Picture a small mountain community that still makes its living from gold mines and you probably have a good picture of Alleghany, California.  Nestled near the Tahoe National Forest in Sierra County, this community is the base camp for our 24 hour adventure.
 
My first ever search for gold mines began earlier in the day on Friday with preparations for a 2 hour drive, a cold-hamburger+beans-from-a-can dinner, sleeping bags in the back of a mini-van and my trusty GPSr (whose reliability would be questioned only hours later).

Goldmine route in Alleghany, CA (day 1)
Our trek begins a BaseCamp (as labeled above) and proceeds in a counterclockwise direction.
 
 
At 3:47pm on Friday December 18, 2009 only a few feet from BaseCamp (a mini-van parked alongside the road) we took our first few excited steps on a journey that would last for the next 7 hours 10 minutes and take us about 10.2 miles through uncharted hillsides and brush.
 
Primary objective: The Queen of Sheba Mine.  Why?  We liked the name.
 
1-alleghanyFD.jpg (300x180 pixels)
Time: 3:47pm
elevation: 4,403ft
 
Our trek begins with us passing the rescue team.  We hope not…  We have not yet been into Alleghany proper but we’re hoping for slightly updated services from this town of 121.
Minutes into our hike we come upon our first treasure.  An unexpected and undocumented tunnel beside the road we are travelling down.  The floor of the tunnel is under about a foot of water but it’s way too cool to look inside and imagine those who dug this out.
Unknown mine - 1st find!.jpg (300x227 pixels)
Ready4Fun.jpg (300x227 pixels)
Okay, time for the courtesy pose before we’re worn out, dirty and downright not hospitable to “pose’n.”
Oriental Mine.jpg (300x225 pixels)
Time: 4:17pm

Oriental Mine
elevation: 3,716ft
 
Our first “official” mine.  This is as close as we got the mine in deference to the owners.  During this entire trip we want to be respectful of any trespassing signage.  So far no signage, but sometimes it’s kind of obvious when you will not be welcome to proceed further.
Time: 4:24pm
 
From Oriental Mine we proceeded several yards downhill to Kanaka Creek.  After searching for a few minutes for a dry crossing and looking at the declining sun we arrive dryly on the other side and our bushwhacking begins.
Kanaka Creek.jpg (300x225 pixels)
Parttimers cabin.jpg (300x225 pixels)
Eyeing the ridgeline in the distance as we follow the Kanaka Creek ravine, we come across a “part-timers” cabin.  Cabin is all locked up for the season and we are careful to take only memories.
Light level 1½hr in.jpg (300x221 pixels)
Time: 5:12pm

Kenton Mine
elevation: ~3,700ft
We arrive in the vicinity but in the twilight of dusk but are unable to find our first “in the wilderness” find.
 

Time: 5:41pm
Here is my attempt to capture the sliver of the moon which will soon slip below the ridgeline.
We are now definitely headed up.  At this time we are about 400ft above the Kenton Mine location headed to 4,300’ before descending the other side of the hill.
Last .2mi to QoShebaA.jpg (150x111 pixels)Last .2mi to QoShebaB.jpg (150x111 pixels)
For posterities sake I’d like you all to know that going through more than 1,000 ft (.2 mile) of this stuff, downhill, in the dark, when most of the bush is 4ft tall is not the most exciting thing you can ever do.  Imagine being netted in a tangled mess with every step as gravity tugs you downward at a higher velocity than you can untangle yourself.  But with only 3/10 mile to go to our trips objective we endure.
Queen Of Sheeba for posterity - but wait!.jpg (200x150 pixels)
Time: 7:28pm
 
The sad, sad reality is that after more than 3½ hours we are  unable to spot the Queen of Sheba.  So after 2.9 mountainous, bushwhacking miles (or 1.2 miles as the crow flies) I photograph a tree for posterity and “proof” of our feat.
 
Now back to BaseCamp via any way but the nasty-uphill-through-the-bush route.
 
Queen of Sheba Mine
Bill basking in victory.jpg (200x267 pixels)QofS Discovery.jpg (200x267 pixels)Daves turn to bask.jpg (200x267 pixels)
Wait!! The report of mediocre success was too soon!
Some 80 ft or so from our tree I spot a dark post sticking out of the ground.
SUCCESS!  We have found it!
Oh how sweet it is!
Quartz at Queen of Sheeba.jpg (150x112 pixels)Monument wMiningClaim in tube.jpg (150x217 pixels)Queen of Sheeba claim.jpg (150x112 pixels)
A few broken pieces are quartz, a sealed tube with the mining claim – most recently filed in 2005 and life is good.
We have what we came for.
Every rock, every hill, every bloody bush – it’s all worth it!
Time: 8:00pm
 
But WAIT! As we head out, what do you know?  A little gulley points the way to the actual mine.
 
SWEET!!!  We never expected this kind of success.
but wait!  The Queen of Sheeba!.jpg (300x225 pixels)
Inside the Queen of Sheeba2.jpg (300x225 pixels)
Okay, we were so excited there were several pictures taken down inside the mine that came out perfectly black.  But we have to “prove” it so I made sure a wall was close enough for the flash to bounce off.  Not too exciting to you, I’m sure.  But great for me!
Time: 8:32pm
Heading out, we decide to use a road/trail we crossed before the nasty-bushes-that-meant-us-no-good hoping to intersect it on an alternate path.  It appears this will double our overland distance BUT it’ll be on an unmaintained road which is a vast improvement.
 
Referring to our track image above you’ll note that we left Queen of Sheba and “guessed” the wrong direction once we arrived at the road.  I would assume entire wrong-way-Dave responsibility for this except you will note that at one point we crossed our own path several times.  Seeing as how we were on a road it’s kind of hard to imagine how 2 genius’s like us, who go through nasty brush up and down the sides of mountains in the dark to get to a mine that is 1/5 mile off a road/trail, could possibly go in circles.  WE DID NOT.  The GPSr was major haywire.  Trees, mountains and karma were in effect on our tired souls.  It was about here that I looked at our track, saw it crossing a section of road that had no crossroads and on which we had never traversed (ok, we did make one more incorrect guess at a Y) and said whoa, wait a second.  There’s something fishy here.  Satellite tracking was at an in-optimal level the likes of which I had never seen and for durations of time that really made us question which direction we were headed.
 
We discussed sleeping under a tree until morning.  It would have been doable but sure did not sound as good as a warm sleeping bag in the back of a mini-van.  Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that since about 4:45pm our stomachs have been growling non-stop.  I do not think I have every been so hungry in my life.  Oh the thought of a pre-cooked cold hamburger that was waiting for me sounded blissful!
 
The GPSr became a reference tool from this point on and instincts were forced to surface.  Eventually we got two good satellite fixes that confirmed we were approximately on the road we thought we were.
 
Time: 10:56pm
Two very tired, hungry, thirsty, aching, cold, wet feet guys arrive at BaseCamp after traversing Alleghany, California from one end to the other.  7.1 miles and 3 hours AFTER the Queen of Sheba Mine we EAT, EAT, EAT.
 
We took the lawn chairs out and sat at our appointed roadside rest, ate our cold burgers and corn from a can as we marveled at the miracle of God’s creation looking down at us from the heavens with such a splendor as is never seen in the city.
 
Then we SLEEP, SLEEP, SLEEP!
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