Our exploration of this abandoned mine is now going to drift (heh) in a new direction… We travel for a short distance farther through the modern workings from the 1990s before transitioning into the historic workings of the mine. While making our way through the remaining modern workings, we discover a SECOND LHD! Now, in the video, you’ll hear me make a comment about knowing there were two LHDs at this mine. What I meant was that I knew that two LHDs had been used there in the 1990s, not that I expected to find both of them underground! The only way this second LHD could be down there is if they took it down the mine shaft, piece by piece, and then reassembled it underground. That would have been something to see… And, as a reminder, LHD is an acronym for Load-Haul-Dump and, well, it is used for exactly what the name says.
Once I passed into them (you have to admit, that transition was rather anticlimactic), it took me a moment to even realize that I had passed from the modern workings to the older workings. The impressive gobbing and the suddenly tight adit clued me in fairly quickly though. At first, I didn’t know if this drift was a dead end or was the one I was looking for. Once I did conclude that I was on the track I wanted, I can tell you that I definitely had no idea what I was getting into with this route. The modern map we had as our reference did not make it seem THAT far to reach the other side of the mine that we had explored earlier. And it certainly did not indicate the level of difficulty involved! The older workings I am passing through were last worked in the 1930s (and some are even much older). Since then, a lot of material has collapsed from the top of the adits that frequently needed to be scrambled over (or through) and quite a lot of sticky mud has filled sections of the adits. As you’ll see in the videos, it wasn’t always easy to travel through these historic workings. And, bear in mind, I have a heavy backpack and a lot of mine exploring gear on.
You’ll notice as this series progresses that we pass through very different workings. Sometimes these are drifts that were run at different elevations or at different times and sometimes these were entirely different mines originally (as this mine grew it acquired several other neighboring mines and connected their workings underground). So, what we’re left with is a honeycombed labyrinth of workings from all different mines and all different eras (They were all after the same thing though and that is the rich placer of the ancient river channels that used to run through the region).
You’ll also notice a few telltale clues of more recent activity in these historic workings – primarily the colorful ribbons I keep passing… It came very close to being severed by collapses, but enough of the interconnecting drifts remained open, and they remained far enough open, that a small passageway still connects the two sides of this mine. The modern miners were interested in this passageway for ventilation and for an emergency escape route. I don’t know what the contemporary mining regulations are regarding ventilation and emergency escape requirements, but the plan for this mine involved rehabbing this passageway up to the necessary standards. What does that mean though? Does that mean that they would have had to muck ALL of the material out of the adits and make them easy to walk through? That would be an enormous task. Or does that simply mean keeping them open enough to provide air and the possibility to get through as I did? Hopefully, someone in the audience will know the answer.
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Growing up in California’s “Gold Rush Country” made it easy to take all of the history around us for granted. However, abandoned mine sites have a lot working against them – nature, vandals, scrappers and various government agencies… The old prospectors and miners that used to roam our lonely mountains and toil away deep underground are disappearing quickly as well.
These losses finally caught our attention and we felt compelled to make an effort to document as many of the ghost towns and abandoned mines that we could before that niche of our history is gone forever.