Journey into a historic silver mine |

Journey into a historic silver mine

Aspen Times writer
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

Plenty of people hike around and on top of the Smuggler Mine everyday in Aspen on Smuggler Road, a wildly popular local hiking route. But how many locals can say they’ve been inside the mine that was responsible for plenty of the silver during the town’s mining heydays?

Kids and moms from the Roaring Fork Valley Home School Network took a tour of the mine on Wednesday, donning hard-hats to explore underground and learn about Aspen’s history. Aspen resident Dawn Lamping, who home schools her own two children and helps organize the valley’s home school network, said a number of the children are currently studying the state’s history, and the field trip fit right in with that.

“One of the things that everyone seemed to ooh and aah over the most was the idea that all of these mountains are like Swiss cheese underneath,” Lamping said. “That will forever change my walks up Smuggler – knowing there’s a huge labyrinth beneath me.”The group also talked about light, and why miners used candles. The students got to see what it’s like being inside the mine when just one candle is lit, and learned the miner’s methods off keeping time without daylight or any watches. A certain number of candles the miners had to burn during their time at work would help them know when it was time to leave for the day.

“You can also test the oxygen level in the mine using the candle – if it sputters, you know to get out quick,” Lamping said.

The group also learned that miners at the time made a substantial amount of money, and that tunnels underneath Aspen connect Smuggler Mountain to Aspen Mountain.

Thirteen students and seven mothers took the tour on Tuesday – Lamping says the Roaring Fork Valley Home School Network is made of about 10 families from Rifle to Aspen, who meet once a week for field trips or service projects. They’ll be meeting next week to put together boxes with toys, toothbrushes and other necessities for kids at Advocate Safehouse in Glenwood Springs.”We’re all colleagues who do the same thing, and we like to work together and share things together,” she said of the network. “We always have fun when we get together. The kids and parents get to have personal relationships in the community, too.”

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