Woman digs up the past in Frisco | VailDaily.com

Woman digs up the past in Frisco

Julie Sutor

FRISCO – Charlotte Clarke has spent the past several years clambering through Frisco’s mining history. She has listened to the town’s pioneers spin their yarns, studied decades-old maps and ventured far into the murky depths of granite tunnels. “It’s something I love to do,” said Clarke, who has lived in Frisco for 10 years. “I’m passionate about Frisco history and Colorado history, and I love to hike and explore with my dog, so it all just melded together.”The gleanings of Clarke’s investigations and explorations are now available to all in her newly published booklet, “The Mines of Frisco: a self-guided tour,” the latest addition to Frisco’s written history.The 30-page guide contains descriptions of the history and whereabouts of 12 mining sites in and around Frisco. Each section features detailed accounts of the triumphs and travails of Frisco’s first miners and their pursuits of gold, silver, lead, zinc and copper.The author even provides each site’s Global Positioning System (GPS) location for those who enjoy orienteering.”Charlotte’s quite an authority on mining – she knows her stuff,” said Rita Bartram, Frisco Historical Society executive director. “She concentrates strictly on the town’s mining history, and there’s a lot there. It’s great information not only for the public, but also for us to have on hand.”Clarke began her sleuthing shortly after she moved to Frisco and took a guided tour of a local mine.”The guide had not identified a mine properly, according to an old map I had. I thought, ‘Hmm, if this person doesn’t know, I’m going to figure it out.’ I started methodically interviewing pioneers and working out where various mines were,” she said.Clarke gradually unearthed nuggets of local history, including long-forgotten mining relics, like the Recen powder magazine, where Frisco founder Henry Recen stored black powder – an explosive mixture of saltpeter, charcoal and sulfur.”I found this little chamber, too small to be a mine. It occurred to me it might be a powder magazine. I called someone from Summit Historical Society, he came over and took a look at it and we actually discovered a crushed powder can inside.”At one time, someone even got the back seat of a (Ford) Model A into the powder magazine, and they’d been sleeping on it in this very tiny space,” Clarke said.All the mining sites featured in the guide are accessible by bicycle and/or foot during the summer and by snowshoes or skis during the winter. Clarke has tied yellow-green surveyor ribbons along the routes to each site.One of the top spots is the Surprise mine, a bountiful source of lead in the early 1900s. The site contains boarding house ruins, an old air compressor and a screening apparatus.”In terms of a really good hike that has the most equipment, all that stuff up at the Surprise mine is a favorite because of the number of artifacts. A person who’s hearty on snowshoes could find it. It’s a little steep, and it’s about four or five miles round-trip,” Clarke said.”The Mines of Frisco” is available at the Frisco Historical Society Schoolhouse Museum gift shop on the corner of Second Avenue and Main Street. The museum is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. The guide’s sales benefit the historical society.Vail, Colorado

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