One of the variations of the tale of Clifford Griffin;
"A story is told of one of the miners that worked there who's fiance was found dead on the eve of their wedding. He came west to forget everything and escape and after mining all day would retire to whiskey and his violin. Townsfolk would come outdoors each night to listen to him play. One day, as the last note rang out, so did a gunshot. The townsfolk found him dead with one bullet through his heart and burial instructions nearby."
In other versions, the girl just left him, and he became a drunk. His brother brought him out from England to sober him up and Clifford ended up running the mine. Although suicide is what is usually said, there are a handful that wonder if he wasn't just murdered. Some say on the anniversary of his death, if one listens around dusk, the sound of violin music can be heard wafting through the valley. The monument to his memory stands on a rock outcropping, which offers an impressive view and gleams quite majestically in the late afternoon sunlight.
The mine was called the 730 because of what time the workers were allowed to start. Its ruins stand in Brown's Gulch, at the end of a mining road that switches back along the northern end of the valley. Supposedly, there is a trail leading from the 730 to the summit of my personal Kilimanjaro. I've gone part way up that, but it was far later in the day when we attempted it than either of us liked, and we ended up turning around. It is a goal filed away in my maybe somedays, although I have every intention of one standing on top of my personal Kilimanjaro in that Johnny Clegg kind of way.
The remains of several mines pepper the mountainsides. Collapsed mine shafts and grated over holes give the impression of honeycombs or anthills. In the last few years, Sabina and I have explored several of the ruins. Every time we trek along that road, we find something new. It's one of our favorite trails.
I had been wanting to go see Clifford for quite some time. The snow wasn't too bad and it was a milder day. So, after a hearty breakfast, we grabbed our gear, slapped on our hikers and went on our way.
We did find mountain lion tracks in the snow. Some were fresher than others. The newest ones went off along Republican Mountain after the first switch back. We were mindful as we walked along, never straying more than ten or fifteen feet apart. Milarepa lopped along playfully, something I doubt she would if a predator was watching us.
After the ruins of the Maine Mine, there were very few tracks of any kind. It seemed like we were some the very few living creatures to be that far up in a few weeks. Although, Sabina did spy a single bighorn sheep, wearing a tracking collar, watching us from a rock face I was contemplating for a future scrabble.
We reached the great granite obelisk and we said our hellos to Clifford. There was a brief stop for wholegrain cookies and water. The wind picked up and there was a brief flurry. This was not surprising, given it's still winter and we were twelve-hundred feet above home.
On the way back down, Sabina made note of two different places to explore on future treks. I mused how, come high summer, we'd be going back up Brown's Gulch, much earlier this time, looking for my Kilimanjaro's summit amongst the wildflowers and waterways. Milarepa, tired from the walkabout, walked at my side, or just a little ahead of us.
It was a lovely hike, but the 730 always is. We've been up and down that trail hundreds of times and still find something new, which adds to its magic. When we arrived home, as with most times, the monument looked quite majestic in the late afternoon sunlight, as if Clifford was thanking us for visiting him. We both smiled at the thought.