Tag Archives: Maine

What a variety of beautiful stones come out of the ground! Photo by Madelyn Given.

Mines and Mining for Fun

In my travels, I have been in mines that took me down shafts deep below the earth. These were unplanned but very interesting experiences. One mine I visited in South Dakota was in full operation. I had never been in a mine, but I was asked if I wanted to go down. The company was mining primarily for silver and nickel. I went down with several people including a crew manager. The shaft went down hundreds of feet to one of the big tunnels where heavy equipment was operating. One of the drills with a diamond bit was brought up to our level for us to see the contents. The miners were searching for more veins of ore below them. I was given a hard piece of rock in the shape of a prism from that bit.

A few years after that I was traveling and sightseeing in Ontario, Canada, when my car broke down in a rural area. During the several days it took to get parts and have the car repaired, I stayed in a hotel. Someone invited me to see the nickel mines. It was an impressive operation on a grand scale. Geologists there had found valuable ore where a meteorite had made a huge, volcanic-shaped hole in the earth, miles in diameter. A few weeks ago, I was in Northern Quebec, near Labrador, and we stayed in a mining complex. The great mines there were mainly iron ore.

While climbing Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa, my expedition leader spent time talking with me about minerals being found all around and on this massive mountain. On the day of our summit, he spent time on the very peak looking for a new discovery, while I barely had enough breath to find one rock to bring down as my souvenir. After my successful climb, Clive, my leader & guide, took me to his friend’s wholesale office, and I brought home a Tanzanite from a mine near the base of the mountain. A while after I had been back in the United States, I learned from the news that the mines from where my Tanzanite was found had caved in, killing over 100 workers, and the mine had been closed.

But now I am thinking about mining on a local level for Maine gemstones. Where there are mountains there will be gems, like the saying, “There’s gold in dem hills.” Many years ago, although I had never gone mining to seek gems, I thought it would be a great teaching experience and a fun activity for my Cub Scouts. I researched nearby places, checked one out, and made preparations to go. It was a fun adventure and the boys each found a little treasure: a rose quartz, a sliver of tourmaline, or crystallized quartz.

In November, I visited Mount Apitite, a local abandoned mine. Photo by Madelyn Given.

In November, I visited Mount Apitite, a local abandoned mine. Photo by Madelyn Given.

My college roommate had read that there were mines in the area where I lived, and she asked if we could go mining together. We didn’t have great tools, but we brought along a couple of hammers, a sieve, and a small pick or two, and we spent the day hoping to find the perfect gem and get rich. A few years ago, I took my grandchildren for a teaching experience about minerals: they were great sports and eager beavers, digging into a few rock piles, but after a few hours it was time to hit the beach on that hot day.

The Maine gemstone is tourmaline. When mining was big many years ago, Maine was one of the only places in the United States where tourmaline was heavily mined. During that time, granite and marble were quarried for large buildings in Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C. Jewelers are still buying amethysts, tourmaline, garnet, and blue beryl from Maine miners. While hiking, I have come upon abandoned mines that have not been active for a century. Most are abandoned quarries, some filled with water, which teens would seek as swimming holes, and outlaws would ditch stolen cars there. On the Appalachian Trail, I hiked through mining country where coal and iron ore pits had caused great damage—grass and trees would not grow. For miles, it was like walking on the moon.

For me, hiking is always an adventure, and finding an old mine is exciting. It is one more reason to get out in nature and get a little exercise, have fun, and do something a little different. It is an experience to see a mine in operation and to learn what is produced from ore and minerals. Mining is just a little touch on my life with fun memories.

(posted December 15, 2015)

On the Mount Redington trail in Maine, with Madelyn Given.

Mount Redington: Part Two

Although the summit of Mount Redington in Maine is a tundra-like area of scrub evergreens, broken only by the remains of concrete building supports, I was still excited that I had reached another peak. I set my pack down on a piece of concrete slab and began looking for a white canister. The info stated that it was difficult to find. I stood in the middle of the shrub-like opening, and Kevin and I both hunted for a few minutes before he spotted it on the back of a dead tree.

We opened the canister, documented our names and date on the paper inside, took a photo, put the lid back securely, and returned to our packs. The last person to sign it was 6 days ago. Not many climbers came out here, and now that winter was approaching, there would be even fewer.

I am sure we both would have enjoyed a good rest at the top of Redington, and we had enough food to have a picnic, but I was concerned that we had a very long hike ahead of us, and I didn’t want to be in this area after dark. I donned my pack and so did Kevin, and off we headed down the narrow trail on Mt. Redington. There was a thin layer of snow on the top third of each mountain, and it was too cold to melt, so I was able to see our footprints on the way back, which was another helpful aid. The photo at the top of this post was taken on the Redington trail.

We were the only people out in this area. We didn’t see any game, but birds kept us company, and I enjoyed identifying their songs. Going down Redington seemed to go smoothly, and we continued across the wooded valley, but once we started up Crocker Mountain, we both noticed it wasn’t the same as when we were fresh in the morning. It is a steep climb on that very narrow, unmaintained trail. There was enough ice and snow to make the footing slippery on rocks and roots.

It was a relief to see familiar places, some very beautiful. One section is like a fairy forest, with layers of moss on big rocks and lichen covering the trees. The deciduous trees still had most of their leaves with all the autumn colors. We couldn’t have asked for better weather. On we hiked, one foot ahead of the other, and we were both glad to reach the summit of Crocker, now for the second time.

Now we met up with the Appalachian Trail: I was happy, as it is wider and a maintained trail. Ww didn’t hesitate or skip a beat, but just kept on trekking. We had two rock faces to hike, and a steep downhill for over a mile, before it gradually leveled out after the spur to the Crocker tent site. Part way down we caught up with the first hikers who had gone to North Crocker and were on their way down too. A chipmunk sat on a branch, waiting to greet us, and except for bobcat, coyote, and deer tracks on the fresh snow, life was silently hiding from us.

Down over the rocks, one by one: it was a slow, steady descent, and by the time we reached the logging road, our legs had had it! After a successful, exciting, and adventurous hike like this, the feeling of accomplishment stays with you for awhile and spurs you on in daily life. Kevin was happy to have summited two more mountains in Maine; I am looking forward to bagging my 14th and the last 4,000 footer in Maine next summer.

There will be other mountains to hike, some again and again. There is something about the mountains that continues to beckon you and brings such joy.

(posted December 8, 2015)

Kevin joined Madelyn Given to hike Mount Redington in Maine.

Mount Redington in Maine

Have you heard the term “Peak-Bagger”? Only recently have I heard that people who climb mountains have this attached to their name. Recently I climbed Mount Redington, a 4,000 foot mountain in Maine. For the past few summers a friend and I have hiked a mountain in Maine. Although Kevin is very physically fit, he is new at mountain climbing, but he’s adapted well, as you can see in the photo above. It is always more exciting for me to climb one I haven’t done before, so I chose Redington, the only one of two 4,000 mountains I had not yet summited in Maine. For Kevin, he would add two new ones on this climb, as we had to climb Crocker Mountain, also 4,000’, to reach Redington. Redington has another element that is challenging: it is the only 4,000’ footer that has no maintained trail. There are only two of these in all of New England; I knew this would be a good challenge, and Kevin was very excited about the adventure.

We were up and out before 5 am for a two hour drive to the trail head. It would be an all-day climb, and to reach Redington would require bushwhacking to the summit. It is considered difficult and a GPS is required. I had looked up several sites on Google and downloaded information; along with a GPS and survival essentials in our packs, we were prepared for the mountainous hike.

We started out on a clear, crisp day with little wind, and it was the first time I had ever hiked on Halloween. We followed Rt. 16/27 to Stratton and turned off onto Caribou Valley Road, an unmarked dirt road to the trail head. After approximately 4 miles, the road was blocked with a metal gate and a small parking space. There were no markings or signs for directions to the trail. I followed the downloaded information: beyond the gate, we walked less than a mile on the dirt road, looking for a trail on the right. We crossed a metal grilled bridge after the gate, plus two more wooden bridges, and then we saw a worn trail with no sign or markings. We decided to try it—but not far down the trail, there was an Appalachian Trail sign.

This was the trail to South and North Crocker, with Redington off the trail on the west side of South Crocker. It was a scenic, 1.0 mile gradual hike to Crocker Cirque Tent site, which is a side trail off the AT. We had no difficulty and made good time. Then the trail became steep all the way to South Crocker summit, another 1.1 miles. Here, at the summit, the trail to Redington began, and we had to find it. Near the wooded peak of South Crocker was a sign for a turn off for to a viewpoint. We followed that, and just before the viewpoint was a herd trail to Redington—again unmarked. It went through a dense evergreen forest, and since it looked like the right direction, we took that trail.

The trail became a narrow path: some places were so narrow that I had to squeeze through, with my daypack brushing on both sides. We were now on the opposite side of South Crocker. It was very steep going down; we knew that later we would be retracing our steps on this same path on our return, going up South Crocker, across the summit, and then down the other side. It was steep and unmaintained. There were many places you could lose your bearings and get mixed up, especially at sharp turns and around downed trees. Someone had put orange plastic ribbon on branches, and this was very helpful. We followed the trail to a cut-down boundary line, unmarked, which was not the trail to Redington—we continued on the narrow path instead.

It was exciting: the air crisp and clean, and a perfect day for climbing, but it took full concentration to watch our footing ,and at the same time, not lose our path. We reached the valley between the two mountains. There was a small opening of shrub brush, and in the distance, we could see Redington straight ahead. Now we had to climb our second 4,000 footer of the day on this narrow and unpredictable trail. After a while, the path in the dense forest came out to a cairn and an overgrown logging road. We followed this for a short distance and then the trail went off in the woods again to the summit.

We checked our watches, knowing we had only so much daylight to reach the summit and then retrace our steps—and we had many hours of climbing still to do. Our level of energy was still high, and we both were excited to bag another peak.

(posted December 1, 2015)