Sunday, May 22, 2016

Twas, part II

 Continuing on our journey, we took to the road and went east. At this point it must be said that Birch Creek road now becomes East Vipont road. Why it does that, I don't know, it just does! Following the trail we came upon a massive stamp mill long since abandoned. According to research, this mill was able to process 200 tons of ore a day. The foto does not do its size nor the steepness any justice. The place is huge and being as it worked on gravity, its built on a very steep hillside.  
 All around the place are leftover relics from days gone by. As you pass through the sagebrush you must constantly watch where you place your feet as to not step on something sharp or jagged and ruin your day. The above foto shows a type of chute that material traveled down to another level.
 We thought that the mine was above the mill but it is said that it was a dumping point for a tram. The ore was brought down and stockpiled to be ran through the mill as soon as it could. 
 What amazes me the most is  how well these old places were built. The boards above are somewhere near 100 years old and they remain intact after such a long time. Other items spotted were good old fashioned iron pipes that could still be used today. Yes they were rusty, but they were still as solid as the day they were made. 
 Honestly, the barrel above could be 10 years old but I am thinking its way older. The iron cone was used to funnel something somewhere and could still be used today. Hell, the cement walls on the place are almost a foot thick. They built the foundation of this place to last. I sure wish the rest of it had been built that way. A stamp mill is such a cool thing. It functions almost like an engine. It has crankshafts connected to iron hammers that continuously move up and down smashing ore to dust. I can only imagine how loud it must have been. On YouTube, you can watch some demonstrations of tiny mills that have been preserved or rebuilt. These small units are very noisy so one can only imagine a whole buildings worth. 
 The mine we were looking for we did not find. Well, we did kind of, but not really. Our objective was the Phelan tunnel and we did find that. Well, what is left of it. According to an old engineering journal, the Phelan tunnel was built to aid in taking ore out of the main mine itself. The tunnel was to be 2000 feet strait in. At that point, they would start digging up and down and tie into the vein of the main mine. By doing this, they anticipated making extracting the ore much easier and  had an idea to install a tram way down to the mill or a small steam powered train. As to what happened???? Who Knows. There are no signs of a tram or rail bed. This mine would be fun to explore too, but alas, there is no way in from where we were. 
 I was standing on the tailings at this point looking back towards the tiny trail to get up to it. The slope is so steep that they are barely 40 feet wide at the top. 
The view looking down is scary. It is well over 500 feet almost strait down. One slip and away you will go. According to the GPS, the road ended just a ways up the canyon at a dead end. Looking on Google Earth you notice that it doesn't end and there are more mines in the area. Needless to say, we will be back out there soon to do some more exploring. I can't wait. Jeep on my friends!

Yah, twas a great day for Jeeping, part 1

 Last years adventure to the 3 corner area of Utah, Idaho and Nevada brought the discovery of another mining district in that area. The area is or was home to the Park Valley mining district. At that time, we were out of time to explore so it got put off until now, well yesterday actually, but you get the idea. The trip started at 8:00 am sharp and we headed west into the unknown. Our last trip 2 weeks ago to the area was rained out and it looked pretty certain to do the same today. The rain followed us to Snowville then disappeared for the day. We crossed into Idaho and went east on Birch Creek road. Well, it was muddy as hell and with not a lot of options, we retired back to the main road. I then decided to try the original road we tried 2 weeks ago and see how it went. It hasn't been driven on for ages, but it wasn't a mud-fest like the main road.  
 We headed east and the adventure began. Our first surprises of the day were the old army truck above as well as Mr. Snake, who was asleep under the door that had fallen off. I wonder how an old military truck ended up out in BFE? There isn't much left of it and the ID plates had all corroded away to nothing so we were unable to even tell what year it was. Someone must have wanted parts off of it years ago because it is basically cut in half behind the cab. I went on Google Earth last night and you can actually see this truck if you know what to look for. As I have said, this trail is pretty much unused. There are spot where it disappears and you have to guess where to go. This led to some kick ass wheeling until we finally arrived back on Birch Creek road. The area where they merge was perfect and we again headed east to our first stop, the Peg Leg mine.  
 The turn off to the Peg Leg is easy to miss. Thank heavens for the GPS. The road is barely visible and even then it looks like a hiking trail. We turned onto the trail and followed it for a bit. By this time we had crossed back into Utah and we headed north until we hit the border fence. The road dog legged east and wound down a slight draw to the mine site. I would be willing to bet that the entrance to said mine is in Utah, but the treasure was under Idaho. To our extreme disappointment, there wasn't much of anything left. The entrances, as you can see by these 2 fotos are caved in.  
 I am willing to give odds that there are still ore carts buried under the mountain. We did find some old track in the debris pile so I'm thinking there could be some carts in there somewhere. Like the mine in the Devils Playground area, this mine is also up a trail where trying to take some sort of tractor to dig it out would be damn near impossible. You know, I really want an old ore cart. They look so cool sitting out in front of houses and I might even be tempted to plant flowers in one......... maybe.
 Once we finished exploring that area, we left the Peg Leg and headed on to another mine on the map. Before we could get to it, this old cabin appeared on the hillside and it was just begging to be explored. We followed the trail up the hill and wound our way to the old site. Not a lot of people visit this cabin I am thinking. The sage brush around it was 4 feet high and even the trail was overgrown. It is a large cabin and considering it has to be over 100 years old, it's in fairly good shape. As we explored the GPS kicked out the name of this mine area as the Dolly Clark mine. For reasons I have yet to discover, this mine is not in the Park Valley district but in the Ashcroft Mining district. The mine produced silver in some quantity before its demise.  
Research on the Dolly Clark has led to nothing. It was a silver mine but that's about it. Some surveys say it is an underground mine and inaccessible due to water. I have no idea on the water issue. I am still not far enough along to go hiking steep mountains so this one will have to wait to be explored further. So far the day had been been great. We did some gnarly kick-ass Jeepin' and found 2 new mines. What would the rest of the day bring????  Jeep on my friends!