Quandary: Tenderfoot Mountain’s best kept secrets — microwave communication and Oro Grande Canal No. 2
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Quandary, an old and wise mountain goat, has been around Summit County for ages, and has the answers to any question about life, love and laws in the High Country. Questions? email firstname.lastname@example.org
So, we are fairly new to hiking on Tenderfoot. There is a long area that has a ditch dug in it coming from the Frisbee golf area going north. Do you know who dug it and why? There is some really old farm equipment just south of there.
Also on top of the mountain closer to 70 there is a large square shape. Do you know what that is or why it is there?
Thanks for your help, Nancy Fox-Clement
So you’re a Tenderfoot tenderfoot, eh? Well, welcome to the neighborhood.
For anyone who doesn’t know, Tenderfoot Mountain makes its home just outside of Dillon. The trail offers a moderate hike that’s an out-and-back journey of 1.8 miles each direction. It’s not high on elevation — 9,886 feet at the tallest point — but is big on views. As you make your journey you can also opt to hop on the Oro Grande Trail for a mellow hike through a couple of aspen groves. This will eventually connect with the Frisbee golf course and the assortment of leftovers you mentioned. Given the cooler air and turning aspens, you picked a fine time to make this discovery, and have no fear, even once the snow starts falling this can be a great place to do some cross-country skiing or snowshoeing.
As for your keen eye, that ditch has a name, Nancy. It is the Oro Grande Canal No. 2. Like many of Summit’s historical sites it was originally created for, and by, miners. You see, while Summit is now known as “Colorado’s Playground,” it used to be Colorado’s sandbox — where cold, tired men put shovel to ground in an effort to improve their living situation. I guess my nickname might not draw in quite the same tourist crowd, but who knows, people will pay for anything, right? Maybe the next Dillon Ranger District trail day should be billed as a historical reenactment. I bet they could make some money and some progress that way.
But I digress. According to Scott O’Brien, the public works director with Dillon, Oro Grande Canal No. 2 has been around about as long as this old goat. It was originally created sometime between the late 1890s and 1900 to deliver water for placer mining in Dillon Valley and Silverthorne. What’s crazier? The stretch you see while flinging around the Frisbee is only a portion of the original ditch. In fact, that crack in the ground stretches all the way from the Snake River — near the Ski Tip Lodge — to the northwest side of Tenderfoot.
But don’t worry, the canal’s life didn’t come and go with the miners. Much like a liftie turned rafting guide, as the times changed so did the canal. It’s amazing, as much as gold and silver are worth, water is priceless — just ask California. So before construction began on the Dillon Dam in the early ’60s, Canal No. 2 found new life.
“The canal and piping was later used for a hydroelectric power plant located by the current county softball fields below the reservoir,” O’Brien wrote in an email. I guess that makes this ditch a true “power player” in Summit.
Again, Nancy, I’m impressed — barely an introduction to the area and your eagle eyes have uncovered secrets hidden above and below the trail. That square shape looming above your head is actually a microwave communication tower. If you’re like this old goat, that might be enough to get the conspiracy theories swirling in your mind — but wait, there’s more. With the rise in popularity of satellite communication, the old microwave transmitters are primarily used for military communications. This particular tower relays information to Peak 1. Go ahead, let your mind wander on the conspiracy possibilities for a bit, but when you get to the JFK assassination you’ve gone too far — take a left at the moon landing and a quick drop in elevation should bring you right on back to us.
As for the farming equipment you mentioned, it is all leftovers from a sheep ranch — also known as Tinder for mountain goats — that was located in the vicinity of Dillon Cemetery. So there you have it. Keep those eyes peeled on your next journey through the wilderness and who knows you might just find Jimmy Hoffa.
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