Rockies Loop, Part 5 (Sites)

I always need at least one extra article to collect all the odds and ends that don’t fit anywhere else. Generally those involve locations or topics that might be a little off center or peculiar. In other words, they certainly fit the definition of things needing a Twelve Mile Circle visit, and maybe even worthy of a detour. They might not appeal to everyone although I bet at least one or two would sound interesting to most readers.



I always begin my plans for each a new trip by looking at the complete index of places featured previously on 12MC. That worked again for me this time. I noticed the town of Buford, Wyoming falling nicely along my intended path. Buford appeared in an article called "Bought the Town." It discussed entire towns purchased by single individuals.

That happened to Buford in 2012. A Vietnamese businessman purchased Buford for $900,000, apparently sight unseen. He seemed to have only vague plans for what he wanted to do with it too. Buford barely existed by that time, its population having dwindled precipitously since its 1866 founding. Only a single person remained in Buford along with a gas station and convenience store along Interstate 80 in rural Wyoming.

Buford needed a visit. I noticed the sign at its entrance still claimed its diminutive population. It also presented an interesting fact, that seemingly no other town along I-80 had a higher elevation. I didn’t know how to prove that or not although I liked the idea so I chose to believe it. However, it appeared the investor from Vietnam failed. I saw a nice attractive sign for his Phin Deli. Then I saw the building itself was closed, like really closed, with plywood over the windows. Buford might still have its single resident though; a house on the property seemed to be in pretty good shape.

Tree Rock

Tree in Rock

Just down the road from Buford stood a tree growing out of a rock. Oddly this simple occurrence had some notoriety going back more than a hundred and fifty years. Yes, literally a tree in a rock. People stopped to see Tree Rock and naturally I felt compelled to do the same.

Workers laying track for the Union Pacific Railroad came upon this tree sometime around 1867 and diverted their track ever so slightly to preserve it. I don’t know why they figured the tree needed such special attention although they did and they saved the tree from destruction. The same thing happened when the Lincoln Highway replaced railroad track, and again when I-80 replaced the Lincoln Highway. The tree and the rock always escaped destruction. It still sits there on a special pull-out in the median between the eastbound and westbound lanes.

The sign explained that Limber Pines like the one in the rock can live for two thousand years. Presumably, Tree Rock will last a lot longer than any of us and whatever form of transportation replaces automobiles. People will likely flock to this lone tree isolated by itself along an otherwise empty plain for hundreds of years to come.

Ashcroft Ghost Town

Ashcroft Ghost Town

Ghost towns litter the Colorado Rockies, an artifact of cyclical mining booms and busts. Towns sprouted overnight, grew to several thousand people, and then faded away just as quickly after miners grabbed whatever minerals they could from nearby hills. A few towns somehow held on although many more simply disappeared.

Ashcroft, Colorado began in 1880 with the discovery of silver nearby.

"By 1883, the camp, now called Ashcroft, was a town with a population of perhaps 2,000 with two newspapers, a school, sawmills, a small smelter, and 20 saloons—bigger than Aspen and closer to the railroad in Crested Butte."

Just a few years later, with the shallow deposits of silver depleted, people simply left. Many didn’t go far, heading barely ten miles to Aspen. A few remained although Ashcroft dwindled down to nothing by the 1930’s. The big difference with Ashcroft was that people cared about its preservation. The Aspen Historical Society got involved too and helped preserve what remained of Ashcroft in a state of halted decay.

Topo Cops


Something caught my eye in Aspen: the police cars. No, I didn’t break the law or anything of that nature. That’s not why I kept an eye out for the cops. I did it for their art work. Vehicles included a mountain scene outlined along their sides. Looking closer however, the mountains included contour lines from a topographic map. I couldn’t judge the accuracy of these police car maps. The thought that they existed made me happy… although not enough to want a ride in one of them.

Articles in the Rockies Loop Series:

  1. The Route
  2. Hikes
  3. Towns
  4. Elevation
  5. Sites
  6. Breweries

See Also: The Complete Photo Album on Flickr