Guess how long Eagle County’s longest snowstorm lasted?: Kids Corner for the week of 2/8/21
Editor’s note: The Vail Daily’s weekly kids section is chock full of activities and fun to keep the young and the young at heart entertained during the pandemic. If you have an idea for the section or would like to get involved, email Entertainment Editor Casey Russell at email@example.com.
Learn about Eagle County history each week.
Plenty of people are wishing for more snow in the Eagle Valley this year, and we’re finally getting some. But that was certainly not the case in the winter of 1899.
Nearly 50 consecutive days of snowstorms, starting in early February, literally buried the mining camps of Gilman and Red Cliff on Battle Mountain. When the early blizzard hit, miners and their families hunkered down in their cabins. It was the toughest winter in the 20 years since miners had first come to the area.
Rail traffic slowed to a standstill. In Belden Canyon (below Gilman), engineers guiding a six-car train through a blinding snowstorm smashed into a wall of snow created by an avalanche. A few days later, two passenger trains were stranded in the canyon, unable to move forward or backward because of snow blockades. Without train service, food and coal supplies dwindled. Miners could not get their ore out mines and to the smelters.
By mid-February, Red Cliff reported five feet of snow. Temperatures dropped to the negative 30s and 40s. A freight-wagon driver reported that it took him two-and-a-half days to move his sled and horse team four miles between the mining camps of Gold Park and Holy Cross City.
Cabin-bound miners entertained themselves by gambling, making up tall tales and drinking barely-aged whiskey.
Finally, temperatures warmed. A brigade of 80 snow shovel-wielding miners from Gilman opened the road to Red Cliff, blasting some hardened snowdrifts with dynamite. When the men reached Red Cliff, they were treated to a celebration at the local hotel, including food, drink and cigars.
On March 8, 1899 the Eagle County Blade newspaper reported the sighting of something that had not been seen for weeks: the town’s wooden sidewalks. Scores of local residents turned out to admire the sidewalks and welcome the warmth of spring.
Time Travel is researched and written by Kathy Heicher, president of the Eagle County Historical Society. Learn more about ECHS at eaglecountyhistoricalsociety.com.
Word of the Week
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the train / el tren
Just after a wonderful winter storm is the best time to be to spot animal tracks. Many times, when you awake, even after only a dusting, animal tracks are the only sign of life around. What’s moving around in your backyard?
Rabbits hopping through the snow leave a very distinctive (recognizable) footprint. They like to move in leaps and bounds, and will leave marks in repetitive patterns. Look for four tracks evening spaced that look to form a tall, thin rectangle. Rabbits have fur covered feet, so don’t expect to see any nail marks.
Squirrels are also some of the first to leave their marks on the winter snow. While they move like rabbits, they are typically much smaller, and have long, skinny toes that can leave a specific mark. They also move in a much more block pattern, often shorter in expanse, than a rabbit. And, look for tracks leading towards something for the squirrel to climb—a tree, fence, post, etc.
Who else loves Vail Valley in the snow? Deer. The biggest of the most popular backyard winter visitors, deer tracks are actually not as structured or patterned as other animals. A deer’s hind feet step on the tacks made by the front feet, making it look confusing and not methodically planned.
What other animals might leave tracks in your backyard?
Outside Scoop is submitted by freelance journalist Julie Bielenberg. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.