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Exploring Summit Indiana Jones style

Has archeology been the same since the movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark” came out in 1981? Oh, sure, it was a somewhat mysterious and dangerous field of study back in the ’20s with the apparently real “curse of the mummy” that attended the opening of some tombs in Egypt, but that stuff was just creepy grave robbing; and the practitioners were dusty academics in flannel suits and pith helmets. Mostly, archeology was viewed as a rather mundane and dry study of the ancients with little excitement and probably no money for the effort. Who knew the adventures and thrills archeologists really experience, the cutthroat yet lucrative business that is the pursuit of ancient treasures and, of course, the beautiful groupies that follow these swashbuckling tombsters around – that is until Spielberg and Lucas created Indiana Jones and his bullwhip?Suddenly, the idea of searching for the lost treasures of the ancients in exotic and long-forgotten locales seemed like a pretty good way to spend one’s life. This “new” interest in the ancient is matched in the rebirth of interest in paleontology and paleobotany after the Jurassic Park movies came out. The dinosaur books have been jumping off the shelves at libraries ever since. I can only imagine the excitement if yet another CSI series starts this fall: CSI Jurassic, starring a paleoforensic specialist trying to clear the good name of a long-dead T-Rex. Every SHS graduating senior will have year book life goals of being an archeologist, a paleontologist, a rock star or a pro snowboarder. Maybe all of the above.

And what does any of this have to do with a Book for Guys? Last year, I finally broke down and traded in my big road SUV for a more practical and capable off-road vehicle with the hopes of doing some four-wheeling on the 75 percent of the roads in Summit County I wasn’t previously able to access. Suddenly I’m able to get into many of the old mine sites that dot our landscape, most of which had a road to the site to haul stuff in and ore out, which is cool – I’m not doing any new damage to the high turf driving in, and I can feel a bit like an archeologist piecing together an ancient (?) civilization (OK – maybe six or seven generations back). Only problem is, once I get to the sites, I can’t identify the meaning or sometimes even the use of the stuff that’s laying in plain sight – structures, machinery, cans, broken pottery, rags, leather pieces, tools, etc. I don’t know enough about mining – hard rock, placer, hydraulic or dredge – or miners and mining camps to read the artifacts in front of me. Indiana Jones I ain’t.And then I took the Lomax Mine tour in Breck, sponsored by the Summit Historical Society, and was introduced by the tour guide to “The Mining Camps Speak” by Beth and Bill Sagstetter. (Many thanks, Rick.)

This is an excellent primer for anyone who just flat out enjoys getting into the High Country and examining the physical history of mining country – deciphering the traces of how our ancestors lived, worked and even died 100-140 years ago that are still preserved in the mining sites and ghost towns all over the county. Well-written and researched, this is proving to be an excellent reference book in my explorations – after checking it out, I bought a copy for my home library and to carry along on four-wheel trips above treeline. I figure it will get well-thumbed over the next 30 or 40 years I live here, which is about how long I figure it will take to explore the mines and ghost towns of Summit County now that I’m starting to know what I’m looking for and at.And soon I will be in the market for a fedora and a bullwhip.



Tom Zebarth works at the Main Branch Library in Frisco.


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