FABLES, FOOD, FISHING AND FUN:
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
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
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,
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
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: