Music, Dance, and Song to enliven UPTOP Ghost town (photo: Dance Hall and Tavern) Spanish Peaks International Celtic Festival fonder Barbara Yule is excited about the opening day picnic/ceili at the La Veta Pass “Ghost Town” of UPTOP*. Enthusiastically she encourages folks to experience the September 24th event, “Join in the music making and dancing, meet old friends and make new ones. In short a perfect time to get into the weekend spirit!” SPIRIT is the operative word. You will find spirit at UPTOP. Whether the spirit is the happy mood of the gathering, spirits of past inhabitants still embodying the ghost town, or the vital principle or the inspiring animating force within living beings put forth by UPTOP owners Deb Lathrop and Sam Law. The love and passion for their project to restore UPTOP is evident when you tour the property with them and can appreciate all of the hard work put into clean-up and refurbishing, and the sense of joy and satisfaction they have in doing so. Residents of La Veta, the sisters purchased the property ten years ago and with help from friends and volunteers they have restored the chapel, and dance hall/tavern, and the original 1877 railroad station depot that now serves as a museum (and a backdrop for a fictional story the sisters are writing about a station manager and his 12 year old orphaned niece 1877-1881). At present they are working on the school house. They also rehabilitated one of the houses for themselves to live in. “We live here as much as we can,” enthused Deb, “Even in the winter!” They have made some improvements on personal note as well. They designed a meditation area with a “Peace Pole” honoring the storytelling traditions of UPTOP. The “Peace Pole” asks that “Peace Prevail on Earth” in Navajo, English, Spanish, and Gaelic (the sisters claim Irish, Scottish, and French heritage). There is also a “Wind-Wishes Tepee” dedicated to the memory of loved ones. Sam and Deb have done a magnificent job of bringing back life to a historical piece of Colorado, but when addressed on the topic they humbly put into context, “We”re just the latest chapter in the story of UPTOP.” If the mountains of La Veta pass could talk they would give glorious accounts of chapters of time before history was put to paper. For centuries It has been a point of passage from one valley to another by man and beast. In the valley to the east the twin peaks now called Spanish Peaks were thought to be a where mankind came to earth by early ancient Indians. Even the ancient Aztecs believed the area to hold a hidden treasure. Later day tribes including the Ute, Arapahoe, Cheyenne, Shoshone, Navajo and Kiowa Comanche came to La Veta Pass to also hunt and gather medicinal herbs. In time immigrants from Europe came to the area as Explorers, trappers, miners and settlers. Soldiers used the pass to travel to Fort Garland (1858″1883) Kit Carson (grandson of an Ulsterman), American frontiersman who was the renowned guide of John C. Fr”mont’s western expeditions in the 1840s, an agent for the Ute (1853-1861), and a Union general in the Civil War, has crossed La Veta Pass. Mountain man and scout Thomas Tate Tobin (son of an Irish immigrant father and American Indian mother) who became famous for tracking and killing “The Bloody Espanosa Brothers” also frequented the pass. In 1877, General William Jackson Palmer and partner Dr. William Bell built the highest narrow-gauge railroad in the world over La Veta Pass (as mentioned earlier the original depot still stands at UPTOP at 9,382 feet). Their company was the Denver Rio Grande Western Railroad Line (D&RGW), known as “The Rio Grande.” The original intention of General Palmer and Dr. Bell was to build a narrow gauge railroad system to connect Denver with Mexico City. The route was to pass over Raton Pass in what is now northern New Mexico. Feverish competitive competition construction provoked the 1877-1880 war over right of way with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. After a real gun slinging encounter between toughs from both sides, the Santa Fe won the right to Raton Pass. Subsequently, Palmer, Bell, and the D&RGW focused on exploiting the lucrative mining service opportunities to the west and ended up utilizing what is now La Veta Pass for its connecting links. Lumber, potatoes, and tourist also became important cargo crossing La Veta Pass. The train ride attracted thrill seekers and adventurers, like writer and native Indian rights activist Helen Hunt Jackson, who wrote a document about her experience describing it as “The Railroad above the sky”. In 1880 Chief Ouray of the Utes and his wife Chipeta and their party took the train over the Pass on their way to Washington DC (President Hayes called Ouray “the most intellectual man I’ve ever conversed with.”). In the late 1890″s the narrow-gauge trains became functionally obsolete to the wider standard”gauge trains that had more carrying capacity. Palmer was unsuccessful in his attempts to build a wider track. So he tore up the rails and built a new route through the town of La Veta that still is used today. Over 600 people took the farewell last train ride 1899. About the time that the narrow-gauge train chapter ended at UPTOP a thriving lumber business took off. Timbers were needed in the local coal mines for building “pit props” for underground tunnels. The abandoned railroad beds were utilized to move the timber with horse drawn carts. After Juan Antonio Trujillo built a saw mill at UPTOP the logging community grew to over 100 people. They built a chapel, school house, dance hall and tavern, and of course private homes. In the mid 1940″s the many of the local coal mines were closed down and the need for lumber ended. Just in time for the automobile era, The State of Colorado paved the road (old train track bed) through UPTOP and called it Highway 160. Adventuresome tourists crossing the pass kept the dance hall/tavern and a restaurant in business until 1962 when a new straighter and wider section of Hwy 160 was built by-passing UP TOP altogether. Now everyone drives the new La Veta Pass. Until Now! Bring your instruments, dancing shows, sing voices, picnic basket and camera and meet UPTOP September 24 to help write a new chapter. And if you”re afraid of ghosts don”t worry, Sam and Deb said all of the spirits UPTOP are friendly! UPTOP Come enjoy the” TRAIN MUSEUM in the original 1877 Depot; CHAPEL-BY-THE-WAYSIDE; TAVERN, take your photo behind the original S-curved bar; DANCE HALL-games, get snacks, see exhibits, visit gift shop; GLORIOUS VIEWS of the Spanish Peaks and Southern Rockies! DIRECTIONS: (*You won”t likely find UPTOP on a map as the name is a recent one. Prior to UPTOP the town did not have a name, or referred to as Veta pass) There are 2 turnoffs to UPTOP GHOST TOWN on Colorado Hwy 160: – turn at mile marker 276 — 15 min. east of Ft. Garland – turn at mile marker 281 — 15 min. west of La Veta & Walsenburg Enjoy the vistas as you drive up the original narrow-gauge railroad bed Tour Season: July 10 – September 26 Hours: Sat-Sun 10:00am – 4:00pm Admission: Ages 10 and above– $5.00 (Sept 24 picnic/ceil is free) To schedule a special event Fax: 719-742-3929 Food/Lodging/Camping go to For more information about the Spanish Peaks International Celtic Festival go to or call 719-742-3003 or 719-746-2061.

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