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November 28, 2010


Forty-three years old and until yesterday I was a snowshoe virgin. The theory never really appealed to me: make walking harder. And yes, fine, snowshoes actually make walking in snow easier than without, but it’s so much easier yet to just not walk in snow. Or just not walk. Some people don’t drive, and we celebrate their individuality and offer them rides. I don’t much walk.

But at this point it’s either walk in snow or never leave the cabin, and it’s only still November, and that’s too long a winter ahead to never leave the cabin. So I did the blasted Black Friday thing since I was in Missoula over Thanksgiving and found what looks like a functional pair for $79—$30 off retail. I shopped around but I didn’t see anything cheaper than that except at Wal-Mart, and the Wal-Marts weren’t cheaper enough to justify shopping at Walmart.

I took them to a nearby campground called Warm Springs and broke them in yesterday. Today I took them around the hill, on the walk I tried last week and gave up because I couldn’t get far before I was post-holing in knee-deep powder, which is neither easy nor fun.

This go was tolerable, though I was surprised the shoes didn’t have provide more flotation than they did. I was still sinking a good foot or more deep with every step. So walking was still work, but it was at least possible, which was kind of cool. I didn’t go far but I took a camera and played around with it.

The hole in the ground is an abandoned gold mine. I knew it was there, but this is the first time I’ve ignored the no-trespassing sign and walked up the grade to get to it. It’s incredibly tempting to go in, but it’s also incredibly tempting not to, alone, under a silencing—and heavy—blanket of snow. I didn’t go in this time, and the snowshoes were my excuse, since it would have been a hassle to take them off, and I didn’t want to test their durability on rock by climbing in with them on. So they’ve been very handy at enabling cowardice, at least.

What does this have to do with Opportunity, Montana? Well there used to be a lot of mining around here, and it started with a short-lived gold rush that gave way to silver and then, more lastingly, copper. Copper built Anaconda and Anaconda created Opportunity. One half of my hodgepodge cabin used to sit on a goldmining site. The other was salvaged from Opportunity.

William A. Clark, the richest of Montana’s copper-mining tycoons, and the one who built the recently-Superfund-removed dam at Milltown to drive the mill at Bonner to shape the timbers for Clark’s mines in Butte, once bought a gold nugget from the hills near here for $10,000.

Man it would be handy to find a $10,000 rock, but it’s not bloody likely under three feet of snow. And I imagine that mine got abandoned for a reason.

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