Exploration


It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted.  I like to blame business, and that may be true, but I’ve really had nothing pressing to get out. I suspect it’s all the same source.

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Recently, in order to break out of the rut, my wife and I scooped up the dog and went for a drive.  The last such drive sent us to Timbuktu.  Our destination would be a little town with a big history.  Rough and Ready, California.

The Great Republic of Rough and Ready
(excerpted from http://www.roughandreadychamber.com)

By the late 1840s, the population of the town of Rough and Ready had exploded to over 3,000.  The town suffered the effects of general lawlessness and a growing resentment for the government having imposed a Mining Tax on all claims.  On April 7th, 1850, a mass meeting of the townfolks was called to propose seceding from the Union.  The town  reacted by shaking its collective fist at the government with all its taxes and non-existent law and order.  The Great Republic of Rough and Ready was formed that day as a free and independent republic.  In the heat of the rebellion, they elected Col. E.F. Brundage as President. The new President issued Brundage’s Manifesto, which read in part: “We…deem it necessary and prudent to withdraw from said Territory (of California) and from the United States of America to form, peacefully if we can, forcibly if we must, the Great Republic of Rough and Ready.” Along with his Secretary of State, Justice of the Peace Hans Q. Roberts, they signed a constitution similar to that of the United States.

The Great Republic of Rough and Ready lasted only three months as one of the world’s smallest nations.  On July 4th, swept by a patriotic fervor, maybe feeling a little guilty (and possibly, according to some accounts, reacting to the refusal of Nevada City and Grass Valley saloons to sell liquor to the “foreigners” from Rough and Ready) another meeting was held.  The town gave resounding consent to immediately rejoin the Union.  Old Glory went up the flagpole and the whole episode slipped into history.

Today, the town boasts 963 souls (2010 census) and a highly skilled fire department as well as California Historical Landmark #294.  In addition to this there is wonderful re-creation of what I presume are highlights of the town in it’s glory days.

Wonderful, just what the doctor ordered for those cabin fever blues.  We’ll stop for a little photo op and just enjoy what this once sovereign nation has to offer.  This is where the unusual begins… right out of the Twilight Zone.

I see no obvious place to park, but then we’re on the highway through town.  I quickly slow down proceed down the drive on the left.  Immediately upon turning into this drive I spy that foreboding sign which says, “Private Property – No Trespassing”.  I look DOWN to the re-creation and it is indeed DOWN – there are no roads leading in and none leading out.  This photo was taken (not by me) at ground level.  It is at least 12 feet DOWN over the rock embankment to even enter this area by foot.

Being the conscientious tourist, I made my 5 point turn to get out of the private driveway.  Fully expecting we did not pass the parking area, we drive further down the highway.  About ¼ mile further we are obviously out of town and it is time to make a u-turn on California Route 20.  Traffic is virtually non-existent so I drive through town ever so slowly looking for the designated parking.  There is a huge (for this town) parking lot at the local fire station – but again, clearly posted is “no parking”.

About ¼ mile up the road, in the town center, is the post office and general store.  OK, so there is parking in this town.  We stop in the store for a quick snack to double what is likely the entire tourist income for that day.  I decide we’ll walk down the highway and check it out.  A little odd, thinks me, but hey it’s their town they can do things the way they want.

Now, for what seems like half of this distance the fog line (the solid white line on the right shoulder) is less than 1 inch from the edge of pavement and a several foot drop off.  At this point I have to say to myself – I wonder if there are paramedics in the fire department.  They must have at least one pedestrian-vs.-vehicle-traveling-at-high-velocity accidents a month.

Without testing my paramedic puzzling’s, we arrive at the re-creation, which the above photo does no justice.  There is a staircase leading into the depression which contains our goal.  A large sign on the staircase says, “KEEP OUT”.  Due to the position of this structure we can’t even get a great photo.  In fact the best photo op is smack in the middle of Route 20.

Best I can figure one needs to stop the car in the middle of the highway, take your photos and mosey on.  It might work in a horse-drawn covered wagon but that logging truck barreling up the road might not be exactly slam on those breaks.

Rough and Ready is a unique place indeed. This is a first.  A beautiful re-creation which is only intended to be seen from the peripheral vision while driving by too fast to notice there is no parking, there is no vista point, there is no point to the entire display.

In my opinion the ghosts have a very clear message in this town.  Don’t stop.

See my other forays into adventure.

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After the successes of yesterday there’s not much that can get better.  We begin day 2 at a rather leisurely pace at our roadside turnout.  With our primary objective conquered, we create a secondary plan consisting of vehicular and pedestrian assault.
Goldmine route in Alleghany, CA (day 2)
Day 2 begins from our base camp in Alleghany as we drive to within ¾ mile of Gold Star Mine.

Time: 9:35am
 
We parked in the downtown Alleghany parking area, nothing more than a wide section of Main Street with a “No Parking For More Than 12 Hours” sign across the street from the post office/museum and a jump from the bar.
 
Oh the sweet memories of a mobile BaseCamp as we head out for the day.  Parking here saved us the .6 mile trek through this booming metropolis.
 
Our initial goal was to stop by some of the mines we passed late last night.  But after heading slightly more than ½ mile and encountering the snow, remembering the holes in the boots and the dark GPSr nether regions of the previous night our objective changed to another set of mines.
Downtown Alleghany parking.jpg (300x225 pixels)
Gold Star exit.jpg (300x221 pixels)
Gold Star Mine
Time: 10:19am
elevation: 3,866ft
We park the mobile campsite at the nearest widening of the road, nearest the road that leads toward the mine.
 
The uphill trek begins.  It sure seems a lot more UP than the previous days traverse on no road at all.
 
Time: 11:03am
elevation 4,175ft
Hurray, not as exciting or arduous but a definite FIND!  No doubts here.
 
But wait, a sign says Exit and the gate is locked from the inside.  I wonder…
possible Gold Star entrance.jpg (300x225 pixels)
Yup, trekking uphill about 50ft yields a dangerous and exciting find.  A vertical shaft leading down into the mine.
 
Photograph taken, consider mine exploration completed and one more off the books.
Hub Mine
Time: 11:47am
 
One of two cabins visible from the only completely paved road into and out of Alleghany, CA.
Mobiling as far off the highway (and I use that term loosely) as we dare, we park and descend to cabin and mine location.
Hub mine lodging from Ridge Rd.jpg (300x225 pixels)
Hub mine house a fixer.jpg (150x112 pixels)Hub mine bachelor's pad.jpg (150x112 pixels)
A quick peek inside each of the cabin yields valuable information.
The cabin on the left has a bedroom, a bathroom, a living/dining/kitchen room.  The cabin on the right has one big room and old box spring coils in the middle of the room.  One of these miners must have had the civilization that a woman brings to the mix.
Hub mine.jpg (300x225 pixels)
The Hub Mine!
 
Bill sports the way.
Hub mine safety notice dtd 1938.jpg (150x316 pixels)Hub mine - 100yds in.jpg (200x267 pixels)
OK, we dared venture in!
Deteriorated safety notice dated 1938 was posted some 100 yards in.  Who’d have thunk OSHA could reach back in time.
Bill carefully inspects piping for unknown purpose – forced air?  which was paralleled by electrical wires deeper into the shaft.
We dared only traverse as far as an apparent cave-in area.
Even with that, safety was paramount, as no two of us ventured past a certain point together, leaving one behind to monitor conditions.  We each took turns and were quite satisfied with the discovery.
The initial shaft went straight into the hillside about 150yds, then sloped down about 20 degrees for a drop of 30ft over a 25yds distance.  It then went about 15yds further back where cave-in (or never cleaned out) rubble was almost blocking any apparent passage.  We’d love to find more history on this one.

Time: 1:00pm
 
Lunch in lawn chairs sitting on a barely roadside pullout.  Yum, yum.  Cans of tuna and pork and beans – doesn’t get better than that!
 
Next destination Kate-Hardy Mine and Omega Mine.

Time: 1:36pm
 
We visit the town of Forest, population: less.
 
A possible entry point for the Omega Mine but too far and too much snow to tromp through in our two hours remaining.  So on to plan B.

Plan B
Roman Mine and Blue Grouse Mine
 
Time: 1:48pm
elevaton: 4,006ft
Parked the minivan at entry point and set out on foot for the Roman Mine.

Time: 2:23pm
elevation: 3,788ft
Roman Mine
We arrive to within 1/10 mile of the Roman Mine encounter a no trespassing sign.  Desiring to honor property rights we collect our “evidence” in the form of digital photography and turn around.
Roman mine.jpg (300x221 pixels)

Alas, all good things must come to an end and it is now time to head back to the big city with the little stars in the sky.
This was a good trip, an awesome adventure and a must to repeat!
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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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I am preparing for a quick overnight trip of exploration next week.  Nothing elaborate, just fun.  As my son and I were trying to figure out where we’d go and what we’d do – especially after the recent snow – we hit upon the idea of camping in the car and hiking during the day.  It’ll just be the two of us – so cans of food over my backpack stove and warm sleeping bags in the van ought be uncomfortable enough.
 
Well, me being the person that needs a purpose, seized upon the idea of finding gold mines.  Below is the area and many, but by no means all, of the mines in the area.  This should give us ample opportunity to trek overland with GPSr in hand and take photos.
 
So off we go to Alleghany, CA as our “base camp.”  We see how many of these locations we can conquer in under 24 hours, if we can even get there on ice free roads.
 

Allegheny, CA is indicated by the yellow circle.
The RED and the BLUE lines are alternate routes to “base camp.”
 
The piece of real estate depicted is wedged between Highway 49 and Highway 20.
 
Oh yes, our initial destination – site unseen is…. Queen of Sheba Mine.
 

The story of Allegheny, CA.

My intent is of create a map and images of each site visited as an ongoing record of the conquest.  If I recall there are only 3,000 or so mines scattered within my region of the state.  How long can it take to conquer all of them.
 
You may not want to hold your breath for my journaling of the mines or my visit to each of the 3,000+.
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