Blue Star Museums Blog (Archive)

Blue Star Voices

Web Editor, Blue Star Families


Helen Blake marvels at a crystal in the National Mining Museum. Photo by Molly Blake

Leadville Mining Museum---A Rocky Mountain Visit

At 10,500 feet everything is different. It’s better. Way better.

My girls and I are on our version of a deployment. As residents of Yuma, Arizona, we---like many Yumans---have chosen to “deploy” to cooler locales during the summer months. Thus far, we have hit Wisconsin, Chicago, and are rounding out our tour in beautiful Colorado. Some dear friends have, thankfully, joined us on this last portion of the trip.

On a recent Wednesday, we loaded up the rental car with licorice whips and pretzel rods for the 40-minute drive from Edwards, Colorado through a twisty pass towards Leadville, Colorado.

Leadville is nestled at the top of Rocky Mountain Range and is famous for its grueling 100-mile bike and foot races. The town is surrounded by dramatic snow-capped mountain peaks and is crawling with wildly attractive, sinewy thin biking and running buffs. My friend described it as “real” and “not manufactured.” She’s right. Hollywood couldn’t do it any better. And set just off the top of Main Street in what was formerly an elementary school is the National Mining Hall of Fame & Museum, and a Blue Star Museum at that.

Between my friend and I, we had four girls ranging in age from four to eight. All six sets of eyes widened at the first Volkswagen-sized gem. The girls marveled at the rusty mining equipment, the prospector’s cave, and quirky “home” industrial rock display, complete with a kitchen, bathroom, and living room labeled with its mineral origins. The toilet, you can imagine, earned the most giggles.

There were dioramas that depicted the brutal mining life, scores of sparkling jewels and gems from every corner of the earth, and life-size figurines of dusty, soot-coated men.

Amateur miners head down the dark hard-rock mining tunnel. Photo by Molly Blake

Down one hall was a replica of a hard-rock mining tunnel that, at first glance, was just a few yards deep. It quickly got darker and more realistic with each step on the uneven rail car tracks. My daughter’s grip grew tighter and tighter. I tried to distract her by telling her about the canaries, the chutes, and the ore cars. It was futile. The all too lifelike cave was too much. We turned on our heels and followed the tracks back into the fresh mountain air---our friends’ echoes trailing behind.

At the gift shop, we scored a book on caves and rocks, a funky bracelet, and copper necklaces.

And the town of Leadville is not to be missed.  ts streets are lined with tiny, colorful Queen Anne Victorian homes and shops, while wickedly expensive bikes, stacked three deep, are chained to every available tree and bench. And at the High Mountain Pies pizza joint, where we ate lunch, the seating area (actually, the backyard) was nothing more than a few scattered picnic tables, a play structure, and a Frisbee golf course. Simple and brilliant.

Go visit because if you are lucky enough to be in the mountains, you are lucky enough. And everything is brighter and more beautiful at 10,500 feet.

Molly Blake is the web editor and newsletter guru for Blue Star Families. She was not upset when her daughter wanted to bug out of the mining tunnel.

This blog post originally appeared on the Blue Star Families blog. Please visit the Blue Star Museums website for more information about the program and to find participating museums.

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