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Kellogg’s Crystal Gold Mine

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Gold Pan Kit

The day after visiting the Sierra Silver Mines in nearby Wallace, we were invited to check out Kellogg’s Crystal Gold Mines. Two mines in two days might sound repetitive, but they offered sufficiently distinct experiences to make each worth the time.

Gold-In-Idaho-Mine

Where the most memorable aspect of Sierra Silver Mines had been its still-working equipment, that of the Crystal Gold Mine was its history. This was the first hard rock mine explored in the Silver Valley, dug out by a small group of prospectors years before the silver rush which brought about the first permanent settlers. The identity of the men responsible for the Crystal mine remains shrouded in mystery.

Our guide for the day, a former miner who joined the Navy when the industry slowed, showed us the veins of quartz which the gold-seekers followed into the underground. Gold is often mixed with quartz, and he pointed out some nuggets still embedded in the hard, white rock. No one knows how much gold this mine produced, but considering how much was left when the mine was rediscovered, it must have been a substantial amount.

The miners vanished suddenly, for reasons which are unascertainable. Their equipment, advanced and expensive for the day, was left behind, and the mine’s entrance was sealed up and carefully concealed. It seems safe to assume that they intended to return. The mine was so well-hidden that it remained undiscovered until 1991.

Our tour took about an hour. We learned about various minerals, including the beautiful and worthless Smithsonite, and got to experience the unsettling sensation of absolute blackness when our guide shut off the lights completely. We saw downward shafts now filled with water (and some fish), some of the rotted, original equipment, and an interesting exhibit which demonstrated the blast pattern on a wall packed with dynamite.

And after the tour, we got to try our hand at panning for gold in tubs kept in the yard. I was too clumsy and impatient, but Jürgen demonstrated an innate knack for it. So I wasn’t too surprised when, the next day, he swung into the parking lot of a hardware store and ran inside to buy his very own pan. For weeks, every time we drove by a river, his eyes lit up with gold fever, and we had to stop. Amazingly, he never hit it rich.

Crystal Gold Mine – Website

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October 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm Comment (1)

Reliving the Big Blowup of 1910 on the Pulaski Trail

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Smokey The Bear

Big Ed Pulaski was probably as famous as it’s possible for a firefighter to be. He invented the Pulaski: the hatchet/pick-axe tool which has become the fireman’s most important weapon. And as a young man, Big Ed’s accomplishments were even more notable; unless you’re unimpressed by something like saving 40 men during the biggest wildfire in North American history.

Pulaski

The “Big Blowup” of 1910 wiped out much of northern Idaho, with especially devastating effects in the Silver Valley. The fire burned over three million acres (about the size of Connecticut) and did so with terrifying fury. In August of 1910, Ed was supervising firefighting crews, when the winds suddenly shifted, placing him and his men in immediate, mortal danger.

Pulaski was familiar with the terrain and remembered an abandoned mine in the vicinity. With trees falling down around them and panicked wildlife, including a bear, pushing by them on the trail, Big Ed led his men to the mine. All 45 made it safely inside, and laid on the ground while the fire roaring outside sucked the oxygen out of the air. Suffocating and in the grip of panic, some men wanted to escape the relative safety of the mine — but cool Ed Pulaski trained his pistol on them. “The first one who tries to leave, gets shot”.

Due to the scarce oxygen, all 45 men lost consciousness. When the fire passed, 40 woke back up. The loss of five men was tragic, but without Big Ed’s knowledge and level-headedness, the toll would have been much worse.

A two-mile interpretive trail just south of Wallace leads to the location of the old mine which saved the lives of 40 men. Along the way, placards recreate the hellish nightmare of the Big Blowup, showing the extent of the devastation and sharing quotes from Pulaski’s memoirs. At the trail’s end, you can see the mine. It’s closed off and rather small, but the weight of history makes it improbably dramatic.

Location of the Trailhead on our Map

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October 17, 2012 at 11:54 pm Comment (1)
Kellogg's Crystal Gold Mine The day after visiting the Sierra Silver Mines in nearby Wallace, we were invited to check out Kellogg's Crystal Gold Mines. Two mines in two days might sound repetitive, but they offered sufficiently distinct experiences to make each worth the time.
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