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Colorado Rocky Mountain Low

1996 - Cabinet Wilderness Area - Dean and Buck(Excerpted from Chapter 19: Cruising Babylon: The Grateful Unrich…)

The road crests as we cross into northeastern Colorado on Hwy 287. We pull into a small rest area to let the dogs run and fill our water jugs. Images of a pristine Colorado quickly fade as we gradually become aware that this water is making us ill. This first experience serves as a fine metaphor for Colorado, the most naturally beautiful state in the union, now sick from decades of mining and development. As we near Fort Collins, the latter ailment comes into full view.

The entire front range of the Colorado Rockies has been subdivided into oblivion by a rising tide of coastal imports and nirvana-seeking money bags of obnoxious attitude. The state’s drivers quickly get my vote as the worst in the nation. Road rage and tailgating are the norm. I hold the blue van at 50 mph – my usual speed – projecting facial disdain in my rear view mirror as I slow down even more to piss off would be aggressors.

The formerly free campground at Watson Lake State Wildlife Refuge has been transformed into a Fort Collins suburbanite escape where attempts at fishing quickly turn laughable. The now day use only area is trashed. I can see why the state finally disallowed these barbarians from overnighting here. We steam onward into the traffic snarl that is downtown Fort Collins – home of Colorado State University. The sprawl begins here and doesn’t let up until well south of Denver, over 100 miles of look alike cul-de-sac hell mixed with generous portions of the old any town USA formula of Target, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Taco Bell and Burger King.

Seeing, as usual, opportunity in this garbage heap, we peddle our remaining tools at a high-dollar pawn shop, trade in a book for two Americanos and some fancy biscuit-type things at Barnes & Noble and sell $50 worth of Peruvian beads to a flaky New Age precursor to Armageddon. Then we head for the hills.

At Loveland we steer west and begin a dramatic ascent of Hwy 34, which winds its way up a narrow canyon paralleling the Big Thompson River. The traffic wanes and the scenery becomes more inviting. We drive into Estes Park. I instantly think it the most beautiful town I have seen on this planet. By the looks of the town folk we could never afford to live here, but the snow-capped backdrop of Rocky Mountain National Park makes me very glad to visit. We wedge our way between a couple of BMWs at Safeway and marvel at the sunset as we call it a night.

This morning we locate a good coffee shop then set about peddling wool sweaters, which still take up most of the space in the van. No owners are present to talk with. I suppose they don’t need to work much in a place like this. We sell one cardigan to an employee for $55, then head west towards the park entrance. We flash our Golden Eagle Pass and start through a meadow filled with bighorn sheep. The road heads skyward until we are driving through what looks to be Arctic tundra. The mid-August air takes on an amazing chill as we drive slowly past waterfalls cascading from snowy peaks. Milner Pass, at 10,758’, feels like the roof of the world. The view in all directions is breathtaking. We stop at a turnout to fully absorb the wonder. As we cross the Continental Divide for the first time since Butte and begin our descent, the slopes grow more lush and green, with large stands of aspen and birch clustered around moss-covered rocks. The temperature quickly regains its footing as we reach Grand Lake, then Lake Granby.

We pull off for the night in the Roosevelt National Forest just outside Winter Park on the banks of the Fraser River. There is no campground, but one can remain anywhere on National Forest land for fourteen days without hassle. We have covered lots of slow precarious miles in a few short days. Sleep comes easy tonight.

This morning we find a good coffee joint in Winter Park and sell $26 worth of necklaces to a shop just north of town. We had expected Winter Park to be bigger and more commercialized and are pleasantly surprised. Leaving town on Hwy 40 headed south, we switchback our way up to 11,315’ Berthoud Pass. Near the top is Berthoud Ski Area. Even now there is deep snow alongside the road. The drop down to I-70 is steep. At the bottom of the precipice is the town of Empire – a notorious speed trap for Denver action heroes who blaze through after weekends roughing it at some $200/night Winter Park condo.

We head west on I-70 and pass through the Eisenhower Memorial Tunnel – a testament to man’s inability to find a way over the immensity that is the Gore Range. Emerging from the darkness we are greeted with an 8% grade down into the town of Dillon. A cop seems to follow us. I try to ignore him and focus on this surprisingly dangerous stretch of Interstate. He can’t possibly know I haven’t had insurance in ten years. I am relieved to pull off at the Dillon exit. We score a free Sunday Denver Post at a Hardees and drive out to Snake River Inlet on the Arapahoe National Forest, where we plan to camp for the night. Much to our chagrin, this formerly free campground has also become a day use-only area, this time no doubt owing to the nouveau riche condo dwellers that have overrun this fast-growing town. I am sure the thought of anyone sleeping here for free must be troublesome to these heavily-mortgaged climbers.

The ruin of Dillon, it appears, is a foregone conclusion, owing to its proximity to both Keystone and Breckenridge ski resorts. Pissed off, we hop back onto I-70 for a brief jaunt to Hwy 91, which we take south towards Leadville. Tubs II is behaving like a real trooper. He chugs up yet another pass, crossing back east of the divide at the appropriately-named town of Climax on 11,318’ Fremont Pass. We pull off on the downside run and call it a night in the White River National Forest.

Downtown Leadville is trying to become trendy, but it’s a difficult task since the town resides next to over 100 years of toxic lead mine tailings. In the old days ASARCO ran this town. It has since given way to other various tentacles of Rockefeller Inc., which still mine here, though now more for gold than lead. The city council of Leadville has found ASARCO guilty of several crimes against nature, but neither the company nor the Guggenheim family that made its fortune running it along with the Rockefellers are anywhere to be heard in responding to the town’s claims. The state of Colorado, historically a whipping boy for Big Mining, has been equally silent. Naturally the PAC-money fed pigs at the Washington trough will do nothing to spoil their dinner party plans.

For all its problems, Leadville has an understated Butte-like charm to it, along with a history as interesting as any town in America. In a runoff, I’d still take Butte due to its comedian Bill Murray-owned Copper Kings minor league baseball club, comic relief being especially important in a town whose biggest tourist attraction is the toxic Berkeley Pit. Despite its charm, we do not wish to linger or to even touch anything here in Leadville. We opt to head south.

Clouds begin to form over the Sawatch Range. The terrain becomes more arid as we travel along Hwy 24 toward Twin Lakes. Here we turn west onto Hwy 82 and find ourselves once again surrounded by greenery as we attack the Continental Divide once more. The precarious switchbacks end at Independence Pass. At 12,095’ this is to my knowledge the highest drivable point in America. We park it and head out on the section of the Continental Divide Trail, which crosses here. We trudge breathlessly through wildflower-laced tundra, amazed at the alpine ecosystem we encounter. Huge overhangs of dirty snow lie just beneath the trail, waiting to crash into the valley below. The dogs love it. We return to the van and make a couple of deluxe tuna sandwiches. We decide to sleep here at the top of America and plot our assault on Aspen, where big money offers high hopes of losing a bunch of sweaters.

Dean Henderson is the author of five books: Big Oil & Their Bankers in the Persian Gulf: Four Horsemen, Eight Families & Their Global Intelligence, Narcotics & Terror Network, The Grateful Unrich: Revolution in 50 Countries, Das Kartell der Federal Reserve, Stickin’ it to the Matrix & The Federal Reserve Cartel.  You can subscribe free to his weekly Left Hook column @

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10 thoughts on “Colorado Rocky Mountain Low

  1. Yes, Colorado has been “Californicated”. About 15 years ago I took a vacation in my 1968 pickup truck (with camper shell). I saw no other vehicles as old as mine. Some people even asked if I needed help as though I was destitute, which I was not. It seemed that if one cannot afford a new Ferrari or at least a Mercedes, don’t plan on living in Colorado.

    Posted by David McElroy | August 26, 2013, 5:25 pm
  2. We moved to Colorado from Milwaukee, WI. in 1957. Bought furniture at “Larry Huke’s” in Arvada, (population I believe was +/- 13000.), The “contract” was a promise to pay X a month ’til paid for, closed w/ a handshake. Then, slowly, over the years, you had snakes like Romer, sans “Romero”, Ben “knighthorse”, (the “Nighthorse” was added as he infected politics), Campbell. They privatized workman’s comp, (a real citizen screwing now), then capped off with weasels like Pena etc. etc. etc. The “movers and shaker”…..”giants of Industry” swoop in, befoul everything, swoop out and leave the diseased bones, polluted water and clean up bill for the drooling idiots that make up 90% of this dying republic. The only truly good thing about the ultimate death of this global pariah Is, without the fools drooling to do Israel’s bidding, (insert bleeding/paying/dying), they will rapidly get a taste of their own foul medicine and the world en toto will be a MUCH safer/enjoyable place… As we used to say as children;
    “Good riddance to bad rubbish!”


    Posted by paschn | August 26, 2013, 6:52 pm
  3. The Eisenhower tunnel does not go through the Gore Range. That would be Vail (the highway engineer) Pass, which goes over it.
    Incidentally, Eisenhower was among the world’s worst (and least known) war criminals. Search engine…”eisenhower’s death camps.” See also the book..”Crimes and Mercies” Baque.

    Posted by Mark Timothy | August 26, 2013, 11:29 pm
    • Nice to see folks learning the many facts about Allied “heroes”. Most of the German men, women and children victimized by Eisenhower were murdered after the war. He was known as the “terrible Swedish Jew” at West Point. MacArthur disliked him as much if not more than Patton, both thought him incompetent but his political connections made him virtually “untouchable”. It was he, along with Morgenthau that pushed for the genocidal annihilation of hundreds of thousands of German civilians in Dresden, (a completely UN-military target. Had the saintly West and the Central Bank controlled League of Nations listened to Hitler’s pleas regarding the CHEKA slaughtering of German civilians, (+/-60,000), in the Danzig Corridor the 2nd world war would never have happened. But then the City of London would not have met financial projections for the year.

      Posted by paschn | August 27, 2013, 10:17 am
  4. Great report, Dean. What’s this I keep hearing about SW Colorado–small ranchers and farmers being railroaded off their lands? True? Apparently the central government wants the region depopulated.

    Baltimore, Md.

    Posted by Michael | August 27, 2013, 8:51 am
  5. I live in Colorado. You nailed it on the head. The rich found this place. They’ve built their trophy homes (2nd, 3rd or 4th homes at that) and took over local government. They closed down every small ma and pa business with in a couple hundred miles of me. Want dinner? You’ve got Applebee’s or Chilies as your choices. They regulated the famer’s markets into oblivion and now Safeway boasts the best market in Colorado. Laughable. Don’t even get me started on the $300 a month water bills some are paying because investors came in and bought up the water that their house was sitting on top Of. Colorado has 14 million acres of public land, but I’m not sure for how long. The rich belong to a club, and none of us are memeners. they truely belive that National Forest belongs to them….there for them to use…. to admire. The thought of some common germ being able to use it for free is all too real. I moved to Colorado because it was a place I dreamed of ever since I first saw pictures of it in my New Knowledge encyclopedias. My wife and I live in a shack….a SHACK and we can barely afford the rent and that’s with no car payments or credit card payments. The Wall Street executives and hedge fund managers and gold holders have discovered this place and made it their little get away and in the process forced the normal peron either into the ghettos of Aurora, Colorado or plywood shacks on the High Plains. My wife and I are headed back to Wisconsin where the majority of all necessities are still relatively free!

    Posted by Abe | August 27, 2013, 10:02 am
    • Abe, the SW is running on borrowed water anyway. This water constriction plus demographic changes will sweep these destructive people–the ones w/ high dollars–out. That’s my opinion. They don’t understand that they must have working class people around or they can’t survive long term. The rich rest most comfortably on a vigorous working class. I mean a healthy working class–only from being treated well by the rich. But the little guys can’t afford to live around these rich.


      Posted by Michael | August 27, 2013, 9:52 pm
  6. You mentioned making deluxe tuna sandwiches. Stop eating tuna! In fact, stop eating all food coming from the Pacific Ocean! Thanks to Israhell’s Stuxnet virus, the Pacific Ocean has essentially been murdered. The stuxnet virus compromised all the back up systems of the Fukashima Daichi power plant. The evidence is in and it is conclusive. The reactors at Daichi were compromised by, what appears to be, Mossad operatives. If this is in fact true; the entire world must now rise up against Israhell and call it to account in the world court for not only crimes against humanity but for crimes against our planet.

    Posted by Emmanuel Truthseeker | August 28, 2013, 10:10 am
  7. No disagreement with you all. However, we are making a good living off the rich. They aren’t here very much but they need services. The State is absolutely overrun with tourists. Another cash cow . Go into business, camp in the woods and catch hatchery trout.

    Posted by cal | August 28, 2013, 9:09 pm

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