Did the first of several planned loops of mines northeast of Wilhoit. Started at 0800 from the large black gravel Glen Oaks pullout. The first .4 miles of the jeep trail were city car accessible; after that 4WD is required. My wife tagged along with me for the first .6, to a small saddle near the first mine/claim of the day. The jeep trail turns west, back to US 89, at that point, and the next quarter mile or so east is iffy even for 4WD before it peters out into dense scrub.
After splitting up, I checked out the claim, crossed the rutted end of the jeep trail, and began up another small saddle. It took me 45 minutes to travel 150 AEG and a quarter mile, across that saddle to the next jeep trail, that’s how dense the scrub was. I got scratches in the usual places — hands and shins (despite wearing long sleeves and full length pants) — *plus* on my stomach, as the pricklers and gotchas kept pulling my shirt open. Really, x-country travel is simply not practical in this area, as all the surrounding ridges and mountains are similarly festooned with pain. Foot trail, goat trail, jeep trail, or wash walking highly recommended.
A quarter mile down FR 710, I had planned on turning up a gully to a mine on top of the adjacent ridge. When I got there, I saw more brush, said pumpkin that, and continued. The first real mine I found ( lat 34.427927 , long -112.534457 ), had several concrete pads, a grinder/mixer, a trash covered vertical shaft, and a well-hidden horizontal shaft. The opening was only 1 x 3 feet, so I settled for sticking my camera, instead of myself, in for a photo.
After passing another fenced, but open, vertical shaft, I arrived at the Hassayampa River. It had pooled water, but no flow. Despite the lack of flow, the water did not look too bad. Heading south on an increasingly rocky jeep trail to Climax Mine, there were several river crossings, which at current levels could be done dry. I passed a collapsed, abandoned, red shack along the way.
There are two apparent levels to Climax Mine: What I cleverly refer to as the “upper mine” and “lower mine”. The upper mine is a 300 foot climb up from the river. When I got to the top of the trail, on a small plateau at the mouth of a small canyon, I thought the mine itself was up a hundred foot rock slide. No way I was climbing that. Then I realized where the upper mine entrance really was. The opening was small, but after peering inside, I decided it was safe to crawl in. Once inside, I could stand up full height, no problem. Natural light extended maybe 50 feet in. Of course that is when my flashlight decided to crap out. There was a lot of trash on the floor of the mine, which made for careful stepping lest I fall in a hidden vertical shaft. There were two tunnels, one left, one right. After looking around for a bit, I crawled out, then walked down to the lower mine.
There is a popup trailer in front of the lower mine. I called out, but got no response, so started looking around. A PVC pipe was actively draining water out of the doored entrance. I tried, but failed, to open the door. It was not locked, that I could tell; probably just jammed. I settled for shooting a few photos through the cracks. (The junk in the photos is not as faded, so I imagine the lower mine has seen more recent activity than its upper sibling.) There is a processing area about 30 feet below the popup, which I spent a couple more minutes checking out.
I headed back up river, passing by FR 710. North of FR 710, the jeep trail disappears to be replaced by a definite, if not well worn, goat trail — a couple hundred yards up which I found a dirt bike’s fender. As I neared the wash, which I expected to take west back to Glen Oaks, I spotted several “private property” signs. I was on the west side of the river, and saw claim markers on the east side. Assuming the signs referred to the claims, I continued up the west side. I soon found another shack, in somewhat decent state. I called out several times. Getting no response, I started around the shack to see what was in back, up wash. That’s when I found out the shack was not abandoned. A grey-haired, bearded, pony-tailed, weather-worn fellow made his presence known. “R.T.” turned out to be a nice fellow , telling me he prospected in there several weeks at a time, and that his property came to a point just south of the shack. (You can see his claim outlined on MapDex’s FS Topo, but not the Cal Topo or MyTopo, at lat 34.423524 , long -112.526176 .) He told me going up wash was not a good idea, and I was not inclined to argue, and he escorted me to a nearby jeep trail, even being so kind as to offer me water for my trip.
The climb up from the not-abandoned cabin was up a series of steep switchbacks. I kinda knew in general where I was, from having researched the other mine loops, but when I got to the open area at the top of the ridge, I was not sure whether to turn left or right. I went left, but the jeep trail quickly petered out. So, I went right. The jeep trail immediately started a steep descent back to the Hassayampa River. I really did not want to repeat that climb, but after much GPS consulting, I decided any re-gain would be very gradual. At the bottom, the jeep trail again split; I again went left, and this time it went all the way back to US 89. I was going up Copper Creek — a very narrow, shady and peaceful canyon — but thought I was going up Little Copper Creek (which would have been the right turn), so I kept expecting to find the compound / community that is along Little Copper Creek. The Copper Creek jeep trail is really nice, and car-drivable until you get near the highway — which is like the opposite of most jeep trails. Lots of large pine trees, some so big I could not get my arms around them. Great camping spots all along. Saw a satellite dish that appeared to be connected only to a pine tree. Found several more (actually) abandoned / destroyed cabins.
As I approached the Banksy-less, graffiti strewn tunnel under US 89, I was shooting video. I heard a scurry in the brush to my right. Figuring it was a lizard, I turned to look and … … it was a skunk, tail up, with a black hole so large it seemed it could swallow Saturn. It smelled, so I was wondering if I got sprayed, but it must have just been his wonderful aura, as it was not overwhelming. The tunnel itself was big enough for a side-by-side ATV; anything larger would be a tight squeeze.
A hundred yards later, my hike was done.
Most of the hike, even on US 89, is 1-bar or no reception. Noted exceptions are the grassy claim by Hill 5621 (2 bars) and the top of the switchback above R.T.’s cabin (2+ bars).
Distance: 10.30 mi.
AEG: 2,198 ft.
Time: 4h 25m