At about 1:30p.m. this afternoon I sat at the computer thinking maybe we could break camp at the mine tomorrow instead of today like we originally planned. The morning had been busy and I was already tired when I looked up the forecast for Sherman Pass.
We had to leave – NOW.
Snow was forecast beginning about 5:00p.m. with a heavy dump predicted overnight. The tailings and camp are at 4140 feet so winter arrives earlier up there than at home. If we didn’t break camp within the next few hours, we stood to lose everything for the next few months – under tons of snow.
Having your equipment stolen is one thing but to lose it because you’d rather have gone to bed and taken a nap would be unacceptable. I ran to the shed and told my husband what was headed toward the mine.
We wasted no time emptying the back of the car to make room for the tent and other supplies and were on the road by 2:00p.m., all other plans we’d made for the afternoon abandoned.
Stopping only for a twenty-four pack of AA batteries for the trail cams and some snacks, we headed over the mountains.
Sherman Pass tops at 5574 feet and lies between us and the mine so we also have to consider the road conditions. The route is beautiful and takes one from Stevens into Ferry County at the Columbia River. Inevitably, we got stuck behind slow drivers and tailgated by speed-demons but forty-five minutes later, we turned onto the road that dumps us off at the base of a cliff at a remote portion of our property.
The title company says it’s “legal access” and it’s currently our only way in while we “correct” the situation: You Can Come Knocking But You Can’t Come In. We parked, donned our backpacks, set up the collapsible wagon we bought at Walmart, and headed up.
It never gets old; The Climb. We pass dozens of fresh cow patties with magic mushrooms sprouting out of them and admire the view as we ascend into the clouds. I still hate The Climb.
We made The Climb just a couple of days ago, when we took my husband’s father up to see the property. At one time, he was a subterranean cartographer, and, using the surveys, reports, and whatever else we can provide to him, he’s going to attempt to map the workings of the California Mine – in 3D!
We showed him the tailings and the “Mystery Mine” as we call it, hiked up to the top, then headed back to town before we saw him off to The Coast the next morning. The Coast to some people on this side of the mountains is anywhere on the other side of the Cascade Mountain Range, despite how far inland you actually live.
Today we were back as the threat of snow at the higher elevations grew each day. When we reached the tailings where we’d set up camp, we began to break it down as quickly as possible. A cold wind was already blowing in from the west and the clouds looked menacing. It was a race against time.
I replaced the batteries and SD cards in both trail cams for their tenure over the winter. Like a satellite on a one-way mission into outer-space, we figured they would broadcast until the batteries died.
We stowed anything we thought could withstand the cold and wet in the old mine boiler and assembled the rest of our belongings by the wagon. Forty-five minutes in, the trash was stashed and the wagon was overloaded. What was left went into our backpacks. We tied the load down and I attached a rope to the rear so I could stabilize it during the steep “climb” down to the car.
The “cage” we’d built around the tent in order to make me feel safer stood empty. It was time to say Goodbye for the winter.
I took some photos, my husband grabbed the handle of the wagon and we hiked up the tailings road then paused to look back. I almost got teary-eyed.
I wondered how the miners felt when they left for good so many years ago. We thanked those that had gone before us for the company and promised them we would be back in the spring via the road (God willing).
Until then, white silence will blanket the mountain and protect its secrets. The animals will have the place to themselves again but will they notice we’re gone while they dream?
Will the Ghost in the mountain miss us?
We turned and made our way down the hill for the last time in 2022.
We’ll be back in the spring; we have a mine to open.