Digging Out West: Exploring Chinese Mining Sites
Boise National Forest, Idaho, 2000
by Kit Murray, PIT Volunteer
In July 2000, I was a new FS employee at the agency’s national headquarters in Washington, D.C. I was assigned to spend two weeks in the field, learning more about the work of the FS outside the Beltway. I chose to work on a PIT project on the Boise National Forest, and my 8-year-old son, Kit, accompanied me as a volunteer.
I can’t imagine a finer enrichment program for him than learning about archaeology and the lives of the Chinese miners that we recorded through our investigations. Most important were the many wonderful friends we made as we worked with PIT volunteers and my archaeology colleagues in Idaho. Here is Kit’s account of our experiences.
—Christine Murray, PIT Volunteer
My mom and I went to Idaho to explore Chinese mining sites. We found pottery, glass, tin cans, shovel heads, and glass bottles. Every morning, we would get in a truck and drive across Grimes Creek in the back of the truck. Then we got out and hiked down the road. When we got there, we split up into our groups. Sometimes there were two groups, and sometimes there were three.
Our counselors were Marc Münch, Ty Corn, and Darin Vrem. Each group had a GPS and a walkie-talkie, except Darin’s group. The GPS would help find the site. It showed the bearing and what degrees for the compass to show us which way to go. When we got to the site, we put all our stuff down in a shady place. Then the leader gave us flags to mark artifacts, so we could find them again.
When we were done, we each got a job. There was making the map; recording glass, ceramics, tin cans, and metal fragments; and photographing the site. Then we would take all the flags out of the ground and leave all the artifacts and the site just the way we found them.
If we found rare stuff, we would take it back to camp. Once we found a glass syringe. On Thursday, the last day that fires were allowed during fire season, we had a campfire for the whole group. I roasted marshmallows. There was another boy who was 15 and played the guitar and sang. (Editor’s note: This young singer was Simon Tucker, who went on his first PIT project at age 8 in 1993!) We had a grand time that night. Then we all went to bed.
Once we went to a can dump. Our leaders called it the million can site. The last day, Will Reed, the head archaeologist, came and showed us flintknapping, which is the way prehistoric man made tools. Then my mom and I left.