No folks this doesn’t involve motorcycles. It involved adventure and contemplation though, so I wanted to share. My friend Robert invited me and some others on a hiking trip out to the Big Horn mine in Vincent Gulch, in the mountains not to far from my home. Needing some exercise, I jumped at the opportunity.
The trail was well kept most of the way and it took our small group of 6 +1 child only an hour to make it to the mine. The hike actually ran pretty flat, with only a few short inclines, and several huge washouts that brought the trail to a single path. The immenseness of the mountain was obvious when looking up one of these washes, but following the huge trail of rocks crumbling down to the bottom of the canyon reminded me how nothing is forever.
The mine is easy to spot after walking through a silly attempt to fence it off. Turing the corner we spotted the processing center, and the entrance to the mine. Water was running out of it, but it wasn’t very deep. I’ve been in several abandoned mines before but this one easily dwarfed my previous experiences in size and construction. A lot of the shoring used on the ceilings had collapsed, leaving partial cave ins. Some of it was simply rusted in two, and the wood was soaked with water and calcium deposits.
We moved through several levels as the mine branched over a dozen times. I went ahead to look at a few test shafts, all of which went too far up or down to see an end. I would have liked to have some rope for one of them, but there was little to anchor to and everything was quite damp and slippery.
There were obvious signs of more modern attempts to drain water, some of them still intact. The floors were littered with metal piping and broken valves, along with kite string once used to keep from getting lost. We ended up searching for over an hour, finally finding dead ends. I found several spots marked as “cave in”, but exploring further showed only a partial collapse. With a youngster and a dog with us though, it wouldn’t be possible for me to crawl through and explore without leaving the group. Dead ends do often prove to have hidden surprises though:
After retracing our steps to the first split, I noticed a 3rd split that immediately went off into 3 directions after only 30 feet. Following one into a circle, I followed the next one, marked “danger explosives”. After 200 meters I realized I was alone; the rest of the group was ready to head out. Leaving the rest for another adventure, I headed out to the face of the mine, to be stunned by the view.
Standing there with all the glory of the earth in front of me, with a slight overcast providing both warmth and coolness, I soaked in the silences and smells. The earth had given me permission to see this, to be one with it, and I was so thankful. The power of creation is there for those that look, and I saw god, diffused into every living thing, every rock, and the air itself.
We stopped to eat a snack and take photos, and I used the opportunity to explore the processing station below. There was actually a lot of it left, though much of the timber could be seen strewn down the mountainside. There was some decent graffiti work, and some very sturdy structure left, apparently not of 1800’s design. The mine was first active in the 1830’s, but I don’t know when it was finally closed.
The hike back was a little uncomfortable for me since my shoes had gotten a bit wet in the mine. I ended up with a blister on my right heel, but it was totally worth it for the sights. I didn’t realize how much I needed to get away from the city for a minute. It left me reflecting a lot on life the rest of the day. A short road trip is definitely in the works in the coming months. Nature speaks to you in many ways if you listen to it, but the trip back gave me a much more obvious message: