Nancy Hecker - Travel Consultant/Travel Writer
FABLES, FOOD, FISHING AND FUN: A WEEKEND IN CREEDE
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FABLES, FOOD, FISHING AND FUN:

A Weekend In Creede

 

Meandering along a portion of the Silver Thread Scenic Byway that follows highway 149 from South Fork north to Lake City, we came across the historic little town of Creede.  Tucked away in the beautiful San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, Creede was once a wild-west mining town. “Holy Moses!” is what prospector Nicholas Creede shouted out when he first struck silver here in 1889.  Shortly thereafter, with the opening of the “Holy Moses Mine,” the great Silver Boom started in Creede!

 

Hard to imagine now with its current population of 500, but in its hey-day during the early 1890’s, Creede grew to almost 10,000 people.  And as Creede’s population swelled, gamblers and hustlers like Calamity Jane and Poker Alice drifted into town.  They set up shop in the local saloons and dance halls, while con man “Soapy” Smith moved in as self proclaimed “town boss.” With so many questionable characters in the mix, it is not surprising that Bat Masterson even lived here for a time, trying to bring some law and order to the place!

 

Indeed, we felt as if we had stepped back into that by-gone era as we drove up Creede’s seven-block long Main Street.  The old storefronts were reminiscent of the town’s colorful past.  But what most impressed us was the picturesque setting.  Creede was built right at the entrance to a magnificent canyon, framed on either side by one thousand foot high cliffs, the Pillars of Hercules.  We felt as if the road came to an end right there…. and history began! 

 

Bachelor Loop, a seventeen-mile drive along a steeply graded gravel road, took us through Creede’s historic silver mining district.  We passed many old, abandoned mines with names like “Commodore,” “Champion” and perhaps, with a bit of foreshadowing, the “Last Chance.”  When Congress passed the Sherman Silver Purchase Act in 1893, the price of silver plummeted.  A panic ensued, closing all but a few of the mines almost overnight. 

 

But in spite of the Silver Bust, Creede did not turn into a ghost town.  Instead, it eventually experienced another type of boom, this time in tourism!  Listed in John Villani’s book, 100 Best Small Art Towns in America, both the Quiller Gallery and the nationally acclaimed Creede Repertory Theatre are located here. 

 

Stephen Quiller is an internationally known and award winning watercolor artist.  He has painted in many parts of the world, but is best known for the paintings he has done around the San Juan Mountains of southern Colorado.  During the summer months, he and his wife Marta operate the Quiller Gallery on Main Street. It’s fun to browse here, and in the other lesser-known galleries as well.

 

It was students from the University of Kansas who started the Creede Repertory Theatre in the summer of 1966.  In the forty-two years since, its reputation has grown to the point that in 2005 it was named by USA Today as one of the “ten great places to see the lights way off Broadway!” Their season opens this year on May 24th with a great family musical,  “Meet the Beasts: The Fables of Aesop and La Fontaine.”  It will be playing throughout the summer, along with a nice selection of additional shows such as “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” “Fools,” and “Quilters.” 

 

Located next to the theater is the 115-year-old Creede Hotel. The hotel has only four rooms, each named after one of Creede’s most notorious figures.  But it is the hotel’s restaurant that draws the crowds, for it offers theatergoers and visitors alike an exceptional dining experience.  The chef and proprietor of the hotel is David Toole, a talented young man with a passion for the culinary arts.  A graduate of Auburn University, David had the unique opportunity to work at the five star Inn at Little Washington in Virginia, and later for various consortiums in the Palm Beach, Florida area.  During Florida’s slow summer season, David would travel to Colorado to work as a chef at La Garita Ranch, a private club not too far from Creede. 

 

While spending his summers in Colorado, David fell in love with the area.   He likened the town of Creede to a Norman Rockwell type setting.  When he heard rumor that the owners of the Creede Hotel might be receptive to the idea of selling their property, David approached them and made an offer.  That was in March of 2002. The rest, as they say, is history.   And how fortunate for those visitors to Creede who enjoy fine dining and great theater combined!

 

We’re looking forward to a return visit to Creede this summer.  We plan to bring the grandchildren for a long weekend so they can enjoy the Repertory Theatre’s production of “Meet the Beasts.”  My husband will be toting his fly fishing rod, and one or two for the grandkids, so they can wet a line together in the nearby headwaters of the Rio Grande.  Maybe they’ll catch one of those big brown trout, and have a tale or two of their own to tell!  Fables, Food, Fishing and Fun….Creede definitely has it all!

If you go:

SILVER THREAD SCENIC BYWAY

VISIT CREEDE

QUILLER GALLERY

CREEDE REPERTORY THEATRE

CREEDE HOTEL AND RESTAURANT



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