Highway of Legends
Goemmer Butte is a small, but very conspicuous "plug" located near La Veta in the Cuchara Valley of south central Colorado - in the shadow of the famous Spanish Peaks. It is named for the Goemmer Brothers ranch, on which the butte/plug is located. Goemmer Butte has an elevation of 8,043' and protrudes 1,600' above the surrounding surface.
Dikes and plugs (Goemmer Butte is a plug) are geologically very similar. Dikes were created when molten rock, deep within the earth, pushed up into cracks in the earth's mantle which around here was sedimentary rocks. Plugs are virtually the same except they are shaped more like a plug. Both cool before reaching the surface creating rock that is much harder than the surrounding sedimentary layers. Millions of years pass and the sedimentary rock erodes away exposing the much harder igneous rock that filled the cracks and cooled. Goemmer Butte is a plug that pushed toward the surface in a different shape than the dikes that filled long cracks in the overlying sedimentary rock.
This is a classic dike.
Dikes were created when molten rock, deep within the earth, pushed up into cracks in the earth's mantle which around here was sedimentary rocks. Softer sedimentary rock has eroded away over millions and millions of years leaving this stone wall or dike that is much, much harder igneous rock.
This area of Colorado has veins of coal close to the surface making it relatively accessible. In 1910 the coal mining industry of Colorado employed nearly 16,000 people, accounting for 10% of those employed in the entire state. The "Rockerfeller's" were the largest mine operators in those days. In those days Colorado's coal mines were not only dangerous but provided difficult work. Death rate in Colorado mines was 7 per-1,000 employees compared to a national rate of 3.15. To put those numbers in perspective in 1913: 104-men would die in Colorado's mines, plus 6 in the mine workings on the surface, in accidents that widowed 51 and left 108-children fatherless.
Frustrated by working conditions that were clearly unsafe and unjust coal miners turned to "Unions" for help. Companies, especially Rockerfeller companies, tried to suppress union activity. In 1913 the UMWA (United Mine Workers) presented companies with a list of SEVEN-Demands. Major coal companies rejected those demands. Tensions finally culminated in what is now known as the Ludlow Massacre, in which between 19 & 26 people died (depending on source) including 4-women &11-children in a burned out tent.
In response to the "Ludlow Massacre" leaders of organized labor issued a call to arms, urging union members to acquire "all the arms and ammunition legally available," and a large-scale guerrilla war ensued, lasting ten-days. 700 to 1,000 strikers attacked mine after mine, driving off or killing the guards and setting fire to buildings. At least 50-people, including those at the Ludlow Massacre, were killed in those ten-days of violence.
The conflict, now referred to as the Colorado Coalfield War, inflicted a death toll of around 75-people.
Federal Troops ended the fighting disarming both sides.
There is MUCH more to the story. If you are interested -- do a Google search. :-)
Devil's Stairsteps is a magnificent rock formation. It is one of over 400 dikes that radiate out from the western most Spanish Peak and continue for up to 25-miles. Dikes are created when molten rock pushes upward into fractures in the earth's surface layer. When the molten rock cooled underground it formed igneous rock which is much harder than the surrounding sedimentary rock in which it was intruding. Over millions of years erosion has removed the softer sedimentary rock exposing the dike of much harder igneous rock.
The Spanish Peaks are two prominent mountains in south central Colorado. East Spanish Peak is 12,683' while West Spanish Peak is 13,626'. The Spanish Peaks were created by two separate igneous intrusions (molten rock). In the case of these two peaks the igneous rock cooled before reaching the surface so neither are extinct volcanos. They were an important landmark on the Santa Fe Trail.
At Cuchara Pass there is not a lot to see and do. Farley Overlook gives you a view of the valley looking toward Cuchara. There is a road leading from Cuchara Pass that takes you to Cordova Pass and on to I-25 at Aguilar some 35-miles from Cuchara Pass.
Until next time remember how good life is.
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