Last month at the Placer County Archives, a man at my table inquired about my research, and we found we shared an interest in the mining history of Placer County. We discussed the dangers of hiking alone into remote areas. After a lengthy talk about some of our explorations, we agreed to go on an expedition, and today Darren and I hiked to two remote mine sites.
We traveled to an area affected by the American Fire of August 2013. Here and there logging crews were cutting down burned trees and loading the salvagable timber onto trucks for transport to the Sacramento Valley. The fire had cleared brush which made our hike easier, although we'd return with clothing and hands blackened with soot.
The first mine was fairly easy to reach. The adit had been filled in, possibly for safety reasons. Historic photographs show numerous buildings on this site. A large amount of debris was scattered about. Relic hunters long ago removed the collectibles, but who knows what is hidden in the soil. Many bottles and plates had been used for .22 target practice. There seemed to be a lot of whiskey bottles. Darren found two Coca Cola bottles, one with the bottom marked SACRAMENTO and the other TRUCKEE. A metal canteen bore a patent year of 1918, and we wondered if it was military issue from the Great War, although it had no U.S. marking. There were many rusted tin cans. And there was debris from the buildings - window glass, ceramic insulators, electrical wire, metal pipe, and round nails. The fire had burned any remaining structure timbers.
The second mine was about one-third mile away, much of the our route along a rough trail, with a final scramble down a steep and rocky hillside where we grasped the trunks of small trees for stability. This is where solo hiking is unwise, for a moment's inattention could result in a twisted ankle or worse, and in this deep ravine there was likely no cell phone reception. At least with the cool temperatures we didn't have to worry about rattlesnakes.
A small stream of nasty looking water flowed from the adit of the second mine. Who knows what toxins those waters held. The large opening had not been filled in, possibly due to the remote location and difficulty of access. This mine operated from the 1890s to the 1930s, the activity irregular, with several changes in ownership. The miners worked three veins of ribbon quartz. Mules pulled the one-ton cars.
The mine's stamp mill was the main object of this hike, and we did not expect to find the two 200 h.p. steam boilers and other equipment, all left in place. The boilers powered the electric generator for the mill, hoist, compressor and other machinery.
We reached the nearby stamp mill after a short scramble down a steep hillside. A historic photograph shows a large building here, and more recent photographs show boards scattered about and the stamp mill exposed. The timbers and boards burned in last year's fire, making it much safer to walk around the site. There has been talk about moving the stamp mill to Foresthill for a historical display. The fire may make it easier to extract the parts by helicopter.
Darren remarked that for every hour of hiking, there are several hours of research. More visits to the Archives are in store for information on these two mining sites, and we are looking at the topographic maps to plan future adventures.