SAN JUAN EXPEDITION 3: SOUND DEMOCRAT MILL

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A winding path led up to the punctured walls of our last structure of the day: the Sound Democrat Stamp Mill.

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Entering through a hole in the wall at the structure’s base, we looked up and realized that we were inside a vast, century-old machine. The whole structure is a vertically-stacked mechanism: according to records, ore was loaded in at the top, and then gravity pushed it through many different devices, refining it further with each step. At the end of the process were these ‘ripple tables’, which sorted out valuable metals by size.

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As we ascended, we were surrounded by both the archaic and the modern. Decaying wood supported complex mechanisms, steel pipeworks ran along rotting staircases.

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Light threaded through the walls, illuminating strange machines.

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We emerged from the structure through its tram tower. Temperatures were dropping and the sun was nearly gone: we took one last moment to behold the mill and the surrounding mountains, and then began the descent back to town.