February 12, 2013
Ellen Ritt thought she’d never see her camera again after it plunged down the side of Little Giant Peak near Silverton in September 2006.
After all, Ellen and her husband Aaron Johnson watched as it tumbled hundreds of feet down a scree-filled gully toward a crater near the abandoned Shenandoah Dives mine far below.
“My husband started to run down the gully and I was screaming: ‘You are going to kill yourself.’ It was very treacherous and very loose,” she said. “So we headed down the ridge and gave up on it.”
But Ellen, who works for Wells Fargo in Denver, didn’t count on state mine inspector Bruce Stover spotting the silver digital camera amid the talus in August 2012.
And she never dreamed the power of social media would deliver her photos back to her.
That’s what happened Tuesday after Marti Liebowitz, a certified hypnotist at Harmony Through Hypnosis in Colorado Springs, saw a photo I had posted on my Side Streets Facebook page. It was a picture of Ellen and Aaron atop the mountain taken from the memory card in their camera.
“I saw the photo and I recognized Ellen’s face,” Marti told me. “It’s amazing. I was like: ‘I know that face.’ So I wrote her on Facebook. It was so funny.”
Funny and shocking, actually, how quickly the mystery was solved.
And it might have remained a mystery had Stover not been observant as he did his job.
“I found it as I was doing an inspection of an abandoned mine last August in the Dives Basin near Cunningham Gulch,” Stover said. “I was at about 12,800 feet in a very remote location when a little bit of metalic reflection caught my eye. It was buried in the rocks. Covered with scree. It was pretty bashed up.”
Unlike disposable cameras he has found in the past, Stover decided to take the digital camera back to his office to see if he could view any photos and identify the owners. He was able to see beautiful shots of mountains, lakes, waterfalls, abandoned mines and old mule trails.
And then there were a few frames showing two people he believed were seasoned hikers, based on their gear and appearance. But that’s all he could tell.
“The camera sat on my desk for months,” said Stover, who said he’s a mining geologist, not a detective.
That’s where the story might have ended. But recently Stover saw a report on KUSA 9News in Denver about hunters finding a camera and reuniting with its owners.
Stover sent the memory card to KUSA’s Dave Delozier, who posted it on his Facebook page, asking for help identifying the hikers.
One of my Side Streets Facebook friends, Susan Brown, was the missing link. She saw Delozier’s post on a friend’s page and shared it on her own page, where I saw it.
Stover was shocked Ellen was found so quickly.
“Isn’t that amazing?” he said laughing. “We’re all bees in the hive with our technology. As soon as one bee finds honey, every bee in the hive knows where the flower is. We’re all interconnected. Worldwide.”
Mostly, Stover was just happy.
“I’m just glad they got their camera back,” he said. “And their memories.