Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Old Hundred













Have you ever been inside an underground mine? We had the opportunity to do this last month on our vacation in Colorado. The Old Hundred Gold Mine is located near Silverton, a Victorian mining town in the southwestern part of the state. If you ever have the chance to visit, I think you would enjoy it a lot. Old Hundred, supposedly named for a German hymn, once contained a thick vein of gold within Galena Mountain. Founded in 1872 by three brothers from Germany, the Neigolds, the mine was very productive for decades and made the Neigolds rich. Silverton was a bustling little mining community for quite a while.

At the mine site, located at the end of a long gravel road (the pavement ends about two miles before the mine), there is now a small building where the tour starts, with a real mine train car out back, for entering the mine. Everyone puts on a yellow rain slicker and a hard hat for protection inside the mine. It's cold down there, about 48 degrees all the time, and very damp, so a sweater is a good idea too. You pay the admission price, then you board the mine train, driven by your tour guide (all are retired miners), and it heads into the mountain on the original old track. It's dark as night in the mine, as you might expect, with light bulbs strung up here and there. Water runs down the rocks, leaving colorful mineral deposits. Copper, silver and lead were mined here in addition to gold.

When you're inside the mine, you're actually standing where the vein of gold used to be - they mined every last bit of it, leaving behind a winding tunnel. You have to watch your step to avoid the water flowing across the floor and along the sides of the footpath. Almost immediately, you'll feel grateful for the slicker and the hard hat. Everything about the tour is intriguing. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and experienced; he had many interesting stories to tell and he demonstrated the use of several different kinds of mining equipment. The small Bears were able to try a few things, like pushing down the plunger on an old dynamite detonator. I especially enjoyed seeing the elevator and emergency equipment, as well as the artifacts of mining life - lanterns, lunchboxes, discarded bottles and tins. In our tour group, there were some people who knew a lot about mining and the discussions were fascinating.

The tour lasts about 45 minutes before the group boards the train and it zips back out again. Then you're on your own, to pan for gold or to walk around the site. We chose the latter, walking out behind the building to look up at Galena Mountain, where you can still see the miners' boardinghouse, located 2,000 feet up the side of the mountain face (the men rode a tram to get up and down). There's an old mine train out there, which you're free to climb on. The site overlooks a ravine with a rushing creek at the bottom. There is nothing but mountains and trees as far as you can see, green and more green. It's a bit sad - the gold ran out, dreams died - but people once flocked here and some saw their fortunes made. It's hard to imagine the industry of it all now, but the abandoned boardinghouse is a good reminder. When you drive back down to Silverton, along the gravel road lined with clutches of columbine, you feel like you've experienced a secret slice of history.

20 comments:

  1. I think we've been to that mine Jennifer. When our kids were small we used to go places like that all of the time. Lots of caves too in the Black Hills of South Dakota. There is a really cool mine in Wallace, ID if you ever get up this way. What a neat memory for the small bears. :-) It's amazing how the towns thrived at one time and that many are now ghost towns. Wallace is an exception to that. They actually had a bordello that operated until the late 1900's, I can't remember the exact year but I think it was the 1990's! It's now a museum you can walk through and it's just as the "girls" left it and as if they're coming back any minute. Quite interesting but probably not for your little ones. :-)
    Thanks for the walk back in history.
    Blessings,
    Betsy

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    1. Hi Betsy, you're welcome. I love tours like this too. Anything underground - caverns, caves, mines - fascinates me. How funny that the bordello lasted so long. I would love to see it! Have you ever been to the town of Bodie, in California? That's the best abandoned place I've ever seen, it's just amazing.

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  2. I have never toured a mine, but it looks so interesting! I love seeing abandoned places - feels like you stepped back in time.

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  3. Interesting! I have never been in a mine and enjoyed seeing some of what you saw. When I was around your little bears ages, my folks took me to Tom Sawyer's Cave in Hannibal Missouri. Your description of your experience in the mine reminds me of what I saw and felt sans the hard hats and raincoats. When we got deep into the cave they warned us and then turned out the lights! It was the darkest dark I have ever known... Thanks for sharing your adventure! xx

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  4. I have never been in a mine, though I have been in caves. Fascinating stuff - thank you for sharing!

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  5. wow... I've never been in one... I loved the moments captured here. And so enjoy going on your adventures with you.

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  6. I have never been in a mine, you certainly gave us a great tour.

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  7. Looks like a fascinating tour and nice and cool for the hot weather. The bears are rocking those hard hats! xx

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  8. Bet you loved that lovely cool experience. We have been in lots of underground caverns in England Wookey Hole is amazing. The most intriguing was in Barbados. We were expecting it to be cold but because they have an all year round temperature of 28 degrees centigrade, it was about 20 degrees underground. . Very warm! B x

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  9. Thanks for the tour of the mine. I am not keen on underground things and your photos are probably as close as I'll ever get to a mine :-) Love the yellow rain jackets of the little bears, too. Enjoy the rest of the week. xx

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  10. I bet it was fascinating. I went down a coal mine when I was little, I remember how dark it was when we all turned off our headlamps. Pitch black indeed. It's great to find out about industries from the past isn't it, always interesting. Bet the little bears have good memories of it. CJ xx

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  11. I'm not sure I'd like to go down a mine but I'd have done it when our girls were wee just to make them think that I was brave! LOL Your tour sounds fascinating. :o)

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  12. Hey Jennifer,
    This reminds me of the mine tours we have been on here. As you are probably aware, Cornwall has a rich mining heritage, and there are abandoned tin mines all over the county. The boys have always found it fascinating, especially the interactive stuff. Marc enjoys the engineering aspect, and I am intrigued by life as it was many years ago. I'm glad you all enjoyed your visit.
    Leanne xx

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  13. Yes, like Leanne I've been down many Cornish tin and copper mines, sometimes the adits go deep down and out beneath the sea, Just amazing engineering. It's easy to forget how industrial Cornwall was until about 100 years ago. My most favourite part of Cornwall is West Penwith (only about 8 miles from Leanne in St Ives) with its rocky granite coastline and high moorland but it is scarred in a beautiful way by its industrial past. And of course terrible tragedies happened when things went wrong. The 30 or so men and boys from St Just who lost their lives when the man engine that transported them deep into the mine workings failed plunging them to their deaths. There is a gold mine in Wales that we have visited too. It's called ...Dolaucathi ... and was worked from Roman times until the 20th century, and still supplies the gold for the wedding rings of the Royal family I believe! Again it is nestled in the most beautiful Welsh valley and is a most interesting place to visit. So good to hear about your adventures with the Bears, once again I am reminded of many parallels between our lives Jennifer. Have you read The Luminaries by Eleanor Caton? It is a doorstop of a book but tells the fascinating story and much more besides of the New Zealand Gold Rush. I loved it.

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  14. Yes I have been down mines - taken children on trips for education when I was younger as a teacher , but I had to hide my fear. I don't like being underground at all! I would rather bungy jump. It is a good way to keep cool though! Glad the children liked it. Jo x

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  15. A secret slice of history, what a beautiful phrase Jennifer. I am not good underground, but have visited old mine sites, though not actually gone underground. My darling dad was a Bevan Boy during WW2 and his experiences as a miner informed his life and politics for ever after. I am so proud of what he did. You have made great memories here for your LBs. x

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  16. I was gone for a few days so couldn't comment.. but I did read your blog on my iPad while I was away in Klamath Falls - that is such a neat and interesting place to take the kids, I bet they learned a lot in the mine. I have never been in one but would like to.. especially if it's on a mine train! And if there was a big gold nugget I could find. LOL! ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  17. Great stuff. I looked at the mountain and imagined that secret vein of gold winding through if for all those years and felt a bit sad it's no longer there. We went down a roman mine a few years ago- an amazing place, complete with soot on the walls from where ancient candles had illuminated the working areas.

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  18. wow that looks amazing. I've been down a coal mine, it was terrifying.

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  19. Brilliant, thank you for sharing your day. I love stuff like this, and how it differs from our history. Seriously, Jennifer, if you ever come to the UK I think the history lover in you would have the best time ever. Xx

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