GeezerHiker

September 22, 2010

The Gargett Brothers’ Gold Mine

Filed under: Geology, Hiking, Mining, North Cascades — geezerwriter @ 6:25 pm
Packing up at Twin Lakes

Packing up at Twin Lakes

On Tuesday, my friend Earl and I took a much delayed hike to the old Gargett Mine on the side of Mount Larrabee. Earl is a Bellingham Lifer, with the exception of a mid-life parole in California, and has a strong interest in local history in general and mining in particular.

We left Bellingham in fog but soon saw some blue skies, although there were plenty of clouds all day, too. The road to Twin Lakes is in better condition than I’ve ever seen it – just about any car could make it to the lakes with a little care – and it was so nice to be in that beautiful spot without a jillion cars and smoky campfires!

The first thing we noticed was that every mountain around us had some fresh snow – I think we can safely say that summer is almost over and we should prepare ourselves for a premature end to the high country hiking season. The snow is above 6000′ of elevation at the moment, which will not interfere with most of our hikes, but it does put next week’s hike to Ptarmigan Ridge into some jeopardy.

The Skagit Range in clouds

The Skagit Range in clouds

Snow above HIgh Pass

Snow above HIgh Pass

As we hiked out toward Low Pass the clouds obscured the grand views of distant mountains but provided their own smoky splendor. A little further on they allowed us a haunting view of the new snow on Mount Larrabee just above High Pass. We blew on past High Pass toward the mine, bemoaning once again the pathetic supply of blueberries. This is a very lightly used trail (most folks who manage to drive to Twin Lakes just hike to Winchester Mountain, if they leave their cars at all) and should be awash in berries at this time of year, but we found only a few truly ripe ones and those were mostly small. There were many that were hardly bigger than a BB.

On the way down to the mine

On the way down to the mine

But we could enjoy the gorgeous landscape even without berries. As we hiked down from High Pass toward the mine, the stream that drains the cirque above High Pass was aroar from the recent rain and snow and beautiful to look at – the only concern was that we would have to cross it in a few minutes. Usually it is little more than a trickle but this time we would have to hunt around for a safe crossing.

The Forest Service maintains this trail as far as High Pass and has done some great work on it in the last couple of years. Beyond that point it has deteriorated significantly. It has been especially damaged by shortcuts, to the point where the moderate old mule trail has nearly disappeared in spots, supplanted by excessively steep cutoffs. Last year I went out and spent a few hours one day trying to locate and partially clear out the old trail, but it is still hard to find in places, with some smallish Christmas-size trees growing right out of the trail. I think I should try to go back out again this year with a bigger saw – anyone interested?

Earl at the mine

Earl at the mine

The adit

The adit

The mine entrance, or adit, is pretty hard to see from a distance but you can see one old rusted tub-like affair from High Pass. On closer inspection it is more than a tub, with pipes and gadgets and driveshafts for whatever purpose. There are a lot of other old pieces of iron and sheet metal lying around and it makes you wonder how they managed to get that stuff up here. You can see from the picture that the “tub” is a pretty big chunk of metal – what you can’t see is that the walls are a good half-inch thick.

Inside the mine

Inside the mine

Someone, or perhaps a storm, has modified the adit since the last time I was there. In the past you could walk right up to a wooden framework and stick your head inside, but now it is just a literal hole in the ground, and there is an active stream cutting a tiny ravine. It was too dark to see much, but the camera’s flash showed some old timber bracing standing in a foot or so of water and lots of debris under the water. Drops of water fell almost constantly from the ceiling and plopped into the pool – if you look closely you can see a small splash in the picture, near the center bottom.

You can also see a brilliant white spot on the ceiling near center top. We couldn’t get close enough to see it well, but my guess is that it belongs to a vein of pure white quartz, just the sort of thing that would have drawn prospectors to dig, since gold and other heavy metals often are found along such quartz seams.

Hiking back toward Winchester

Hiking back toward Winchester

We walked back to High Pass to have lunch, by which time a lot of the new snow had already melted on the trail up Larrabee. The hike back was as lovely as the way out, including a nicely framed view of Winchester Mountain – if you look very closely you might be able to see the flag flying at Mount Baker Club’s lookout cabin.

Just before reaching the trailhead, on the side of Winchester, I took a bunch of pictures of some bizarre looking boulders that I’ve noticed on earlier hikes. They are mostly brownish-gray with a sandy texture, but show a number of roughly lenticular inclusions of a smooth, almost silvery light gray rock that stands out prominently from the background. They look to me like they might be bits of marble. From the general look of the rock, I was guessing that they are from the Yellow Aster Complex that I have gone about at great length in earlier posts. And when I got home I looked at the state geology department’s online geologic map and found a little tiny speck of YAC right at the very summit of Winchester. From the location of these boulders, it is not too hard to believe that might have tumbled down from that summit.

Marble(?) in Yellow Aster Complex

Marble(?) in Yellow Aster Complex

Back at Twin Lakes we took the side trip over to Skagway Pass to look down at the only active gold mine in the area, the Lone Jack Mine. There was no sign of activity, and no big piles of quartz ore, so we guessed that they have completed their operations for the season, not a moment too soon from the looks of the new snow.

And the clouds that had been gradually rising all day, finally exposed a full view of Mount Larrabee and the Pleiades, giving me one of my best pictures of the day,

Larrabee and the Pleaides from Skagway Pass

Larrabee and the Pleaides from Skagway Pass

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2 Comments »

  1. I love that last picture, Al, but I think the one you called “on the way to the mine” is fantastic! Oh heck, they are all great shots. Glad to see you got one with a PERSON in it, too!

    Comment by DJan — September 23, 2010 @ 6:12 am

  2. Nice to see this site, as I have visited the Gargett mine many times over the last 30 years. I was told that the actual original mine was up above a few hundred feet. My wife and I climbed uo and found a boarded, almost invisible area that looked like an entrance straight down. As well, in the landscape, we saw what looked like a cut( ditch) leading away from the entrance, poss. a water source? Ya, how did they get that stuff in there? I heard they cam up Tamahi creek to the east of Mt Tomyhoi from the Canadian side. Many times for a change of scenery, we go back a different way, as we park our car down at the newer Y A Butte trailhead. WE look west from the north side of Winchester, see the trail to Tomyhoi Lake and work our way thru the valley. It is great thru there, careful not to drop to low as the trail out is steep. The trees are the worst spot to get through. Then instead of the road down, we get out via Y A B trail. Nice photos!

    Comment by Dick — November 16, 2012 @ 5:15 pm


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