If my trip to Fairplay assured me of one thing, it is this: in a past life I was a cowgirl, of this I am certain. One of the things I like most about the mountains is the sprawling openness. All of this empty space seems to fill my mind with daydreams.
It seems like you're all alone in the world when you're winding up the mountainside, when suddenly around bend comes a small mountain village. You will likely pass through countless tiny towns in the Colorado mountains on the way to where you're going. Even on the short trip down main street, you will see that each of these towns has a quaintness all their own. There is a comfort in knowing that the blanket of solitude is really just a farce and that everything you could need is never too far out of reach.
Fairplay and mountain towns, in general, can be a bit harder to get to once the snow comes in, which happens much earlier here than most places. It was wonderful to arrive at this time when the mountains were painted in bright red and gold leaves.
When we arrived, it was cold and drizzling. I could see snow falling a few mountaintops away from us and was surprised to see the town still bustling, even on such a gloomy day. We start at Old South Park City (yes, the real South Park, although you won't find Cartman, Kenny, or Kyle here), which is a sight to behold. It is a museum now, dirt road and all. The buildings, around 40 in total, date back to around the late 1800's. Seven of these buildings are original to what is now better known as Fairplay. Some of the more authentic buildings have been moved from the surrounding areas around Fairplay and into the museum.
In exploring more, I have found that sadly a lot of these "towns" lean toward gimmicky rather than authentic. In Fairplay, you will see what a town during the gold rush really looked like. They pay special attention to detail, as you can see in the period artifacts artfully incorporated into the storefronts. You can tell this is a place kept alive by care, not greed. The entire town has an air of friendliness about it. I felt welcome as soon as I arrived. It may be a small town, as mountain towns go, but it makes up for it in quaint historical style.
The town's original chapel, built in 1864 is well-maintained and still used today.
The rich history here is alive and well, though the Pike's Peak gold rush ended long ago. The courthouse, also built in 1864, is still standing beautifully in the center of town. Beside the Hand Hotel, you may see a building dedicated to Prunes with a burro in front of it. This is the grave of a burro who worked in the mines for over 60 years. His partner, a man named Rupert asked to be buried next to Prunes when he passed away.
Although the trip started as a way to see the leaves changing with the season, it became a wonderful adventure into a history hiding in Colorado that I didn't really know much about.
Fairplay is definitely a place worth getting to know better. To live in this state my entire life and still be able to see it from a new perspective is a gift, if not sometimes a challenge. I want to explore more of this mysterious state of mine, and find more hidden treasures to share with you all.
Where do you want to discover?