The Sequoia Mine's
It's Mid-summer 2003 and the desert temps are all triple digits. If this is when you have to get out of town and get underground, higher elevations are in order. Myself and a few dedicated mine moles headed to the Sequoia's to find a couple of relics of the past.
I got my invitation for this trip from an old hand at Mine exploration that organizes several trips a year to interesting sites in the Southwest. This group is just a few guys that get together now and again to pursue a shared hobby. There are no dues or official memberships, all you need to have is same passion for discovery and preservation. I won't even mention any names, as I have not received consent, although their pictures will be included. If any of the group wish to have their pictures removed, just Email me at email@example.com. I know that some of these pictures are not exactly in the right sequence, so give me a little creative license.
We met in Mojave early Saturday morning and went in convoy to the first site. We did not know exactly how much access there would be. The leader of the team (Dezrat) had been here many years before, but as you know the mines are being closed at a rapid rate. We named the mine the River of Blood Mine. You will see how we arrived at the name later on.
When we pulled in to the main entrance we found several out buildings. They looked like they had been abandoned in the 50's or 60's. Some looked much older though.
The Mill was still there and in excellent shape.
Here is a shot from the inside looking up toward the ore chutes and office
To the north was an older building that was probably the original mine office. It had been renovated at least once to add electric lights.
Well enough of the above ground tourist stuff, it's time to get underground and out of the heat. Here is the main entrance to the River of Blood Mine.
There were at least 3 levels to this mine that we could see, and I believe that there were more like 4 or 5 originally. The mine was a little damp and the timbers were not in great condition. The rock was not that sound either. It was old sedimentary mudstone with an occasional granite dike and quartz veins that were carrying the ores. The picture below left is of the ceiling bolts and wire used to hold up the ceiling rock. It almost looks like a coal mine environment. The lower right picture is a stope that the miners followed up along what I figured was a quartz vein.
A lot of the rock was laced with a red mineral that I believe was cinnabar. As the water dripped through the rock and dissolved the mineral, it formed pools that we coined "the River of Blood". It definitely looked like something you wouldn't want to go into.
Someone had hung a rubber hand on a string that you encounter on your walk down to the scene pictured below. I love a good scare.
We were desperately looking for access to upper and lower levels and we were excited to find this OSHA approved rise ladder to the upper level. When we investigated it further we found that it had fallen off of it's mounting and landed on the mine floor. The ladder was about 15 feet short of the upper level. We would have to find another path.
Without some additional equipment we could not go up or down, so we headed out to find another entrance.
We climbed about the hillsides until we found another adit. It was a great find and really made the afternoon very interesting. Lots of new shafts to explorer.
With a great day of mine exploration under our belt we came out tired and exhilarated. It was time to head out and up to some even higher elevations in the Sequoia's.
We made camp in a really pristine site at about 7200 feet. There was not another person in site and the sound of the wind through the pines was noisy and spectacular. Even though the temps in the Valley were in the 100's it was actually chilly here in the early morning hours. We enjoyed a great dinner under the stars and told a few stories. I brought a portable TV/VCR and Dezrat brought a video tape that he had compiled on our last trip to the Gypsum mine's. Just the right end to a Great Day.
The sun woke most of us up early but our illustrious leader (Dezrat) was dead to the world at 9:30 am . We had all had breakfast, broke camp, chewed the fat, and were ready to go by 9:00 am. We decided that an artificial earthquake would befall the Chevy Tahoe that Dezrat was sleeping in. We all grabbed a fender and shook that Tahoe till we heard screaming. We figured he was awake at last. We were soon on our way.
It's Sunday and we head through the Piute mountains and on to the new mine area we have named the Bat Cave Mines. The name fits well. All of the mines in this area were filled with bats. Some were diseased and hanging from the mine walls with parasites clearly visible. Others were constantly buzzing by your head. These were very nasty mines with lots of water seeping through the brecciated and fractured rock that looked ready to fall in at any moment.
The first location we came to was rich in above ground artifacts but all of the shafts had been either collapsed or too dangerous to enter. The only access we found were vertical adits that did not look at all safe. Some of us were equipped for this type of access but none were willing.
Here are two shots of a collapsed Vertical shaft at site 1.
Up the hill from this site we found another collapsed vertical shaft with this structure that must have been used for loading ore onto either a chute or tram.
We were getting a little worried that there just might not be any access here. It was a fairly well mined region but most of the adits were vertical and filled in by either erosion or do-gooders. We got out our maps and GPS units and figured where one more adjacent series of adits might be. The two youngest kids (anyone under 30) volunteered to run along the ridgeline and look for our spot. These two brothers had unlimited energy. We nicknamed the youngest recon goat.
In just a little while when we got the radio report of horizontal adits with substantial tailing piles. This was just what we were looking for, a haulage adit with access to many levels above. We were all ready to get underground.
We made our way to a parking spot on the trail and headed out for a 1/3 mile hike to the spot I am calling Bat Mine 2. The landing in front of the mine was piled high with ore car track and timbers. The opening to the mine had about 4 inches of water and muck on the adit floor. There was no dry way to get through it, the first 100 yards were a mess.
This mine was really nasty. The walls were seeping water and blobs of some unknown crud that were hanging from them.
The moisture had rotted out most of the beams that were holding back the fractured rock above.
And lets not forget the bats that were zipping by your head flying back and forth. Some were rather diseased and lifeless just lying on the rocks, others were frozen to the walls. We could see maggots on their fur in great numbers and yet they could still fly when startled.
And then the really scary stuff comes out. I think I saw this guy in The Shining. Isn't that Jack Nicholson ? and where is his axe ?. I don't think he should be pulling too hard on that beam.
The other danger is from falling into a shaft like the one below. The only way to pass was by balancing on the middle beam and not looking down.
We steadied ourselves with this rope ladder that was hanging down from one of the upper levels. I am sure that this would hold a 200 pound man.
There were several spots where the ceiling had fallen and presented rather formidable obstacles that had to be wiggled through and when you were about to become discouraged, you would come upon a great rise to another level.
Or a ladder to a lower level like the one below. Notice the raised front of the ladder that was used as a vertical rail for the ore and material buckets. There was a platform and winch above this for moving stuff up and down the ladder. The wood on the ladder looks intact but was rotten. We had to send the Recon Goat and his brother down on ropes.
After a hard day at the mine we were all pretty worn out and ready for the light of day, so we headed back out. We had found another great mine in the Sequoia's.
We hope that great sites like these will remain open for exploration and free of looting and vandalism. I would love to be able to take my grandchildren here some day and find it like it was in the summer of 2003.
Doug, thanks for the pictures for this page.