A fews ago on a Sunday afternoon, I headed into Rocky Mountain National Park and beelined it to the Colorado River Trailhead. Destination: Lulu City. Stella and I had attempted to snowshoe back to Lulu City in late winter of this recent season, but our effort was thwarted as the afternoon sun had begun to dip below the ridge line, forcing us to turn back.
From the trailhead, you immediately negotiate a single switchback that brings you to the top of the trail. From that point, my travels sent me due north. Hearing the roar of the Colorado River hastened my pace, but a short distance into my journey, the trail was covered in water from the spring runoff. I was left with two options: a) hug a narrow ledge above the water or b) do a little bushwhacking. I opted for the side adventure, although it would have been very helpful to have had trekking poles because the incline and the descent back to the trail were quite steep.
Once back on the trail, and about a half mile in, you will come upon a fork in the trail. Left will lead you to the Red Mountain Trail; I continued north. The trail meanders through a meadow before reentering a small forested patch where you find yourself at Lost Creek. A short distance later, I found myself entering Hutchings Gulch where the trail began to diverge away from the river. That would be my last contact with the Colorado River before reaching Lulu City. The area is also known as Shipler’s Park, with a mountain aptly named Shipler Mountain rising to the east over looking the vast meadow.
Leaving the large meadow of Hutchings Gulch, the trail winds through a small forested section before opening into Crater Gulch. There, I saw some type of “structure,” so I thought that I had arrived at Lulu City. However, upon checking the distance on my app, I learned that I was still about a mile and half away. Navigating Crater Creek I approached the dilapidated remains of a cabin circa unknown at the time, it was Shipler Cabin. Joseph Shipler was a mining prospect who had built the cabin in 1876 and lived there until 1914.
With about a mile and a half to Lulu City, and the sky threatening with rain, I pondered turning back. No dice, I had made the snap decision to carry on. From Crater Gulch, you begin a steady climb through a pine ladened forest. I kept watching for moose, elk and even bear, but none were to be seen. Eventually, I came to a fork in the trail. Stay the course and you’ll head to Little Yellowstone, or take a slight left and you mosey on down to Lulu City. I continued my trek onto LuLu City.
As I stood in the threshold of LuLu City, I looked for the remnants of the old log cabins, and only found one. Lulu City was a mining town that was established in 1879 shortly after the discovery of silver by the aforementioned Joseph Shipler. The town gained its named after Benjamin F. Burnett’s daughter, a rancher from the nearby town of Fort Collins and one of the backers of the mining operation. The silver was low grade, and within five years the town was abandoned. Forty one Cabins were originally built on the site, and it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1949. Not too far from the cabin site, the Colorado River starts its journey to the Gulf of California. I stood close to the source of the river as I looked North. Behind me, it flows for approximately 1450 miles. I took a few moments to ponder the days of long ago, before I started the trek back to the trailhead.