I grew up in Evergreen, Colo., and one of my Dad’s favourite weekend excursions was a day trip 20 minutes west on I-70 to the historic silver mining town of Georgetown.
Since Blake and I were visiting with the kiddos, my dad (a.k.a. Grand-Dad) suggested we visit Georgetown to ride the Georgetown Loop train. It’s a narrow gauge railway that runs the two miles between Georgetown and Silver Plume (another former silver mining camp). Because both towns are located along Clear Creek in a narrow canyon, the train loops around and gradually climbs the distance over high trestles that span the creek, covering off over three miles of track in the process.
Being somewhat overly ambitious, I decided to add a tour of the old Lebanon Mine onto our trip. Bennett loved the old — if slow — train, and because he had tolerated Kartchner Caverns cave tour in Ariz. as a five-year-old, I thought he would be good for the mine (30 minutes round-trip walking about 500 feet into the side of a mountain). And truly, he was having a blast wandering into the dark abyss, splashing in puddles and ogling veins of “dragon’s blood,” which are silver seepage lines along the mine walls that have oxidized and turned black… until we stopped at the miners’ old lunch spot. While our guide proceeded to explain what the miners ate (some kind of mash), Bennett spotted a locked gate and was hell bent on opening it to explore even more dingy, drippy tunnels beyond.
We explained he couldn’t pass through there, and about five minutes later he started to have a bit of meltdown, wanting to leave the mine ASAP. Bennett emphasized this point by taking off his orange helmet. So I began to frog march him toward the small rectangle of light at the entrance, which only made him angrier. By the time we reached the light of day, Bennett was in full tantrum mode: upset, crying, irrational. It was one of those “Why do we ever leave the house?” moments, made worse because of all the tourists watching the spectacle. It even prompted a couple of sympathetic, “I don’t know how you do it,” comments from my dad.
But the cool part was, after the tirade ended and as we were slowly making our way uphill toward the train that would carry us back to Georgetown, the tour guide — a young Georgetown native — came over and asked us how we’d liked the tour. I explained that it was neat but hard to enjoy with my son who has autism. He told me his mom used to work with kids with severe autism, who could be violent and were not able to go out in public all that much. He said he thought it was awesome we were bringing Bennett into the mountains to experience the train and mine, and encouraged us to keep trying. Then he high-fived Bennett.
I know it was only one blip out of a couple so far this trip, but when meltdowns happen it can feel like the world is ending in that moment. Still, like the guide said, it is so important to keep trying. I also know that seeing Bennett smile and laugh makes it all worthwhile. By the time we got back to Georgetown, he was skipping again. We ended up having a great day with my dad.