The day after we climbed the Crags ( just under 11,000 feet), we drove to Cripple Creek to take in the Molly Kathleen mine (1,000 feet below the surface) and the Cripple Creek-Victor narrow gauge railroad. Again, it was familiar ground. When our own children were young, we only did the free things, so we know we are blessed to be able to take our younger grandkids to do these things.
First order of the day was donning those attractive yellow hard hats.
We were fortunate that only the four of us and the tour guide had to fit into the tiny elevator cage. The other cage was packed to the gills! We had been hearing the bells as the cars went down into the mine and came back up. At the bottom, the guide explained the system of bells which indicated to what level the person on the top should send the car if it was on the top or from which to bring it up and whether to go at full speed or slowly, if their were people being transported . Until that system was invented, each mine had their own signals and miners going from one mine to another were confused. Until he explained it, I was confused, too!
A couple of months ago, we took our Georgia granddaughter, Alma, to the Salt Museum in Kansas. What a difference in the space at the bottom! The salt mine had huge cavernous room, while the hard rock mine had much more confined spaces. When our guide went through the process early miners used, we could understand. In a salt mine, there seems to be salt everywhere but in the gold mine, miners had to follow the vein and it was a long, tedious process to extract the ore.
The kids were pleased to know that our guide himself mined the sample rocks they received and because of his good explanation, we could see the telltale signs that gold, in whatever miniscule amount, was there!
After lunch, we fed the ground squirrels that ran around our table. I’m almost positive french fries are not part of their food supply in the wild, but they didn’t seem to mind!
The ride on the coal-fired train was a new experience for the kids. Actually, I don’t think they’ve ridden any train at all but I’m not sure of that. We sat immediately behind the 100-plus year old engine where we could watch the fire being stoked. It’s also where you can get regularly pelted with cinders!
Ben helped the engineer pass around pictures of Cripple Creek before and after the fires that devastated its wood framed buildings and caused the residents to build the brick buildings you now see. As a result, the engineer gave Ben a present, a lump of coal. Ben appeared to be much more pleased with that gift than he would have had he found it in his Christmas stocking!
Today’s gold mining process is much quicker and less manual labor-intensive, but to someone who appreciates the mountain beauty, it leaves something to be desired. The mountains are being taken apart from the top down and all the rocks are processed for gold. Our engineer had suggested that we take a short drive to view the American Eagle mining operation. Such an eye-opener!
The equipment used to haul the rocks to be processed is absolutely mammoth.
That’s the bed of a truck that they’re standing in! We watched trucks like this drive in front of us as we stopped at the stop sign on mine property.
We were thankful for the stop sign! The Cruiser wouldn’t be much good to us after one of those ran over us, and then, neither would its occupants!