Oddly, I am writing about my trip to Colorado back in July, from Colorado in September. I am way behind on my blogs all around. My East Coast internal clock has me all messed up so I think I should do a little catching up....
As many of you know, I prospect for gold as a hobby. Being able to combine a vacation with a pursuit of my hobby was a perfect fit for me. My East Coast internal clock was put to full advantage by me, slipping away before sun up to hike in and prospect some spots.
My first morning I headed to this mine I had visited 4 years ago when we were out here. I followed the adage of 'gold is where it is found'. I hiked around from mine to mine. I would see one over a ridge and just head in that direction.
Being around old mines is dangerous. I do not mess around the old shafts and adits. I just do not feel it worth the risk.
Back in the day it took a lot of effort to transport a ton of ore to be processed. Very few mines had the resources that could crush the ore and separate the gold out. What you transported was the richest ore you had. Because of this a lot of ore that contained gold and other precious metals was discarded for higher grade material. Sometimes you can find where the mid grade stuff was piled for possible later processing.
Not everything that glitters is gold however. You often find piles of this material; fools gold also known as iron pyrite.
The dumps are very colorful places.
Imagine rolling your wheel barrow, one at a time, out to the end and dumping it down the hillside. How many would it take to create this heap? Some mines were that small of an operation. Some had ore carts on tracks that could carry a few wheel barrows worth at a time.
Many of these old dumps are also toxic wastelands. You might notice in the photos above that even after 100 years, very little can grow in the discarded material. Where the water leaches from the dump, all kinds of metals and mineral compounds flow out.
This dried up pond had many signs around it cautioning to avoid contact with the mud.
This Buick hood was poking out of a dump at about 11,000 feet.
Dynamite boxes are all over the hill sides
I found many massive motors also. I always wonder how they got these things so high up in such remote places.
This mine was a massive one. It produced gold, silver, zinc, lead, tungsten, and manganese for over 70 years. It operated even during WW2 to supply metals for the war effort. Very few mines were allowed to remain open during the war. Most never opened when the war ended. This mine closed right after the war however.
Make note of the sky in this and the next photo. Up here, above 10,000 feet the weather can change in seconds.
This mine has an interesting story. It was a gold and silver venture. The structure you see is actually a processing plant on top of the mine shaft. The material was to be hoisted up to the top, sorted and processed. The high grade ore, sent to a bin, the waste dumped out the side and down the mountain. Investors were sold shares and this mine and it was financed to go 1000 feet down into the vein. At 100 feet there was no more money. The two owners were no where to be found either.
On the left you can see the head frame of this folly in gold speculation. What you see through the center of this photo are the tailings left behind by bucket line dredges. To the extreme left of the tailing is where the dredge turned around to come back down the valley. It stopped right there.
This is that dredge. It was abandoned when the price of gold fell below profitable margins in the 1920's. They claim those two dredges pulled over 5 million dollar in 'them times dollars' before they stopped eating up the valley floor.
This is what the tailings of these dredges looks like up close. The tailings here go on for about 16 miles. In this valley and others that were also dredged, you now find companies harvesting the gravels for construction and landscaping. There is a by-product of sorting this material; gold. They did not get it all.
Another thing I found a lot of was abandoned miners camps. The BLM seems to want to leave these structures alone.
The elements are slowly taking care of them.
This town once had 3000 people living in it. Now only a handful remain.