Let me say up front that Colorado and New Mexico are two of my favorite States to visit. They have so much history including Santa Fe, Fort Bent’s Historic site, Ouray, and Mesa Verde National park. I have been to those several times and hope to get in at least one more visit. In both States are thousands of small towns with very little population but quite a bit of history, if you dig deep enough to find it. It’s amazing that they have survived as long as they have. Some have a population of zero, but most have at least a hundred or two citizens.
For this travelogue entry I will be concentrating on Antonito Colorado history which in some ways is typical of many. The town was formed, like many other Colorado towns, by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. The town currently has about 600 residents, although we only saw four of them during our visit. It has several abandoned buildings and a couple still open including the Golden Nugget Nite Club shown above. I suspect that is a very active place on most Saturday nights. 🥴
Antonito has without any doubt one of the most eclectic residences I have ever been. When we stopped in front of the Golden Nugget to take pictures we chatted with a couple of locals who told us about a house “we just have to see”.
We followed their directions and came up Cano’s Castle. We never saw anyone around, but later discovered that the builder/resident was a very private man who seldom talked to any visitors, announced or unannounced.
Later we found out that Cano’s Castle is well known throughout the country. It was built by Dominic “Cano” Espinoza. He is a very private man to says God built the castle, not him. He has been living in this off-the-grid abode since 1987. If you are interested in more of the story click here. He certainly is quite a character
Click on any picture below to see a larger slideshow view.
Even as a young kid I imagined that I once lived as a mountain man in the Rocky Mountains. No, I’m not a Shirley MacLaine type who remembers all my previous lives, it was more about the fascination of living a solitary life in the Rockies. I’m sure my Aspie traits had something to do with it, but it was also brought on by my overactive imagination. 😉 I don’t really remember the books I read as a youth to spur the dream of being a mountain man, but I’m sure they existed. For that reason Ft. Bridger has been on my bucket list before I even knew there was such a thing.
A Little Background
Fort Bridger was the biggest rendezvous in the mountain man days. As shown here it took place between 1825 and 1840. There is an annual reenactment in the first weekend of September and is the largest such gathering in the nation.
The town of Ft. Bridger itself has a population of about 300 people and I think has one gas station/general store. There is also a some small mom-and-pop rental cabins and a campground that I expect is reserved years ahead for this particular weekend. From a cursory view, it looks like a fifty-mile trek to a city of any size. So, needless to say the first weekend in September is THE event of the year.
I knew before my visit that this rendezvous was one of the biggest in the US. I got there early so managed to get a parking spot near the entrance. If it had been a couple of hours later I would have had a mile long trek to get to the gate. As soon as I got through the gate it struck me that this rendezvous was quite different from any I had been to before. Almost everyone dresses for the event. I think they drew about 10,000 the day I visited and most had on 1840’s garb.
To keep from looking out of place, I quickly found a booth to buy things that were period appropriate and then rushed back to my µRV to change. Upon entering the gate properly attired I discovered just how big it this rendezvous was. I had visited a couple of dozen others and this one was likely bigger than all of those combined. But since it was spread out a couple hundred acres or more it did not feel crowded to this city guy.
I spent about 10 hours there and walked over 10 miles and I still don’t think I saw everything. But what I remember most was the frying pan throw and the Native American dances and rituals and the recreated fort with all the surrounding activity. Booths, demonstrations and storytelling were everywhere. There was also a women’s shooting range and of course, the compensatory tomahawk throwing contests lined the venue throughout the day.
This was the longest trip I have taken to a rendezvous but well worth the time. I am putting together a more thorough on-the-road storytelling report about this trip that will soon be available over at one of my other blogs that is dedicated to storytelling. I will give you the address here when it is completed.
Enough for now I will let these pictures tell you the rest of the story. If you have any questions just drop a comment or note and I will try to answer them.
Click on any picture to see a larger version slideshow: