I Thought You Said Caribou

© Trails Illustrated

I have found that when you mention Caribou, depending on a person’s interests, he or she will immediately think of one of three places in Colorado . . . sometimes with humorous results (more on this later). So maybe a little history lesson is in order before I go much further in my tale.

Much of Colorado’s history is shaped by the discovery of silver, gold, and other metals. In 1869 Sam Conger discovered silver in western Boulder County, high above what is now Nederland, in the land where it is said the wind is born. Soon a bustling town with thousands of people popped up and was named for the nearby Caribou silver mine. It was a short-lived boom as the town, as it was soon wiped out in a fire.

Caribou, the ghost town, is now a popular area to hike, bike, and four-wheel, and can be reached by taking County Road 128 west from Nederland. (#1)

Caribou Ranch, most notably known as the location of a recording studio that hosted many legendary 1970s rock-and-roll stars, including Chicago and Elton John, is slightly northeast and about 4 miles as the crow flies from the ghost town. The ranch was an amalgamation of properties, including the Bluebird mine, DeLonde ranch, and Caribou ranch. This is where I spent so much time as a young girl riding horses. Jim Guercio purchased Caribou Ranch in 1971 and remodeled the barn into a recording studio, which operated until a fire destroyed the control room in 1985. (#2)

Boulder County Open Space purchased 2,151 acres between 1996 and 2001 from Guercio and another 1,489 acres adjacent to the open space was placed into a conservation easement. The heart of the Caribou Ranch Open Space is the Delonde homestead and the Bluebird mine complex, which is roughly midway between the ranch and the town. You reach the Open Space trailhead from County Road 126 north of Nederland.

It was in the restored and remodeled DeLonde barn that I spent seven nights for my artist-in-residency. (#3)

These are three distinct areas that can all be referred to as Caribou. Because I had been thinking and talking about my stay at the DeLonde barn for so long before it happened, I had become lazy and started referring to Caribou Ranch Open Space as simply Caribou . . . much to my husband’s later dismay. On Sunday after my arrival on Saturday, Jack called me from the ghost town, having followed the sign for Caribou, wondering where the trailhead was where I had promised to meet him. I had to talk him down from the ghost town and on down the Peak-to-Peak until he came to the sign for Caribou Ranch Open Space. I also had to explain to numerous hikers that the barn I was staying in was not the recording studio. That barn is on the ranch, which is private property. Even I got caught in the confusion when on a recent Sunday my neighbors said they were going hiking at Caribou and asked if I would like to join them. I was ecstatic about another visit to my beloved valley but ended up on a trail some 2 miles away in the equally beautiful area north of the ghost town.