Missouri Falls

One summer mom and dad surprised us with a trip to a local, but apparently not widely known, private location they referred to as Missouri Falls.

To reach Missouri Falls was a quick trip by truck since it was not too far off the highway outside of Blackhawk. After turning off the main road, we turned onto smaller ones and eventually passed the remains of a cabin. Dad said that this area was occupied in the past by the Hell’s Angels and their cabin was burned down by the law. ¬†True or not, it added color to the trip.

We parked and then had to walk through the woods a little way as I recall before we came to the waterfall. In the middle of the woods, surrounded by aspen and pine, Missouri Creek dropped off the top of a rock cliff creating a pool of ice cold water in the soft stone below, then it cascaded down the smoothed rocks into another pool further down. After creating a series of smooth rock slides into natural pools like this, the small creek continued down the valley to eventually meet up with larger and larger creeks.

Dad’s favorite flower and a frequent subject of photos.

This was obviously not the kind of water park with wristbands and pay for entry. This was just a hidden spot, deep in the woods, discovered and shared with close friends over time.

Now, it also turns out that this place was clothing optional. Being only ten years old, this was the first I had even heard that public nudity was a thing. I decided that maybe it was related to the biker history?

We went with friends of the family who turned out to be comfortable in their birthday suits. I guess mom and dad knew, but Jen and I were very surprised. To be perfectly clear, we wore our bathing suits.

Getting to the very top pool over the slippery rock was a bit scary, but that one was the deepest because the water fell the furthest. Naturally, that’s where we headed first… last one there is a rotten egg… my sister was last. That trip to the top pool was the only one that day. That was fine with me because the most fun to be had was sliding down the rocks below it and splashing into the lower pools anyway. Truth be told getting to the top one was scary, but I wouldn’t give my sister the satisfaction of knowing.

It was one of those amazing Colorado summer days that creates memories forever.

We came back to Missouri Falls a number of times that year, but I never saw anyone there other than the various families we visited with. Some clothed, some not.

I came back a few summers later with my cousin Tommy. Not for the falls, but for the cliff. I learned to repel from that cliff. Tom and I walked around to the top and he tied off the rope to a big secure rock, assuring me that it was fine. Then he walked backwards and disappeared out of view over the edge.

That entire day was spent with him showing me the ropes… so to speak. I learned to tie knots, and clip on carabiners, and after repelling in tandem with Tom, I eventually repelled down by myself. That too was a thrill I would not soon forget, even after learning to ice climb at St. Mary’s Glacier and Mt. Evans with Tom later that summer.

Sword Fights and Train Robberies

As a tourist town in the summer, Central City made and exciting background for adventure for any nine-year old boy. Imagine living in the middle of a western set for a movie. Where almost every building is dedicated to bringing the essence of mining, the old west and the Victorian era into the hearts and photographs of visitors.

From staged gun fights on the street to jail house wax museums any kid would have had a hard time not imagining himself in the middle of an adventure every day while living in Central City.

There are even bed races down the street. What is a bed race you ask? As I did of my father at nine? Well guess what, they are actual races down the street in an old fashioned bed. I learned that a guy called John pushed a lady of the night down the street in a brass bed while she was dressed in a fancy lace night gown.

Many is the time on the short walk up the street from school to the Sauer House that we would stop at the literal candy store. If you’ve been to a tourist town, surely you know the type of store. Filled from top to bottom with delectable sweets of all types. Taffy, root beer barrels, those little dots of sugar on a computer-like tape and loads of different flavored sticks of candy.

Now imagine passing such a store (or two) every single day on the way home from 4th grade. The candy store is where I fell in love with Swedish Fish and dried pineapple rings.

Sword Fights In The Snow

In the winter time, the city would mostly shut down to all but local business. The tourists would leave and the city would transform. Some stores would close until spring. This left much of the city open to exploration to the local kids while not under watchful adult eyes.

Garden between the Teller House and the Opera House.

Between the Opera House and the Teller House there was a garden with a steep path and intermittent stairs leading up to the top of the hill and the street behind the buildings. The actual purpose of the garden is probably historical and as I recall there were those little metal plaques describing one thing or another on the way up the hill.

Boys of a certain age didn’t see the garden at all, instead we saw it as a place to chase one another with sticks as swords… fighting imaginary battles up the hill.

Train Robberies

During the summer time Central City had a train that tourists would ride for a fee. In the winter time the train was not used and sat in the same location. Put up and mostly ignored until summer, the train itself became a destination for the local kids. It didn’t really matter that it was sitting still. In fact, it was probably best that it was since we often climbed up on the engine imagining ourselves engineers. We took turns being the robbers boarding the train and jumping between the cars and even on the roof of some. Likely mom and dad would not have been as thrilled as we were.

One year the window to the last car was left open. The open window allowed skinny children to climb to the top of the car, slide down the side, into the window and then into the closed up car. Turns out, the window led to a “bathroom” on the caboose and that the toilet was just a bench seat with a hole leading down onto the track below. This was an amazing scientific find and one shared far and wide with wide-eyed friends.

Shortcuts Between Buildings

The city itself is nestled in a little valley between hills. So anything not literally on the main road through the city was on a hill above. When I first moved to Central I was tickled by the fact that the streets up the hill were named 1st High, 2nd High, 3rd High and 4th High Streets.

Much of the city itself has stairways leading up from the main street to the street behind it. The stairways were often made of wood and are really a combination of boardwalk and stairway depending on the location. When you are a kid the only way to get from point A to point B was often by foot. So we knew where ALL of the stairways were and which were the quickest.

Sometimes though, the stairs were ill placed and we would take or create short-cuts between locations. Back then there was a space between the Fire Station and the building next to it. It was no more than two feet wide (probably less), but that is plenty of room for skinny boys to slip through. So we would start on East 1st High, climb down the hill that was directly behind the Fire Station, then squeeze between the wall and pop out right onto the street in a section of town not serviced by stairs.

Sliding Down Tailings

Mine tailings are essentially everything that was dug out of the ground in search of gold. In certain types of mining operations this creates a tailing pile or to uninformed what looks like a giant anthill on the side of the mountain. To young children it is a great place to slide down on your butt and for mothers a source of never ending dirt in the laundry.

In those days there was a HUGE tailing pile between Spring Street and what is now known as Central City Parkway. That huge pile was cut into two sections of what we locals at the time called the free parking lot. There was an upper and lower section and tourists could park there free naturally. It was a bit of a walk from either lot to the main portion of the city, but there was a shorter way and that was to slide down the pile of dirt.

During my first visit to Central City before we moved into the Sauer House, this tailing pile / parking lot was my favorite part of the stay.