Updated: Oct 28, 2022
It was a bright and sunshiny day on the mountain top of Cripple Creek, Colorado.
We had arrived at the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine and were ready for an adventure!
These videos may be loud, view with low volume. Failure to do so, may result in hearing like a miner. (aka not at all)
After buying our tickets, we looked in the gift shop. There were unique rocks and gems everywhere. There was a miniature mine display that kids could walk in on the tracks and look at a mine cart. All of the kids found something interesting to buy. I bought a crystal keychain, Pickles picked an agate magnet, and KC got a fossilized shark tooth.
Then we were able to explore the old mining equipment, trolley car, and an old steam engine as we waited for our tour to start. We watched two chipmunks scale the side of the mountain overtop the loose gravel. They were speedy!
We also got to see the cable house where the operator controlled the elevator. He had to listen to the bell code to know when to lift the cable up and down the shaft. There were two elevators on top of another, so he had to know when to lower it for the second elevator to unload. On a busy day, the elevators would take groups up and down, one after another, non stop.
You could feel the ground rumbling under us as the big wheel turned rapidly to pull up the elevator cable. The windows on the cable house were shaking and quivering back and forth like crazy. The clouds started to roll in and the sky became darker, and it was time for our tour to begin.
We stood in line with our hard hats on, and then....the clouds couldn't hold any more and it started to hail! We were lucky to be under a tin roof. We quickly squeezed into the metal elevator and then started to drop 1,000 feet underground.
When we arrived at the bottom, we filed out and followed the tour guide. It was very calm and quiet compared to the hail above us. We got to experience how dark it was for the miners to work by candle light. They had only a few candles every day, so they had to work quickly, before they ran out of light. As time progressed, kerosene and oil lamps replaced the candles, providing brighter and longer lasting light. The boss would ride around on the rail bike to check on the project . The third picture shows where the miners would take breaks to eat, but before it used to be stalls for the working mules. The mine released the mules when the law was passed that the mules had to be brought up to daylight for at least
1 hour, once a day, and the miners decided it was too much of a hassle.
The first thing they had to do was drill holes with long rods that they hammered into the rock by hand. If you were the guy holding the rod, you would pray that the guy swinging had good aim! Once the hole was deep enough, they drilled more of them in a pattern. Then they put in dynamite in to blow it up. What is left is a sludge that is scooped up and sent to the surface. Gold ore is microscopic and sticks to other materials like fluorite.
Fluorite is purple so you can see it on the wall of the cave.
As technology grew, air compression came to the mines to allow faster drilling. This tool was known as the widow maker, due to the miners dying from inhaling the dust particles from holding and looking up at the drill. One of the miners decided to drill a hole in the tip of the tool to allow water to travel through allowing the dust to turn into mud. Then the miners would only get dirty, instead of inhaling all the dust.
Miners would start at the bottom of a gold vein so that when they drill and blow things up, it falls downward. If they started at the top, they would be working in their own sludge and it would be harder to clean out. There are many miles of tunnels connected to other mines in the area. The guide showed us the tunnel that went to Victor, which was 6 miles away.
The miners used a machine called a mucker to scoop up the rock they had just blasted. Before the machine was invented, it was a person shoveling by hand, who was called the 'mucker.' This video demonstrates how it is used.
Halfway through the tour, we got to ride on a mini train powered by a giant air compressor. We went through a dark tunnel, with the only light being at the very end. It was a one minute flat roller coaster ride. The only downside was, it was loud!
The mine was started by Mollie Kathleen, who found a piece of gold ore on the ground. She went to the mining rights office, trying to stake a claim, but they denied her because she was a female. Luckily, her husband was a lawyer, and helped her get her claim. In doing so, she became one of the first women to have a mining claim.
Pickles and I got a hands on experience of being a miner. We had to push a one-ton minecart full of stone up a hill. Believe me, it's harder than it looks.
Then we got back in the elevator to go back to the surface. We were lucky that it was done hailing by the time we arrived up top. We then went to a heritage center and saw a cool mini version of the mine. We also got some donkey treats that we could give to the ancestors of the blind donkeys that lived in the mines. The village has people taking care of the donkeys and let them wander around town during the day. Unfortunately we weren't able to find them, to feed them.
There is still an active mine today just down the valley right next to the Mollie Kathleen's. After we were done at the heritage center, we went to a restaurant to get a Black Cow, the original root beer float. It was good and looked cool with the layers, but it was very overpriced.
Did you know that Cripple Creek could have been Colorado's capital. It once was a booming town and only missed the chance by one vote.
Written by: B.O.B.; Edited by: Mom; Fun Fact by: Pickles
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