 1869 expedition of pioneer Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden.

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JERILEE BENNETT, THE GAZETTE

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