Day 23: Coal wars, steel mills

Clayton, NM to Pueblo, CO

In the morning in Clayton (alt. 5,056), 51 degrees and breezy! Loving it! A beautiful day.

Sunrise, Clayton, NM
Morning, Clayton, NM

Back to Oklahoma and visited Kenton, the westernmost town in that state. Tidy little town with one store (the Kenton Merc) that was closed, and three B&Bs.

I drove to Black Mesa Nature Preserve, to the trailhead for the highest point (4,973 feet) of Oklahoma. It’s a four-hour round trip hike to the summit, which I skipped. Beautiful spot. Hilly, unlike most of the Panhandle.

Panorama: Black Mesa, OK. It’s a lot bigger than this makes it look.

I decided my tribute to Black Mesa would be having a picnic lunch there.

Later, great fun bombing down a two lane road with beautiful scenery all around, and no one else on it. The radio had a report on corn, wheat, and cattle futures.

Got out at a Santa Fe Trail historical marker – the wind was something fierce. The historic trails are very important here and they are commemorated by signs, markers, and street names. The Santa Fe Trail was used for trade (before the Mexican War, between the U.S. and Mexico) and was a two-way trail, unlike the emigrant trails (the Oregon, the California) which saw one-way traffic.

Santa Fe Trail marker, Oklahoma Panhandle

I continued west, then turned north. My route is taking a big S-curve because I’ve been to New Mexico and Arizona, and I want to visit Colorado, Wyoming, and Idaho. Got my first exciting sight of snow-topped mountains, then entered Colorado.

Some Colorado facts I find interesting: That state, formerly reliably Republican in presidential voting, has voted Democratic in the last three presidential elections (Obama twice, Hillary). The highest city in the state is Leadville at 10,200 feet; highest town is Montezuma at 10,335 feet.

Trinidad, Colorado is a charming town with some historic buildings. I saw about eight marijuana shops (probably because it’s so near the state line). I’m not planning to use any cannabis on this trip (or at any other time).

Saw a sign on the highway for the Ludlow Massacre memorial. The Ludlow Massacre took place on April 20, 1914, when the Colorado National Guard fired machine guns into a tent colony of striking coal miners and their families at Ludlow, Colorado. 21 were killed. It was part of what’s called the Colorado Coal Wars. The workers’ demands were for an eight-hour day and for the company to follow mining regulations. At that time, the local legal and political systems were under the control of the mine owners.

Arrived in Pueblo (alt. 4,692). On the side of I-25 in Pueblo, I saw what looked like a huge disused factory. Turns out it is in use. It’s the Pueblo Steel Mill, built in 1881, owned since 2007 by Evraz Group of Russia.

By chance, this is my fourth stop on the Arkansas River! Little Rock, Fort Smith, Tulsa, Pueblo. I may yet see more of the Arkansas River.

I’m struck by how nice everyone’s been on my trip. Americans are great. They are an open, friendly, helpful people.

Had a great veggie burrito for dinner at a place called Habanero’s. Zero atmosphere and great food.

Perfect night out.

Nightfall, Pueblo, CO

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