|Posted on June 10, 2019 at 11:35 PM|
My curiosity for Gilman started the first time I drove past it. I was told it was abandoned in the 80’s, and I had to know more (and enter it, despite the many ‘no trespassing’ signs posted on the fences, trees and buildings that stood at the top edge of the town’s entrances). The first time I went down into the town turned out to be somewhat of a disappointment, when my brother and I visited in March 2016, which in the Colorado Rockies, is a time where there is a more-than-likely chance of there being snow on the ground. We descended down the steep hills and got to about the first building, but the snow (and fear of getting caught) was too much for me, so we turned around. The reason why this was somewhat of a disappointment was because of the fact that we’d gotten a “taste” of the town (we were technically in it, after all) but we didn’t explore or investigate the signs of why this still mostly in-tact (minus the vandalism, but what abandoned building or town hasn’t been vandalized by teenagers looking to bust out a few windows or practice their graffiti skills?) town. This only made the curiosity itch stronger, and I was determined to go back when the elements would not have any sort of interference.
The second time I visited Gilman was 2 years later, in 2018, a little longer than originally intended, but the more you discover Colorado, the easier it is to make other plans and grow other curiosities. A couple of good friends had come to visit me from Connecticut during the summer of ‘18 and the same thing that happened to me the first time I saw the town (and was told it had been abandoned) happened to them as well. I knew the police were being just a tad more strict this summer than per usual concerning ‘trespassers,’ so we strategically parked a little further down Hwy 24 to be (not much more) inconspicuous of showing people were parked to roam Gilman. This trip was much more successful and satisfying. We were able to enter and observe the abandoned houses, vehicles, the bowling alley and what must have been a gymnasium of some sort (there was a stage, a basketball court, and some skateboarders even installed two quarter-pipes on either side of the basketball court, probably after it was abandoned). As I mentioned, the town had been, not surprisingly, vandalized, so we were extra cautious not to step on glass, which seemed to be absolutely everywhere (even the roads) and to test stair durability before aimlessly walking up and down them. We saw what may have been mine entrances, but most all of them had been blasted with dynamite to prevent anyone like us from entering them. This caused me to want to find an entrance where we could get in, but unfortunately we found none on the top part of town. But the third time I visited Gilman, I discovered that there was a bottom, or lower, part of town (you had to enter a different way, which is located closer to Minturn) and that was the gold mine- quite literally.
A couple different good friends, and former room mates, accompanied me on my third visit to Gilman, only this time, we were to explore the bottom part of the town, located at the bottom of the huge cliffs and rocks that make it nearly impossible to get to the lower part of town from the top part. It was about a mile walk from Minturn along the now defunct Rio Grande railroad. Not far after we passed through the railroad tunnel, which was lasted into and through the rocks many years ago, we were in town. The first interesting things I remember seeing were two things: The puddles of water on either side of the tracks, that was contaminated with a yellow substance...This was the proof of the reason for abandonment some 30 years ago- if this substance was in the residents’ drinking water, then I am glad no one resides there and that they left when they did.
The second thing was a large wooden sign that read ‘BAD AIR – KEEP OUT.’ Not only did we find an accessible entrance to the mines (the sign, at the time, was recently moved, we figured, because there was a little opening on one of the sides which someone did to get inside- so because of this we did not enter; also, we did not want to breathe the poor air which the sign clearly warned us of), but the two big things I was looking for were revealed before we even got to the buildings.
The top part of Gilman, I learned, was where the people lived; the bottom was where they worked. I still wonder how they got to the lower part of town without using Hwy 24- there must have been elevators or hidden tracks in the rocks that the miners would take. Each building we entered were unidentifiable in terms of the purpose and the functions of them- but the bottom part of town was clearly where they mined. It reminded me of something out of an old western film; buildings side-by-side with a road (and a mining car track) in front of them, and it took less than 10 minutes to get from one side to the other.
Today, authorities have a fence placed along the side of Hwy 24 in an attempt to minimalize ‘trespassers’ from entering the top part of the town. But, if I am correct, it’s still pretty easy to access to lower part of town...
April 26 & 27, 2019