After following the drift we ended the last video with to its surprising conclusion, we started moving back toward the main hub of this enormous abandoned mine. Along the way, we explored many of the side passages and raises that were bypassed on the route in through the main haulage adit located in this part of the mine. Following the very long hike up and out of the mine, we set up our camp for the night (we spent all day underground in this mine) and then headed above the mine to see some of its more interesting features above ground. You’ll see that we explore some of the mine buildings, including one that has an amazing collection inside of it.
Although I was curious about what was inside of the modern mine buildings we discovered, I also had a specific destination in mind. One of my exploring buddies – Adit Addicts – had spotted what appeared to be a steam shovel abandoned above the modern mine we explored in this video. I wanted to see this machine to confirm what it was and also to film it if it really did turn out to be a steam shovel. As with the mine itself, it was quite a hike up into the hills above it. Fortunately, I was able to find the machine (although the GPS took me on a terrible route to do so) and it was indeed a steam shovel. Sort of... It was a steam shovel at one time, but had actually been converted over to run on an internal combustion motor. I had never seen anything like that before and it was pretty amazing to see one out in the desert mountains still next to the pile of dirt it had been excavating decades ago.
The modern abandoned mine featured in this video is definitely not the first mine in this area and when looking around above the mine, it was fairly common to see old collapsed adits and old surface mining work. Many of these seemed to be more exploratory in nature though. This area has historically been a large producer of ores containing lead, copper and silver and a thriving town was once supported by the mines. However, today, there is almost no trace left of the ghost town or an aerial tramway that also used to be here.
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Growing up in California’s “Gold Rush Country” made it easy to take all of the history around us for granted. However, abandoned mine sites have a lot working against them – nature, vandals, scrappers and various government agencies… The old prospectors and miners that used to roam our lonely mountains and toil away deep underground are disappearing quickly as well.
These losses finally caught our attention and we felt compelled to make an effort to document as many of the ghost towns and abandoned mines that we could before that niche of our history is gone forever. But, guess what? We have fun doing it! This is exploring history firsthand – bushwhacking down steep canyons and over rough mountains, figuring out the techniques the miners used and the equipment they worked with, seeing the innovations they came up with, discovering lost mines that no one has been in for a hundred years, wandering through ghost towns where the only sound is the wind... These journeys allow a feeling of connection to a time when the world was a very different place. And I’d love to think that in some small way we are paying tribute to those hardy miners that worked these mines before we were even born.
So, yes, in short, we are adit addicts… I hope you’ll join us on these adventures!