Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sunshine, CO

Sunshine was an important early mining community in the mountains outside of Boulder, CO. It is largely abandoned these days, though the U.S. Census claims that there are 230 full-time residents who can still claim to live in Sunshine.

The road into Sunshine, CO
Sunshine, CO was founded in 1874 and was named after a large tellurium lode that was discovered nearby by D.C. Patterson. The town grew quickly and haphazardly, as most mining towns do, and the result was a bustling community that boasted nearly 1,200 residents during its glory days. Several more mines were opened in the nearby hills and the community thrived through the first quarter of the 20th century, though eventually it succumbed to the economic crash of the Great Depression, as did a number of small mining towns in Colorado, such as Caribou, and by the 1930s it was effectively a ghost town.

A fun fact about Sunshine is that the town's founders intended the community to be a mining town apart from all the rest, a town that would have a sound moral basis and wouldn't be known for the kind of excesses that plagued other mining communities. Saloons in Sunshine were required to close on Sundays, and one of the first municipal buildings built for the community was a schoolhouse. Sunshine School District #28 was organized in 1875 and served 103 pupils in its first year.

Sunshine is a great little ghost town, and there are apparently quite a few buildings left form the original town, though the majority off them are either located on private property or have been incorporated into newer buildings that are still being used by residents who remain in the area. As you head up Sunshine Canyon there are a handful of older buildings that are visible by the side of the road, and one particularly memorable collection of old mining equipment in someone's front yard, but many of the buildings are back off the road quite a ways and are not easily visible. Be aware that if you head off into the woods to see something you are more than likely walking across someone's yard. Be courteous and don't go where you haven't been invited.

Sunshine Cemetery
The gates of Sunshine Cemetery
The Sunshine Cemetery is one of the few remaining, and easy to find, traces of what was once a bustling little mountain town. Located in a field next to the road heading up Sunshine Canyon, the cemetery is small and quaint, as most mountain cemeteries are, and is still relatively well cared for despite the fact that the town it served doesn't exist any more. After a quick tour of the tombstones you can definitely tell that you are touring a mining town cemetery. The residents of the cemetery tend to fall into two categories; children who passed away before the age of ten, or men in their twenties whose memorial inscriptions tend to involve the words "mining accident". We were able to find some tombstones that date back to the 1880s, basically right after the town was founded, and there are a large number of visible, though otherwise unmarked, graves that fill up the bulk of the space within the cemetery.
Graves in Sunshine, CO

Getting There By Bike...
Are you ready for a climb? Sunshine Canyon is actually one of the more popular evening and weekend riding spots for a lot of cyclists in Boulder, but that's almost entirely because the grade is steep and rather unrelenting. There is a parking area at the bottom of the canyon where you'll find any number of cyclists unloading their bikes from their cars and preparing for a hard workout. If you decide to drive up instead, please be aware that you will be passing cyclists on the shoulder both going up and coming down. If you keep going up Sunshine Canyon you'll eventually reach another small mining community, Gold Hill, CO. Gold Hill is worth the trip if you have the legs. There are a lot of original buildings and the town looks almost exactly the same as it did in the 1870s.

1 comment:

  1. Marvelous! I thought you were going to be writing about the Colorado sunshine! Great article, as always. I will have to get up to Sunshine and Gold Hill someday. Certainly, however, it will be off of bicycle. :)