Ghost Towns and Gold Mines
About four days after my parents returned to the midwest Gracie and I got our next visitor, Megan. Gracie and I have known Megan since our days back at Stout (Go Blue Devils!), and we reconnected last time we were back in Wisconsin in early June and made plans for her to see us in Cortez a few weeks later. Once Megan had landed, she and Gracie scooped up a Colorado travel brochure and scanned for brand new experiences for all of us. That’s how we stumbled across the Old Hundred Gold Mine Tour and Animas Forks Ghost Town in the Silverton, CO area.
Silverton is an old mining town about two hours northeast of Cortez that I’m fairly certain was where they filmed Dante’s Peak. When the mines stopped producing and the shortsighted federal government put an end to a child’s right to an honest day’s work, the town turned its economic focus towards microbreweries, ski resorts, and providing a set for disaster flicks starring Pierce Brosnan. Keep in mind I have no idea if any of this is actually true.
A few miles northeast of town in a sheer mountain valley we found the ominous doorway to the Old Hundred Gold Mine. A train of minecarts sat just outside a black hole in the side of the mountain, with its tracks disappearing into darkness only a few feet beyond the entrance. Deep in the mine I could see a few lights flickering, though it was impossible to judge how far away they might have been. Gracie, Megan, our friend Trena (who also came along!) and I geared up and hopped in the cart, nervously awaiting our transit into the belly of the mountain. As our guide was giving his safety/history spiel I caught something about the Old Hundred closing in 1974 due to the economic nonsensibility of keeping it open (or was it the constant threat of collapses?), and I perked up when I heard that gold was still abundant in the old girl. I clenched my jaw, having never before experienced such an insatiable lust for precious metals.
Enough potentially life-saving safety points, old man. Put me in that mine.
After one last reminder to keeps hands and heads inside the cart, the foreman hopped behind the wheel, kissed the cross on his necklace, and leaned on a lever. The train creaked and groaned to life, lurching toward the darkness. It was too late for the womenfolk to change their minds, and too late for me to bring my shovel.
I think the first thing we noticed was a sudden wall of cool. Regardless the weather or season or temperature outside (February blizzard, August heatwave- anything), the mine always sits at a cool, damp forty-seven degrees. The next thing we noticed was the water- dripping, running, even gushing from the ceiling. So that’s why we’re wearing these massive yellow raincoats.
The cart ground to a halt after what we were told was a third of a mile. We were parked under the lights we’d seen from the mine’s entrance. The crew hopped off and fell in line behind the foreman. For the next hour or so we followed him through dimly-lit corridors and dripping hallways as he spoke of a simpler time before Xbox and skateboarding when kids lit sticks of dynamite and ran for fun. He showed us how to operate a machine called ‘The Widowmaker’, lead us past a 600+ foot vertical mineshaft, and gave us pointers on how to place and wire explosives if we someday want to mine our backyards. At some point on the tour a kid blacked out and collapsed.
These are the faces of being next to a fainting person.
When our time in the Old Hundred concluded, we piled back in the cart and made for daylight. I never found any nuggets. Or even one stupid blood diamond.
Until next time,
JUST KIDDING! We did more! In the second half of today’s Groundhog Chronicle Double Feature our crew left the mine, loaded up in Trena’s 4Runner and drove fifteen miles into the mountains to the northeast on the roughest ‘road’ I think I’ve ever ridden. Had Gracie been any more pregnant this road would have probably induced labor. Our destination? Animas Forks.
They say in its heyday Animas Forks was a proper old mining town with its own post office, train station, mill, and Chipotle. More than a hundred years removed from its prime only a dozen or so dilapidated structures and the ghosts of old miners remain. From the moment I first laid eyes on Animas Forks I could tell a dark presence hung over the town. For serious.
We poked our heads in some of the old shacks, flinched at unexplainable creaks on the floorboards above us, and Trena was even brave enough to open a trapdoor in one of the floors. We saw a pair of child-like apparitions down there named Flora and Miles, but they evaporated before I could get a picture. Srsly.
With all of us deeply haunted (but mostly just tired), we packed up and headed home.
Until next time,
Another day in the mines.
Definitely sensing some kind of presence here. Definitely.
Gracie, hard hat game on point.
They say a pregnant lady can sometimes be seen standing in this window, impatiently waiting for her husband to take a picture.
Seriously, kid. Get your own gold.