There's a gap between the floor boards of a forest clerk's office and the two foot drop through seemingly intentionally arranged forest material. This stream crosses the road, forking to surround the lower half in its mindless, babbling, streamflow chatter. A giant hole grins up from where the stream splits, mine site just up there at the top. Water running its merry self down slope as two shallow erosion highways. The climb to the long-abandoned Oriole Mine gets steeper with every chunky rock wobbled over, meanwhile the rushing stream takes on a dual personality tired of bending around a hundred forgotten uses. It runs right over your boots and the socks within them from a sponge-like misplacement of foot. Then, the humidity trapped under the trees is broken by an open-air canopy.
High up on this mountain, dwarfed by the prospect of prospecting, it's black sands humming enticingly to fortune seekers in any era. Come, take a look! Never know what you might find... Earth was moved several hundred meters below this exact spot, anything with roots stripped away all at once, now crawls experimentally around the chilly exhalations of a wide steel shaft entrance. Just dipping one ear in or another, the discussion about lunch breaks and hating your supervisor seeps out of the echoing eternity painted in stark blackness below. Whatever the voices in my head have to say, it's indistinguishable and disappears once my head pulls back from within the cold subbterranean cloud.
The shaft belches tailings of gold, silver, and copper ore. Following just within the shade, I make the steep walk to where the rubble sleeps in large chunks, passing a set of three partial gas masks rusting into the detritus, all still that red wine(ish) taste of mulch turning to peat pervades the air where the soil is exhausted from holding so much water. Humid also is the empty stare of the masks the only other faces around.This is probably where the vultures and ravens will fight over my tender corpse fillet when something catastrophic leaves me bleeding out and unawares. How often did that happen here, I wonder? To the left, near water, because that's the first place anyone wants to relax after a steep trek, three gas masks rust away. One with part of an ancient tube still clinging to the withering orange metal covering the mouth and nose. To funnel fresh air in or toxic air out? Doesn't matter anymore, the bunkhouse rooms ran out of vacancies a long time ago.
By the road down the hill there's a break in the overhang hedge, slag tumbles from the old railing tracks where miners moved the metals from their til. I can hear a conversation between two distinct voices somewhere near the creek turns out the air pockets of caving-in tunnels have a language all their own. After a while when no one appears I'm already overturning stones, dutifully switching gears. Not too bad out here with the bugs. Lady mosqits' don't eat much. At the twinkle of grey, black, and blue nestled in in veins of white matrix my pockets become stuff with samples.
Fingernails clad with iron dirt while cicadas sing miner songs in the fringe habitat at the edge of the clearing. Going about the same mountain side, we parted ways in good cheer. That old mine site's still standing, up the traitorous abandoned road in the shadow of a mountain, right off the old gravel road, you'll want to walk up the last stint. Funny, these tiny cubes in shades of brass and grey. Worth all the trouble? Nah, I'd say. Worth nothing at all it's all just rubble, but makes a good story if you go to the trouble. Set for one another a grand stage of mind pictures to stoke the fire in this season of chasing windmills.
Follow the map
Stay on the trail
If and when the pyrites find you
You'll know miner's delight
Between the firs and the shale