24 hours in Lake City, or How I Learned to Accept that Texas has Annexed Hinsdale County
All over Lake City, Colorado, there are signs advertising fried catfish and Southern barbeque, and there's even a restaurant called "Southern Vittles." It's no wonder: About 75 percent of the license plates we saw in Lake City this weekend were from Texas. Texas flags fly along with Colorado flags, and the Lone Star adorns the exterior walls of more than a few homes here. Rick Perry's Great State has annexed this isolated corner southwest Colorado. Unofficially, at least.
Lake City, far from everywhere and close to Matterhorn, Wetterhorn, Uncompahgre Peak and some of Colorado's most classic rugged mountain landscapes in the heart of the San Juan Mountains, was also the home of Colorado's most famous cannibal, Alfred Packer. Packer was tried in Hinsdale County's tiny courthouse and is the namesake of the nearby Cannibal Plateau, which towers over the famous Slumgullion Slide and Slumgullion Pass.
This corner of Colorado has always fascinated me because it's empty, remote and I've found that there aren't a lot of Coloradans who have spent much time in the area, except to climb the surrounding fourteeners. It's on a state highway that doesn't take you anywhere in particular — there's always a better way to get to anywhere else in Colorado — except Creede, which is an isolated hamlet of its own on the Atlantic side of the Great Divide.
Lake City? Slumgullion Pass? Where's that? Well, Lake City (2010 population: 843) is the seat of Hinsdale County (also pop. 843), one of the least populous counties in the state. The city is about 50 miles by paved road from the nearest towns, Creede and Gunnison; about 100 miles from the nearest Walmart Supercenter (in Montrose), 162 miles from the nearest metro area (Grand Junction) and 254 miles from Denver. It's way the hell out in the heart of the mountains, and well worth a trip to eat some catfish and grits with some exotic Texans, check out all things Slumgullion and indulge in some cannibal kitsch.