TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Historic Hike–Abandoned Old West, Antimony Mines, Southern Utah (1991)

Though I’ve always been a wanderer (I wandered away from my Dad when I was 3 years old and found by the fire department!), I haven’t always catalogued my journeys with written words. But I have however along the way, taken photos, lots of them. I recorded no distances, not even exact dates – just pictures. Most of these photos are boxed up in the garage. Handpicked specimens sit in photo albums that have long since sat on the highest, unreachable shelf in my office.

I decided look pull one of those books down recently and so much enjoyed reliving a few hikes, that I want to chronical them here and there with the words. The photos are old, faded and discolored a great deal – what a difference a few decades make. The memories fortunately are still clear (for now). Today’s historic hike goes back to the summer of 1991, most likely early summer. We usually travelled to Utah in the early summer. At times there was still snow on the ground. So, let’s go with June 1991. This was the Dixie National Forest, several hours from any major city, the closest being Cedar City, which isn’t really that large.

We had pitched a couple tents alongside a creek, as we always did, and made that our base camp while we ventured out in different directions during the day. On this day in June, my husband, his sister and her husband and I set out to climb to abandoned mines in the cliffs that we could see from camp. Being that we knew the area fairly well (my husband had been coming here since he was a child and myself for nearly a decade), we had long read up on the history of the place. This area had been mined in the late 1880s for antimony also known as stibnite. Occasionally, we came upon ruins and other artifacts like old wooden ladders or run down stone buildings,

The mines were on the other side of a wide fast flowing creek with delightfully ice cold water. Most likely we hopped boulders to make the crossing. We had to be careful to avoid the rampant stinging nettle that lined the banks. From the photos I see that I’m wearing long denim pants, which means the weather wasn’t too warm. It also means that I didn’t want to get stung by that stinging nettle – I had brushed into those invisible thorns before and knew it’s wrath. I also see from the photos that I was wearing a tank top and bathing suit beneath, which means I probably meant to take a dip in the stream later.

IMG_8444The hike was not very long. The photo shows that I carried only a butt-pack around my waist and it appears some kind of water thermos. My husband also has his camera strapped around his neck, which he wouldn’t have done on a long hike. My guess is two miles to the mines and two miles back.

After crossing the creek, we headed across rocky cactus terrain to the red rocks. From there we found a dirt trail along the cliff that I recall being quite sandy. I worried a bit climbing the slippery trails but looking back, the terrain was relatively tame and the trail was rather wide, just a tad steep. We climbed for a while until we arrived at a ledge that overlooked the canyon. Way down there, we could barely see our two tents tucked beneath the trees next to the creek. The trek was moderately difficult, never treacherous.

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I recall few mines at the location. And as we sat there overlooking the canyon, we could spot other mines in the distance. We did not travel deep into any of them and I remember always leaving someone outside as a precaution if we ventured in a little – like that person on the outside could go get help if we got trapped. You know, they could  run down the rocks, get back to camp, hop in the truck and offroad about twenty minutes, then race down a country road for another ten to arrive at a country store where they could make a phone call. (Ya, I know, it seems a little unsafe in retrospect). But we made it fine, explored really just the surface of the dark tunnels and mostly enjoyed the fine views.
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