A tailing tale of Golden Gate Canyon route

By Maggie Magoffin

(From: Life in the Early Days by James K. Ramstetter. Permission of use given by Mary Ramstetter). Since this is about the history of Golden Gate Canyon area, it would perhaps be best to describe it in detail. The route which starts at Denver and ends at Central City was about 38 miles long. From Denver to Golden the country was quite level and the altitude of Golden was about 600 feet higher than Denver. The travel from Denver to Golden was easy with plenty of stops to take care of the travelers, horses, and equipment, covering a distance of about fifteen miles. There were several routes from Denver to Golden.

The distance from Golden to Black Hawk and Central City was about 23 miles. The altitude of Central City was about 8,000 feet above sea level or about 2,000 feet higher than Golden. Several mountains had to be climbed, with a valley dropping off from each mountain that had just been climbed. The last mountain pass, Dory Hill, travels to about 9,000 feet just before dropping down to the final valley that took you to Black Hawk and Central City.

The first part of the trip was eight miles to the top of Guy Hill where the altitude was about 8,300 feet above sea level. The road followed the creek bed most of the way. However, every so often a waterfall would be encountered. This made it necessary to carve a road into the hillside to bypass the waterfall. There were two stage stops about four miles apart along the first eight miles.

Guy Hill is the worst part of the trip. After leaving Guy Hill the traveler drops down into a valley known as Guy Gulch. It is about an eight-hundred-foot drop from the top of Guy Hill to Guy Gulch, while the road distance was only three miles. During 1858 and 1859 a whim was installed at the top of Guy Hill. A whim is a device that has a huge vertical drum with a horizontal pole attached to it; a team of horses was hooked to the pole. A rope was fastened to the drum and reached several hundred feet down the mountainside to where the end was hooked to the wagon. The team of horses hooked to the whim went around and around, requiring the team to step over the rope each turn, until the wagon had been hoisted up the mountain to the whim. Loaded wagons heading to Black Hawk and Central City were let down the mountain by unwinding the rope from the whim with the help of a hand brake, the horses were not needed. This was very time consuming and a steep hairpin road with several curves in it was soon built making the whim unnecessary. Extra teams were added on to the wagons climbing Guy Hill. Those going downhill to Guy Gulch often tied a big log as a drag on the rear of the wagon to help hold it back.

It was a great relief to get down the hill to Guy Gulch where a large stage stop known as Guy’s House was at the bottom of the hill. It was a welcome sight particularly to those who were making their first trip. Guy’s house had everything: good food, liquor, lodging, a large blacksmith shop and extra teams of horses for those who needed help to get to the top of Guy Hill.

One thing that was beneficial was that the soil was rocky with lots of sand. There was no mud which was so troublesome to the people traveling across the prairies.

The next climb was to the top of what was known as Michigan Hill, which was about six miles beyond Guy’s House. It was at Michigan Hill that the next toll gate was located for collecting the fee for the last half of the trip to Central City and Black Hawk. The altitude of Michigan Hill is about 8,200 feet. The road then drops down into the Ralston Creek valley where the altitude is about 7,700 feet. This is about sixteen miles from Golden. The next stage of the trip was the long climb to the top of Dory Hill, which is about 9,000 feet above sea level. The climb is a gentle one and the scenery is beautiful. Ralston Creek has trout in it. Dory Hill was the last mountain to climb before dropping down into the last valley that lead to Black Hawk and Central City.

Guy’s House

About ten miles from Golden City was a stage stop known as Guy’s House, built in the summer of 1859 by John C. Guy from Boston. It was important because of its location at the west side of Guy Hill after the descent of about eight hundred feet from a steep winding road. Not only was it a welcome sight to the weary traveler, but it offered the best of accommodations equal to the hotels back in the states. (Colorado was a territory until it was granted statehood in 1876.)

Guy’s House was very popular and immediately took on value as a piece of property. It seemed that it was sold nearly every year to a new owner. John C. Guy deeded the hotel to a J.G. Hendrickson in September 1863. It finally ended up in the hands of Fred H. Buckman who sold it to a Bernard Mallon in April 1873. The last record of sale was made in 1873 to Harriet Flower.

For many years up to 1873 Guy’s House advertised itself in the local mining papers and the Rocky Mountain News. There was never any record of what happened to the hotel. However, railroad passenger and freight service was offered to the mining towns about 1873, thus ending the need for stagecoaches on the Golden Gate route. Still, wagon traffic continued to be heavy as the Golden Gate area furnished an enormous amount of lumber and other wood products to the Black Hawk and Central City area.

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