Lots of mine artifacts still exist, you just have get out and look | AspenTimes.com

Lots of mine artifacts still exist, you just have get out and look

An inquisitive reporter checks out an ore bucket and pulley that was part of a mine tram system.
Hannah Condon/courtesy photo

A friend of mine, we’ll call him Erik the Great, has been credited with crafting the phrase, “You don’t know if you don’t go” while skiing Aspen Mountain.

While many people speculate that this run or that run won’t be skiing very well under certain conditions, Erik never takes anything for granted. He’s willing to check it out. (However, he doesn’t remember coining the phrase.)

I’ve learned to be more patient and follow his advice in my backcountry adventures. Sunday it paid off in spades.

My daughter, Hannah, and I undertook a relatively easy hike into a box canyon where I had reason to believe there were mining artifacts at the end of the trail. All we found was a collapsed mine with no leftover equipment or dilapidated structures. Storm clouds were building and the wind came up. I figured we were out of luck but finally took stock of my surroundings. I noticed cables coming down from one of the mines on the steep, opposing valley wall and traced the wire ropes until they disappeared in thick vegetation on the valley floor.

Hannah has learned in her 24 years on the planet that a hike with me often requires a bushwhack and sometimes ends with a goose egg, but she’s almost always game.

We fought our way through thick willow brush covering boggy terrain to the other side of the valley floor. Even before we reached the logical place for the mine tram to land, we came across an intact ore car, complete with the pulley that connected to the wire rope. Further exploration yielded the lower terminal of the tram, where we found a rusted gas can, a bucket, various nut, bolts, rails and other pieces of machinery, and a box spring from some old miner’s bed, all contained in the deteriorated log ruins of a structure.

Oddly enough, we didn’t find the artifact that I know exists in that valley, but we found more than I anticipated — and left many more sites to explore.

The purpose of this piece isn’t to gloat over a good score, but to encourage anyone interested in mining history to lace up your boots, scour your map for mines, then go on an adventure. There are still plenty of artifacts out there. “You don’t know if you don’t go.”



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