San Juan Jon: Voices in the Wind

San Juan Jon: Voices in the Wind

by Jon Lovekin

Slide chutes Often, the best way to the mountain top is where fierce energy has blown down a path to the bottom. Snow avalanches do this. Where they load and run, decade to decade, is a clear path to the top, avoiding the tree fall and other debris in the deep dark woods that densely cover the hills.

Today was one of those days. I got a late start after checking the gear and carefully arranging the pack. The hike, work at the mine, and walk back out would take me into the early hours of nightfall even on this June day. The climb always cleared the pipes and the mind and today was no different. A cool breeze pulsed up the hillside chilling the sweat drenched clothes. As I topped out, light headed at the ridge I suddenly started as I heard voices. Looking all about there was no-one to be seen. Snatches of a far away conversation brought to me in pieces in the abrupt and now mysterious winds coming up from the valley. I was now well primed for the ghosts from yesterday that haunt these old mine sites.

Burro shoe Mine trail Following the ridge the old mining track became visible. It contoured around and through the next upper chute through large pines and then into the larger ravine with the mine. The trail angled up to a broad bench and the twisted remains of several sheds and cabins. The adit and dump were at the start of the bench and ore cart rails pointed out into empty sky. I trudged along the old road. Suddenly I spied a horse shoe that seemed unusual. Stooping I picked up the small and sturdy rusted shoe. I smiled as I thought of the burro that must have made so many trips along this path losing a shoe on one of them.

Miner's cabin Picking my way slowly through the debris strewn about the bench top I stepped into the cabin. The roof had fallen in but still protected the back wall. A table and coffee pot sat on the floor and scattered newsprint that once papered the walls of this room remained on the back wall. 1907 headlines from Philadelphia could be read on the torn remains of the paper that must have kept the winds at bay in this cozy little room. Many mining cabins remain across the west but very rarely are they as remote as this one with some small treasures still intact.

Now the place is still but for the winds with their whispering voices. So much labor went into these little mines. The miners traveled difficult and great distances facing hardship and loneliness that we can scarce imagine. This spot is still a hard days climb from Silverton which itself remains remote and time consuming to get to from the outside world.

Jon Lovekin (Editor's note: One of the pleasures in publishing Telluride Inside… and Out is getting to know new  [to us] writers. Susan and I independently ran across Jon Lovekin on Twitter. She took the next step, checked out his writing, liked what she saw and asked if he would be interested in contributing to TIO. Herewith, a new article from Jon.)

Jon Lovekin's interests: Geological Engineer, Photographer, Telemark Skier, 29er Mountain Biker, Writer, Oh, and FJ40 Landcruiser driver!


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