Abandoned farmhouses dot the hillsides

Abandoned farmhouses dot the hillsides along County Road 44 in Delagua Canyon, slowly melting back into the earth. Perhaps some of them are haunted by ghosts. The Hastings Mine Disaster: On April 27, 1917, 121 miners died in an explosion in the Victor-American Fuel Company mine in Hastings, the worst mining disaster in Colorado’s history. The Hasting’s mine was located just over a mile west of Ludlow in Delagua Canyon, and can be visited today via Las Animas County Road 44.

It’s October — the time of year for pumpkin spice, candy corn, hayrides, and tales of the supernatural.

So... How about I tell you a good ghost story?

A true one. I know it’s true - because it happened to me.

While I feel deeply rooted in Trinidad, I am not a local. Many folks in Las Animas County can trace their families back for generations — but I have only lived here for the past 20 years or so. This makes me a relative greenhorn to the region and mostly unfamiliar with its landscape and history.

So as an avid distance runner, I have spent many years trying to learn the ins and outs of the area by doing what I do best — running along the spider web of county roads that weave their way across the mountains and plains of the county. One foot at a time, I have become particularly well acquainted with many of the local canyons between Cokedale, Weston, and Aguilar.

One of my favorite places to run is along County Road 44 through Delagua Canyon, between Gulnare and Ludlow. I love the feeling of the place. The hills, the towering Ponderosa pines, the pioneer cabins melting back into the earth, the winding creeks — they mesmerize me. As do the abandoned mining camps that dot the hillsides.

On a beautiful Saturday morning in the spring of 2017, I woke up with the intense desire to go for a run. I know, no big surprise for a distance runner like myself. But this was a hard-earned rest day and I’d been looking forward to it all week. But as I made my breakfast that morning, I just couldn’t shake the feeling — I HAD to run. It wasn’t a want. It was an urge. A calling. A voice in the back of my mind, telling me I NEEDED to go run. Today.

As I reluctantly pulled on my running shoes, I contemplated where I would venture for this impromptu jaunt. The same voice whispered in my ear: “Delagua Canyon.”

This was crazy. Why drive so far from Trinidad for an unplanned Saturday run? I should just jog around my own neighborhood for a mile or three. Without telling my husband about the voice in my head (because he doesn’t need any more cause to think me crazy than I already give him on a  daily basis), I kissed him on the cheek on my way out the front door and told him I was going for a jog. He looked at me and, without missing a beat, said, “Hey! You know where you haven’t run in a while? Delauga. You should go there.” 

Ummmm… OK.

I decided to listen to the universe, and headed out with my gear and my trusty running dog, Rocky, for a morning run along County Road 44.

It was a truly glorious Colorado spring morning. The grass was intensely green after a light rain had washed the area the evening prior. The smell of the trees, the gurgle of the stream, the lowing of the cows that grazed along the tree line, all of it was simply lovely. 

I was grateful the universe had pulled me here.

As I wove my way down the county road, my mind started to wander. I was near the old mining town of Hastings, and I wondered what did this place look like back in its heyday?  

Almost as if by magic, I could see it in my mind’s eye — the town as it once was. Stone and wood buildings rose from the grave in front of me, with shopkeepers selling their wares to housewives, children running to school, miners walking along the roadway and joking with one another as they made their way towards the mine for a long day spent underground. 

The voice in my head, the one that had called me here, started to whisper again. “One hundred years ago today. This is what this place looked like, one hundred years ago today. One hundred years ago... Today... One hundred years ago... Today…”

I was yanked out of my reverie, quite literally, by my running dog Rocky. He pulled hard on his leash at that moment, dragging me towards a small tree off to the right side of the road. I obediently followed. As I paused to let Rocky sniff the shrubbery, I noticed a small monument, like a headstone, a few yards away. I headed over to investigate.

I read the stone marker and then I gasped. As the full weight of the memorial’s message dawned upon me, I felt the hair stand up on my arms and the back of my neck.

“In memory of the 121 men who lost their lives in the Hastings Mine explosion. April 27, 1917.”

Incredulous, I pulled my phone out of my running pack to double check the date. Today was April 27, 2017. 

The 100th anniversary of the Hastings Mine disaster — to the day. 

The miners had called me here. They wanted to be remembered.

“I remember you,” I said aloud. I could feel an energy all around me — a presence. I could feel an emotion — not sadness, or pain, or fear. It felt more like a hug. 

They wanted to be remembered. They called me here, to be remembered. And they were grateful. To be remembered. 

And I was grateful to have been called to do the remembering.

I don’t know — some may call it coincidence. Some may call it a fluke. But I think that in a place like Las Animas County, with a history as full and rich as ours, it only makes sense that there are ghosts in these hills. 

And if we stop to listen, we can hear their voices. Whispering — like the wind.

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