First of all the weather shamans were mercifully wrong on their forecast for last Saturday. We got a dusting of snow, but nothing really stuck to the road and driveway surfaces. This was one time I was happy that they got it wrong!
Sunday it started to warm up and it has been absolutely beautiful since then…so beautiful that yesterday I got a severe case of road trip fever. Since it’s still too early to try a trip to the mountains I decided on a day trip to the Eastern Plains of Colorado. For some time I have been wanting to investigate a small ghost town that I read about that’s about 150 miles southeast of the Denver area. It’s a long drive but it was just what the soul craved. Miles of deserted road and visions of springs past.
Aroya began it’s life as a small railroad camp for workers laying track for the Kansas and Pacific line. The name itself is a bastardization of the Spanish word arroyo for “gulch” and the town was built next to a gulch.
The heyday of Aroya was around 1912 when it boasted a dozen or more businesses including a hotel, a blacksmith shop, a school and several mercantile stores.
The town went steadily downhill from there on. The Great Depression took it’s toll and by the 1970’s there were just two old men living there. The last resident, “Red” Morland, the son of one of the town’s pioneers died some years ago and Aroya became a true ghost town.
The town sits about a half mile off a main state highway (the fact that the highway bypassed the town also helped in it’s demise) on a lonely dirt road. I arrived just about noontime and the weather was perfect….high 70’s, sunny with a stiff breeze. A lot of the town land is now private, so I did not have total access to all of the buildings but it was enough to make the trip well worth the while. The private part belongs to the J.O.D. ranch. The ranch is historic in itself, having it’s start in 1866 and continuing to this day as a real cattle ranch.
I spent well over an hour wandering around thinking about springs past. Imagining the residents of Aroya going about their business. Thinking about their struggles and their hopes for the future. Children were born here, grew up, married, had children of their own and died. This place is more than a bunch of broken down old buildings. It was a vibrant community that is now gone. As cars speed by a half mile away they have no idea that this place exists….but I do.
Driving back home I went through numerous other small prairie towns that were saved from Aroya’s fate because the highway didn’t bypass them; Hugo, Limon, Simla, Ramah and Callahan. At each and every one I took the time to turn off the main street and explore the “guts” of these old towns. Each had their own memories of springs past.
It was late afternoon when I returned home. The road trip fever has been tamped down for a short while….but there are other ghost towns on the Eastern Plains that I think I need to “discover”.
Thanks for visiting.