The Story Behind Colorado’s Wooden Christmas Sign
Despite the constant growth and development through Colorado, reminders of the Centennial State's historic past can still be found in many places.
Whether it's ancient dwellings built into the cliffs of Manitou Springs, 100-plus-year-old buildings in downtown Denver, or abandoned mines in the mountains, all tell a story of how Colorado came to be.
One literal sign of Colorado's past can be found on the side of U.S. 285 in the small town of Salida. About five miles north of U.S. 50 is a pullout parking lot. The destination will be on the left when traveling north. Located in the center of the dirt parking lot is a large wooden sign that tells a story of a scene that unfolded in the state nearly 216 years ago.
The historical marker is titled 'Christmas 1806.' Underneath the big bold letters, are a few short paragraphs documenting a crew of explorers' unsuccessful attempt to climb Pikes Peak.
After being unable to summit America's mountain on November 27, 1806, Zebulon Pike and a group of 15 others trudged on through South Park looking for the Red River. The river was located at the southern boundary of the Louisiana Purchase. The frustrated group of explorers arrived at the Arkansas River and set up camp with little food in tow.
On Christmas Eve two of the explorers went out hunting and were lucky enough to shoot eight buffalo. As a result, Christmas Day was spent near the mouth of Squaw Creek (one-half mile to the south) feasting on buffalo and repairing equipment.
It wasn't until 14 years later that Major Stephen Long 14 was able to make the hike to the top of Pikes Peak.
The sign was erected in 1964 by the State Historical Society of Colorado as a reminder of that holiday.
In addition to the Christmas sign, there are two other informational markers in the pull-off area, along with a covered picnic bench. The exact coordinates of the Chaffee County location are 38° 35.533′ N, 106° 5.1′ W.