Many miners in the Cripple Creek district had been farmers back east, and didn't even know what they were looking for in their quest for gold. They didn't know how to pitch a tent or build a fire. But they had caught gold fever. In the 1840s, gold-seekers crowded the trails across the Great Plains on their way to California, where gold had been found. In 1859, a second onslaught of miners headed west.
"Pikes Peak or Bust" was their slogan, crudely painted on their wagon tops and carts. Pikes Peak was the first mountain they saw in their journey, so they went there to find their fortunes. The gold there wasn't just lying in the streams or spilling from the rocky cliffs. PIkes Peak wouldn't give up its gold until nearly 50 years later, when a second wave of miners began digging deep underground.