East Fork to Stanley-Miller Mine
15 miles, 4500 ft (my path)
“Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different result.”
I think there was some insanity in this hike as well. What a hike.
This was part 3 out of 4 in the hiking series “Mines of Iron Mountain”. #1 was Allison Mine, and #2 was Baldora and Widco Mines. I expected this one to be harder than the first two, but even so it was a bit harder than I predicted.
We started off with 9 people hiking up the East Fork around other people heading up to the the bridge. The water level was lower than last time I was there in the spring, so the few crossings were easier and sped up our pace. We made it to the bridge in 2 hrs.
From there, we continued into the Narrows, a section that I don’t think anyone in the group had been to before. I really liked the area, with plenty of watering holes around smooth rock, nice areas to camp, and a little more isolation. Apparently there is a guy named Hobo Dave who resides back here.
So the plan was to get to Stanley-Miller Mine. I can’t say it was a well thought out plan. I studied a map beforehand as well as made gps coordinates and tracks around the area, and I read one Sierra Club trip report that hiked up the west ridge of Iron Mt and passed by Stanley Miller on the way.
If you study the USGS topo map, you’ll see a bunch of trails around the Narrows and Stanley-Miller. The one used in the trip report seemed to be the one ascending from Iron Fork straight up to the mine. The other trails I had heard were non-existent.
Well this certainly was a nonexistant trail to! In fact, I wonder how it could even be considered a trail. We started ascending up, passing up a bit of poison oak (mentioned in the Sierra club TR), and then went up the steep gully formed with lots of steep rock slabs. This was alright for some, but harder for others. One specific spot that had few decent handholds slowed the group down and had some turn around.
Once we got past that obstacle and continued up the rocks, it seemed the “trail path” was going straight into brush. So I decided to veer NE along the rock in hopes to eventually cut across south and avoid the brush. Well, rocks heading NE were even worse. As many of you know, the San Gabriels have some terrible, crumbly rock. Well there I am, climbing up this crap with a nice steep drop to my left on the side of freaking Iron Mt.
Of course I paid attention checking and testing all the holds before I would make a move, but it was unsettling when so many holds would give out. Even large slabs of rock would give out. At point I tested a rock and it came out so quickly I almost lost my balance.
At that point I said ‘screw this’ (actually I said some more colorful things) and cut across south to deal with the brush. I was in the area of the mine, but I couldn’t see anything. The gully was covered in brush. Rudy and I waited for the other 4 to meet up (Hugo, Tim, Winston, & Andy), and they saw on the other side of the gully the chimney from old pictures. We then also thought we saw a mine entrance, and I took a pic of it.
At that point it just seemed we would cut across through some brush and find everything. For some reason, it was harder than it seemed. The brush was annoying but we made it across. The we started ascending, but apparently we ascended to far, so after looking around we descended again, and finally found the cabin ruins along with other artifacts.
The cabin is basically right on top of a ridge along the trail that connects Stanley-Miller to Allison Mine. We did not see a mine right around it. We went over the picture we thought was a mine entrance, and determined based on the trees in the picture it would be higher up. Tired already, we went up a bit again and then I continued up determined to find this SOB. I went up 500 ft or so, but no luck.
At that point we had spent 3-4 hrs up there and were resigned to not seeing the actually mine entrance but happy we did find the mind ruins. We descending down slightly south of our path up, on the other side of the brush which had some loose dirt making for a quicker descent. We connected back up with the rock-slab filled gully near the bottom which took some strong friction/wedge moves to avoids sliding down.
Back at the river, I just dropped my stuff and walked right in. Cooling off never felt better after that hot, brush-filled and exhausting climb. After everyone came down, we headed back.
Along the way back we saw Hobo Dave’s hut. I went over hoping he would be home and explain where the mine entrance was, but no luck.
On the way back past a rock slide we heard some rocks falling, and looked up to see about 8 Bighorn sheep. My first time seeing them!
All in all, it was a great, frustrating, dangerous journey.
Post: Later on, Tim pointed out to me the picture in the LA Gold Mines site. When I looked at that link previously, I thought the picture was just detailing the inside of the mine so I didn’t pay attention carefully. What a moron I am!
The picture shows the location of the mine relative to the chimney and ruins. Apparently the mine is about 100 yds south of the chimney. This means while we were going up and down along the northern side of the ridge, the mine was actually south at the same elevation. Ugh. In hindsight it makes sense since there was an open area around there, but we were focused with the illusion of a mine entrance we thought we saw on the northern side, so we didn’t even consider it.
The best part about this map is the fact that the guy labeled the route we took as the “really stupid way to stanley-miller mine”, and he had a better way. From what I can tell this better way is something he found and not on a map anywhere. Suffice to say, I would agree with him!
So with all the ups and downs I did ~4500 ft for something that should have taken much less. I’m not sure if I feel I have unfinished business with the hike yet…
This entry was posted on Sunday, August 16th, 2009 at 9:32 am and is filed under Trip Report. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.