Thursday, May 19, 2011

Collins Beach on Sauvies Island: Inundation

Some aerial photos of Collins Beach on Sauvies Island.  Just ain't no sand exposed to enjoy at all with these abnormally high river water levels.  Credit goes to Lewis Clark for these images.

From the USGS Water Resources site here

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Nude Rain Hike to the Sunset Mine Site

Emerging from Adit #2 of the Sunset Mine
Enough of waiting around for good weather.  I just had to get out for a reasonable length hike.  I've done a number of shorties (an hour or so) but always been held back because of a lack of endurance and bone pain.  Felt really good about this one so off I was on a jaunt to check out the route to the long abandoned Sunset Mine site within the Wild Sky Wilderness and up Trout Creek for a couple of miles.

The weather was marginal . . . rain forecast.  So a hike would be chancy.  Good thing about the weather though.  Everybody else felt the same way and by the time I reached the trailhead where I'd begin the hike there were no other cars around.  Perfect!  So what if it was a little on the overcast, cool side.  I'd have the hike to myself.

Sunset Mine is a couple of miles inbound to the east along Trout creek as it wends into the Wild Sky Wilderness from the trailhead on the Index-Galena Road . . . right where the main road is closed from the 2009 road washout.  The mine access road used to be in very bad condition . . . accessible only by high-clearance 4-wheel drive vehicles.  What I noticed as I hiked up the switchbacks of the road was that gravel had been brought in to make the road much more navigable.  For myself, I wondered 'why'.  The first, lower leg made sense . . . as a lead-in to a new route for the washed-out Index-Galena road.  But further up?  The road only got better the further in I hiked.

The answer came when I finally reached the mine site, itself.  Posted on a tree was a Notice of Intent to Hold; a formal process establishing a mineral claim to the area.  Someone had staked a claim to the old Sunset Mine.

The Sunset Copper Company was formed in 1897 to mine and extract copper, silver, and gold from the Sunset outcrop. Mining operations expanded to cover 960 acres and 12,000 feet of tunnels, almost all of which have collapsed or been submerged. Ownership of the area changed hands a number of times before operations ceased and the property was ceded to the US Forest Service in 1985. By that time, over 13 million tons of copper had been hauled out of the ground. Today, all that remains of the production site is the crumbling cement foundation of the mill.

The mill site is about all one sees nowadays . . . unless you go looking for the three mine shaft adits and the two stopes that define what remains.  The mill site is a large open area that mainly sees a lot of target practice on old computer monitors lined up on the pock-marked cement foundation of the mill site.  Trout Creek runs nearby and you can still find rusting remains of milling and ore washing equipment buried under the ground.

A vigorous stream run down the roadway beyond.  If you follow the stream you are lead right up to Adit #2 . . . the easiest mine shaft to find.  I don't normally go into mine shafts, being slightly claustrophobic.  However, today I put on the headlamp and squeezed myself slightly into the mine shaft opening.  Not far because there isn't much to see.  The shaft is caved in just inside the opening.  Further up on the overgrown slope are other entrances . . . one of which is not caved in, and two open stopes that, frankly, I wouldn't want to accidently come across and fall into.  Stope 2 drops a great distance into the ground.  Today I didn't bother with trying to find them . . . no machete to clear the overgrown blackberry bushes that are the nude hiker's bane.

In any case, I was much more interested in the very recent brush clearing that had made new trails throughout the area.  I spent some time exploring a few of them, figuring whomever made them knew something I didn't.  Came across some old relics like rusting spring-metal bed frames embedded in the overburden of the forest.

I went up the road just a little bit further . . . to where there is a decaying log bridge spanning Trout Creek to other claims much further in on Gunn and Merchant Peaks.  But then it was drizzling enough for the skin to wetten, so I started on the way back, determined not to redress or seek out the flimsy emergency rain poncho I carry in the backpack.

Hey, and guess what?  I made it all the way back and just ignored the rain as it got heavier.  By the time I reached my car I was soaked thoroughly . . . and I figured, what the heck.  Right up to the car nude.  No one was going to be coming down the road in this weather.  A great tonic for the soul.  I enjoyed my hike.

The photo album of this hike can be viewed here

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