03 September 2011

Big Horn Mine

Angeles National Forest

Locate the trailhead.

The area around Iron Mountain is riddled with mines. I've got a hike hitting many of those mines in my dream hikes, but that has not happened yet. While looking around the map for the various mines, I found one far up north that would be much easier to get to as it was down an unimproved road just a couple miles from the highway. Looking it up, I found that it is a popular hike that is still possible to make and that the cabin of the man the gap and gulch it starts at is named for can be viewed nearby. They say it follows the old wagon road to the mine, but I'm not so sure that's entirely true, although it is probably close enough. I printed out a map and headed to Vincent Gap.

a look down Vincent Gulch to Mount Baldy
Vincent Gulch is a wide open valley heading down toward the San Gabriel River (prairie fork going to the east fork). Mount Baldy is visible in the background and the Blue Ridge is to the east.

The trail starts next to the Pacific Crest Trail heading up to the top of Baden-Powell, but heads off in a fairly flat route along an old fire road. For most of the way, the road is wide and flat with very little vegetation along it, but there are a couple bad spots. Very soon, a trail branches off to the left at a large informative sign. This is the trail down Vincent Gap (not shown on the USGS map before 1995). Shortly after, there is a mine symbol on the map above the road that I did not investigate. Then as I came around a turn, I could see that the road had fallen away at a ravine. There was trail through this spot with a fairly solid bed, although rising and falling in unplanned ways.

ravine down the side of Mount Baden-Powell
A big drainage for collecting the rain that falls on the side of Mt. Baden-Powell.


trail finding a way through the ravine
The road reinforcements may have been visible far down the ravine, but the trail must go on. So it did.

After the ravine, there is another mine, this one marked as "tunnel" on the map. This mine is along the road and becomes visible along with a lot of green things. The mine is full of water and has a small creek flowing out of it to help water all those plants. It is also well blocked up to keep people from entering it and getting hurt. Clutter lay below the water inside the mine and out. Someone had taken a wooden board from that clutter to give a bridge from the edge of the pool of water oozing from the mine to the fencing so that people could get a good look inside. The cold water from underground kept the shaft very cool and the air near it was very pleasant on a hot day.

road and greenery while approaching the mine shaft
Coming up to the mine shaft, the road becomes overgrown with well watered plants.

reinforced and blocked opening to the mine
The mine opening is blocked to any entry.

The inside of the mine shaft.
A shot through the slats and into the mine shaft. A little of the mainly metal litter under the water is visible.

The trail continues on along the side of some rather formidable slopes, but wide and flat and easy as a road. Coming to a corner, another structure is marked on the map. Some sort of foundation is left of this structure, but nothing else. A couple guys with a cooler were hanging out here, a ways off the trail, shooting a target, happily not toward the trail. Leveled sections could be seen above and below the road, the lower ones had been used as camping spots a few times. Coming around the corner, an open gate comes into view, then the mine.

looking up a steep slope at trees with roots working to hang on
Looking up the slope toward the mountain top. The trees make a funny angle with it since they like to point up and the roots are working hard to keep them that way.

Mine Gulch
Coming around the edge of the mountain moving from Vincent Gulch to Mine Gulch.

a bit of fence that won't close off the road ever
Fence on the road near the mine. I'm not sure what the sign up on the tree said.

a bit more of Mine Gulch
The upper end of Mine Gulch.

mine on the cliff side
The mine at the end of the road is a big one set into the side of a cliff. A couple shafts are to the left of the mine.

Approaching the mine, there is one last section of road that is missing. There are shafts to the right of the mine which also have water flowing from them and these have erroded away the roadway outside of them. Here also, the water is cold and makes the air nearby quite cool and nice on a hot day. They are also blocked to stop entry. I made my way carefully down and over to the mine structure to get a better look at it. On the far side, there are more shafts with wooden structures to get to them. The wind caused the whole structure to creak as it blew, making it feel unsafe just to stand near the structure, so I certainly wasn't going to try out the possibly centruy old carpentry to see the further shafts. I finished looking around and made my way back to the cool air by the shafts and had some lunch.

inside one of the metal tubes that help close off the shaft
Lots of debris litters the inside of these shafts including a door, it looks like. The shaft itself continues a bit longer beyond.

the last bit of missing road
The road has erroded away just before it gets to the mine. The supports for the road are far down the mountain side.

shafts on the far side of the mine
On the far side of the mine, some wooden scafolding leads up to some more holes in the cliff.

view from inside the mine
This would have been quite a view for the workers, beating most other workers' views anywhere else. They propbably didn't get to enjoy it much, though.

Pine Mt. and Baldy
Pine Mountain Ridge with Pine Mountain and Mt. San Antonio, including its bowl, from the mine.

a tree finding survival above the first shafts
A tree hanging onto the rock above those first shafts of the mine.

After lunch at the mine, I wandered back to the corner between the two gulches. I looked around a bit here, going upward. I found a fallen structure along the way, following old roadways upward. The roadway didn't go far up and I sat down to do some drawing, then followed the roadway back down.

pile of beams and corrugated metal
This was once a structure, but now it's just so much wood and metal.

Following the road back, I used the landmarks of the tunnel and the curves of the land to judge when I was to a spot that looked like the most sensible spot to turn downward and find Vincent's cabin, which is marked on the map as an unnamed structure. Looking down before there, I could see the old path of another road that once passed this way. Each time I looked, it was still there. This is probably the old wagon road. When I got to the point that looked like a good spot to leave the road, I found that there was a faint use trail already there to help direct me. Following it, paying careful attention to if it was going the way I wanted, I came first to the old road, then to the cabin. A fallen tree along the route by the cabin had been cut to let people pass through. The cabin can be entered and it looks like people have used the fireplace although the chimney isn't good.

cabin peaking through the trees
Vincent's cabin apears through the trees.

the chimney has fallen down
Coming into the back of the cabin, the chimney can be seen to have fallen.

Vincent's cabin
Vincent's cabin. Sagging a little and missing all covering of door and windows. Old metal bits can be found around it.

fireplace and other elements of the inside of the cabin
There are artifacts inside the cabin, including some things on a shelf and even a fire grate for the useless fireplace.

sunlight shining through the roof
It isn't a very nice cabin, though. Wind and rain probably get into it easily, even ignoring the wide open door and windows.

On the front side of the cabin, there was a much bigger trail leading to it. I followed this trail back and it quickly joined up with the old roadway and then the Vincent Gulch trail. I hiked back out by this trail.

the green bottom of the gulch and one last look at the landscape
Taking one last look at the landscape from the bottom of this green gulch.




©2011 Valerie Norton
Posted 19 November 2011
Updated 19 November 2011

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