Saturday, January 16, 2010

Weekend Adventuring

The weather has gotten crappy for the first couple weeks of January. Typical El Niño, warmer than usual, less than usual snow, and this time rain rain rain. Thanks to my sister who got me an awesome bike rain jacket, I have been staying 99% dry on my rides to and from work (my feet still get wet, and my head). But with all the weather we were starting to feel a bit cooped up. We started to think about a possible snowshoe trip. As the planning went on, and we looked at the Mountain forecast, we came to the conclusion that it would have to be Sunday as the weather on Saturday was forecast to be nasty, with high winds in the pass where we were headed. Also, there had been rain and freezing rain in the pass, so the snow level was....Well it's high, with pretty crappy snow. Given the nature of this forecast we decided it would be a combination mine hike and snowshoe day. Set off first to see the Sunset Mine, outside of Index, followed by a run up to pass elevation and hopefully some snow.

Sunday morning we headed out with our friend and mine enthusiast and expert, Al. The Sunset Mine is up near Trout Creek, outside of the little town of Index. In its heyday it had multiple adits and connecting tunnels. As time has marched on most of these have collapsed, leaving mainly the primary adits, which are now mainifest as huge pits.

We wandered up the trail with Al to the first tunnel entrance. And by wandered up, I mean stumbled along the banks of this creek.
This creek just so happens to flow out of the mouth of one of the collapsed tunnels, indicating that even if one were to attempt to squeeze through (we had no intention of even considering it) it would be pretty flooded inside.

In that second photo you can see further in to the collapsed tunnel.

We then proceeded up a drier section of trail towards the "main event". We passed another collapsed tunnel on the way, complete with artifacts.
See those things that look like bare branches at the top of the photo? Those are actually old steel cables.

We proceeded onward to the first real pit. This is the first thing you can actually enter in this mine. As you approach it looks, well like a giant hole in the ground. You can then carefully pick your way down into it. Getting rained on by the water drips all the while.

From in the pit, with Russell for scale.

The view from the bottom.
What you can't see in any of these photos is there is a little wooden structure inside this pit. I tried to get a photo of it, but there is so much falling water that if your flash goes off all you see is the water blur. We clambered back out of the hole and proceeded to the next one.

The second adit is MUCH bigger. On the way there you pass this ominous sudden hole in the ground.

This is an airshaft for the hole you are headed to. There will be a shot from inside the mine later. As you come around a bend, watching carefully for any more large holes, you get your first views of the mine.

What is lacking in these pictures is the sheer scale of this second pit. Here, let me show you as we descend into the pit.

That is a full size Douglas fir that has fallen from the cliff above, and is leaning upright on the edge. More?

That's the cliff the tree came down from and another shot with Al for scale.

Here's where I'd like to give a special note about this mine. That cliff above is eroding really badly on all sides. You may have gotten the impression from the first hole that it was raining the day we were there. It wasn't. The weather was quite dry. All that water was groundwater. I would NOT go into this second tunnel on a day it was substantially raining, too much danger of erosion and another tree coming down. Safety first.

So you remember that random air shaft? Here it is from the inside.

That beam at the center is just under the shaft, if you look carefully you can see the reflected light coming in.
There are some other wooden beams too.

Over all this pit is much deeper and cooler than the first one. Also with 50% more deadliness due to the eroding slope above. Be careful kiddies and keep your wits about you.

We emerged from the mine to the sound of rifle fire in the distance. We would later learn that it was a bunch of 20 somethings with a wide and interesting variety of firearms target shooting at an old bridge down by the road. We spent our lunch speculating about the source of the gunshots (hillbilies? drug runners? local teens shooting our car to pieces?) Russell wasn't wearing any yellow rain gear, so arranged this little number as we at our delicious sandwich by the mine to avoid being a mistaken for a deer on the way down.

Back at the car, it was time for the second part of our adventure. Yeah...the second half of our adventure was us doing this:

For two hours. (That would be digging Al's car out of the snow, it is 4WD but we some how managed to bottom out in the parking lot. As we only had ski poles, a trowel, and a stick, digging was innovative and took some time). We eventually got out, but not it time for snowshoeing, so we headed in from our excellent adventure.

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