Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Back to the Spark Plug Mine - May 2014 Part One

 please remember you can click on a photo to see a larger version

Would you bail us out of jail? Intriguing question, isn't it? It occurred to us on this trip due to an incident, that we ought to know the answer. We are skilled in our travel and the mountains, deserts - the backcountry - is our home. Heck we even teach these skills through different agencies and organizations. We can handle ourselves with confidence. But what if we got into trouble with the law? Could we find a friend to bail us out? Would you?

Upon our return from this adventure we queried friends. Ted and MarkBC gave us an immediate yes. Wandering Sagebrush said sure also but wanted a bit of payback that will remain confidential but could land him a starring role in the remake of "Deliverance." Lighthawk and SR were upfront and perfectly practical. They would deliver a cake with a file inside.

Take off your shoes, get comfortable. The story begins.

Last Friday was an annual event I look forward to all year, the eighth grade graduation ceremony at the Lady's school. Why? Because it is the only day out of 365 that she wears, albeit for a short time, a dress. A nice dress; she owns more than one. A dress that requires those sexy, womanly things underneath like hose and push up bra.  A dress that requires help with a zipper or a long line of buttons up the back. And fancy shoes! Half heel is high enough. This is a day to live for.  She shows up at the event and is not recognized. The girls get so excited when someone finally makes the connection. The Lady in a dress! Back in the car on the way home she wiggles and pulls stuff out from under the dress. The shoes are off and tossed into the back seat. It is special for me. It is exciting. I keep going to eighth grade graduation year after year, 31 of them now.

What does this have to do with our adventure travel? We left early Saturday morning, not Friday afternoon. After a store bought breakfast in Bridgeport and a relaxing hot spring soak, we headed east on highway 120 toward Benton. This was the first morning of the Lady's summer break and we were on the road. I'd take Monday off to stretch the celebratory trip. We retraced part of last year's adventure with Lighthawk and SR by once again traveling Chidago Canyon Road down into the Chalfant Valley.

We last visited the Volcanic Tablelands' Red Rocks Petroglyph site in May 2003 so it was time for another visit.

We had unfinished business. After our first trip up Jeffery Canyon in the White Mountains to the main camp of the Champion Spark Plug Mine, we wanted to climb up from the lower trailhead as the mules did during mine operations and climb up and explore the upper mine. We set up camp at the lower trailhead. There was one other vehicle parked here. It was a little after 3:30 pm, more than enough time to pop up the 1750 vertical feet and 2 miles to the main camp at 7550 feet. It would also be good to stretch the legs and get a little exercise, that is always the best plan.

While climbing, we heard voices. Two fellows were working their way down the upper trail to the high trailhead. Most folks we meet in the backcountry are remarkably friendly. This fellow is giving a big wave for the camera.

This rugged, stark, arid environment is one of the draws for us.

The years have taken their toll on the original mule trail to the camp with washouts and landslides. We figured portions of the current trail were not the route the mules took.

Fifty minutes later we were back up at Black Eagle Camp enjoying nice late afternoon light.

A bit of a storm was also building and heading up slope toward us.

Looking up canyon, we pondered where the legendary upper mine was located.

The large rock spire is the dominate terrain feature above. Half way up its sheer face is a black slit that later in our explorations we came to call "The Window."

Dinner, our showers, our wonderful "home away from home" awaited us down below. Although very doable, to hike up this route you must enjoy rugged terrain and exposure.

The people associated with the Ford pickup were the only folks staying overnight up at Black Eagle. The rock outcropping and window were visible from our camp.

The Minarets were visible in the sunset to the west.

During our breakfast outside we were joined by a blue eyed husky. Ringo belonged to the mother daughter group staying up at Black Eagle. Mom was down very early to ferry up a load of water. "The spring is dry. The water system doesn't work. Even the poor dog is on water rations. Here Ringo!"
Mom filled a bowl with water for the husky.

Mining ruins are near the trailhead that people have added their artwork to. At least this is artistic with a good message.

We were soon back at Black Eagle Camp enjoying the morning light.

We waved at Mom and her daughter and Ringo and started up.

I'm going to move ahead to help put our hike up to the upper mine into a historical perspective. The mine operated from 1919 to 1945.

Everything was packed up and down the mountain on mules.

One of the buildings at Black Eagle Camp has been converted into a museum.

The museum contains a rich assortment of items.

Here are a few historical photos of the upper mine from the museum.

 Continued in Part Two,  click HERE

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