Clipper Mine

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Well, this has gotta be the place!

 

A few of us decided to head up to the Clipper Mine the other day out past Carbonado. This area is widely known for it’s coal mining past and there are many relics and ruins of that past hidden in the woods if you know where to look.

Ye olde pipe
Ye olde pipe

The Clipper is something of anomaly in this regard as it was predominately a copper mine with gold and silver  being found in smaller quantities.

The tailings pile
The tailings pile

Coal mines are extremely dangerous for many reasons, more often than not they are cut into very unstable terrain and due to the organic nature of coal, they often are filled with toxic, asphyxiating and explosive gases.

Some areas of former coal mining are full of unstable ground and forgotten shafts. I know of one thats something like 1500ft deep! (Luckily it’s not forgotton, and it’s capped, I’ll present that one in a future blog) It’s best just to enjoy coal mines from a history book.

The icy adit...
The icy adit…

The Clipper however was not a coal mine, what the miners here were chasing was chalcopyrite, a very important copper ore and sometimes containing economically viable amounts of gold and silver.

Your first view of the Clipper mine will be the very large tailings pile spilling down the hillside, and if you look close you can sometimes find some interesting samples of this ore.

Getting to the Clipper was a lot easier than I thought it would be. Often mines are way the hell off in the middle of nowhere, and while I guess it is kind of way the hell off in the middle of nowhere, there is a road, albeit it a very rocky one, that passes within throwing distance.

If you are so inclined to find the Clipper, it’s not too difficult to do the bookwork online. There are some mentions and some maps, it’s a good little introduction to becoming an amateur mine detective. The hint I’ll give is the key is to watch for a waterfall coming down the hillside as you head up the road, it’s not a raging one, but it’s also not a rivulet.

Clipper falls, above the one you pass along the road
Clipper falls, above the one you pass along the road

The road is pretty rocky and as we were driving up we passed a group that appeared to have broken an axle on their truck. They had assistance though, so we just gave a wave. My ancient powder blue Subaru cracked a smirk as it puttered by in all it’s 4 wheel drive glory, the proud clacking of the valves and roaring exhaust leak resounding across the land.

Hello? Monsters?

We finally creaked and cracked and sputtered past the little waterfall, parked, and began our search on foot. It really didn’t take more than a few minutes to find.

The tailings pile is quite large and loose. It may be a daunting climb for some. There is a well worn tread up the one side, but on an already loose surface, this just means slightly less unstable.

Reaching the adit I was surprised that there was a sign right out front “Clipper Mine”. You don’t see that very much, or ever really, so that was interesting. Least we knew we were there and not at some cheap knock off mine.

I took in the adit area as we took a breather and donned our lights. Slightly to the east there was some old rebar punched into the rock, I’m not sure what it’s original purpose was though. Digging around at our feet revealed ore samples, beer cans and even an old drill bit used in mining at that time.

Ye olde Drille bit
Ye olde Drille bit
Mystery mine fungus along the walls
Mystery mine fungus along the walls

The adit is wet, as is the mine as a whole, not flooded, just not tennis shoe appropriate. (Not that this sort of thing ever is or should be)

The first thing one might notice is two thick lengths of wood, evenly spaced along the mine floor, occasionally topped with a thin sheet of rusted metal. This was known as strap railing and was a primitive form of rail. It was cheap and worked well enough for smaller operations, but hell, even early locomotives ran on strap rail, so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! (Actually it was broke, so they did fix it)

Strap rail de-strapping
Strap rail de-strapping

The tunnel is often paralleled by a rather thick rusted pipe, and some smaller rusted pipes. I’m pretty sure these were used to carry compressed air to the drills. Also much deeper in the mine the strap railing gives way to more conventional rails. Interesting.

The mine is fairly straight forward, but amazingly deep, almost a full 1/4 mile into the mountain! As I’ve said before, it is an absolute necessity to bring redundant light sources, just try turning off a flashlight a quarter mile inside a mountain and finding your way out… actually don’t, it’s scary as hell and you’re likely to get hurt, plus there might be monsters, or Dracula, I dunno.

Note fallen rock, no mine is ever safe!
Note fallen rock, no mine is ever safe!

There are some minor drifts along the essentially straight tunnel, but they are short.

One has unintelligible graffiti inside, way to go *Qmid &% 6t20″, way to give absolutely nothing of value to the ages.

Water gushing forth!
Water gushing forth!

Further along we heard quite a bit of water coming from somewhere, like an underground waterfall, turns out it was a sort of low pressure spring issuing forth from the wall, I’ve seen this another time in a mine called the Buckeye. Kinda gives you the impression of being in a U-boot, it’s hull being compromised at extreme depth.

“Ach! Auftauchen! Wir sind alle verurteilt!”

Along the way you will sometimes notice turquoise blue staining, this is from the copper in the ore, kind of like a gooey looking, nuclear patina. As you walk along pay attention to the ceiling, this is where the vein is mostly visible, and you can sometimes see chunks of chalcopyrite crystals in their natural state. There are also a few areas of limited stopes. (Areas where the miners started chasing the vein up, remember wearing a helmet is a GREAT idea!)

We're sinking!
We’re sinking!

The tunnel pinches out at a fairly uneventful end, but that deep, you can get some pretty cool harmonics and echos. oooh, creepy!

Some shoring
Some shoring

I found the Clipper to be a pretty interesting mine, especially for the comparatively low difficulty in finding it. I get the impression that this one gets a lot of visitors as far as mines go, but despite that there is still a lot to see and if nothing else, it’s depth is a sort of stand alone selling point as a place to visit for the so inclined.

As always if you do decided to visit, leave things as you found them, well except for the beer cans, maybe you could bring a garbage bag for those. Should you decided to venture underground, you do so at your own risk. Three sources of light, water proof boots and coat, a helmet and a friend at the very least. However the rule is always:

“Stay out, Stay alive”

-Happy Trails, Harry Biped

Phew! The light of day!
Phew! The light of day!

 

The Golden Tunnel

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Before you read this, you should google “Golden Tunnel Wa” to get a little backstory. What you will find is a lot of heated threads on bbs or people triumphantly announcing how they themselves solved the riddle and saw for themselves the great mystery that is The Golden Tunnel, often condemning all those “keepers of the Golden Tunnel” along the way.

The Golden Tunnel adit
The Golden Tunnel adit

In Discovering Washington’s Historic Mines Volume #1, the authors briefly mention the Golden Tunnel, while there isn’t much to the entry,  admittedly it comes off as quite secretive. I first saw color photographs of the site on 2drx.com, and they too were very secretive. Doesn’t that just make you go nuts? Who doesn’t like a solid mystery? Well if you follow the threads, you’ll find quite a few that don’t and want to be led by the hand right to the adit itself.

To each their own I guess, I don’t like a “gimme” when a real mystery is in my hands, I needed to figure it out.  I followed the subtle clues that DWHM# 1 let on to, and via internet searches and looking for clues hidden between the lines in the threads I started to piece it together. I won’t ruin the mystery for you, but with the footwork I did, and some suspicious looking trails I found, cut in the middle of nowhere and seemingly for nothing, the final clue hit me like a hammer.

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What I will tell you is the name of the mine is linked with the name of the creek that flows from the basin the Golden tunnel is in. That being said, in the world of mining, mines can change names like the wind blows. I’m sure there are other “hammer” clues for people, but thats what really sewed it up for me.

I had to wait over an entire winter and busy summer before I made my attempt. I can still remember some nights, pouring over the clues, looking at aerial maps and daydreaming about what I would find. The kind of stuff life that makes you feel alive!

Sparing you the details of the reconnoitering and journey, I will cut and paste my original writings to my friends at NWUE upon my discovery of the Golden Tunnel:

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2012-Oct

“Hey, so I visited the Golden Tunnel today, and it was a
harrowing journey at the least. The area is very steep,
many wild gullies to cross, steep talus slopes and worst
of all the ultra steep pine needle laden hard dirt, there
has got to be a word for that, if not we should create
one, because by far the steep pine needle hard under
layer is the worst. The area that the mine is in
immediately says to one,” I will kill you with a falling
rock”. While I was milling about I counted 4 rockfalls
loud enough to audibly detected and did witness a rock the
size of a 55 gallon barrel rip down the hillside. I don’t
know if I was being overly sensitive, or was just there on a bad day.

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So much about the GT can be found online,
from people claiming to know it’s whereabouts, to people
slamming NWUE for not making available a Rand McNally map
to the GT’s front door. There are so many people who make allegations of
NWUE being “keepers of the golden tunnel” and in the same
breath making themselves out to be a sort of self styled
“champion of truth”. As I was walking back I reflected on
a lot of this, it seems to me that the sort of person who
would beg for a map, finally get it, and actually make the
journey, would also never find what they were looking for
at the Golden Tunnel. Perhaps it was me too, what I
thought I would find, from things I’d read, the heated
postings, proclamations of disclosure, the great mystery.
I suppose everyone, on their journey to the Golden Tunnel
will be seeking something different, and find something
unexpected. Not to ruin the surprise my friends, but when
I stood outside the massive entryway of the Golden Tunnel
after poking around, seeing the sites, I let out a loud
laugh and a smile came across my face, as for all the mystery and
the intrigue, it was in the end, the journey
which was the real reward, for in the end I found myself
in the middle of nowhere, looking at a giant hole in the
side of a hill. Ha Ha Ha! Stay out, Stay Alive!”

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That basically sums it up.

Nowadays some of these self stylized “champions of truth” will give you a map right to the GT’s door, but reader, what is the point? I can tell you first hand, the GT isn’t much to see, it is the mystery, the clues, and the heated comments that make it what it is, a fantastic modern mystery in a world that has all but killed wonder of the unknown.  If you choose to locate it, and if you choose the easy way, you are cheapening the journey and you’ll find nothing but a hole in a hill.

If however, you treat it like a mystery, a real adventure of your very own, perhaps you will find yourself laughing with a belly of joy in the middle of nowhere, and carry with you the memory of solving a true enigma and the brazen journey it took to find.

Good Luck and Happy Trails,

Harry Biped

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Bergeson Prospect

2010-OCT

This story starts off in a book, a great book in a series of great books that are full of  history and adventure  for anyone who opens up a copy. I am talking about the Discovering Washington’s Historic Mines series by Northwest Underground Explorations, in this case volume #1. (henceforth DWHM#1)

The great tome itself.
The great tome itself.

Whether you are the swashbuckling adventure type or just the type who likes to swashbuckle and adventure via the pages of a good book, relaxed in a cozy armchair, this series will serve you well and is worth every penny. The pages are loaded with historic photos and are an unbelievable wealth of information about Washington’s mines, state history and even some local lore. If I haven’t made myself clear, if you are reading this blog, you are the type who needs these books.

Rusty rails...
Rusty rails…

Ahem,

Having spent a great deal of time in the Miller River area, finding the Bergeson Prospect within the pages of this tome of the abandoned, I was immediately interested in locating the site.

Rusty cowling
and rusty cowling, all kinds of rusty stuff!

The book gives very good directions for both driving and footwork, that being said, unless you’ve spent a lot of time wandering the woods beyond the well worn trail, you probably wanna take someone who has. I should add also that if you should ever decide to enter a mine, not that I suggest you do, you should really never go alone. The potential for serious injury or death is there, and I don’t know about you but drowning in icy cold mine water, shattering my body by falling down a shaft or being crushed by unstable rock and spending my final moments on earth in the pitch black, Stygian depths of an abandoned mine is not exactly how I want to go.

The boulder blocking the grade
The boulder blocking the grade

Moving right along…

Gathering all the essential gear including three sources of light, I picked up a friend of mine and we were off towards Money Creek Road, a rough little dirt road off the Hwy 2 often in need of repairs. Following the directions to a tee, we parked and headed up into the woods.

Lady J emerging from the darkness
Lady J emerging from the darkness

One of the first orders of business was to locate an old road. The first time you go out looking for an old road in the woods, you’ll have no idea what to expect, every flat spot you see you’ll be asking, “Is that the road”? This is normal, over time you will develop an ability to pick out even the most ancient mining or logging road, and suddenly the Cascades will never quite look the same. It really is interesting just how many old road grades there are out there, and kind of a curse because if you are anything like me, you’ll wanna find out when they were built, why they were built and where they all go.

The Bergeson adit
The Bergeson adit

There are a couple landmarks on the way up, the first is a very large boulder, hogging up half the old road bed. It’s impossible to miss if you are on the right track, and I feel pretty confident in saying, this baby isn’t going anywhere for a very long time.

Honey, we're gonna need to call the HVAC guy...
Honey, we’re gonna need to call the HVAC guy…

The second real landmark is a little trickier to notice even though it is huge. It is the tailings pile from the mine, but it is mostly overgrown and doesn’t really look much like a tailings pile until closer examination. Really it looks like any old berm built up from an avalanche gully.

Being that this is the tailings, or waste rock from the mine, you know you are right below it. A short climb up the pile takes you to the quite picturesque site of the Bergeson Prospect. There are a few pieces of interesting debris outside the adit (mine entrance) and if you are more interested in just locating the site and taking it in, this would make a good place for a woodland picnic on a nice day. There are many massive old growth trees in the area, and it really is a pleasant feeling woods.

Looking back toward the adit
Looking back toward the adit

My friend and I however were going to enter the mine….

The adit was flooded, and likely still is, to a depth of mid-shin height or better. One of the first things you’ll notice in this mine is the tremendous amount of rust coating the walls and covering the floor.

Such a stillness, it's eerie
Such a stillness, it’s eerie

There are also a lot of relics left inside, the old mine cart rails, the ventilation pipes and various bits of wooden debris.

The mine is pretty deep in comparison to a lot of the other small claims in western Washington, around 1200′ deep I believe. Fortunately in this mine, there are no winzes (shafts) and it’s pretty straight forward.

There is however a great deal of water coming from the ceiling in this mine, and the constant dripping on the pipes, on the floor compounded with the echo can really play some tricks on your ears. Standing still and just listening, I could swear you could hear voices. On one occasion as we were going down a long straight section of tunnel, we saw what appeared to be a face at the end of our lights reach, stopping, we could hear the garbled voices. It made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. I figured maybe someone else was exploring, or maybe A GHOST!

Into the depths of the Bergeson
Into the depths of the Bergeson

Turns out it was just a ventilation pipe half hanging from the ceiling with a steady rivulet of water falling upon it. Gotta say though, better scare than a haunted house.

The mine was pretty interesting, and not too difficult to find. If you are so possessed I’d suggest getting a copy of DWHM#1 and locating it yourself. I do not suggest entering a mine, and certainly not alone or with less than three separate light sources. Also, take only pictures and leave only footprints, there are many sites that are completely lost to us, the people of this age, because others decided to loot and plunder and for what? So they can have some shitty old piece of rusted metal sitting in their garage? We’re lucky to still have some of these outdoor museums in the state they were left, so lets keep it that way.

Good luck, and happy trails, Harry Biped

Ye olde boxe
Ye olde boxe

References:

Woodhouse, Phil; Jacobson, Daryl; Petersen, Bill; Cady,Greg; Pisoni, Victor, Discovering Washington’s Historic Mines Vol.1: The West Central Cascade Mountains. Oso Publishing Company, 1997