Mount Rainier Mining Company

Phlox in bloom
Phlox in bloom

In the early days of Mt. Rainier National Park, mining and prospecting was still a legitimate pursuit within the park boundaries due to Section 5 of the Mt.Rainier Park Act which kept the park open to the Mining Law of 1872.

This however was in direct conflict with Section 2 of the act which sought to keep all mineral deposits in their original natural condition.

In short, it was a real $#!tshow.

Cast Iron debris
Cast Iron debris

While there were many claims within the park during these early years many of them were simply charlatans and fly by night hucksters. Often a claim would be made with little or no minerals to be had, instead the claim being used as a cover for less than legal logging operations or poaching camps.

The Sundry Civil Appropriations Act of 1908 brought to a halt the influx of new prospectors, but didn’t eliminate existing claims within the park. However it did give park officials greater power to annul these existing claims when the claimants failed to do their yearly assessment work, or when a claim was improperly marked.

Trail shot
Trail shot

 

In addition to this, other changes to park regulations in 1908 severely limited claimants rights to construct buildings, cut timber, divert water flow or dig without the permission of the Secretary of the Interior.

One man's junk...
One man’s junk…

The end was in sight for mining within Mount Rainier National Park, but some of these claims would continue for years to come, perhaps most notably the Mount Rainier Mining Company of Glacier Basin.

In 1902, Peter Storbo and B.P. Korssjoen staked forty-one claims in Glacier Basin and in 1905 formed the Mount Rainier Mining Company.

Wildflowers!
Wildflowers!

By 1908 much development had taken place including two tunnels, one at 73ft long the other 700ft in length. Two cabins, a blacksmith shop and a barn were also on site. Later development included a sawmill, powerhouse and a 13 room hotel that was said to house up to 35 miners and feed 120!

Looking up at the tailings
Looking up at the tailings

Some years later in 1913 the Mount Rainier Mining Company relinquished 32 of it’s 41 claims in exchange for an annually renewable permit for it’s existing structures and underground workings. In addition they gained the right to build a road along the White River to their claims in Glacier Basin.

Storbo and his uncle Ole P. Kulberg aggressively sold stock in the company, much of it to Scandinavian farmers in Minnesota and the Dakotas. So much so that Kulberg earned the moniker “Copper King”. They claimed that the ore from their mine was of the richest variety “Peacock Ore” otherwise known as bornite.

Lupine
Lupine

However by the 1920’s the mine was producing much more waste rock than copper ore, and in 1927 Peter Storbo took the last load of ore from the mine. The last load was not to be however as that day the truck tipped over along the road and sank into the White River. Luck was on Storbo’s side though and he survived the crash.

Storbo’s aggressive marketing of his mine came back to haunt him in 1930,when he and a partner, Orton E. Goodwin were convicted of mail fraud for selling phony stock certificates. In one correspondence Storbo had claimed a fortune of more than 2 billion dollars worth of ore at the Glacier Basin claims.

Looking down the hogsback
Looking down the hogsback
Old timbers now flowered
Old timbers now flowered

Storbo served a little more than a year at McNeil Island federal prison for the crime, but later it came out that Goodwin and an ex-con named Chester Cresser had framed Storbo by forging his signature on the phony stock certificates.

Peter Storbo passed away in 1956 at the age of 82.

Esoteric junk
Esoteric junk

Nowadays not much remains of the Mount Rainier Mining Company, but there do exist some interesting things to see. The foundation for the old hotel is still there at the Glacier Basin Campground, as well as some pipes and large cast iron debris along the 3 mile trail to Glacier Basin.

If you hike above the Glacier Basin Campground, you will eventually see a large tailings pile. This presumably is the site of the aforementioned 700ft tunnel. The adit has long since been buried by years of slide debris, but the view from the tailings pile is much more remarkable than some old hole in the ground.

Glacier Basin itself is the real attraction here, impossibly steep walls, high snowy glaciers, all the while Mt.Rainier looming above like a silent deity. If you catch it during the right time of year the wildflower display puts the finest gardens to shame.

Hiking up the hogsback
Hiking up the hogsback
Beauty and the beast
Beauty and the beast

I’ve heard that there exist other workings in the basin, however I neither saw them nor sought them on my last trip up there.

Of note is an interesting rock near the trail through the lower meadows of the basin. It bears an inscription which reads: “Mt. ↑ R.M.Co 1 P”

Looking down from the tailings
Looking down from the tailings

I believe this indicates other claims amongst the timber in the direction indicated, however I did not investigate this time around. I find the carving personally interesting as it bears a distinct impression of the individual that carved it. In a way it feels like a very direct connection to the mine and the men that worked it.

A trip to Glacier Basin is unlikely to disappoint anyone, in fact if it disappoints you, I suggest you get counseling. The scenery is world class, almost unearthly. I highly suggest this hike to anyone.

For those of us who for whatever reason feel drawn to history, and especially mining history, Glacier Basin offers that much more. While so far as I know there no longer exist any underground workings to explore, you should still put Glacier Basin and the Mt.Rainier Mining Company right at the top of your list.

Happy Trails!

The Inscription
The Inscription

 

 

 

Clipper Mine

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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!