Stop 1 - Visitor Center Lobby

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Naturalist: Hello and welcome to Soldiers Delight: A Miner’s Life audio tour! I’m your host, Naturalist Parks. Today you will learn what it is like to be a miner in this area. While out on the tour, it is important that you stay on the trails. Soldiers Delight is home to nearly 40 rare and endangered species of plants and animals. The survival of these species depends on you staying on the trail. They grow by the inch but die by the foot. You will also be guided around openings to old mines. Although these areas are fenced off and well marked, it is important that an adult is present at all times and that no one enters the mines. If you have any questions, please direct them to the staff, or me, if I’m in. Hope you enjoy your visit. Now, without further delay, let’s introduce you to your guide for the day.

Tommy, Hiring Manager: Welcome in! I’m the hiring manager here, my friends call me Tommy. Mr. Isaac Tyson, my boss, told me to take you around today and show you a thing or two about being a miner. He said you might be looking for work. I hope you don’t mind getting your hands dirty because this ain’t just a walk in the park. But I’m telling you it is well worth it. These very lands you stand on bring us a fair living.

You’ll get a chance to practice your own mining skills a little later when we get to sifting and panning. But first you greenhorns need to know what to look for. We’ll be heading out on a mile long expedition in just a few minutes, so I hope you’ve brought sturdy walking shoes.

I packed you a bag for the trip. Inside, you will find tools, a map, and some photos that will help you along your way. Why don’t you take a look now to get familiar with what I packed for you?

When you’re done looking, head on over to the Exhibit Hall. I’ll meet you by the old mining car.

Go to Stop 2

Stop 2 - Exhibit Hall

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Tommy: This rusted-out car is a lot like the ones we use in the mine, although ours are in much better shape, I must say, I keep them greased myself. Look inside the car. Do you see the stone? Pick it up and see how heavy it is, now pass it around. This is called chromite. It’s the rock that we are looking to mine today. Can you imagine how heavy a cart full of these stones is? Whew, I tell you, my arms get tired just thinking about it. Now be careful when you set that rock back down … this cart is old and could break.

Walk on over to the exhibit called Buddle Operation on your left. (Pause) This model shows what a working buddle looks like. Folks who don’t want to work underground use these buddles to sort out chromite lying in the dirt or just below the surface. We call this clean black sand “Placer.” Most buddle operators are farmers. They do the placering when they are waiting for the harvest season or when crops ain’t doing well. They don’t make as much money as us miners, but there is still some chromite to be found and it helps them pass time in a more economic way.

See how the buddles are placed right in the stream. They have decking around them to allow the excess water to run around the buddle trough and to keep your feet dry. It’s a rather ingenious system, if I must say. Those farmers are rather smart.

Tell you what, now that I think about it, we’ve got one of our buddles being repaired out back. I’ll take you there now.

Naturalist: Go left out of the Exhibit Hall’s rear exit and follow the signs.

After exiting the rear doors, turn left on the paved trail. Then follow the trail next to the Scales & Tales fence all the way to the buddle.

Go to Stop 3

Stop 3 - Buddle and Sifting Activity

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Tommy: Now this rundown beauty here is a buddle. It belongs to a farmer named Horace who doesn’t know how to take care of his equipment. In fact, if you see Horace walking around, make sure you don’t let him borrow any of your tools. He’s a nice guy and all … but I’ve lost more shovels that way.

Anyhow, if you’re going to use a buddle, you’ll need a stream and some good dirt. Folks get the dirt from stream beds and the surrounding area. Any area around here with lots of black sand is usually pretty good. Once these buddle operators have built up a big pile of dirt, they dump it bit by bit onto a screen to sift out stones and other debris. The big stuff is thrown out along with any leaves and sticks. The screened dirt is then hauled out to the buddles to make sure no chromite was missed. I hope you have an ox or horse for the hauling, otherwise you’re huffing it.

Like I said, the buddles are set right in the stream. Water runs through the wooden trough here and sifted dirt gets dropped in at the top or where the stream comes in the buddles. Chromite is at least twice as heavy as regular sand, so it sinks to the bottom while the sand and dirt get washed away by the passing water. If the water is moving too fast, the buddle operators don’t catch anything, so they have to control the flow of water with three stops set in the buddles. You can see where the stops once sat.

The first stop catches the good chromite – called “placer;” the second stop catches the alright stuff, called “middlings;” and the third stop mostly gets junk, called “tailings.” The good stuff is collected up while the rest gets run through three more times just to make sure every last piece is gotten up.

You can see here on this buddle where the water runs through and where the stops catch the chromite. Now since old Horace busted up this fine piece of equipment, we’re going to have to do the whole operation the prospector’s way: by hand.

It’s time for your first task as a miner.

Hope you folks don’t mind a little dirt under your fingernails because it’s time for you to do some sifting!

Sifting Activity Instructions

  1. First, go ahead and get out the screen I packed for you and the instruction sheet called “Sifting.” [You are reading the instruction sheet now. Great job! Keep it up!] There is also a screen attached to the soil box you can use.
  2. In the box there you will see a big pile of dirt. No matter whether you work the buddles or are a bona fide miner, everyone always starts with dirt. Hey, I warned you it was a messy job.
  3. Use your shovel to get a good pile of that dirt up on a screen there. Make sure the small dish provided is in the dirt box. Now shake your screen with the dirt back and forth. The screen holds on to the big clumps that are no good for nothing while all the fine dust falls through.
  4. Try to fill up that small dish there with fine dust. This fine dust is what we collect and run through the buddle. Imagine filling up a whole cart on a hot humid day and hauling it away to a working buddle. At least the stream might cool you off a bit!
  5. When you get the dish full of sifted sand, take notice how much cleaner the dirt is… now that’s ready for the buddles. The more you sift out now, the easier it will be at the buddles.
  6. Now put everything back the way you found it including the dirt, stones, and whatever else you sifted out. We do a lot of training out here and I like to keep my dirt as organized as possible. Much appreciated.

You folks look like you got the hang of sifting. You passed the first test, but there’s still a lot to learn.

Naturalist: When you’re finished here head on back to the patio behind the Visitor Center where you’ll get to do some panning.

[Please wipe off the shovel and put it back.]

Go to Stop 4

Stop 4 - Visitor Center Patio/Panning Activity

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Tommy: Now panning is a pretty simple task. The old-timers around here pan in stream beds, but we won’t make you hike all the way down there. Those guys will talk your ear off, and we’ll never get done with the tour. So I set up a practice run for you here.

Panning Activity Instructions
[Take out Instruction Sheet 2]

  1. First, pick up the ladle attached to the side of the barrel and scoop up some dirt from the bottom of the barrel. Now don’t get too much, just fill up the ladle halfway. This is just like the dirt we get from the stream bed, full of leaves and larger stones.
  2. Then, get the pan out from your bag. Collect up some dirt there, not too much, just get a good lump in the bottom of the pan.
  3. Now add some water.
  4. Hold your pan over the top of the barrel and swirl it around.
  5. Slowly let the water and the regular sand slosh out the top of the pan and back in the barrel. Get those sticks and leaves out of there too. Try to get the water to run out over those three ridges on the pan. Like the buddles, the first ridge stops the good stuff, the second catches the okay stuff, and the third is mostly junk.
  6. When the ridges catch big rocks and stones toss those back inside the barrel. Remember you want the black sand. If some of the black sand sloshes out, that’s ok.
  7. Next, add more water and repeat over and over. The more times you add water and slosh through your dirt, the more junk will be removed and the more chromite you’ll find. It takes a while to get the hang of it but that’s why the best panners are always the most patient. That’s also why I went into mining instead.
  8. Finally, if you’ve done it right, you should be left with not much more than chromite, and that’s the good stuff! You keep finding that chromite and you’ll be living as good as me in no time at all!

Speaking of the good life, let me show you my family’s house. It’s not too far away and I need to grab my mush kettle before we head out.

In the back of the Visitor Center is a trail that goes into the woods away from the Visitor Center. Follow that trail to Red Dog Lodge. Trust me, you’ll know it when you see it.

Naturalist: Hope that was fun, now we’re off to Red Dog Lodge! Be sure to clean off your pan before you stick it back in your bag.

Go back to the paved trail, then, facing the informational sign by the parking lot, make a left down Serpentine Trail. This short path will take you to Red Dog Lodge.

Go to Stop 5

Stop 5 - Red Dog Lodge / Following Your Stone Activity

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Tommy: Well this is where I hang my hat every day. In your bag you can find a picture of my family standing out in front of our home here. We’re a good looking group of people, huh? [Photos A & B] By the way, if you need a place to stay while working with us, I rent a small section of the loft out for miners. Mr. Tyson owns some other small buildings near the road. Some are nicely constructed cabins, others are more for the seasonal helpers. I’d say my place has got to be the best though.

Well, it looks like you folks are pretty strong sifters and panners. But you’re here for a mining job and we need some new chromite scouters so there’s some things about the land here you need to know.

Mr. Tyson, my boss, he found this place to be rich in chromite, which is a rare mineral. He started by looking for small stunted oak trees in the middle of big open grasslands. That’s usually a good sign we’re on the right track. Trees just don’t seem to grow so well in areas with lots of serpentine, the greenish rock you see all around you. And where there’s serpentine, there’s a good chance of finding chromite.

Following Your Stone Activity Instructions

So you know what to look for, I packed you a couple of small stones in your bag. Why don’t you take them out now? (Pause)

This green rock is Serpentine. It lets us know chromite is close. If you look closely, you can see black speckles in it. That’s called bird’s eye chromite.

[Turn to Instruction Sheets 3 &4 for this activity]

Now I have set up a test for you. To make sure you folks can recognize serpentine, it’s up to you to find the right path to our next stop. Look around you until you can spot a post with some serpentine rock cemented to the top. Get a closer look, can you see the little spots of bird’s eye chromite? When you find the post with a serpentine stone on it you’ll know you found the right path. Just like Isaac Tyson, you have let the rocks guide you along. Follow these posts down the Serpentine trail, and if you’re a good scout, you should end up at the Overlook.

Naturalist: Now, get out your instructions to make sure you’re headed in the right direction. This is a bit of a hike. If you make it to the Overlook then you’ve passed the test.

[If you walk more than 300 feet – the length of a football field - and you have not passed another post with rocks on it then you are headed in the wrong direction and must turn around and try a different path. Keep going until you find a post with a blue arrow on it. This means you have found the path to your next stop and you have passed the test. Keep walking until you reach The Overlook.]

Go to Stop 6

Stop 6 - The Overlook

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Tommy: It used to be that you could see all the way out to the shipping yard at the Baltimore Harbor from here. Boy I tell you, more and more Pine trees have been creeping in here ever since we started putting out the wildfires. But that’s another story.

I think it’s time to get you folks ready for the real grunt work that goes on around here: mining. We have six chromite mines in the area, all owned by Isaac Tyson. We’re a small operation but we load up and haul out several tons every day. I like to stop here before a long day of mining to relax for a few minutes. I also stop here after my long day of mining to brush all the dirt off, or else the wife gets on me as soon as I walk through the door.

Boy, just look around. I never get tired of all the colors here on a nice day. Only makes sense that land rich in chromite would be so rich in color itself. That’s what chromite is used for: making mighty bright colors. Yessir, chromite goes right into those bold paints and dyes; the ones people like so much.

Oh, would you listen to me, comparing a nice day to chromite. I tell you, you do this job long enough, chromite never leaves your thoughts.

Well, I know it’s pretty here, but we’ve got to keep moving. It’s time to get out your map again. Be careful crossing the road and follow the southern line of the Choate Mine trail. That’ll be the right hand entrance as you cross the road. Don’t forget to stay on the trail; if you crush any of them pretty wildflowers, I’ll be hearing it from my wife. She is awful fond of them. Don’t pick any either, that’ll get her real upset. Might as well just leave those flowers be. I’ll see you at the Choate Mine.

Naturalist: Be careful crossing the road. Take the right hand entrance of the Choate Mine trail to your next stop.

Go to Stop 7

Stop 7 - Choate Mine Air Shaft

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Tommy: This is the Choate mine. It was named after Herod Choate, the operator of the mine and the holder of the lease from Isaac Tyson. Miners put in a hard day’s work here. I come by to check on them when I am not giving tours to new hires. You see we have two areas fenced off for safety. That might have something to do with the new job opening, poor John. (Pause) Ah, just pulling your leg. But be careful because it is dangerous.

Walk over to the smaller fenced-in area now. This is the shaft we dug when the air in the mine started getting stale and dusty; it just got too hard to breathe. The shaft pulls air in and creates a draft through the mine, cleaning out some of the dusty, stale air and replacing it with fresher air.

I’m lucky this mine doesn’t have problems with exploding gasses building up, like some other types of mines might have. We have enough explosions to worry about, with our black powder and all. It’s good to know where and when things are going to blow up. Miners don’t like surprises.

We are going to take a look at the mine’s entrance. We can look from outside the fence.

Naturalist: Walk to the larger fenced area. Do not go through the gate and DO NOT walk inside the mine. It is fully flooded and can no longer be entered.

Go to Stop 8

Stop 8 - Choate Mine / Photo Activity

Do not go in the mine!

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Tommy: We have had some small cave-ins in the past; you can tell from the large rocks lying on the ground – they were part of the ceiling not too long ago. If I could show you around inside I would, but even I don’t go into this mine anymore. There are some photos in your bag of what the mine used to look like back when it was open. Why don’t you take them out and have a look. You see my cousin Jack there, he’s the handsome one. [Photo C] I’ve been told it runs in the family.

They say a mine rat knows when a cave-in is coming, so we like having them around. It’s easy to stay friendly with them. All you have to do is leave them some food scraps. You’re not scared of rats are you? Well, I can’t imagine they’d find too many food scraps in a closed mine, so they’ve probably moved along.

There’s another photo in your bag of the different lights we use down in the mine. [Photo D] I am kind of partial to the carbide light now that I own one. It’s 10 times as bright as a candle - can’t imagine how many times it saved my hand from the hammer. Remember not to go inside the mine because you might get hurt and we don’t offer worker’s comp, not to mention it’s also completely flooded. You might see some water down there, which is typical of a closed mine. The water pumps were turned off to save fuel.

Take some time while you’re here and take a photo to send to your family. Feel free to use any supplies I packed for you to help pose for the photo. After you’re done taking pictures, head on up the hill and close the gate on your way out. I’ve got one more thing to show you.

Naturalist: When you’re all done, walk back out to the trail and make a right in the direction you were heading when you arrived here. Your next stop will only be a couple hundred feet down the path.

[The mine might be full of water. This is to be expected during the rainy part of the year. When it is dry you should be able to see into the mine]

Go to Stop 9

Stop 9 - Pit Mines

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Now you see those trenches around the trail? There are plenty of them all around Soldiers Delight. Some quite deep, another good reason to keep to the trails. These ditches are what we in the business call pit mines. We dug these ditches to take a sample of what the ground was hiding below our feet. You didn’t think us miners just dug thirty feet into the ground willy-nilly did you? We look for stone rich in bird’s eye chromite, much like the one you found in your bag earlier. When we get really lucky we find an area of pure chromite called a leins. We follow the vein down into the ground, just digging and hauling, digging and hauling. Then we hammer and drill holes to place some black powder cartridges, similar to the model ones we’ve put in your bag. It’s a heck of a show watching that stuff explode. Of course, then we have to dig some more to clear out the blasted rock. We worked real hard to get to that vein. But hard work and digging in the dirt is what a miner’s life is all about.

Whew, all this talk about work has got me hungry. And lunch is the most important part of a working man’s day. If you skip lunch then you won’t be good for much. My wife packs my mush kettle with a piece of pie dough she stuffs full of meat and vegetables. My relatives from Cornwall, England call them pasties. MMmmMM! I warm it up on my shovel over a candle. It’s an old miner’s trick. Trust me, it’s fine once you brush the dirt and rock off your shovel. You don’t look too excited about that! Well, if you like carrying around a frying pan all day, be my guest. I guess I will take my lunch while you keep moving. I’ll catch up with you at the next stop.

We’re heading back across the street to the Visitor Center where we first met up. Be careful crossing the road, those darn buggies are getting awful fast these days.

Naturalist: Now, go back the way you came. Follow the trail back to the Overlook and take the left fork of the Serpentine trail back to the Visitor Center. If you would like to do a longer hike, you can hike the Choate Mine trail loop, and then head back to the Visitor Center.

Go to Stop 10

Stop 10 - Visitor Center/Lowlight Activity

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Tommy: Whew, that was a good lunch. I feel much better. Well folks, you’ve done great all day. I think it’s time for your final test. In my expert opinion, the hardest part of being a miner isn’t the long hours or the heavy lifting, it’s being down in the dark all day.

We have a couple of lights we can use to find our way. There is a picture in your bag of a few of our favorites. The light on the hat is the brightest. That is the carbide light I told you about. The light in his hand is an oil wick lamp. And the candle stuck in the rock is a Sticking Tommy.

And I tell you, when those candles go out, boy, you can’t see nothing. My friend John, he is afraid of the dark. When his candle goes out he screams like a little baby. They can probably hear him all the way back at Red Dog Lodge. So we have to test how brave you are working in the dark. We don’t want to hire no one else who is going to scream every time the lights go out. My ears couldn’t take it.

You are going to head on into the Auditorium on your right. You’ll find a candle there.

Lowlight Activity Instructions:

  1. Ask one of the Naturalists in the Visitor Center to help you set up this activity.
  2. Take a candle out of the smaller box and get ready to turn it on. Close the door, and shut off the lights.
  3. When it’s completely dark, wait fifteen seconds to let your eyes adjust. Now turn on the candle.
  4. Next to the candle box is a trunk full of rocks. In that trunk, some of the rocks are chromite and the rest are no good to us. Take out all of the rocks.
  5. One half of the trunk has been labeled Chromite and one side has been labeled Junk. Sort all of the rocks into the appropriate bin in the trunk. Chromite is darker and noticeably heavier. Junk rocks are both lighter in color and lighter in weight. It’s tough to see color in the dark, so go slow and be very careful. The better you are at sorting in the dark, the less work you have to do above ground.

Naturalist: When the test is over, turn the lights back on. The Naturalist who helped you set up can check your work.

Go to Stop 11

Stop 11 - Visitor Center

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Tommy: Alright, let’s see how you did. In the Chromite bin you should have only the heavy, dark colored rocks. In the junk bin you should have everything else. How did you do?

Looks pretty good, especially for new recruits. I’m impressed. I think we’ve got some natural miners here today. Let us know if you want a job. A 10-12 hour day pays 80 cents. No arguing now…that’s a fair price. When you get to be as good as me we might pay you a whole dollar. Well, I’m off for supper. Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow and don’t forget if you need a place to stay, I have a space for rent. I’ll see you around.

Naturalist: Once you’re done, take all the rocks you sorted and mix them up again in the trunk. Please make sure you have turned off the candle before returning it to the box. Then bring the mining bag back to the folks at the Visitor Center, and don’t forget to pick up your driver’s license.

Thank you for taking the Miner’s Life Tour today, you did a great job. We hope to see you again soon at Soldiers Delight!

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