I don’t know how long ago it was–probably in the last year or so–that I spotted a pile of coal and overburden spilling out over some cliffs bands above Spring Canyon in Google Earth/Maps. There was no obvious road leading to what was surely a mine opening, which meant there was a possibility that it had never been closed or reclaimed once the mine was abandoned. During the past week weather conditions were iffy, which made a good case for some very close-to-home hikes. On Sunday I took the dogs for a hike and attempted to reach the mine from below. After a short hike up a side canyon from the road in Spring Canyon, I reached a dryfall that had looked passable in Google Earth but was actually too vertical to scale. From below I could see some debris on the overburden pile but couldn’t see the actual mine opening. I ended up hiking back to the Jeep and driving to the end of the road in Spring Canyon, stopping to see some rock art along the way.
In the next few days at home I researched the terrain and found the best route to access the mine from above. The old Peerless tram grade made for a great ascent route to the ridge above the mine. I’d hiked the tram grade twice before–once in 2005 and again two years ago. This being my third time I rushed past all the interesting old mine ruins and focused on ascending as quickly as possible. That turned out to be pretty slow, actually. It took me an hour and 45 minutes to ascent to peak 7,740′. Of course, I stopped to smell the roses–er, cactus–along the way.
It was all downhill from there to the mine but it took me another 1.5 hours to reach it. The views all around were excellent! I stopped at a geocache that I’d found on my first trip up here and read the logs since my find. While stopped briefly to rest I noticed a gopher snake right at my feet. It initially gave me a good scare until I realized it was a harmless snake. I spent a few minutes photographing the snake and it didn’t move the entire time I was there.
Before dropping into the final small drainage leading to the mine I had to convince myself to press on. I knew I was in bear country, and even though I hadn’t seen any sign of bears I was hesitant to drop into the narrow and heavily-wooded drainage. I committed myself to descending toward the mine and about ten minutes later I spotted a bear track–not completely fresh, but made since the last rain we had the previous weekend. Fuck! I’d convinced myself that I was being paranoid about bears and then I see bear sign?! I was too close now to turn back but I was determined to make any wildlife aware of my presence. As I hiked, I rhythmically clapped my hands (S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night!), whistled, and even yelled occasionally. What a big baby. After some sidehill action I reached the mine to find that the opening has either collapsed naturally or was blasted shut. A large jumble of boulders and dirt covered the opening, but curiously two rails extended from below the rubble and out over the cliff band into space. The remains of some sort of mine car and a lot of timbers were nearby. There was nothing terribly interesting, but at least my curiosity was satisfied. And then some.
I sidehilled back to the drainage where I’d seen the bear tracks. I moved quickly while making plenty of noise and worked up a good sweat during the ascent. I reached the top of the ridge above the drainage and encountered a lot of wind and a little bit of rain. I hit peak 7,740′ and finally felt some relief knowing that it was all downhill to the Jeep. What had taken me an hour and 45 minutes to ascend took less than 40 minutes to descend. The entire hike had been only 5.13 miles but it felt like twice that due to the large elevation gain/loss and the rugged terrain. The storm moving in had made it get darker earlier than usual. The first half of the drive home was done with my prescription sunglasses, and the last half was simply blurry.