Shelter From the Storm on the MBT
It’s the Mineral Belt Trail’s 17th Birthday in Leadville Today (July 29, 2000)! It seems there’s a never-ending supply of good stories behind Leadville’s 11.6-mile non-motorized recreation loop. The trail encompasses everything that is good about Leadville, as it travels through the historic east side mining district, showcasing views of Colorado’s two highest peaks all along the way.
In honor of the MBT’s birthday, here’s the story of those sturdy little shacks along the way. It’s a story you won’t read anywhere else expect on Leadville Today.
If you’ve ever been out enjoying Leadville’s Mineral Belt Trail (MBT) and got caught in some unexpected weather – like an afternoon rainstorm – you were probably grateful that there was a shelter nearby. And like everything else in this old mining town, these structures have a history, a story about how they were made, and how they each got their name.
It was back in October 2014, when the MBT installed the fourth, and final (to date), shelter in the southwest quadrant of the trail, between mile marker 10 and 11. So as the work crews got ready to haul Chad’s Shelter up the hill, I got the call to come and cover the historic event. It was also a good chance to meet up with MBT historian and general good guy from Leadville’s Howard Tritz.
This last structure – Chad’s Shelter – was named in honor of Chad Smith, son of Dick and Charlene Smith. He would have carried on the fifth generation of the Smith Lumber business, which started in Leadville in 1900. Sadly, Chad Smith passed away in 2013; Smith Lumber closed its doors a little more than a year later, in July 2014. But there’s a closer connection between the multi-generation Ma and Pa lumber business and the MBT shelters, so it’s encouraging to know that Chad’s Shelter will live on as a testament to his family’s legacy in Leadville Today.
Did you know that all four of the MBT buildings’ materials and labor were donated by Smith Lumber? And it’s the structures’ interesting design that gives a clue to their origin; it’s the ultimate in recycling, in fact.
Each shelter is made from various sized stulls, stacked on top of each other, and pulled together at the corner with a lap joint.
So what are stulls? Stulls were used in sacking lumber for transportation. Over the years as this family-owned business provided the materials for many of the structures in town, Smith Lumber would set aside the stulls after unloading lumber deliveries. They started doing this for the express purpose of being re-purposed into an MBT shelter.
The first three shelters were named after mining shafts in the area of where they are situated. They include the Swamp Angel Shelter, located at the Leadville overlook. The second is called Lime Lode Shelter, located as you head up California Gulch on the north side.
The third shelter is the one located in Evans Gulch, named the Cummins and Finn Shelter, after the smelter in that area of the historic mining district.
So where is Chad’s Shelter? Specifically it’s between mile markers 10 and 11, in the southwest quadrant of the 11.6 mile non-motorized loop around Leadville. More informally it’s in the area where the boys scout picnic area and scopes are located. Or, if you’re familiar with the plaques along the way, Chad’s shelter sits right in front of the wildlife habitat plaque that has the picture of the bear on it.
So get out on the Mineral Belt Trail to celebrate its birthday, July 29. Be sure to give a nod to Chad’s when you pass by or stop in when you need a little shelter from the storm!
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