We decided to head south for Fall break for another weekend of camping. It was a bit blustery and cold but overall we had a great time and stayed warm by drinking lots of hot chocolate, turning up the heater, and enjoying the heated mattresses. The fall leaves were beautiful and Dave and I each got in some good biking but the highlight of the trip was a tour of the Mollie Kathleen goldmine.
On Saturday we headed down to Cripple Creek and pulled into the mine. There was a lot of scattered equipment around and after we purchased our tickets we wandered around the above ground property. We could see an active strip mine with heavy equipment as well as all kinds of remnants of historic mining. As we were waiting for our group to get called we got to watch the hoist engines rumble and the cages come up and then disappear loaded with people. Both Dave and I gave each other a skeptical look when we realized just what our transportation up and down the 1,000 foot shaft looked like. I’m definitely more of a mountain TOP kind of person rather than an underground explorer and have not done any real type of caving so this was a stretch for all of us. The nearly 2 minute descent proceeded as planned though I can’t say it was a smooth ride. I think all our eyes were pretty wide when we finally unloaded on the bottom. Very weird to think we were now twice as deep as the town of Cripple Creek and as far below the earth as the river at the bottom of the Royal Gorge is below the bridge or gondola. The rest of the tour was just as informative, entertaining and awe inspiring. The guide/miner fired up all kinds of equipment, kept the boys engaged, and helped us all understand a lot more of the history of the mine. When we asked the boys later what was their favorite part of the tour they couldn’t decide if it was riding the steam cart, getting and ore sample, seeing holes drilled for dynamite or the dynamite itself. Well as you can tell we made it safely back to the surface and are very glad we made the time to take this tour.
Part of enjoying the rest of the area of Cripple Creek included viewing the active strip, gold mine from closer. They have set up a retired mega, dump truck bed as the viewpoint which helped highlight just how massive the trucks and whole operation is. There is so much history and other mining in the area that we will have to go back and explore more including checking out the narrow gauge train since it was already closed for the season.
And of course, if you are ever in the area, make sure to track down the only moving historic landmarks in the country. There is a herd of donkeys that are the descendants of the donkeys that used to work in the mines that roam freely in the area. We found four of them begging for handouts outside the District Museum. We petted them a bunch and spoiled them with treats you can obtain through donating to the organization that helps maintain the health of the herd. One of them thought he might like to come home with us. Nathanael was so excited to find them and pet them but got a little nervous when one of them started to nibble him. Joshua got in on the feeding action and I returned to my roots and loved on them a lot.
The rest of the trip was filled with exploring the state park, looking for the elusive elk (no luck though we saw some handsome bucks avoiding the hunters), bike riding, mastering the rings at the playground and relaxing. When the snow blew through on Sunday we figured it was time to let the leaves fly. 🙂