In 2000, two sisters from New England purchased an abandoned ghost town in southern Colorado. Their goal was to preserve its buildings and its history. That history, they learned, was as deep as it was high, blending together many cultures. Here are a few highlights:
- The Pass was a sacred, peaceful gathering place for many tribes — Utes, Comanche, Apache, Navaho, Shoshone, Cheyenne.
- Anglo trappers and gold seekers passed through seeking their fortunes.
- In 1877 the Denver & Rio Grande’s “The Railroad Above The Clouds” crested this Pass, becoming the highest railroad in the world. The original Depot still stands and houses a small museum.
- After the train line was moved elsewhere, Uptop became a thriving Hispanic logging and lumbering community of over 100 people. The community worshipped in their 1930 chapel (still open) and sent their children to their new one-room schoolhouse (still preserved).
- With the invention of the car, the Pass became a ‘must’ for early motorists; driving to 9400 feet proved irresistible.
- Eventually the State paved the Pass as Hwy 160. (The yellow lines are still visible.) This brought all traffic — truckers and tourists — to Uptop for water and food. Many stopped for drinks at the S-Curved Bar and attended dances in the Tumbleweed Dance Hall. This era ended when a safer North La Veta Pass was built in 1962 — overnight, the cars stopped coming.
Bringing the Pass back to life has been a lifetime adventure for the Lathrop sisters. Together they have gotten Uptop on the National Historic Register; have assured that the land can never be subdivided; and have brought music back to the mountaintop. Today Uptop hosts concerts – welcoming such renowned international stars as Carlos Nunez and Eileen Ivers – and dances with music by local legends The Rifters and the late Chuck Pyle. Uptop is also the perennially popular site for the ‘Welcome Gathering’ that opens the Spanish Peaks International Celtic Music Festival every September.
Now new adventures beckon the Lathrops — to France, to England, to books and movies — and their goal is to put Uptop in the hands of new ‘keepers’ who will be as eager to keep the ‘magic’ of Uptop alive and thriving as the next new chapters are added to its history ledger.