Gold Mine High in the Rockies
With my daughter Michelle and grandson Ross, I drove high up into the foothills of the Rockies about 9,000 Feet in elevation between the two old mining towns of Idaho Springs and Central City, Colorado. We noticed a sign "Gold Mine Tours" and quickly descended a winding dirt road that led to Hidee Mine at the lower end of a wee mining town with an Assay Office, and a log cabin store with various minerals for sale.
We walked down to the Assay Office to speak with a stubble-bearded guide named John who looked a bit like a young Henry Fonda. He asked me if I was a senior citizen to which I answered yes. He then asked if I had served in the military to which I said yes--the U.S. Navy during the Berlin Wall and later the Cuban Missile Crises, and he gave me a double discount as he did with my young grandson, Ross. My daughter had to pay the regular tour price that totaled a very reasonable deal for the three of us for a one hour tour underground.
He then had us sign accident waiver forms in the remote case of injury and gave us each a yellow raincoat and a hard hat. Others came to join the tour of a damp and chilly mine having a temperature of 50 degrees as opposed to the outside temperature of 85 degrees.We followed John into the well-lighted Hidee Mine. Why "Hidee" I asked. He explained that the original owner of the mine had a last name that began with "D." To distinguish between the two mines he owned, one lower, one higher, they were named Lodee and Hidee. The miners began digging and blasting operations back in 1859 when Colorado was part of the Kansas Territory. (Colorado became a state in 1876).
We all plodded deeper into the chilly mine to stop at a wee statue of a Tommyknocker--a folkloric sprite who brings luck to miners most of the time. John said he wasn't superstitious at all, but one time he happened to be next to this wee Tommyknocker when a stone fell from the ceiling of the mine to fracture its leg. Later that day, his good friend and fellow worker fractured the same leg as the Tommyknocker statue!
We proceeded deeper into the mine to see a sulfur vein, a tell-tale sign that gold or silver or copper would also be present somewhere nearby within the mine. He showed us a rich vein of copper above our heads. But copper was not the objective of the Hidee Mine; miners searched for gold by pounding holes into the hard rock to set explosives and run back to safety. After the explosion, they examined pieces of rock for gold--if none was found, they repeated the process until gold bits came into view.
Out came their mallets and chisels to be used by miners to pound into rocky cracks to look further for hidden gold. With luck, they'd strike it rich. We proceeded down flights of stairs lower and lower into the mine until we reached a dead end. Each of us was provided with a mallet and chisel to pound into the walls until a chunk of rock came loose. Sometimes the chunks sparkled with tiny nuggets, but most of the time there was nothing much.
I began to feel just a tad claustrophobic but quickly overcame it by busying myself with chiseling away next to my grandson and daughter. Almost an hour seem to vanish all too quickly 600 feet deep into Hidee Mine. When John saw that we all had interesting bits of rock, he provided us with plastic sacks to carry them out into the bright sunshine of a Colorado blue sky.
It was refreshing to smell the pungent air of a pine forest and hear western song sparrows chirping away. We thanked John and said our goodbyes after one of the more unique days of my life.
Colorado Gold Mines
Desert Rims to Mountains High
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