Finding the Abandoned Mines Pride of Index & Honeymoon
Date of Adventure: August 24, 2014
After hitting the major ghost towns of our area earlier in the summer, we were thirsty for more adventures. But our search left us mostly empty-handed. There had been plenty of other towns, but the damp climate of the Pacific Northwest dissolved them long ago.
What we did find was information about many abandoned mines. This was a surprise. Neither of us knew much about this part of our region's history. It called to our imaginations and sparked our curiosity. It also seemed like the chance to take one of our favorite video games, Minecraft, into the real world.
After thoroughly researching mine exploration and acquiring the appropriate safety gear, we planned our first trips to some abandoned mines.
This was just about the simplest, most straight-forward drive we had all summer. Since the mines are located along a popular hiking trail, the driving directions are widely known. The downside of that was we heard it can be really hard to find a parking spot if you get there later in the day. We arrived at about 9am and there was still plenty of space. But the Ranger was already writing tickets for those who had not followed the parking pass rules. Fortunately we had our America The Beautiful pass ready to go.
The trailhead is well-maintained. There are pit toilets, an information board, and register. The map mentioned a miners cabin, but nothing about the mines.
The trail looked pretty tiny from the kiosk, but that's because it's not clearly marked from this point. The trail is actually an old road, located behind the boards. The wide old road was especially good on the way down, because there was a constant stream of people on their way up. There was plenty of room for everyone to stay on the trail.
The trail makes a steady climb upwards for about 1.75 miles through lush second growth forest. We got glimpses of little creeks and canyons through this part of the trail.
Then the trail starts to flatten out and puts you at an intersection with another road. We read older notes about this trail that said you could practically drive right to the mines on Forest Service roads. After standing there for a few moments we saw the little hiker sign. That's the way to go.
After another few hundred feet we arrived at another intersection with a hiker sign. The trail and sign clearly wanted us to go straight, or left. But we had a feeling our destination was the road less traveled. We went right.
This is when we started to get excited. Having never found a mine before, we didn't know what to expect, but being on a 'secret' trail felt cool. Our enthusiasm started to falter when the paths multiplied though.
We came out of the brush to a small clearing with a fire ring. Two paths led out of it. First we took the path to the left, beyond the fire ring.
That path didn't take us to a mine, but it did take us to a memorial. Several hikers had died in an avalanche at this spot. It was hard to imagine such a tragedy on a warm summer day, but our hearts went out to the families of those who were lost. We will never, ever be visiting this spot in the snow.
We went back to the campfire clearing and took the other path. Just a few feet in we saw the rocky wall begin to emerge. This was a good sign. We had read this was a hard rock mine, meaning it went underground through stony minerals.
Once at the wall, there wasn't an obvious trail. But we could see the wall folded inward on itself where there was likely a seasonal waterfall. We had read the mine entrance was near that point, so we skirted up and around the wall toward the left.
All of a sudden the landscape changed, and there it was: The entrance to Pride of Index!
Cool air wafted out of the hole. The entrance seemed smaller than we thought it would be, but it looked like it opened up as the tunnel went deeper. So we geared up and went in. When we had reached the point where we could comfortably stand up, we looked back. Some timber framing is still in place in this part of the tunnel.
We walked further in, reaching a fork. We looked back at the entrance. It was now a small hole of light. None of the research we had done prepared us for a forked tunnel. So we pulled out our notebook and pen. We started making a map of the paths we took. The last thing we wanted to do was get lost!
First we went left. A beautiful turquoise color shimmered on the tunnel wall. We learned later this is often referred to as "peacock ore." The ore, or concentration of minerals, is Bornite and mostly composed of copper.
As we proceeded, the tunnel became much larger. It was amazing to think of people excavating all of this more than 100 years ago.
Then we came to the one tricky spot in the mine. In the photo you can see Julie pointing to the barrel. Underneath it is a winze, which is a hole in the floor that connects lower levels of an underground mine. Even when we shone our headlamps in, we couldn't see the bottom. If someone were to fall in there, the likelihood of safely retrieving the mangled body is pretty slim.
At this spot in the tunnel is also a raise, or connection in the ceiling of the tunnel that leads to upper levels of an underground mine. As tempting as it looked, we opted to not climb up into those levels. Instead we opted to stay on the main level and live another day to tell our tale to you.
After checking out the bit of tunnel beyond, we turned around. The left branch of the tunnel branched again so we checked out that section. Here we found another raise, or upward connector, but it went all the way to the surface. We could just glimpse a bit of daylight.
This tunnel was short also, so we found our way back to the first intersection. The right-side tunnel also branched, but both ends were very short. We made our way back out the entrance and headed further up the trail in search of the Honeymoon Mine.
Once we got back to the main trail we continued onward for about .1 miles. By this time it was mid-morning and the trail was packed. We had to wait nearly 10 minutes to get this people-free photo of the intersection. The left trail leads to the Lake Serene switchbacks. The right side leads to the switchbacks and staircases up to Bridal Veil falls and Honeymoon Mine.
Now we are not advocates of graffiti, but we thought this was kind of cool. Less than an inch tall, we found this mine symbol carved into the post of the directional sign. Another spelunker had come before us.
Up we climbed. There are a variety of staircases and switchbacks on this part of the trail. It's also pretty narrow. But that's ok. Stopping to let others pass also allowed us to catch our breath. When we got to the boardwalks we started looking for the trail up to Honeymoon. People were giving us strange looks as we scoured the area for any sign. If the water had been running higher, we might have seen the falls that sometimes cover the mine entrance. But on this day we couldn't see any sign.
As we felt our way up the slope, we saw a little plateau. That seemed the most likely place to find an adit, or mine entrance. There was a lot of blowdown that made for some creative climbing.
Once we were able to see the plateau, it was clear we were in the right place. We stopped for lunch at this spot. Below us a steady stream of people flowed past. None of them looked up, and we doubt they could see us anyway.
The first part of the tunnel is very wet. It's clear the waterfall is much larger in other seasons. But the floor rises quickly with rock debris and becomes dry.
The tunnel is very short, just a few hundred feet deep. Maybe it was abandoned when no metals were found.
We headed back down to the main trail, which is close enough to Bridal Veil falls that you can hear it. We decided we might as well check it out, so we continued along the boardwalk. Just before the sharp right turn to the last set of stairs, we found a debris pile. This must have been the miners cabin mentioned at the trailhead.
After pausing to reflect on the life of an 1890s miner deep in the wilderness, we joined the stream of 21st century hikers up to the waterfall. There were at least 60 people in, on, and around the falls. Many of whom were doing dangerous things. Since both of us spend our days working with the public in similar settings, this was not fun way to spend our day off.
We quickly filtered water into our now empty bottles and snapped a picture of the view before heading back down the trail.
Thank you for reading about our adventure. If you decide to take an adventure to Pride of Index and Honeymoon Mines* drop us a line.
*If you decide to enter an abandoned mine (and we are not suggesting you do) remember that exploring mines presents many different dangers than your average hike. Make sure you do your research and are properly equipped before you go.