Road Trip |

Road Trip

Cabin Fever - Catch it!

David Kelley enjoys a spring ski weekend at Columbine Cabins in North Routt County.
Tom Ross

Getaway to Columbine

Getting there: From downtown Steamboat, head west on U.S. Highway 40 (Lincoln Ave.) to Routt County Road 129 (Elk River Road). Head north on C.R. 129 for 29 miles. Columbine Cabins will be on the left.

Rates: $75 to $139 a night

Don't forget:

A bathing suit so you can enjoy a real wood-fired sauna

Your gold pan for some old-time prospectin'

Fishing rod or skis/snowshoes, depending on the season

Wildflower identification book

A tolerance for dogs - Columbine is very dog friendly (there is a small nightly surcharge for bringing your favorite canine), and the housekeeping staff even supplies protective doggie bedspreads so the pooches can perch on open mattresses

Remember, the cabins are closed from April 1 to mid-May

For more information or reservations, call (970) 879-5522

or visit http://www.cabinsincolum...

Columbine Cabins, in the heart of Routt County’s historic gold country, are just 29 miles and 110 years from Steamboat Springs.

It’s difficult to imagine, but in 1897, the general store at the small village of Columbine was the hub of a bustling mining camp and a vital link to the outside world. Stagecoaches from the north provided access to goods and mail from the nearest rail depot in Rawlins, Wyo.

Today, Yampa Valley residents might overlook Columbine’s potential as a weekend getaway. After all, it’s difficult to pass the spectacular camping at Steamboat Lake State Park, which is four miles closer to Steamboat than Columbine. However, people on Colorado’s Front Range have discovered this sweet little throwback village that blends just enough modern comforts with a romantic getaway from another century. The cabins are booked solid on winter weekends, but there’s often availability mid-week.

Jan Dierks and her husband, Lyman Fancher, own the cabins. They were previously owned by her sister, Liz Yerkes.

“It’s been in my family since 1980,” Dierks said. “We bought the cabins in 1994 and lived in two different cabins, Merchant’s and Bear, for five years.”

If you want to get away from cable TV, cell phones and e-mail, and just focus on the sound of the breeze in the aspen leaves, Columbine is your rustic paradise.

“People really do appreciate that about Columbine,” Dierks said.

The Columbine Mining Camp was under way by 1890, but it wasn’t until 1897 that James R. Caron laid out an 11-acre town site and made it official. Meanwhile, hardscrabble miners at the Minnie D. Mine and the Master Key Mine struggled to find the lode of high-grade ore the Hahn’s Peak area promised.

A lot has changed in the past century, but some of the relics of Columbine’s historic mining era remain.

The general store at Columbine Cabins is on the Routt County Register of Historical Places. There are 15 cabins to choose from, and many incorporate spectacular old log timbers that reflect the use of hand tools in their construction. Despite their evident age, all are tightly chinked, have new roofs and clean wooden floors.

All but one has running water, and all 15 have charming kitchens, but most don’t have bathrooms. This apparent shortcoming is amply made up for by the large community building which houses sparkling clean men’s and women’s bath houses that are several cuts above what you would expect to find at a commercial campground.

And, if you’re paying close attention to the calendar, you can always book the Burton cabin, which not only offers a commode but an antique claw foot bathtub.

Burton has no wood burner, but a gas range built to replicate the wood cook stove your great-grandmother used to bake pies.

The truth is, all 15 cabins have their own distinct personality – Hilltop, without running water and boasting its own cute red outhouse, is different from Honeymoon, which is close to both the store and the bathhouse.

Dierks said the diversity is partly because different people built the cabins at different points in history.

“The log cabins are more than 100 years old,” she said. “Honeymoon was built in the 1920s, and the wood frame buildings were built in the ’50s.”

The staff at Columbine welcomes passersby who want to stop and browse through cabins that aren’t occupied by guests at the time. If you’re on your way home to Steamboat from fishing for brook trout in Big Red Park, it’s worth a stop to add to your institutional knowledge of Columbine.

When you come to Columbine, don’t worry about packing up the kitchen – cabins are equipped with all the utensils you could ever want. Bed linens are luxurious, even if the towels aren’t.

If you’re fussy about drinking water, bring five gallons of your favorite brand.

Most of all, bring a yearning for the peace and solitude of an era gone by in aspen forests of North Routt County.

– Story and photos by Tom Ross

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