Collegiate Peaks, CO: We’re In The Ivy Leagues Now

We’re in the land of the “Collegiate Peaks,” a range of 14,000’+ mountains all named for Ivy League schools. Hence, Mt. Princeton, Mt. Yale, Mt. Harvard, Mt. Columbia, et al. We’re “out of our league,” feeling inferior, because there is no Mt. Community College or Mt. Trade School to be found.

On one side of Buena Vista and Salida, those ^^ lofty mountains ^^. On the other side, the Arkansas River, a long and exciting motha (with Class II to V rapids, tumbling 4,650′ in 152 miles), and the most commercially rafted river in the U.S. for river running trips, kayaking, and water sports.

People (and dogs) while away the hours, under shade trees, watching the brave ones getting tossed into the drink. A riverwalk trail in Salida is a popular place to cool off, or if you’re an 8-month-old puppy, to learn to swim.

When you’re ready to relax in the sun, Boulder Park in downtown Buena Vista has ya covered. Tired of saggy couch cushions? That’s not going to happen here! And … the entirely tiled “living room” comes complete with doggy lazing about on the couch … just like home!

North of Buena Vista, you’ll find the aptly-named town of Twin Lakes, and its 4-sq.mi, 100-feet deep, glacially-formed, crystal-clear lakes. (That was too many adjectives in one sentence. My Yale or Harvard professors would have given me an F- for grammar.)

A hike at Twin Lakes took us to the remains of the Interlaken Hotel and Resort, which was erected in 1879. It was a popular destination for the wealthy that featured fountains, a dance pavilion, and an indoor outhouse. When the lakes were formed by the building of a dam, the road leading to the hotel was left underwater, and with it, the hopes and dreams of the owners. It was abandoned but is now part of a historic district.

The associated Dexter Cabin was the summer home of the owners of the Interlaken, which means “between the lakes.” It is even more fun, because you can actually enter the cabin and look around.

Somebody really liked stripes! The original bathtub remains, and these ornate hinges seemed extravagant for a summer cabin, but hey!! the heart wants what the heart wants, right Mr. Dexter?

The destruction of the road to Interlaken and the Dexter Cabin means that today, these historic sites can only be reached by hiking or boating there. It’s a worthy hike with a fun destination, or you can kayak across the lake (about 45 minutes) or take a two-hour historical boat tour.

Our favorite activity while in The Collegiates was a visit to Mt. Princeton Hot Springs. This venerable facility has been here since 1860, when swimsuits left a little more to the imagination.

Besides the private spa, and developed pools of natural spring water (no sulfur! no stink!) …

… this is the ultimate “do-it-yourself” hot springs. Wanna know why? Because in the area they call “creekside,” a series of individual “hot tubs” are made out of rocks.

Hot water comes out of that white pipe along the wall at 140 degrees, and flows downstream through the various hot tubs.

Meanwhile, next to the hot tubs, is an icy cold creek. Only the youngest and the hardiest brave the creek by itself. BUT …. wait for the brilliance … wait for it …..

… by shifting just a few of the loose rocks between your hot tub and the river, you can let as much or as little cold water into your area, to mix with the hot water, and form the perfect temperature for YOU! Fantastic!

Also in attendance here, a group of Instagram influencer wanna-be’s, posing for literally HOURS in their itty bitty bikinis. I did my best to position myself in the background of every shot, becasue nothing says COOL like an old lady in a tie-die bucket hat in the background of your Victoria’s Secret audition shots, while Philip kept a VERY close eye on them … maybe too close. ūüėČ

Although Colorado has no shortage of mining ghost towns, they are all so very different from each other, that I never get tired of checking them out. St. Elmo, 20 miles into the Collegiates on a mostly dirt road, is one of the more easily accessible ghost towns, with a variety of preserved buildings scattered about the site.

What’s this? A flash mob? Religious service? Bear sighting? Emergency CPR? Why is everybody gathered here?

Ahhhhh, that explains it. Domesticated chipmunks! Those little feet creep me out, and the dogs consider them to be a tasty and highly desirable snack, so we kept our distance, but here’s my brother Jeff in 2021 making nice with the little varmints on their visit to St. Elmo.

From the Collegiate Peaks, we’re heading to a different set of peaks that lead us to Crested Butte, one of the most naturally gorgeous destinations in all of Colorado!

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