The Test of Time: The Twin Lakes Inn
By Kathy Bedell, © Leadville Today
1879. It was a big year for Leadville, evidenced by the date’s imprint on the side of old buildings. It was the first big boom, and America’s highest city was in full swing with people arriving daily by the wagon-loads.
And so it was in southern Lake County, as 1879 was the year that the Twin Lakes Motel, now known as the Twin Lakes Inn & Saloon was built by Maggie Weber. It was also the year that Independence Pass was “discovered,” after two prospectors struck a rich ore vein on the Aspen side, naming their claim for its date of discovery, July 4th – Independence Day!
Prior to that, the passageway above the village of Twin Lakes was known as Hunter Pass, more than likely because it was a less-traveled game trail used to cross the Continental Divide down into the Roaring Fork area. Of course, once word got out that there was “gold in them thar hills,” miners began to arrive at a rate of over 30 a day to the region. Before long, what was once a precarious footpath became a more developed route, allowing burro teams to haul the ore down from the mountain into Leadville smelters and return with supplies and mining materials.
Webber being a keen businesswoman took advantage of the Twin Lakes traffic and made sure that the boys – and weary travelers – had what they needed in the way of hospitality and entertainment. Fortunately for today’s traveler, she was also a visionary, and seeing the potential for growth, entered into an agreement in 1907 with the Department of the Interior which oversees the Forest Service. The document, which is still on file in the lodging establishment, outlines the inn’s right in perpetuity to use the Forest Service easement across the highway to manage the waste generated from the popular motel. And while Webber never developed the property herself, this historic agreement has been carried forward from owner to owner, finally being put to its intended use in 2018.
Mark Graff, Managing Partner for Interlaken Partners, LLC who bought the historic property in 2012, picks up the story from there. “They realized even back then, that they needed a bigger system for the hospitality business they were running,” he explained.
But by the 21st century, the old septic system was on the brink of failure at any given time, forcing the present-day business to operate very modestly. Basically, without fixing the problem, the inn could not expand its bookings. In addition, another variable accelerated the upgrade process.
In 2014, there was a new law – Regulation 43 – which outlined updated requirements for on-site wastewater treatment systems with flows equal to or greater than 2,000 gallons per day. Graff explains further: “There’s a county version of that and a state version of that (Regulation 43). Our goal was to make sure that we stayed a county-supervised system, rather than a state one, because you add a zero onto the costs at the state level.”
So in 2015 the group set its engineers’ sights to build a better septic system for the historic property. Fortunately that goal was completed last fall, and finally realized this spring when the new, “six-figure” septic operation was brought online with great success, and a sigh of relief from investors.
“We were nursing a very old septic system for years,” explained Graff. “In the past, we would get to July or August and if it was a heavy winter, or we had a lot of monsoonal rains, the lake levels would start to affect whether or not the leech field would even work.”
The new treatment system sits across Highway 82 from the inn, and has doubled the leech field capacity. It includes an extra foot of sand at the base, allowing the operation to perform the way it’s supposed to, even during high water years.
It’s here, that Graff credits the lodging facility’s prior owner Taylor Adams, who ran the operations under the name The Inn of The Black Wolf in the 1980s, for being a good steward of that Forest Service easement agreement when she doubled the size of the property included in that arrangement during her ownership.
And that’s a good thing, because according to Graff, they needed every inch of that easement property to make the newly engineered septic system work properly. In addition to the expanded treatment field, three new 2,000 gallon tanks have been installed adjacent to the inn under the patio. Today, the upgrade not only places the operations within the new Regulation 43 guidelines, but also allows the facility to continue to be monitored under the Lake County Public Health Department.
“We were serious about the upgrade, because we believe that the Inn is an important part of this community,” Graff concluded.
So what can visitors and guests expect to see at the Twin Lakes Inn & Saloon today? At present, they have 12 rooms available for overnights, which includes breakfast. The Inn’s dining room has a capacity for 45, with an extra 20 seats available on the patio which was recently expanded. Another thing visitors and locals can expect to see are a lot of familiar faces, as veteran employees are on deck for another great season!
“We’re open for business and things are going good,” said Andy Wald, General Manager at the Twin Lakes Inn & Saloon. In fact, it sounds like it’s been a very good season, especially for their dining room that serves dinner nightly from 5-8:30 p.m. and lunch from 12 -3:30 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
The menu never disappoints, offering entrees from steak to salmon, as well as nightly specials that keep diners coming back for more. But the regulars will tell you, it’s the top-notch service from veteran employees – some of the best in the Lake County hospitality business – that have them making dinner reservations several times a week!
“We’ve been real lucky to have a loyal staff that returns year after year,” explained Wald in a recent interview with Leadville Today. And that’s good to know as the facility sets its sights on expanded offerings, including winter options, now that the septic system has been upgraded.
“We can start looking ahead, said Graff. “In fact, we’ve got our first holiday party booked.”
The Twin Lakes Inn is located at 6435 E State Highway 82. At present, they are open to the public May thru October. Reservations for dinner are strongly recommended, especially in August. Readers may connect with them on their website, by phone at 719-486-7965 or on their Facebook Page: Twin Lakes Inn & Saloon.