A hauntingly good time

October!  With a briskness in the air, it’s the time of year to enjoy fall colors, carving jack-o-lanterns, sipping pumpkin spiced lattes, and embracing ghosts and goblins.  Halloween is one of my daughters favorite holidays and since this October finds her living in Phoenix, Arizona, I knew just the place to take her for a ghostly adventure.Jerome

JeromeFirst – on the home front, it didn’t take Ashton long to settle into her new home. She’s become quite proficient at moving.  This however, is the first time she’ll be living with two straight guys – her roommates (one of which is her brother).  Her entrance into the home might be compared to that of a tornado whipping through Kansas.  She obviously has no trouble taking charge of a situation.

The first thing the whirlwind did was reorganize the kitchen and clean out the fridge, followed by some house cleaning and the rearranging of furniture.  I’m not sure the guys initially knew what hit them, but they seemed to be ok with her take charge attitude and actually like some of the changes she made.  I know they certainly aren’t complaining about Ashton’s culinary skills.Jerome

So once she felt settled, I took her on her first Arizona excursion.  A little over an hours drive north of Phoenix is the quaint mountain town of Jerome.  Jerome prides itself as being America’s largest ghost town.

Jerome This former copper mining town grew from a settlement of tents to a roaring mining community and is now a bustling tourist and artistic community.  On the outside, Jerome doesn’t appear to have changed much over the past 100 years.  Many of the buildings built in the late 1800’s are still standing and have been proudly renovated.  However, due to the 30 degree incline of the mountainside, some of these historic buildings have slid a bit down the hill from their original location;  the most famous being the town jail.

Ashton in front of the sliding jail
Ashton in front of the sliding jail

Checking out the famous sliding jail was first on our list followed by shopping.  My daughter and I always enjoy strolling through shops  especially when there are unique, one of a kind items like the huge kaleidoscope assortment at Nellie Bly’s.

the most unique kaleidoscopes you'll ever see can be found at Nelly Bly's in Jerome, Arizona
the most unique kaleidoscopes you’ll ever see can be found at Nellie Bly in Jerome, Arizona

JeromeIn addition to the world’s largest collection of kaleidoscopes there are other one of a kind collectibles.  Ashton and I were enthralled with the creative talents displayed in the numerous shops in Jerome.  But all that shopping had us working up an appetite.

Haunted Hamburger
Skeletons seem to be invading the Haunted Hamburger Restaurant

After climbing a bunch of stairs (remember this town is built into the side of a mountain and there’s nothing flat around here), we arrived at the Haunted Hamburger.

Dining with a view
Dining with a view
Someone is scaling the wall wanting to join us
Someone or something is scaling the wall wanting to join us
note the skeletal fingers as Mr. Skeleton attempts to join us
note the skeletal fingers as Mr. Skeleton attempts to join us

We dined outside and enjoyed drinks, a great meal, and an awesome view.  But no ghosts.  Only skeletons.  Supposedly the building is haunted and you can read the story here if you’re interested.

JeromeWith nothing spooky happening at lunch, we continued our search and trekked up the road to the Jerome Grand Hotel.  Constructed in 1926, this Spanish Mission style building was once home to a modern and well equipped hospital.

By 1950, the hospital closed due to the slow down in mining, and the building stood vacant for 44 years.  In 1994, the building was purchased, renovated, and turned into the Jerome Grand Hotel.  There seems to be a high level of alleged hauntings, from strange moans, to coughs and images, to doors slamming without explanation making this a very popular destination for amateur ghost hunters.

The Jerome Grand Hotel displays some of the most gory Halloween decorations. Daughter love it. Me? Not so much.
The Jerome Hotel displays some gory Halloween decorations. Daughter loved it. Me? Not so much.
Zombies, blood, and gruesome are the things I dislike about Halloween much preferring little kids dressed as princesses and teddy bears
Zombies, blood, and gruesome are the things I dislike about Halloween much preferring little kids dressed as princesses and teddy bears

Glass BlowingAfter I was totally grossed out by some of the decorations, it was time for me to pull daughter out of the haunted Jerome Hotel…… not that we had any paranormal encounter mind you, but the place in general gave me goose bumps, and not in  good way.  Was it the decorations or the aura?  Didn’t matter, it was time to move on.  Somehow I didn’t sense Casper, the friendly ghost, lived here.

Next stop; the glass blower.  Watching this artist create little glass blown pumpkins was much more to my liking, although daughter is still laughing about my unease at the hotel.  Aren’t these glass pumpkins adorable?Glass Blower

The town of Jerome is well-known as being haunted and has been featured in several paranormal television programs and publications, but the over all history and vibe to this town is what keeps many returning…. me included.

"Mommy, I want that"
“Mommy, I want that”
interesting items available in a shop
interesting items available in a shop
Jerome is home to some fabulous art galleries
Jerome is home to some fabulous art galleries
Be sure and stop in at Nellie Bly
Be sure and stop in at Nellie Bly

Ashton and I shared a fabulous day exploring Jerome and October seems to be the perfect month to visit for a hauntingly good time.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for the mine tour or wine tasting (much to daughters dismay) or exploring some of the side streets.  Having merely scratched the surface of this quaint town, she and I are already talking about a return visit.  Next time Ashton wants to spend the night, some place haunted preferably.  I don’t think so!!!

Numerous places for wine tasting
Lots of great dining options
Could this place be haunted?
There isn't a bad view in Jerome
There isn’t a bad view in Jerome


The Everything Ghost Hunting Book: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Exploring the Supernatural World

Is it worth the drive?

I’m going to wrap up my series of posts on “Top 5 favorite Colorado mountain towns” by heading up in elevation.  Hold on, as the only road to get to Silverton, Colorado, is not for the faint of heart.

Silverton, Colorado
Highway 550 in southwestern Colorado

Silverton sits in southwestern Colorado and there’s only one paved road leading to this charming and historic town.  I need to put an emphasis on the word paved because this former mining town is host to some of the most fantastic 4×4 back country roads.  That said, you’ll need to know not to trust your GPS because if she recommends any other route other than Highway 550, you may find yourself traversing one of those high clearance, dirt, mountain roads, turned summer fun four-wheeling routes.  Many of those old mining roads are numbered, named, and recognized on maps, and trust me when I say you’ll want a “high clearance” vehicle traveling these back roads as deep ruts, rocks, and water are common encounters.

Highway 550
Highway 550 in southwestern Colorado

So to get to Silverton from the south, you’ll need to take Highway 550 from the town of Durango and travel about 50 miles north on a beautiful and scenic well maintained road.  The road twists, bends, goes up, and goes down as it meanders through the San Juan Mountain Range.  There are drop offs with Aspen treesguard rails or maybe not.

You’ll pass mountains, lakes, and streams and take in some jaw dropping beauty.  And when the wildflowers are blooming in July and August or the Aspen tree leaves turn golden in September….. oohhh …. my ….. gosh!!!  Let’s just say, it’s a sight to behold and photographs rarely capture the enormity of such a spectacular and stunning sight.

If driving mountain roads isn’t your thing, consider taking the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.  The rail route is even more scenic than the highway and the train pulls right into the town of Silverton.Durango & Silverton Train

SilvertonOnce in Silverton, you’ll find the town has a natural beauty that’s steeped in Victorian charm and mining history.  Gold was discovered here in the 1860’s.  The town was platted in 1874 and by the late 1800’s the main business section was built.

On the “other side of town”, is notorious Blair Street.   At one point, Blair Street was home to 40 saloons and brothels.   Many of the original buildings are still standing today and have been turned into quaint gift shops and restaurants.

Tidbit: During the mining boom, Silverton boasted a population surpassing 2,000.  Today the year round population is less than 700.  Although tourism has replaced mining as the current economic engine, conjecture is someday mining will return.

Silverton is listed on both the National Register of Historic Places and the National Historic Landmark District.

Silverton, Colorado
It was a cool and wet September day when we last visited Silverton.

Silverton, ColoradoWith mining heavily ingrained in the area’s history, the back country is dotted with remnants of abandoned mines and ghost towns.  Have a high clearance vehicle?  The old mining roads are a blast to explore and remains my favorite thing to do in this part of Colorado.

The visitor center in the town of Ouray provides free maps and info to help you navigate the back country.  The visitor center in Silverton also has a lot of info but charges for some maps.

In Ouray (pronounced; your ray) there’s several businesses that rent Jeeps, ATV’s, and Razors allowing one to explore the high country at one’s own level and pace.  There’s also a few places in Silverton that offer rentals.  However, for those less experienced in high mountain four-wheeling, a guided tour might be the perfect option.San Juan mountains

During previous visits, Al and I have taken the Toyota Tacoma on a couple of the “easy” 4×4 roads.  The map info is very helpful in rating these roads and we wanted to start easy and work our way up.  We’ve taken “Last Dollar Road” to Telluride and “Owl Creek Pass” to Silver Jack Reservoir.  Although lovely and enjoyable drives, neither road took us above tree line and with the exception of a couple of rutted areas, a Subaru or CRV could easily travel these two 4×4 roads.

The view along Last Dollar Road

For those of us looking for a true white knuckle Colorado experience, there’s Black Bear Pass.  I’m still working on hubby for us to rent a RZR and tackle this insane scary road, but I’m not averse to signing up for a tour with an experienced driver.  Actually the more I watch this video, the more I think that’s the way to go.

And speaking of white knuckle driving, I’ve shared the route from Durango to Silverton, now let’s talk about driving from the other direction.  Coming from the north, the 21 miles via Highway 550 from Ouray to Silverton, otherwise known as the Million Dollar Highway, is an experience in itself.

Million Dollar Highway
a part of the Million Dollar Highway

This two-lane mountainous highway can be a challenging and potentially hazardous drive due to narrow lanes, steep cliffs, and no guard rails.  There are some hairpin curves, elevation changes, and the road is shared with semi-trucks and brave RV drivers.

PoppyWe’ve driven Highway 550 from Durango to Ouray with the truck camper many years ago, but not with the 5th wheel.  It’s all about comfort level.  Northbound traffic gets the luxury of hugging the inside of the curves while southbound traffic gets to be perched on the outside edge.

Is it worth the drive to visit Silverton?  Absolutely!  The drive is an integral part of the overall adventure.  Regardless of which direction one travels from, the San Juan Mountains are breathtaking, and once in Silverton, the towns’ rough, rustic character easily transports a soul back in time.

Ridgway State Park
camping at Ridgway State Park

So there you have it – my Top 5 Favorite Colorado mountain towns;
Telluride – everyone’s favorite
Crested Butte and Grand Lake – my two favs (family memories play an important role in why they are “my” favorites) and then there’s Frisco and Silverton, each with their own unique draw, charm, and character.San Juan Mountains

Camping near Silverton? There are a bunch of camping options, however I can’t speak from experience. We’ve always camped at Ridgway State Park and driven Highway 550, aka the Million Dollar Highway, to Silverton for day trips with just the truck.  If you’re interested in a little more info on camping around Silverton, you can check out Amanda’s post here.  You can also find more camping reviews in western Colorado by checking out Nina’s blog here or my buddy Russ here.

We find ourselves returning to Colorado every summer and during each visit we discover more hidden gems.  I guess there’s more than one kind of mining when it comes to finding gems!Rocky Mountains

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