Re: Keith Law's complete TALES FROM THE GREAT ROLLING DYNO
Posted: 30 Apr 2017 07:39
That is really, really cool...we have some parallels together, you and I.
In my trunk of collectibles in my basement is my own handed down Boy Scout Manual, from about the 30's. My family had a cabin on the LAKE OF THE WOODS, outside of Kenora, Ontario, where we would go on weekends (winter & summer), from where I was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It was there I got my love of the outdoors. In the 50's it was still very rugged and not developed, we would go on our boat to remote place's with old trapper cabins and old gold mines, things not ravaged by scavengers then.
One of my Uncle's gave me the manual, where I too tried to make all the little traps, rope knots and other survival things.
When we came to B.C. in 1960, I joined the Scouts...but....the Troup in Richmond, B.C. really did nothing out doorsy at all! I had done and did more on weekends than all the Scouts combined. They would sit around and listen to me and what I had done, really funny actually. I quit.
It was of course in B.C. that we really came unto our own for exploration, as it is a world different than the flat lands of the Prairies. Abandoned mines galore, old logging roads, a few ghost towns, all with the specter of finding TREASURE. The reality was quite different of course, but with enough time we did find old bottles and other artifacts, dragged home to the family "museum"...much to my mothers chagrin.
The love of the hunt and explore has never changed and through my line of work I have had the ability to find out about some "lost" mines, etc.. We have lucked out a few times in digging for bottles where either no one has thought to look, or, just plain been the first there.
The days of the Boy Scout manual and all those knots and survival tips have faded to the reality of my modern experience...you will likely starve to death trying to snare something....getting a fire going in the wilds of WET British Columbia would tax any so-called survivalist.
Bit of a funny story here...Matt and I always try to start a fire with ONE match, we have a contest. If the fire does NOT start with the first match ( which could be your ONLY match) we say your dead. A week ago, when we were up that valley, I had packed some very DRY, PERFECT tinder along, enough to start afire. I had always wanted to try to use one of the strike rods that purport to send a 5,000 F. spark and would start a fire. Well, Matt had bought me one and we thought we would try it. Holy Crudmucker...you think that thing would light that tinder..NO WAY!!! I was so disappointed. Here is the reality, if it could NOT do that with perfect conditions and dry tinder, it would be totally useless in real world, wet B.C. forest conditions, where a fire is the first condition of survival. Matt took it back to the Mountain Equipment Co-Op. Maybe there are others on the market that might work better, but, I just carry good old EDDY STRIKE ANYWHERE matches, in multiple containers, in my pack. The so called waterproof matches are crap also, you cannot rely on those either.
TOM SAWYER was another favorite, which I think any 12 year old would fantasize about. I wonder how may have read that in this day and age. His adventures fueled me for years and as my brother and I did, were able to almost duplicate some of those. Long before parents got afraid to let their kids play outside, we could go and play all day along the mighty Fraser River, miles from home, had more true adventures than I could tell here. There was a tragedy one day, where misadventure caught up with one of our friends, but that reality was a learning lesson, burning into our brains how quickly things can change and to be ever vigilant during our adventures.
Sorry if I have rambled but you brought back a different time, so long ago now, but, at the same time my modern adventures and love of the "hunt" and adventures still continues to this day.
Re: Keith Law's complete TALES FROM THE GREAT ROLLING DYNO
Posted: 30 Apr 2017 07:58
Welcome back for Part 2 of our search for old gold mines. This one has held a real fascination for me my whole life, as it is both so close to Vancouver, yet almost impossible to get to now. I have very few pictures of the mine itself, as it was so dark inside, with marginal cameras back in the early days of going there, and, that the mill was just blown to smithereens when it was hit by an avalanche. The trees and shrubs had grown up through everything so it makes it hard to even get a shot of the wreckage. The pictures I have sent hopefully give a sense of the remoteness. Enjoy!
The Boundary Red Mountain Mine
With a muffled.... KAWHUMP...the stack of flaming corn stocks launched thirty feet into the air, like a Titan missile on takeoff, my brother standing there in shock, his mouth open, lit match still in hand, leg hair singed.....the neighbour behind us is hurdling over the back fence........I start to laugh.
Lets’ step back a minute here, to set the scene. The year is 1969, Mankind steps onto the moon, the Concorde has its first flight and the Vietnam protests are in high gear. My family has moved to Fort Langley, a quiet, sleepy little town back then. I have just come back from working at the North end of Vancouver Island. My brother has been tasked with cleaning up the back yard and my Mom’s garden debris, which included a small corn patch. My brother has stacked them into a nice teepee shape, maybe eight feet across at the base and of course, over six feet tall. He has taken some lawn mower gas and poured it all around the base. It is a nice sleepy morning in Fort Langley, sun is up, birds chirping in the late September day. The neighbour behind us is out working on his lawn mower.
Now, my brother has forgotten to bring matches out, so he has to pop BACK into the house. This of course gives the gasoline time to both saturate into the base of the corn stalks and have a vapor wall that has now extended a good three to four feet out on the ground, on this very still air morning.
I am now walking out through our carport, to the back yard, when my brother strikes the match. There is a Kawhump, a bright orange fire ball, emanating from my brother at ground level, and, into the corn stalks, which then launches half the stack into the dead morning air, flaming bits going thirty feet into the air and then they start raining down onto the neighbourhood. I start laughing looking at the shock on my brother’s face, his legs starting to look a bit pink after the quick flash of fire, all the hair gone. The young neighbour behind us has launched over the fence, to see what is going on.
His name is Gary, and after getting the garden hose going to put out the worst of the flaming stocks, and cooling my brother’s legs down, we get talking about the outdoors and hiking. It turns out he is a geology student at U.B.C. and an avid hiker. We of course have been outdoor people all our lives too. This brought the discussion to an old gold mine that he and his brother have been trying to find, having read a geology report from the 1930’s, about this mine and it’s interesting history. It is just across the Canada/US border, in the U.S., but, only accessible from Canada. This mine, like the last one I wrote about, closed down a few times over its life time. It was discovered in 1897 with actual mining and milling was done in 1916, shutting down in 1917 from a worker shortage due to the war. Then, in the 1930’s and through to the 40’s it was mined off and on. Then, in the winter of 1947-48, the entire mill was swept away by a massive snow slide.
One of the interesting things is that it is at the 5,000 foot level, just beside a huge glacier, according to the records.
Gary and his brother had spent many weekends, following some logging roads that were put in, in the mid sixties. The Valley was logged right up to the border and up to about 3,500 feet. Gary and his brother had gone up the roads, very, very steep in places, but, could not see the mine. He suggested that it was a nice hike in the valley anyhow and that we might try our luck in finding the mine.
This sounded like an adventure to us, and I mentioned it to my dad, who was gung ho to go find it. Being from the flatland prairies, Winnipeg, he loved any chance to head out in the mountains.
A few weeks later, armed with enthusiasm that this should be easy, off we went. It’s about a two hour drive from our house and up the old logging road, to the place where we would park, as far as our old two wheel drive car would take us. The valley is along the Slesse Creek drainage and where we park, just before the border, has towering snow capped peaks and a beautiful hanging valley above us. Little did I know then, what destruction that hanging valley would cause, many years later.
We started climbing up the old road, packs loaded for the exploration. After a few hours, we were at the end of one landing where a yarder must have been. We could see nothing above us but a large bluff, covered in first growth trees. HHmmmm..so, we went further along to a junction, then to another landing. Nothing.
Long story short we were stumped that day and planned to come back in a few weeks, before the snow fell. As this was of course before the Internet, we just could not pull up Goggle earth or do any research. My Dad went and got a topographical map, but it did not even show the logging roads. We could see roughly where we had hiked to, so this let us study that bluff in elevation, to maybe figure out where any trail might be. We could see the glacier on the map, so knowing that gave us a rudimentary idea of where we should look.
We headed up again, this time going to the one landing, and then heading into bush to see if we could pick up a trail. Our family were hunters at the time and we had a good idea how to watch for vestiges of trails, both game and otherwise. Typical in the mountains, distances are deceiving and we could see that to get to the edge of the glacier, was in realty a kilometer away or so. We could see nothing and ended up at the edge of a huge cliff, dropping some thousand feet to the valley floor. Deciding to head back down as the days were short, we vowed to come back in the spring, when the snow was gone and days longer.
The next June we headed back up there, excited that for sure we would find it. The old road had suffered some major damage due to both run-off going down in sections, and the odd landslide. Our plan was to go to the most southern landing and then really look there.
Sure enough, what we had missed was where a bulldozer during the logging operation had cut through a very steep embankment, which in fact was part of the original horse trail to the mine. We had just thought it was a dead end. I scrabbled up the bank, then I could see the old cordwood trail disappearing under the over grown brush. It almost looked like an old stream bed. My Dad and brother followed up and we bush wacked for another half kilometer, finally losing the trail due to SNOW! As it was very steep on the side hill where we stopped, with no real idea where we might need to go, we decided to have lunch and head down, promising to come back in July, when the snow would be gone. As we finally did see, due to a snow marker at the mine, in that time period the Cascades got over eighteen feet of snow there.
July came around with really hot weather, perfect for a hike and explore. We were at elevation quite quickly, as we knew exactly where we were headed. We easily found where we stopped and picked up the trail and as we were now at about five thousand feet, the alpine trees thinned out. There before us was a clearly defined trail, even finding a fallen section of corduroy road, where the bank had collapsed.
In another ten minutes we came out of the trees onto a level landing, totally artificial, with rusting cans scattered about and some crushed quartz looking rock. On the other side of the landing we could see a foot path, which in a minute had us in front of the mine opening...we had found it, July, 1970. There was an ore cart still in the entrance, with tracks disappearing into the blackness. There was also a small river coming out of the mine, which eliminated us going in, as we had not thought about that and did not have the appropriate foot wear, as there was a deep pool of water in the entrance. The mine flows about 500 gallons a minute during the summer.
On the other side of the tracks was another foot path, which upon following led us to some sort of air compressor and another rig that looked like it was meant to hold drill bits, which were scattered about. We of course were excited beyond belief, actually visiting an old gold mine...at five thousand feet. Not bad for a prairie family.
We spent about two hours there exploring, finding all sorts of old tools, core drills, cans, etc.. My Dad found a large steel ball (which we know now was from a ball mill) that he thought was too cool, so he threw it in his pack. It weighed a ton but he packed it home. The view there was beyond spectacular, glacier and snow all around us, eight thousand foot peaks gleaming above us and, we are now just below the hanging ledge of the mountain range in front of us. This is where in the next few years a massive destructive avalanche screamed down into the valley floor.
It is in this time period that I have also started to work in the precious metals business and with this came the realization that there is more to an old mine than just a tunnel or shaft in the mountain side.
We soon realized that there had to be some buildings and with my Dad finding that steel ball, that there must have been a mill there. The neighbour had quoted from the book about the mine and that cemented that there must be more infrastructure there, or, as the reality came about, it had long fallen down.
Our next trip had us packing tall boots, strong flashlights, and, a whole days worth of food, planning to be up there all day. This was becoming work! The hike was taking about two to three hours, so early starts were mandatory. We were excited to finally be going into the mine shaft, not knowing what we would find...GOLD of course!
There was debris piled in the entrance, which caused the damming of the flowing water, making it about a foot deep, just up to the edge of our boots. We hoped we would not run into deeper water. Our flash light beams disappeared into the darkness as we progressed along, the deep pool finally ended to a small river running a long side the cart track. Where was all the water coming from was in our minds? After walking for 10 minutes we turned and looked back at the entrance, which was literally just a pin point of light. Even in July it was cold in the mine, our breath leaving a ghostly cloud in the mine. When you stopped it was also insanely quiet, the proverbial quiet where you can only hear your heart beating. After a slight curve in the track, where the pin point of the entrance light finally vanished, we noticed markings on the wall, which we interpreted to be distance, which as we walked along, kept getting higher. That was good as we would really know how far we had gone in. Along the tunnel walls were showings of all sorts of mineralization, but, nothing that really looked like this was following a vein.
We were now two thousand feet in, almost straight as a dime...where did this end? Hanging from one edge of the ceiling was some sort of pipe and what looked like old wires, likely ventilation and power. We walked for another ten minutes in the blackness, the crunching of our feet the only sound. Then we felt an unmistakable low rumble,...WHAT WAS THAT......? It was scary for a minute, then, as we got closer, realized it was the sound of crashing water. Finally, in the darkness ahead of us, we could see water falling from the top side of the tunnel wall, a wooden crib structure surrounding it.
As we approached, the ceiling was open, a vast black cavern above us, our flashlights not even able to see how far up it went. The water was coming down somewhere from above, who knew how far. The wooden crib looked like some sort of ore chute, with a shutoff system for the ore, and then the ore cart would be pushed under to be loaded. The noise at this point was deafening with the reverberation of the falling water.
We pressed on, coming to a split in the tunnel. We first went right, but it ended quite quickly with an earthen dam, with old pipe filling the backside. Going back and to the left had us going by another two ore shoots, with what appeared to be massive stopes above us. It was silent again and as we walked what was the last ten minutes we came to the end of the track. From there it was a very short walk to the last place they were blasting, the working face. We were now 3,500 feet into the mountain!
EVERYTHING gleamed on the floor, looking like gold but I knew it was only pyrite in its various forms. We were chilled down now and headed back out, which still took us over 45 minutes. The blaze of the afternoon sun was blinding and it actually hurt to look at the glacier and snow covered peaks around us. We fired up our little stove and made some hot chocolate and ate late lunch, then hit the trail back to the car, some three thousand feet below us and miles away. We were done at the end of that day but a smile was on our faces!
Over the next few summers we went back many times. On one trip, early in the spring, as we got close to the usual parking spot, we found a small slide had covered the road. Oh, so we have to walk a bit more, no problem. Then, in getting to almost where we could park before, we came upon a wall of snow fifty feet high. Upon climbing up it we could see that an indescribable avalanche had come down from the hanging valley, some four thousand feet above, with an unobstructed path to the bottom. The trees that were there were blown to smithereens, and, as we could see, the wind that must have been ahead of the slide blew down the trees on the other side of Slesse Creek and up the hillside. The river was dammed up, with only a trickle getting through under the slide. It was half a kilometer wide and had totally wiped out the road. We would never drive to this point again. As the years would go by, the slides totally rearranged the valley bottom and pushing our parking spot further and further away.
I and a friend Evan, who worked with me, also realized that likely no one had ever dug for bottles, there must be a midden somewhere. One hot summer day, after scouring the side hill below one level landing, we realized there were a LOT of rusting cans, this was it. As I found out in later years, the first level spot we had come to was the cook shack. They literally threw the garbage out the back door and down the bank. It was really overgrown with lots of devils club and stinging nettle, making the digging a real lesson in pain management, the bugs just eating us alive, as we opened up the old dump, but, the excitement of finding some very cool bottles and jugs over rode all of that. And find we did, I still have some of the bottles on display at work here. They were clear when I first dug them out and then they have turned a beautiful blue colour after all these years.
One of my most memorable trips to the mine was when I went by myself. In thinking back I cannot believe I used to go up there by myself! It was a cool, misty day, with low clouds hanging in the trees at the alpine level. I am a very quiet walker when I hike. I went past that first opening of the mine and followed the trail that went by the compressor and drill holder, heading to a ledge at the edge of the avalanche chute. As I stood there, in the swirling mist, trying to see the glacier, I looked across to the other side of the chute, where, standing there in the ghostly grey mist, is a pure white mountain goat, just staring at me. We both stood there, time standing still for a minute. Then, with no sound, the goat just fades into the mountain side, as a cloud of fog rolls past. One second he was there, the next gone.
Also in the seventies, as I explored around the mine site, I started to follow some man made debris.....UPHILL. I could see a large steel cable heading way up to a cliff face...what was that for?
It was on one weekend as I was rooting around in the bush BEFORE the mine that I saw the vestiges of a foot trail. I decided to follow it. It did a series of switch backs, heading to way above the shaft we had being going in. Finally, some seven hundred feet above what we thought was the mine...was the actual ore body entrance! The tracks came out to a tailings pile and a ton of drill bits and other pieces of equipment. This would require a major exploration. This location became the destination in years to come. As it turned out, this was where the gold vein was, with the lower shaft being fed by the huge stope’s, dropping the ore down and then out to the mill, which we had found below the first shaft, a pile of rusting iron and steel. Amazing when you consider that was all taken up from Chilliwack to the five thousand foot level via pack horse.
In going into this shaft it took us to the main vein, huge stands of quartz, with the tracks going over openings down into the depths, some seven hundred feet to that bottom shaft. There were crazy insane ladders hanging in mid air, which we could just not fathom anybody using. We had to be so careful on crossing these areas, testing our weight on the tracks, with one of the guys holding on to us. Again, we ended up almost three thousand feet in, and, at the working face, you could really see the vein of ore. I took a grab sample of the last blast they did and in taking it out into the sunlight, I could see a gleaming spec of gold. I still have this in my collection. Gold was crushed in a small stamp mill there on site, and then run over a mercury laden slick plate for recovery. We found mercury flasks in the steel pile down at the mill site. (Again, in later years I have found out that there were 10 stamps, weighing 1,000 lbs each!)
On one weekend I headed over from this second shaft, to see if I could find that steel cable I saw from below. Sure enough, it headed up to a rock ledge above me, on a cliff face. Upon climbing up onto that, I find another shaft entrance...Holy Cow...this is too cool. As I finally found out, there was an aerial tramway that took ore down to the mill. We tried entering this shaft but after about one hundred feet there had been a major collapse and as discretion is the better part of valor, we decided not to press our luck trying to go by it. There was indication that there was another shaft up higher and in later years found that to be correct.
As we headed through the eighties I did not go back up, finding other adventures to pursue. Then, in the early 90’s a group of my fellow 510 race car people heard me talking about this old mine, so close to Vancouver. They thought they would like to be taken to visit it. What a good idea.
Around 1995 I organized a scouting mission, bringing my young son with us. We found that we had to park almost five kilometers from the start of the uphill grind to the mine. When we did get to that point it became a bit of a bush whack, nature having taken over again. It had been 30 years since it was logged and no erosion control was done on the roads, so it was almost gone with only a few overgrown spots that resembled a road.
It was in this time period also, that one of my mining customers that came into work one day sparked a conversation on hard rock mines. It turns out we get talking about mines close to Vancouver and he mentions he has the maps for a mine in the Cascades. I light up of course...WHICH MINE?
He has the complete underground maps, the claim maps and assay maps for: THE BOUNDARY RED MOUNTAIN MINE. He asks if I would like them...You must be joking...I just about dropped in my tracks! With these maps I could put a lot of the pieces of the puzzle together. It confirmed there were four levels of the mine, a large mill was there, and, a power generation station was built on Slesse Creek, on the U.S. side of the Border. As the Internet came along too, I could finally do some historical research on the mine.
I spent a few years taking my car group up there, letting them experience both the beauty of that alpine terrain, and, to be able to see what an early underground gold mine was like. The trail was now a major issue to get to, as the valley got rearranged many times due to our changing weather and massive landslides.
It has now been almost eighteen years since I was last up there. A few years ago my son and I did a hike to the base of the trail, where again we found this time a massive land slide had come down from a channel just to the west of the mine. And massive it was, scouring the mountain side clean in a few spots, nothing but bed rock showing. The jumble of trees we had to negotiate was a real work out and when we got to the base, we encountered the snow from another huge avalanche. We were very aware of what was above us, being in spring weather, with the melt going on. We had maybe been there an hour, just sitting in the sun and having lunch, when we heard a huge BOOM above us! We did not even look, we just started running to the edge of the slide chute, ensuring we were well out of the way of anything coming down. It was a small avalanche on the other side of the hanging valley and it did make us rush a bit when crossing the bottom of the valley.
There is now rumour that the good old HOMELAND Security of the U.S. has put some sort of sensor or alarm up there, why I do not know, as you CANNOT get over those mountains from the U.S.. Personally, I do not believe it and I think they said that to scare people off from a “technical” crossing into the U.S.. I have been on the other side, a valley away and there are ramparts of mountains in the way that only the best equipped technical climbers could negotiate. I do know that the Slesse valley was used by the drug smuggling guys using blacked out helicopters in the nineties, as we both saw them and had one very scary encounter with some guys waiting for a drop..and... I mean SCARY!!!
So, while it was not a lost mine, nor misplaced, it was off the beaten path for a long time, with only the odd hiker heading up there, myself only running into a few people over all the weekends we went there. We camped up there many times and even on those weekends saw no one. I think that as it became harder and harder to reach, it eliminated all but the most dedicated weekend warrior. It has been stated in the records, that there were three work crews, one going in, one working at the mine, and one leaving. The mine had huge worker turnover, as once they got there, they realized how remote and tough it was, and would leave right away.
I still have all those maps in my collection and swear I am going to make one more attempt to get up there, as it is a truly spectacular hike and vista above.
Keith Law, April 28, 2016
Stay tuned for the next story: How a Gold Refinery Works