Sometime early in our trip planning, Ian made it clear he wanted to go mining for gems out west. This was actually part of a compromise since we couldn't find him an opportunity sooner and closer than we would have out here. And why the interest in gem mining? Ian wants to be a miner when he grows up.
I had high hopes this would be a miserable experience for Ian. I've no desire to choose professions for our boys, but if they can eliminate some I'm not particularly fond of on their own that's fine by me. Nothing against mining, just this father's natural instinct to want to minimize unnecessary risk in his child's life. With all that said, I'm afraid yesterday did nothing to dissuade Ian's pursuit of a career down under. And I'm not talking about Australia.
On our way to the mine we stopped for lunch in Phillipsburg, a 19th century mining town. I don't imagine the place looked much different than it did a 100 years ago, which made it a cool place to visit. Walking through the middle of town you could almost picture dirty miners returning from a hard day of work. We ate lunch at an old fashioned diner, then made our way across the street to a little store that bills itself as the "Largest Candy Store in the World." After going inside, I have no reason to dispute that billing. I doubt the kids would either.
Then it was off to mine for sapphires at Gem mountain. The drive there was stunning. Large ranches filled with cattle - more cattle than than I've ever seen, and I grew up in a farm community. The ever present snow covered mountains hovered in the background. Along this drive you realize the old west is not so old to certain areas of our country. In fact, it is a way of life.
The surrounding beauty on the drive to the mine.
Soon to be miners.
Ian may have been surprised to find this mining experience didn't involved hard hats with mounted lights, and the entire experience took place on top of the world, not beneath it. We purchased large buckets of gravel dug up from the old mining area. Then we washed them in a large, winding basin of water. With the rocks cleaned and ready to explore, we dumped them on a large table we were gathered around and carefully picked through the piles with tweezers looking for the glass-like sapphire gems.
The experience didn't start out great for Ian. Not only was he not finding gems within the stones, his big brother was plucking them out like he was born in Phillipsburg. Eventually, though, all the kids started finding sapphires. The adults enjoyed helping them, pointing them to the gems which were actually very challenging to find. (A special shout out to "Uncle" Travis who did most of the cleaning and gravel hauling for the kids.)
I asked Ian when we were leaving if he had fun. He said he did, but the next time he wants to mine under the ground. Like I said, the experience did nothing to discourage one future miner.
One intense miner, even if it was above ground.
It may not have ben the "real" thing, but it still required a team effort.
Travis took the point with the washing and straining, but he had a willing understudy.
Capturing smiles directed at the real photographer.
These two together in exploration is focus in its purest form.