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Reverend’s Ridge – local beauty, lodgings, and lore

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Campground named for Methodist minister

By Patty Unruh

Even though Colorado abounds in natural beauty, few of us are blessed to live near a state park. Here in Gilpin County, though, we residents have Golden Gate Canyon State Park right in our front yards. Many Gilpinites, city folks, and out-of-state tourists have taken advantage of the hiking trails, picnic areas, fishing holes, and camping facilities the park has to offer.

Reverend’s Ridge, one of the main campgrounds in the park, was named for Methodist minister Donald Tippet, who settled with his family in the area where the campground is now located. Tippet was born in 1896. His family worked in the mines of Black Hawk, and he went to Central City High School. After he graduated, he went on to study theology and became a minister, working on the Western Slope and in Denver.

He purchased the cabin in Golden Gate in 1924 and lived there with his family for a number of years. Visitors to the park can still see the remains of Tippet’s cabin near the campground office.

Tippet worked in several areas of the country during Prohibition, and ministers apparently had to be pretty tough back then. The introduction of the ban on the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol created a black market for illegal home-stilled liquor, and emotions ran high on the issue. Tippet stood strongly in favor of Prohibition, and his support caused offense to some. Jack “Legs” Diamond, an illegal alcohol profiteer, sent thugs to rough up the minister. During the fight, one of Tippet’s eyes was so badly damaged that it couldn’t be saved.

Tippet retired as Bishop of the Western Jurisdiction in San Francisco.

Reverend’s Ridge, at 9,200 feet elevation, has 97 sites, including 59 with electrical hookups for trailers and pickup campers and 38 tent sites. Its facilities include flush toilets, showers, and laundry facilities, as well as a dump station, but cell or Internet service is quite limited and unreliable. The campground is off of Gap Road, which is accessed from Highway 119, and is open seven days a week from Memorial Day weekend through September 30. A park spokesperson advised that the campground has been full each weekend this summer, and is pushing capacity during the week as well.

Cabins and yurts are available for people who haven’t brought their own camper or tent, and they have almost all the comforts of home. The five cabins can lodge up to six people each. They have two bunk beds, one of which is double-size, but campers need to bring their own bedding. The cabins also come equipped with natural gas heaters, electric lights and a couple of outlets, table and chairs, a counter top, and a closet rack. No fridge, though, so visitors might want to bring a cooler. Each cabin has an outdoor campfire ring and a grill for cooking. Outdoor cooking is preferable when the weather permits, but when it’s too cold to grill out, campers may cook inside as long as they open windows for ventilation. Pets are allowed in a few of the cabins for an extra charge.

The yurt, which is somewhat of a cross between a cabin and a tent, provides an interesting alternative for campers. The website for Golden Gate Canyon State Park advises, “Yurts, reminiscent of tents used by nomads on the steppes of Mongolia and Siberia, are round tents on a wooden frame with circular skylights and windows to provide illumination. Two yurts offer the perfect escape from Denver among aspen groves and pine covered hills.” Facilities available in the two yurts are virtually the same as in the cabins. Both cabins and yurts may be reserved at $70 per night and are available all year round.

As Gilpin County is currently under Stage I fire restrictions, wood and charcoal fires are only allowed in permanently constructed grates in developed picnic areas and campgrounds in the park; propane stoves are also permitted.

Visitors may enjoy campfire presentations and kids’ hour programs at the Reverend’s Ridge amphitheater on weekends during the summer. Interpretive programs coming up include “So You Think You Know a Black Bear?” on Friday, June 28 at 7 p.m., where folks can learn about one of Golden Gate’s largest animals. A demonstration of 19th Century blacksmithing takes place Saturday morning, June 29 at 10 a.m. A game of “Jeopardy!” is set for Saturday evening at 7:00, where guests can test their knowledge of the park, and on Sunday morning, June 30 at 10:00, a nature hike is planned.

The Reverend’s Ridge campground office stocks merchandise guaranteed to please the visitor searching for the ideal souvenir: postcards, books on fly fishing and wildlife, hiking and four-wheel-drive guides, maps, children’s finger puppets, stuffed animals and animal card games, plus camp t-shirts, caps, and vests. Firewood is available at $5.00 per bundle.

Campers, hikers, and picnickers may watch and photograph wildlife at Reverend’s Ridge and throughout the park, such as mule deer, elk, coyotes, black bears, foxes, and marmots. Birds include blue grouse, ptarmigan, golden eagle, Stellar’s jay, chickadee, and many other varieties.

All vehicles entering the park are required to have an annual or daily Colorado State Park pass. A daily pass is $7.00, and an annual pass is $70.00.

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