Up on Cripple Creek

You cannot visit Cripple Creek, Colorado without humming the song 'Up on Cripple Creek' every day, mostly because everyone says "Oh do you know the song Cripple Creek?"when you tell them where you are.
Located at an elevation of 9,494 ft the town of Cripple Creek is an old gold mining town, first settled in the late 1800s after a gold rush drew thousands of people to the area.  The gold mine is still active and is the largest producer of gold in Colorado.  After a peak population of 10,000 in the early 1900s, the town has dwindled down to just under 2,000 residents and now seems to be repositioning itself as a tourist destination.  The original buildings from the town's settlement still stand and are now occupied by casinos.  Casinos run the length of old Main Street and seem to have brought new money to the town.  The streets are clean and well landscaped and although there is very little to do after 8pm, it's a lovely place and if you like to gamble, probably well worth a visit.

Cripple Creek would not have been on our radar at all if my aunt didn't own a few acres up on a mountain.  She doesn't live on this land but purchased it many years ago with thoughts of future retirement so it is unoccupied and rarely visited.  It became our home for about two weeks and we fell in love with the mountain we parked on and the little town of Cripple Creek.

Not knowing whether the road up to my aunt's land was passable or if there would be a flat place for our rig, we made reservations at the Cripple Creek Hospitality House for our first night in town.  The Hospitality House is an historic hotel with an RV park in the back.  The RV sites start at $36/night and all have full hook-ups, a picnic table, and are all pull-throughs.  There is also a laundry room and shower house you can use.  As soon as we parked, we unhitched from the RV and drove 10 miles up the mountain on a well-maintained dirt road to see where we might be staying.  We passed just a few houses as we drove, some looked like full time residences and others seemed to be vacation homes. The only thing marking Aunt Beth's land was a gate with a Private Property sign and a driveway that started at the main road and then faded into grass as it approached the mountain's edge.  The driveway was the perfect size for our rig and seemed flat and easy to park on and the view from the mountain's edge was better than any mountain view we'd encountered so far.  In the distance, we could easily see miles of wilderness and the entire Sangre de Cristo mountain range.
The next day, we filled our fresh water tanks, checked out of the Hospitality House and hauled our rig up the mountain to our new temporary home.  

We spent the first couple days exploring the area.  We learned that Cripple Creek has very little in the way of amenities.  There's one tiny grocery store-it's also attached to an Ace Hardware-the only hardware store in town, a gas station, and a liquor store.  I thought for sure there must be another grocery in a nearby town but no, the nearest large grocery is almost an hour away.  We only went into casinos twice-both times to eat.  The first night, we stumbled upon a "daily special" at one of the casino restaurants-$2 cheeseburger dinner!  Like I've mentioned before, we are traveling on a budget so when we see a deal like this we jump on it-sometimes we win, sometimes we lose.  This time was a loser.  Neither of us finished our burgers but we did gorge ourselves on the fries that came with the burgers.
Later in our stay, we found Joe's Diner, a casino diner that advertised $1 breakfast specials and was open 24 hours a day.  Oh how we wished we'd found this place earlier.  We both ordered two breakfasts each and were pleasantly surprised by how much we enjoyed our eggs and biscuits and gravy.  And .50 cent coffee with free refills!

Although Cripple Creek is a rather quiet town with little in the way of things to do other than slot machines and historic tours of old mines, we happened to be there during the annual Donkey Derby Days billed as "The Rowdiest Event of the Summer"!  This annual parade and street fair is in its 86th year and celebrates the town's free range donkeys that are reportedly direct descendants of the town's original donkeys that worked in the gold mines back in the late 1800's.  For most of the year the donkey herd freely roams the streets of Cripple Creek and can be found in parking lots, residential back yards, walking down the middle of Main Street...but during this two day celebration, the donkeys participate in a parade, a race, and are corralled into petting areas for tourists to take photos with.  The donkeys are pretty easy going and don't seem to mind the extra attention and presumably, they go back to their normal life of wandering the town's streets and alleyways after the weekend's festivities conclude.  

The biggest excitement of our Cripple Creek visit was that Alex's younger brother, CJ came to visit us.  Our very first overnight guest in the RV!  We were beyond excited-not just because we love CJ and looked forward to catching up with him but also we were excited just to have someone new to talk to!  He joined us just in time for Donkey Derby Days so the three of us spent a day in town, watching the parade, eating fair food, petting donkeys, and touring the Cripple Creek museum.  The event surpassed our expectations and felt like vintage small town America.  Having grown up in a city, my views of small town America are mostly based on movies and the few actual small towns I've visited always felt abandoned and sad in comparison.  Not Cripple Creek-it was all sunshine and vintage cars, cheerleaders on high school parade floats, tributes to veterans, fried foods, homemade fudge, booths selling handmade crafts, brass band music, happy people and donkeys.
We went home with sunburns and a pound of fudge.


Other than a couple drives on beautiful mountain roads to Colorado Springs for supplies, we didn't leave the Cripple Creek area much.  We took a day trip to a gorgeous cliff diving/swimming hole place called Guffey Gorge.  You can read about that visit HERE.  We watched incredible sunsets every night while we sat on the edge of the mountain, spent a day inside the RV watching a fog roll in that was so thick, you could barely see your hand in front of your face, we experienced golf ball sized hail pounding on the roof, we saw a group of wild turkeys walking through our camp and Western Tanagers and Clark's Nutcrackers singing in the trees.  

Two weeks wasn't long enough in this area and it is certainly on our list of places we hope to return some day.

Tips for Rvers:
1. Cripple Creek Hospitality House has full hook-ups and also offers a dump site for $5 or $10 for the dump and a fresh water fill up.
2. Recycling can be found behind the Wildwood Casino, near Joe's Diner.
3. The closest laundromat is in the nearby town of Victor-reasonable rates but no wifi.