Monday, June 16, 2008

Crow Creek Mine--and a Brush with Death

Crow Creek Mine Girdwood, AlaskaLast Friday morning the alarm went off as usual and I ignored it--as usual. It always goes off at 6:30 but I figure I have a good 30 minutes before Lillian knocks on the door, wanting to know what's for breakfast, and the boys knock pictures off the walls in the hall with their wrestling. Andrew, however, did get up and he opened the curtains then said "Let's do something. I don't think I'll go into work today--"

Just like that.

I was thrilled though I did wish in a not-so-subtle-rather-grumbly way from under my pillow that he'd waited another hour to announce his intentions. Another hour would have felt good . . .

The weather was sunny and beautiful so we decided it was a good day for checking out Crow Creek mine, a gold mine 30 minutes south of Anchorage in Girdwood, which began back in 1898. That in itself is interesting because I honestly stand of awe of anyone gutsy enough to come to Alaska and stake a claim in the middle of nowhere 100 years ago (though I'm well aware people have lived here without the benefits of cable t.v. for thousands of years).

Crow Creek Mine in Girdwood, AlaskaAnyway, we got there before noon and paid our fee at the entrance shack ($5 per kid, $15 for adults) because apparently there are actually people who go down there to pan for gold professionally. As in that's their job--no really, I'm completely serious, there are guys that go to the mine and look for those pretty little flakes all day long. They must only do it in summer because I can't imagine trying anything with the water and ground frozen. No one could want gold that badly.

We took our gold pans, shovel, bucket and complimentary little Ziploc bags full of dirt (guaranteed to have actual flakes) and headed to the creek to seek our fortune.

According to the pamphlet we were thoughtfully provided with at the entrance, at its height the mine was producing 700 ounces of gold per month (which in real dollars would be worth approximately the same as 10 gallons of gas) but those days are long gone.

Crow Creek Mine in Girdwood, AlaskaI showed the kids the basic panning technique then when they were ready I dumped their Ziploc baggies of dirt into their pans to give it a go and sure enough, each pile of dirt produced half a dozen or so authentic tiny flakes of gold but I'm afraid that's all the gold we ever saw the entire time. (To see a video clip of our panning in action click here).

There were a few people panning along with us and no one ever found anything--I'm guessing the creek was panned out completely sometime back in 1949 and the only gold you'll see are the bucks the tourists pay to play prospector (I wanted to know where that practice dirt had come from). But it didn't really matter because the kids found that throwing rocks in the water was a lot more fun anyway. Soon the real entertainment was the rock-throwing contest across the creek to see who could get their rocks to shatter against the boulder followed by the Ultimate Test of Manliness aka "Let's see who can keep their hand in the cold water the longest" (Spencer won).

Gold Panning at Crow Creek MineWhich brings me to the brush with death part--this is the point where Andrew saved David's life. While I sat in the warm sun the guys walked across the creek via a tree trunk that made a bridge and hiked up a cut bank forming a cliff so they could push boulders down into the water below (I believe this is the first game ever invented and dates back to prehistoric times).

David was pushing on a boulder with his foot when the gravel below gave way and he slipped, lost his balance and started to go down to the waiting rocks below. Somehow Andrew saw it happening and like a superhero, with lightning-fast reflexes, snatched him back by the arm at the last second as he was falling to his death. Pretty amazing and I'm very glad I wasn't there, it would have given me a stroke. Though I suppose if I was there they probably wouldn't have been allowed to be standing at the top of a dangerously shifting cliff playing among boulders above raging glacial waters of death. Moms spoil all the fun apparently.

Andrew was breathing pretty hard by the time they got back (I think he was afraid to tell me that he almost lost one of the kids along the way) and David was complaining that his left arm was now longer than his right but overall a very nice day. And we have 14 flakes to show for it.

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45 comments:

poppy fields said...

My girls would love to go panning for gold. Glad Andrew made that catch :)

Summer said...

Sadly, I would probably be the one who first suggested pushing boulders off the cliff face. :)

I'm glad you didn't lose anyone.

Mary@notbefore7 said...

Looks like a lot of fun. Course, a brush with death...making a mom's heart stop. Glad they are OK!

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

I hate those close calls with death. I keep having fake flashbacks - to what could have happened. Horrible.

Christie O. said...

ohmigosh. that's scary. yes, i would have had a heart attack seeing that but you're right too in that somewhere along the way i would have spoiled it to begin with if i were there(that's not a good idea...someone's going to get hurt..whatever momism here).

glad everyone made it out ok!

Amy G said...

Yikes! Glad everyone got out alive.

We went to a similar operation in the NC mountains: a "jewel mine." Apparently emeralds were once plentiful there, and it doesn't stop the current owners from selling hope at $8/child, $15/adult. You stand at a sluice and buckets come down from the mountain to be sorted through in the running ladder of water. And you're guaranteed a few semi-precious jewels, which I suspect the bucket-haulers slip into the dirt. Adults are in on the game, kids love to play in the mud, and once a year or so someone finds a carat-worthy gem. !!!

Amber M. said...

Sounds like a fun day...aside from the David-almost-falling-to his-death part. I almost had a stroke just reading it...

MRMacrum said...

Now see. Just because little boys get bigger and become men doesn't mean they lose the ability to give moms and their wives heart palpitations on a regular basis. It's what we do.

mannequin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mannequin said...

spelling error realizations after clicks drive me crazy.

Great job and quick thinking Andrew!

Janet said...

Good lord, like Amber, I'm having a stroke just reading about it.
The town Amy G is talking about is Chimney Rock. We didn't do the jewel hunt thing, but we will when the kids get bigger.
I suspect that the mine folks seed that dirt with gold flakes just like they do the "gemstones" in NC.

The Source said...

Ummm...I'm so glad your husband has quick reflexes! I would have probably frozen & stood there watching as my child took the plunge!

By the way, don't you want to trade places for a week or two? I noticed you're all wearing light jackets...while we here in SC are roasting in the high 90's and trying to wear as little as decently possible!

Cocoa said...

What is it with boys (men) and throwing boulders? My husband and his brothers have also been known to take old washers and dryers up the mountains and use them as boulders just to see how they all fall apart. Not environmentally friendly but they get the biggest kick of it.

Laurie said...

The title reminded me of a Nancy Drew book. Good save by Andrew. Or is it Drew? Where was Nancy anyway?

Shannon said...

What a fun adventure to wake up to! So glad everyone came home in one piece ( :

Patricia said...

How fun and yikes at the same time!!!

MommyTime said...

The rock throwing thing is indeed endemic to maleness. I don't understand it, but it is true that my son has never met a rock he didn't want to throw or a boulder he didn't try to push.

Congratulations right back, on the Most Artistic award. And, of course, my homework is your homework (is that the route to Most Popular?) :)

Jerri Dalrymple said...

luv the video! Glad no one got hurt!!!

Cuddle Cottage said...

My stomach turned for you . . . :)

Carinne said...

My heart about stopped. Glad he's OK. Don't scare me like that.

Carly & Garrett said...

Oh my gosh! That is realy scary. So glad that everything turned out ok.

You are so fortunate to live in such a beautiful place!

My Ice Cream Diary said...

Hey, gold falkes in a bag of dirt is way more than you get in a cereal box these days.

My husband hates to tell me about the close calls he has when he is alone with the kids too. But, based on my previous reactions, I can't blame him.

Outnumbered2to1 said...

That sounds like so much fun. We've been tempted to go mining for minerals in the southern half of the US. Wouldn't have to worry about falling to our deaths. So scarey!

bythelbs said...

Merciful heavens. So glad everyone is still alive. This is the stuff my nightmares are made of.

Adventures In Babywearing said...

Oh my goodness!!!!

Steph

ewe are here said...

Scary...

But the panning for gold sounds like fun. :-)

Jackie @ Our Moments Our Memories said...

Oh my goodness! How scary. So glad it all turned out ok, thank God for lightning-quick reflexes!

Sheri said...

We have something similar within a couple hundred miles of us, where you can dig for diamonds, but I've heard that people have actually found diamonds there. We'll have to try it sometime, hopefully with no death defying acts of rescue though!

Hope you got to sleep in today.

The Estrogen Files said...

Whew! That would have taken some years off my life, I'll tell ya! Glad everyone is okay.

jen said...

Isn't it interesting how differently moms and dads think? It seems like most of the time dads are the ones to have the adventures and moms are the ones to think it through but I have a friend who is just the opposite; she is quick to have the adventure and can't understand why I don't let my kids wade in streams or hike through the mountains by themselves. It always makes me laugh when we look at eachother with these "I can't believe you 'do/don't' let your kids do this" kind of faces. Ya gotta love friends who are so different.

Genny said...

My stomach dropped reading this...a very similar thing happened to me when I was a kid. My mom's friend grabbed me by the arm and saved me.

So glad everything is okay! The scenery sure is beautiful.

all over the map said...

What is it with boys and rocks, and destruction?
Maybe next time the boys decide to get that close to the edge they can build one of those neat zip lines and descend across the raging cold waters below while you hold the camera steady?

Damselfly said...

Oh my goodness! A scare like that probably gives you a whole new appreciation for knocking pictures onto the floor! I think it's great your husband decided spontaneously to take the day off, though.

Jane Hamilton said...

Glad your son's ok. Gosh! That was scary...and yeah, I agree with you, apparently we do spoil the fun!

Ter said...

I'm very glad that your husband has such quick reflexes.

AlaneM said...

Oh my gosh, I'm so glad David is ok!
Fun time, scary time, relieved time, fun time.
Whew!

Jennifer said...

Freeze your hand off is one of our favorite contests also. The winner wins an ice cream.

Sounds like a fun day.

Kelly @ Love Well said...

What is it with cliffs and boulders and boys?

When my husband and I were newly married, we took our church's high school group on a summer adventure trip to Colorado. During our lunch break midway through our whitewater rafting adventure, a group of our guys decided to roll boulders down a cliff into the river. Only, one of the boys decided he'd help get the boulder free by digging under it. Which is why the boulder rolled over his leg in such a way as to require immediate surgery.

And he was the only boy who's parents were really nervous about our trip.

Sigh.

dpenguin said...

Prospecting is great fun! We've been doing it for about 6 years now, as a hobby. There IS still gold in the rivers and creeks, but it is at the BOTTOM, so you won't find it that easily ;-) If it was that easily found, it probably wouldn't be $881.50 an ounce (as of 6/17/08)... so that 700 ounces a month was nothing to sneeze at!

Glad your son was safely caught, and that you didn't have to see it ;-)

Shalee said...

Ack! Love the pictures, frightened by the boulder story, then relieved about the ending. Way to go being Superman, Andrew!

It's always an adventure in Alaska, isn't it?

Julie N said...

Whew...glad to hear that the fast acting Andrew saved the day. I can only imagine how fast your heart must have been beating...

My family and I were at Crow Creek mine last summer and my DH still talks about it. :) We had a grand time, but thank goodness...no brushes with death. :)

Melissa Markham said...

What awesome pictures. Sounds like you had a wonderful time!

Way to go, SuperDad!

Anonymous said...

hi there, this is nate williamson from crow creek mine. I am glad to hear everyone is o.k. - we do try to have signs about not tumbling rocks or throwing them- but even i remember that as a youth those signs never seemed to apply to me. Sorry to hear that you did not find much gold down at the creek, for there is still more gold on our claims than has ever been succesfully mined out- it is just not that easy to get. The old time miners were shut down because not because of a lack of gold but rather because hydraulic mining was outlawed within the national forest lands. There are other ways to commercially develop these claims but not very lucrative unless you want a strip mine in your front yard. Being that we live here year round the toohey family put up 54 acres of there land for the national historic registrar so that the land could be preserved for public historical and recreational uses. next tme you come digging, if you dig straight down about a foot or two- your chances will be be pretty good to find a speck or two- remember that a flat teaspoon of gold is worth $1000 so a little bit goes a long way- we actually have guys that work all year round in the creek - some do pretty good for themselves but most should have never quit there day jobs. anyways- i don't want this to sound like an ad - just wanted you to know we are still finding gold and that we are happy your children are safe- enjoy your summer- crow creek mine.

Scribbit said...

Nate--oh no worries, as I said it wasn't a safe place to play anyway and don't worry about ropes or signs or anything, after living in Alaska you have to get used to things being dangerous and hopefully common sense kicks in at some point (though with my boys that sometimes is rather optimistic). And we had a great time at the creek, I figured someone must be finding stuff to make a living out of it but obviously we were out of our league. Not a problem we had fun anyway and would recommend it just for the scenery alone.

AKHeartedJaimew/ArbonneInternational said...

WOW!!! I'm so happy all is well!
NATE!!!! Just happened by your name surfin' AK on my computer. Good to hear you're still out there! Miss and Love you! Dog House Jaime (Crazy, I even have the orange Clark County shirt on now!)
P.S. Would love to correspond.