There are no bad views in Lake County, Colo., nestled among the highest peaks in the state.
The beauty and bounty of the mountains color everything here. But this is also a place of long winters and changing fortunes. Since the 1800s, dozens of mines have dotted its Rocky Mountain landscape. When the mines closed down, in a story familiar to mining towns across the country, once-vibrant settlements disappeared.
Starting in 1915, thousands of people in the county worked hard for the Climax mine, where they extracted and processed molybdenum, an element used to strengthen steel.
“Climax was the best moly mine in the world,” says Howard Tritz, an 83-year-old former employee. But by the 1980s, the mine was struggling. People were let go periodically, and some of them were forced to walk away from their homes.