Friday, July 4, 2014

Past and Present Alder, Colorado

The town of Alder, Colorado along Hwy. 285 viewed from the west
In 1926, my great-grandfather, Lewis Christison, moved his family to Alder, Colorado on the south side of Poncha Pass where he worked as a miner and prospector. My Grandpa, Ken Christison, Sr., was nine years old and attended school at Alder. Grandpa told a few stories to my Dad in the early 1970's about his memories of living at Alder while Dad recorded the stories on cassette tape.

Grandpa told stories about events like an explosion waking him in the middle of the night during the winter. When he got up, he found his dad had shot a rat in the cellar with the only gun he had – a
.30-.30 rifle.

In May, the family moved up the creek to “Old Man” Carothers cabin. On Grandpa’s tenth birthday, May 19, 1927, his dad gave him his first .22 rifle along with a box of 50 short shells, the only shells he could have until he shot his first rabbit. He traded three short shells for two long rifle shells for an emergency. One day, Grandpa was taking a lunch up the hill to his dad and saw two bears. Grandpa ran, then stopped and put in a long rifle shell. The bears didn’t chase him, though. His brother, Ted, measured the tracks of the bears and they were 27 feet apart running up hill.

Last week, John and I camped in a small meadow surrounded by aspen and spruce trees at Alder Creek. I called my Dad, who now lives in North Carolina, and asked if he had any idea where Grandpa had lived. Yes, Grandpa had shown him where several cabins had once stood and he had lived in one of them. I am guessing this was the Carothers cabin. Dad described crossing the creek at one place and driving a bit up the creek with boulders in it. The cabins had been on the right side of the road below the beaver dam.

We jumped on the 4-wheeler and hit the trail. We had ridden up the trail the day before, so we were a little familiar with what Dad described, but also realized things had changed since the last time Dad had been here forty years ago.

To get our bearings, we drove to the west side of the beaver pond. Instead of one small pond, there appeared to be a series of ponds or even one large pond. We could see glimpses of water through the trees for ½ a mile. But we couldn’t find a trail along the ponds.

Dad spoke of the road running alongside the creek. The main trail ran parallel to the creek, but was much higher up the side of the mountain. We found several trails down to campsites on the creek, but not a single road along the creek. At one of the campsites, the trail crossed the creek in the manner Dad described. We drove through the creek and up the bank. 

And the trail disappeared. Fallen trees and washed out banks made it seem impossible for a road to ever have run there. We set out on foot but found we couldn’t go any further. We wouldn’t be able to find the cabin. 

Disappointed, I looked down at the ground and noticed wild strawberry plants all around me. The plants were in bloom, no sweet red berries yet. Memories came to mind of visiting Grandpa’s mining claim on Spring Creek, the next creek over and of Grandpa helping me hunt for the tiny sweet berries. Sweet memories.

UPDATE: Read September 6th post "Cabin At Alder Creek"

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