Finding the Abandoned Mine Damon & Pythias
Date of Adventure: August 31, 2014
One trip is all it took to get us hooked on exploring abandoned mines. After scouring the Internet for other easy-access (and relatively safe) mines we found Damon & Pythias.
Hands down, the scariest part of this trip was the drive. We made the drive in The Pony, our 2-door Toyota Yaris hatchback. Money Creek road is littered with potholes, and while we made it (by crawling slowly) we decided to never do it again in our little coupe.
The best directions we had to this site were about 25 years old. Things can change a lot in the wilderness over that time. When we got to the end of Money Creek road, the directions said at the road forked. Since there was no option other than hoofing it from this point, we parked in a wide area of the road.
There are no trailhead markings of any kind out here. The right, or north, part of the road had just recently been decommissioned. The gravel had been removed, bridges torn out, and straw scattered about. We thought this was the way to go. We thought wrong. After about a quarter mile, we knew we must be on the wrong track.
We backtracked to the car and noticed that on the left, or south, part of the road was a much older blocked road. Really it was more of just a pile of soil and rocks that blocked the road from vehicles. We decided to give this trail a try. It proved to be the right track!
The trail is just the old road, which climbs gently for about .25 miles. Just when we were starting to wonder if we were truly on the right track this time, we saw something that got us excited.
We had heard large metal culverts were used at mines to prevent debris and snow from blocking the entrance, also called the adit. We ran the rest of the way up the trail. That culvert wasn't the entrance to the mine, but we could just make out the true entrance above a giant mound of rocks. These rocks are called tailings, which is the ground-up debris left after the more valuable materials have been removed.
As we got closer we saw a gigantic vent hood. At first we thought this might have been from a bunkhouse. Later we guessed it was most likely from a factory. Despite our efforts at getting primary source materials on this mine, not a lot is known. We did run across one source that mentioned a small processing plant at this site, which is probably also the source of the tailings.
We carefully climbed the tailings pile up the mine entrance. Once on top, we could see wood pilings. At one time there was probably a mine cart track that led out here. Judging by the size of the pile, this was a big mine.
Since our last trip, we had been joined by a new partner, Minecraft Steve. He's the character you play in the video game Minecraft, and we brought him along as a mascot. Here he posing at the entrance with his pickaxe.
We put on our safety equipment, checked our lights, and battery supply. Then we went in. We quickly encountered a metal gate, but it looked like it had been open for a very long time.
Along the right side of the tunnel was metal piping. This likely brought fresh air into the mine tunnels.
We followed old tracks deeper into the mine. Along the left side of the rails ran a fresh, cold stream. We had seen several waterfalls pouring over the granite mountain from the outside. It seemed probable that the water could eventually find it's way inside.
After several hundred feet we came to a large intersection. Tunnels went straight, right, and left. All of them were so long we couldn't see the end with our lights.
Out came the notebook to draw our path, just in case we got lost. First we went left. This tunnel ended up being the shortest. The stone was mostly a purplish grey.
Back at the intersection we crossed the intersection and went to the tunnel that had been on our right when we entered. This tunnel was full of orange and brown colors, which looked like rust. Our guess is there is a lot of iron in the stone. The tunnel had been worked up and away from the center, making it feel more like a cave.
Back at the intersection we went south, or deeper into the cave. We came to another intersection. Again we couldn't see the end of any tunnels, but there was more happening here.
A big upright tank stood against one wall and was likely an air compressor, used to help circulate breathable air to miners.
The trail to the right/west called us immediately. We could see large timber framing. Upon closer inspection we realized it was an ore chute, designed to help easily lode rock into carts from upper levels of the mine.
We were tempted to climb the chute, but reminded ourselves that safety comes first. So we wound around it and continued through the tunnel. We came across an interesting metal curtain shortly before the tunnel ended.
We went back to the air compressor intersection and crossed to the eastern tunnel. This one had several wooden ladders still leaning against the walls. We guess these were used to get at the veins of mineral wealth winding through the granite.
After following this tunnel to it's end, we again went back to the air compressor intersection. By this time we guessed we had covered more than 2,000 feet of tunnel. We turned right/south and continued to an ominous metal door.
After passing though the door, we found a third intersection. The southern end of this intersection was very short. The left/east and right/west tunnels both seemed long. We followed each to their ends, though neither was as long as the middle east/west tunnels.
The deeper we went, the colder it got. In one of the last tunnels we found a steady stream of water pouring through the rock above. By this time we had been underground for well over an hour. Having covered every inch of the main level, we headed back to daylight. Outside we discovered where all that flowing water was going. It was being diverted down a small channel just outside the mine entrance.
Sadly we discovered trash inside the tunnel. We always carry trash bags to cart it out, which you can see in Julie's hand in this picture. We follow a code that says leave a place better than you found it.
Thank you for reading about our adventure finding Damon & Pythias abandoned mine. If you choose your own adventure to this mine* we hope you will drop us a line.
*Entering mines poses many more dangers than hiking. If you plan to enter a mine - and we are not suggesting you do - then make sure you are prepared.