Summer Interlude: Hiking to the Big Horn

Bicycling is great, no question about it, but don't neglect an occasional interlude to partake of other activities you enjoy. This years Summer Interlude has come toward the end of the season, and involved a short hike though the forest, exploring some mining remains, and lunch at the Grizzly Cafe.

Years ago i bought a copy of John Robinson's Trails of the Angeles, and ever since then have wanted to take the hike to the Big Horn Mine on the slopes of Mt. Baden-Powell. Since the wife wanted to take a hike for her birthday weekend, i suggested we do this one followed by lunch in the mountain community of Wrightwood. Since the idea got thumbs up from both her and the son, the plan was a go.

The trail to the mine remains and web of tunnels is an easy one, maybe a little too easy. There is little obstacle to discouraging vandals from the taking short trip. Most of the graffiti is confined to concrete surfaces, but rock faces, wood beams, and even rusted iron have been defaced by people with little brains. I have avoided posting photos of the worst of the markings.

The lode mines of the Big Horn rest at the 6900 foot level of Mt. Baden-Powell, the second highest peak in the San Gabriel Mountains. Gold was discovered in 1894 by Charles Vincent Daugherty, a fugitive who used the alias Charles Tom Vincent. Vincent was a prospector and hunter who, like many others, had long searched for the mother lode which fed the placer mines of the East Fork far below. Vincent sold his discovery to a group of investors who developed the network of tunnels, built a stamp mill, and made other improvements over a period of about ten years. From 1904 to 1906 alone, the mine yielded some $40,000 in gold. Eventually,  the veins played out and the mine was abandoned.

Today, the wood and iron remains of the stamp mill is the prominent feature at the end of the trail. Various tunnel entrances and ventilation shafts pock the mountainside around the mill. In fact the trail passes one easily accessed, though flooded tunnel along the way. The stream exiting the barricaded tunnel provides perfect conditions for some red-petaled Monkey Flower. Just before reaching the mill stand in front of the barricaded ventilation shafts and enjoy the natural air conditioning coming out of the mountains depths. A trail continues past the mill, though getting to it involves climbing over the creaking remains and weathered scaffolding to the main mine entrance, and then down. Let your head be your guide, and don't do it if you are at all apprehensive. This trail continues around the mountain, along some very steep, and often slippery, slopes to some more mine tunnel entryways. All the tunnels i came across were barricaded with steel beams. 

A second big attraction of this hike are the views - down into Vincent and Mine Gulches, across to Mt. Baldy, Dawson Peak and the Prairie Fork. Even as dry as it has been lately, the mountainsides are surprisingly green.

one of many chutes of scree and boulders scaring the faces of Baden-Powell

big support beams and posts outside the main tunnel portal

rails beyond the reach of my flash

Prairie Fork, Dawson Peak, Mt. Baldy, Pine Mountain Ridge (i believe) and twisted iron rails

mill tower

i did not ascend that ladder

stamp mill

i did not descend that ladder (or whatever it was)

moon over Baden-Powell

the son would not play along with the goofy parents by this point