The more I see and hear about mines being sealed with foam, or fitted with steel barriers which only allow egress to critters; the more fortunate I feel to have visited many of these locations prior to such measures being implemented. Similarly, the ever-changing governmental designations of certain areas, as well as later-day mining claims and property just changing hands, has led to access restrictions and the outright closure of areas that we once visited.
Back in the day, we were in the moment and there for the adventure, unfortunately, we did not go to any great effort to record conditions and features that were extant at that time (especially mine interiors). Now looking back, I lament that we did not take many, many more photographs which I could now include in these retrospectives. I do hope that the few that I do have to include here, at the least offer some small glimpse to conditions back in 1997.
Bullion Mine 1997
Still riding our wave of enthusiasm from our Lucy Grey Mine visits in '96, our little family group which we
(tongue-in-cheek) called the "Howling Coyotes Adventure Team", struck out afield whenever we could find time and had plenty of targets supplied to us from Richard at my office. By now, the, kids Stephanie
(13), Whitney (10) and Derek (8) had insisted that my friend Donnie be sworn in as the full-fledged #5 member of our team and so it was, as we set off in "Fred" and my Dakota, to the Bullion Mine inside Deadman's Canyon.
On what would become a major corridor to our adventures, we traveled south along the old highway to Jean. As we were coming even with the dry lake bed, we exited right, on to a dirt road and stopped
briefly in the strip of land between the old highway and the railroad tracks to visit the old sign which marked the spot where the final spike was driven connecting the meeting point of the west-bound and east-bound construction teams of the then "San Pedro-Los Angeles and Salt Lake City Railroad" in 1905.
After leaving the old silvery-gray sign, we continued to Jean and turned right, passing under 1-15. Upon reaching the little Shell station on the west side of the freeway, we turned left off the pavement of 161, crossed a large dirt lot and picked up a dirt road which paralleled the 1-15 south for just under a mile. At that point we took the fork to the right, to run a trail that ran roughly southwest towards the mountains.
The trail was cut by a number of washes, some fairly rough, but nothing that would prove to be any sort
of serious obstacle to the trucks. Every so often, we would drive through patches of a silty dirt that was so fine, when the first vehicle through disturbed it, a massive eruption of a talcum powder-like cloud ensued, totally enveloping the second vehicle. We named it "Poof", because that pretty much said it all.
Approaching the mountains, we stopped briefly to look at the Ireland Mine, but soon continued to rattle onward into the mouth of Deadman's Canyon, where the huge tailings pile of the Bullion Mine loomed large before us, ever nearer. Eventually winding our way back to the site, Donnie who was in the lead, suddenly goosed "Fred" up and onto a large sand pile! With the gauntlet thrown down (and two of my kids aboard with me-watching), I attempted to follow suit, but overdid it a bit and came to a stop on a precarious side hill angle. Still new to off-roading, I was a bit concerned until Donnie nonchalantly strolled over and casually said "Just turn the wheels that way and blip the throttle", which of course worked perfectly and served as my humbling lesson for the day.
We took a quick survey of the remnants of the past operation on the valley floor before we began our uphill hike up to the northernmost of the east-facing portals at 35 45'32.15"N by 115 26'20.06"W. It
stood at elevation 4040FT, about 300 feet higher than our parking spot. The cool March air buoyed us
along as we worked our way up and intercepted a foot trail which ran towards the tailings and then eventually to the portal itself. Cautiously gaining entry, we were amazed to find a maze of stoped-out areas with some magnificent colors; to me it appeared as a beautiful grotto and I still regret not then
having good equipment, to do it photographic justice.
Tearing ourselves away from that spot; we picked-up the foot trail which continued around the east face towards the highest portal area at 35 45' 29.67"N by 115 26'23.04"W, elevation 4125FT. We gave the area a cursory inspection and worked our way over to the wood structure which probably served as the upper terminus serving a bucket line, at one time running down to the process works on the valley floor; here we snapped a few photos of the structure and the base area back down below.
From that point on up, we were struggling to climb in the loose rubble of the tailings pile, crossing it on a right trending bearing upward until we came upon an opening at 35 45'1.84"N by 115 26'24.85"W which as I check it on Google Earth, shows to be at an elevation of 4140FT. Switching on our flashlights and oh, so glad to be on level ground again for a bit; we entered the portal and walked into the tunnel. Maybe 200 feet inside, it was intersected from top left to bottom right by a large shaft with a baby-gage railway and a large cable descending at about a 45 degree angle. Looking left and upward we saw daylight which we presumed to be the main portal of the mine, I was guessing to be about 150 feet above.
Looking down and to our right, we trained our lights down the dark shaft, illuminating an ore cart on the rails about 100 feet below us. Donnie climbed down to the ore cart to get a good look; it was beautifully intact, except that it had been stranded there with a missing wheel.
Time was passing fast, so we made our way back out of that tunnel and continued our very steep climb upward to the main level. Arriving winded, but triumphant; we all soaked-in the sights of the long-idle headworks (of which I snapped a picture of Stephanie inspecting), and the baby-gage tracked frontage (where I got a picture of Whitney walking along). There was also a nearby structure which I believe may have housed steam power equipment at one time. (These old film pictures are really dark, so I hope that when scanned, they will still be reasonably discernable for you to see) We also confirmed that the point of daylight which we had seen from the tunnel below, was indeed the portal of the main shaft complete with winch equipment and the cable headed down to that stranded ore cart far below.
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Thoroughly spent from the hike up, going back down was no picnic either; as the evening chill settled in with the withering daylight. We made it down at sunset too exhausted for words, our two trucks drove silently homeward in the dim twilight. I know that a brief account such as this cannot come close to actually describing the effort, or our excitement of discovery on that most-arduous day; but I can tell you that still to this day, all of these years later, we still think of this as our greatest adventure!
New Year's Mine 1997
A few weeks after our adventures in Deadman's Canyon, Donnie and I struck out on a trip to a spot that had been described to me as a "hike only" destination down in Devils Canyon a few miles further south.
The kids sat this one out, as a relative was in town and watched over them while we went off to explore another gem on Richard's map. After leaving the pavement in the same location as our last trip, we bumped along much further in Donnie's burly old "Fred" truck, finally entering Devils Canyon and then winding our way in, ever westward.
We had been told to look for the remnants of an old Model "A" car body [now gone] on the left, and that our jumping-off point for the hike would begin in the side canyon behind it. Finally spotting the old wreck, we turned hard left through a large stand of cactus, where we noticed some corrugated metal debris and a can dump, indicative of a former mining camp. Driving further back into the canyon, we noticed a large loading platform made of stacked rock to our left, but then virtually nothing else familiar to a mine operation after that.
Parking in an obscure area, we geared-up prepared to thread our way into a slot canyon. Before we left, Donnie opened an old hard plastic rifle case and left it lying open and empty in the bed of the truck. "That'll give 'em something to think about" he said with a grin, as we began to ply our way through the undergrowth into a slot canyon which ran roughly southwest. Soon coming upon a ledge of boulders to climb up, we saw old lumber and other rusty trash that indicated to us that we were on the right track.
The slot canyon walls loomed high above us, it was like being in another world with our voices echoing
in some places. Of concern too with the depth and shape of the canyon, this was obviously not a good place to be during a hard rain! So concerned, I periodically glanced at the sliver of sky visible above.
Further in, we came upon a near vertical climb of about 8 feet [it is about twice as high nowadays!], where hard-running water had poured over a ledge and hydraulically excavated away the sand on the lower step. Scrambling up past that, we came upon the Christmas Mine, the portals of which sit low in the wash and were well on their way to being filled in. At the largest open portal, we descended in as far as we were comfortable with; but it was not worth any extensive amount of time and soon we were back into the slot canyon pushing on.
The deep canyon itself seemed a geologists dream, offering a plethora of rock types and exposures worn heavily by countless flash floods over the eons. Every now and again, we noticed another piece of rusty manmade junk among the rocks along the rough trail, giving us a little boost that we were getting close.
Then at 30 minutes or so past the Christmas Mine, we rounded a corner and there it was in its secluded glory; the New Year's Mine!
The old adage concerning less accessible mines being more intact, certainly applied here. The wooden
sorter/loading works was magnificent to behold! Behind it on the hill, we explored at least 7 portals with tunnels of various lengths and depths; some stoped-out forming adjoining audits. An old bench littered with pipe fittings sat at the mouth of one portal; further inside another, was a vertical shaft with spraypaint writing telling of a "Slusher" on a level below.
The canyon turned left past the front side of the mine revealing and extensive network of foot trails on
both sides of the canyon running between more audits, rock shelters and can dumps. We photographed two wheelbarrows, a hand winch crank, a bedstead, a water tank, a hand-powered blower and a mostly disassembled motor-rock crusher that had the name "Seager Engine Works Lansing Mich. USA" and the date "1907" cast into it. [Note, we returned in 2002 and were incredulous to find that all of the motor parts had been carried-offI]
The most complete guide to Southern Nevada's mining history.
In the waning sun, we worked our way back down to where we parked and then walked the road bed westerly, around to another portal at 35 45'24.04"N by 115 26'23.32"W, elevation 3840FT. We did not however, go very deep inside due to the lateness of the day and what I thought to be a nasty smell that I detected not too far inside the portal. Single-Dad overkill or not; it just wasn't something that I wanted
the kids to breathe. Thoroughly tired, we left for home that day still very enthusiastic about what we
had seen and with an even greater anticipation about our next destination.
Valentine (or Anchor Mine?) 1997
The following weekend, we returned to the same area, in fact just south of the Bullion Mine. I had been told that our target for this adventure was called the Valentine Mine (and we believed this to be the
case for the next 20 years, but in recent times I have been informed that it may indeed be more properly identified as the Anchor Mine). But for our purposes here and just to be clear, we were parking adjacent to the sand piles located near 35 45'15.91"N by 115 26'7.59"W at elevation 3670FT and then climbed to the works high up and to the west at 35 44' 59.59"N by 115 26'24.83"W, elevation 4230FT; so call it what you will, that's where we went!
On our way back out that afternoon, we marveled aloud at how difficult it must have been to work a mine at that location and wondered how they conveyed the minerals out of the canyon. Every now and again we thought that we could make out remainders of foot-trails on ledges above our path through the slot canyon. The structure we saw back at the site was certainly used for loading materials to be transported out for processing; but it was unclear by what means it was transported. Could there at one time have been rails all the way back out to the terminus point at Devils Canyon? Was there a bucket way? Or just pack mules? For us, the mystery remains, as the fury of untold storms over the years, had sent floods of water-driven debris blasting through the narrow trough of a canyon and had scoured it clean of obvious clues.
As a footnote, we returned 3 more times to this fascinating location; in 2002, 2011 and again in 2015 when Whitney and I actually returned to take some video. While the location still somewhat enjoys a relatively lower visitation (and degradation) rate than those mines that are more accessible; there has sadly and incredibly been a steady pilfering of those items we once photographed there. The Bureau of Mines had also actually made a visit way-back there to erect barbwire barriers and "Stay Out" signs at the portals.
By any name, in early 1997 this location had none of the fencing, "Private Property" or "No Trespassing" signs that would appear in later years, to dissuade us from going in; so after looking about the remnants in the wash area a bit, we began the arduous hike westward into the canyon. Along the way, we noted some audits higher up, and to our right, but pressed on (and up), ever mindful of the short winter days. Donnie and Whitney deviated from our path somewhat to get a closer look at a tower remaining from the old aerial tramway that once serviced the site and I took a picture of them standing by it.
Onward we pressed, finally coming into sight of the main works still yet above us. I stopped to take a picture, struggling to keep the late-day, western sun from ruining the shot by using the brim of my hat.
You will see from the attached photo that (as I most egregiously discovered later after getting the film developed) my efforts only yielded a great shot of the tailings, as the brim of my hat totally obscured the works at the main level a tragic opportunity-lost that I have yet to live down!
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