I walk around the lake’s rim, taking in all that alpine beauty. Then I notice it. It’s a chair. A chair made of dead wood and rocks to make a seat to enjoy this piece of serenity high up in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. I sit, gazing upon the peaks, looking out at the shimmering water. Snow fields surround Jasper Lake, adding to the high mountain scene.
After a few more swigs of water and a few more handfuls of trail mix, and I am ready to head down, to leave my paradise.
Working at a museum that focuses on mining history can be a challenge at times. Mining has a bad connotation with people, especially conservationists and lovers of the outdoor. People have images about how mining desecrates the landscape, stripping away its natural beauty. And to be honest, it does in many ways, scar the landscape.
But when I do a mining talk to explain our mining heritage, I always circle back around to what mining has left us with today — both the good and the bad. I don’t shy away from controversial points of view, allowing people to feel their disgust with the scars of mining. But I also remind them of what Colorado’s mining legacy left us — some amazing byways to explore the beauty of the Colorado Rocky Mountains.
And so I found myself today, hiking out of Hessie Trail head, past a town site that began as a mining community. The very town of Eldora that I have passed through to get to Hessie, began as a gold mining town some 120 years ago in 1897.
I know the road I have driven on to get to the trail head was built by miners to haul the gold ore they extracted from the mountains. In my mind’s eye, I can see the wagon full of ore being hauled down this very bumpy, rock road, ever so slowly getting closer to town. I imagine how long that would have taken, and what a laborious task it must have been.
Today, as I hiked along what is obviously an old road, making my way higher up into the wilderness, the thought struck me that it is miners that first created this path up to this high alpine lakes and wondrous vistas.
Were there reasons for making these pathways different from mine today? Maybe or maybe not.
They built these roads to find fortune, to create wealth, a better life for themselves and their families.
Today, I hiked this trail to find fortune, the fortune of nurturing my spirit by connecting with nature, by taking in the beauty of wildflowers blooming in a meadow, the wealth I feel in my heart of being fortunate to hike these trails literally minutes from my back door, the drive to make a better life for myself by filling myself up both physically and spiritually.
So thank you to those men who did such tireless, back-breaking work to build these roads that now allow of us today to drive and hike these byways, so that we may enjoy some of the most breathtaking vistas that fill our souls up.
Here’s to the miners!