Apparently the oxygen-free heights of Denver city aren’t the real mountains, so we drove out to Idaho Springs, a gorgeous mountain town that made me want to be a pioneer even more than usual. We stopped at an a former gold mine called the Argo. Our guide told us that it had originally opened as Newhouse Mine during the early days of the gold rush. When he told us it was renamed the Argo after Jason’s ship, we all cheered. And then we asked if anyone had ever lost a sandal in the nearby creek. (Classicists find this endlessly amusing.)
After a film strip of photographs of dioramas showing the history of the mine, our guide drove us up a hillside to the mine. Then he gave us maps and said he’d see us back at the bottom when we were through. I don’t think this had anything to do with our debate about which of the Argonaut’s heroes would have made a good miner…
We walked ourselves down, following the map. This wasn’t a particularly long walk, but I was still feeling the effects of stupid altitude sickness, so I kept falling behind or stopping to pant. Along the path, there were piles of abandoned tools and equipment, all sharp edges and rusted metal.
The inside was equally rundown. We climbed rickety steps, crossed uneven floors, and looked down over wildly unsafe drops, to see the wildly unsafe old-fashioned mining equipment. That description sounded a bit like weathered boards in a charming old farmhouse, and it was, while at the same time, there are nails sticking out of this charming antique handrail. It was really interesting to see the old-fashioned mining equipment up close, but we also spent a lot of time joking about getting killed by a falling beam from the Argo.