There are plenty of ghost stories involving the hotel built by the Stark family after they moved to St. Elmo in 1881. Two of their three children, Dirty Annie and her brother Tony, were the last surviving full-time residents living in St. Elmo. They ran the Home Comfort Hotel with a general store and even operated the post office until it closed in 1952. As business faded away, so did the condition of the hotel. There was no electricity or plumbing so living conditions were primitive. The name, Dirty Annie, evolved from her appearance and lack of bathing. After Tony died, she was moved to a nursing home by relatives and died in 1960.
Annie was said to walk the streets with gun in hand protecting the town from vandals and thieves. Some believe she can still be seen on nights when the moon is full carrying a double barrel shotgun in front of the Home Comfort Hotel. That lone skier believed Annie was the woman in the white dress standing in the window keeping a watch on the street below.
More than a half century has passed since Dirty Annie lived in St. Elmo. The general store is down the street from the Home Comfort Hotel in a building called the Miner's Exchange. It has served in the past as a saloon and a bank. The store is owned and operated by Lee, Chris, and Nora. You can find their website at www.st-elmo.com. The store has a wide range of guide books, souvenirs, and even Miners Run T-shirts.
You'll find old fashioned mountain humor dished out from behind the counter and they don't mind getting some in return. One fellow walked in and said, "Do you know any short hikes near here?" The answer was, "Back to your car is a good start." Another family was standing outside having a picnic lunch and dropping wrappers on the ground. Lee carried a trash can out to them and started throwing stuff on the ground beside them. "Since you folks obviously like living in garbage, I just wanted you to feel at home." They picked up all the trash before they left, including the stuff Lee tossed out and everything else they found on the ground.
Several years ago, before Lee decided to run his store, the lady in charge, Mary, saw some people with a little dog near the chipmunks. They seemed to delight in watching the dog chase the little critters. Mary stepped out of the store with a pistol in her hand. She cocked the hammer and said, "Dog's got to the count of three." The dog was quickly scooped up and put in the car as nearby spectators clapped and cheered.
If the year had been 1886, during the late afternoon hours, those people standing on the street might have been waiting for the Aspen Stage. The Sanderson Stage Company had a route going over Tincup Pass, through Tincup, over Taylor Pass, and into Aspen. It ran seven days a week and was always loaded with freight and passengers. During the winter, crews were hired to keep the passes open.
Miners Run is the name Lone Writer gave to a route he first wrote about in 1987. It leaves St. Elmo, travels over Tincup Pass to Tincup, then follows Miners Ridge to Cumberland Pass. It continues toward Pitkin and takes the railroad grade to the Alpine Tunnel. From there, it crosses Hancock Pass and ends up back in St. Elmo. The route can be done in a long day at a semi-leisurely pace. Those who enjoy poking around old ruins will need at least two days.
Tincup is another town with a mining history. It is more populated than St. Elmo because of the Taylor Reservoir Recreation Area. Although a lot of the cabins date back a hundred years, they are upgraded and used as summer homes.
The name Tincup came from a prospector named Jim Taylor. He was traveling the area in 1861 and dipped a tin cup into a stream for a drink of water. He found color in the bottom of the cup. The town started out as Virginia City and was changed to Tin Cup. It was later changed to Tincup (one word). Both spellings can be found depending on where you look.
The two largest mines were the Jimmy Mack and the Gold Cup. Both were located south of town on the road to Cumberland Pass. Gold Cup was the closest and the longest lasting of the two. It would be a side trip off the Miners Run Loop. To find it, follow the signs toward the cemetery but continue past it. You might enjoy a few minutes at the cemetery. Religion was segregated so there is a Catholic Noll, a Protestant Noll, and a Boot Hill Noll for those who didn't spend any time in church.
Tincup was a very wild and wooly town. Three of the first eight marshals were shot and two of them just gave up and quit. The town was run by the gambling kings so they changed the laws for the marshal to enforce depending on the requirements of the day. The most famous of saloons was Frenchy's Place. A small cafe now exists with that name.
The Miners Run loop route meanders up Miners Ridge and through much of the remains of the Jimmy Mack Mine on Duncan Hill. If you have the time, set up camp and spend a day exploring the numerous buildings and mine tailings. Watch out for open shafts and don't step on any of the rotten boards that cover them.
The approximate half way point around the loop is at the top of Cumberland Pass. When the mines near Tincup were operating, ore had to be loaded on wagons and taken over Cumberland Pass to reach the railroad near Pitkin. In the next issue, we will follow the railroad grade back to St. Elmo.
Miners Run includes some rough sections and requires a high clearance vehicle. There are no crews to clear the snow. If you are coming from some distance, the best plan is to call the St. Elmo Store at (719) 395-2117 for current conditions.
Trip Meter - Latitude N - Longitude W - Landmarks, Intersections, and other locations
0 - N38 42.2476 - W106 20.7845 - The bridge in St. Elmo. Turn left and follow the signs up Tincup Pass Road on Chaffe County 267.
6.4 - N38 42.5493 - W106 26.0750 - Tincup Pass. 12,154 ft.
6.5 - N38 43.0040 - W106 26.1567 - The old Tincup wagon road is the right fork. That road is for experienced four-wheelers only.
7.4 - N38 43.2818 - W106 26.2793 - Other end of the old wagon road.
9.3 - N38 44.8455 - W106 25.8353 - Mirror Lake Campground is left.
9.6 - N38 45.0931 - W106 26.0602 - Public outhouse.
12.3 - N38 45.2875 - W106 28.8159 - Tincup stop sign. Left.
0.2 - N38 45.0491 - W106 28.8178 - Left goes to the Tincup Cemetery and the Gold Cup Mine. Follow the signs to the cemetery.
0.6 - N38 44.8791 - W106 28.6411 - Cemetery parking. When finished, go back to the main road and reset trip meter to zero.
0 - Turn left on main road. Go 1/10 of a mile to the Miners Ridge Road Turnoff.
0.1 - N38 44.946 - W106 28.905 - This is the Miners Ridge Road turnoff.
1.9 - N38 43.554 - W106 28.789 - Stay right, which is straight.
2.3 - N38 43.1230 - W106 28.9221 - Right turn switchback.
3.0 - N38 43.0318 - W106 29.2693 - Turn left at the buildings. Then to get through town, stay right at the next intersections and go on the right side of a larger building on the left. At that building stay right. At the next intersection take a left, which goes between two buildings and up a slight hill.
3.7 - N38 42.8465 - W106 28.7411 - Right fork.
3.9 - N38 42.7227 - W106 28.7503 - The road continues uphill to some buildings. Stay left past the buildings. Right at the next intersection past buildings.
4.0 - N38 42.720 - W106 28.728 - Right. Stay on the main road.
5.0 - N38 41.9080 - W106 28.6350 - Right. Left goes to a hill climb which is for experienced four-wheelers only.
5.8 - N38 41.3638 - W106 29.0413 - Cumberland Pass. 12,015 ft.