getting to know … Fulford
The road to the old mining town of Fulford is packed with snow long before Eagle has seen a dusting of winter. As the sun sets, the dirt road that winds through the national forest shows a few signs of life ” animal tracks disappear into the conifers, and every few miles a large truck sits growling on the side of the road, packed with orange-clad hunters breathing fog.
The several log cabins that make up Fulford today sit in an open clearing in the shadow of New York Mountain and right on the border of the White River National Forest. First established in the gold rush of the mid-1800s, the town was named after a former Red Cliff town marshal. It is believed that Arthur Fulford discovered one of the fabled lost mines of the New York Mountain area, but when he journeyed over to Red Cliff, the county seat at the time, to register his claim on the land, he was promptly killed in an avalanche, never reaping the returns of his discovery.
There are several tales of lost gold mines in Fulford, supposedly covered by landslides, and there still remain prospectors who spend time in the summer searching for the buried treasure.
Fulford boomed during the mining rush, housing as many as 600 people in lower Fulford, of which only the boarding house and the general store are left from the mining era. Of the upper town, which was another mining camp, only a few skeletons of buildings remain.
It’s impossible to talk about Fulford without mentioning the town’s only year-round residents, Dan and Eileen Lister. Eileen lived in the town from 1949 to 1953 when her father ran the sawmill that brought Fulford back to life. She said that she and her siblings found old clothes in the boarding house that they would play dress up with. They also used to play in the old post office building, pretending the stagecoach still brought the mail up from town every day.
After living 30 years in Gypsum and raising their four children there, the Listers moved back up to Fulford, where they will begin their sixth year as full-time residents along with their poodles, Trucker and Ginger. Their cabin, built in the 60s, is powered by solar energy and heated with a free-standing wood stove. They have running water that comes from a nearby spring, which “never sees daylight until it comes out of the faucet,” Dan said. “It’s the best water in Colorado.”
The Listers also have a large bunkhouse out back that Eileen uses as a quilting studio in the evenings and weekends when she is not working at the Eagle Valley School District. In the winter, the bunkhouse doubles as a safe house for cold and lost travelers, and the Listers are warm hosts, welcoming anyone into their home and out of the harsh weather.
Because Fulford is along the trail to several 10th Mountain Division backcountry huts, lost skiers and hikers often knock at the Listers’ door.
“Sometimes people show up at midnight just praying for someone to be home,” Dan said. “We put them up in the bunkhouse and light them a fire. In the morning, we make them breakfast, give directions and send them on their way.”
The Listers don’t have phones and gave up on using satellite Internet. However, Dan likes to look at the bright side of living without these basic comforts.
“We haven’t had a single call from a candidate this election,” he said.
The couple has snowmobiles they use in the winter after the road closes for their daily commute to Eagle. Dan also acquired an old Pisten Bully snowcat, a retired groomer from Copper Mountain. He said they have no excuse to miss work.
“Living up here, you really have to respect nature and be aware,” Eileen said.
She and Dan agree that living in Fulford is always an adventure, and that they plan to stay as long as they can.
“We’re going to stay up here as long as we can still ride snowmobiles,” Dan said.
In the summers, many of the newer cabins are filled with seasonal residents. The old general store building collapsed in the ’70s, leaving only the boarding house standing today. In the fall, the town is usually used as a hunting camp.
The Fulford area remains a tourist attraction because of the famous Fulford Cave. The cave is a popular haunt for spelunkers, and is a common beginners’ spot. It’s always important to have the right gear, including ropes and headlamps.
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Are we seeing more bears because there are more bears on the valley floor, or because we’re all spending more time at home? It could be a bit of both.