Chepo Saddle revealed another secret

Mountain Secrets

Tony KrizanApril 11, 2012 

Last month I wrote about a connecting route between Chepo Saddle and the Willow Creek Trail. On that adventure I was fascinated by the large manzanita bushes growing within this hidden wilderness road. The manzanita bush or tree is slow growing at the higher elevations. These bushes were over six inches in diameter and up to 12 feet high. I believe this road hasn't been traveled for many decades.

As I thought about that previous adventure, one question kept popping up in my mind. Who; maybe a century ago would take the time of cutting a road into this wilderness without a serious reason? Could it be access to another road or maybe a forgotten gold mine? During the last twenty years I've heard stories of an old mine; who knows what type and was located somewhere, hidden within these canyons. Maybe this old forgotten road will solve this mystery?

On March 15 I decided to hike that old forgotten road until it dead ends. Just before crossing the first stream, on the right, looking down into the canyon was the remains of a blue and white 1955 Buick Special. I asked myself, "Why didn't I see this relic on my first adventure?" Maybe the thick foliage was concealing its resting place. Time has not been forgiving to this antique. All that remains today is a shell.

The green colored moss was still clinging to the trees and rocks as I followed this lonely road just above the stream. Once again I was hiking through Manzanita, fallen timber and jumping across small streams. I finally arrived at the marker I placed three weeks earlier. This broken tree branch marked my cross country route before crossing the stream and continuing up the mountain searching for Willow Creek.

Just a short distance past my marker another large fallen oak tree was blocking my path. After skirting around this obstacle the road was again blocked by debris which resembles a slide area. The combination of fallen trees, thick underbrush and the absence of the road ... visually this looks like the end of road?

At this point it would have been impossible to drop down to follow the creek around this obstacle, so I started hiking up the mountain. Now I could trek above and around this slide area. When I reached the top, below me was the canyon that caused the slide. Is this the mystery mine I've been searching for? Yes; Nancy and I found the diggings and location of a mine.

The mine was carved into the mountain side but the opening was sealed. After decades of weather changes the tailings must have washed down the hillside covering the road. While searching the surrounding area, the mountain revealed many test holes or abandoned digging sites. Some were large and deep while others were smaller scraped surface areas.

Who knows what decade the miners tried to extract a reward hidden somewhere within this mountain? Today all that remains is the signs of nature healing those scars with decades of natural growth. Could those manzanita bushes in the road give us an estimation of time?

Looking at my map while standing at the top of this mountain, we decided to change our return route. Why drop down off this mountain and follow the road back to the trailhead? Let's set a compass and hike cross country to Road "13B" and follow that road back to our trailhead.

Since both of us agreed to another new adventure, I set my compass to the map for a backup heading. During the winter months the foliage is much easier to traverse through with the absence of leaves and new growth from the spring and summer months.

Twice we hiked higher on the mountain to avoid the deep canyons. Finally after 45 minutes we crossed Road "13B." Now to follow this road west as it skirts around and through the canyons. Soon we intersected the main Chepo Saddle Road and the trailhead at Road 222.

On my previous adventure, if I would have hiked this forgotten road another 50 yards, I would have solved two mysteries. The connecting point between Chepo Saddle, Willow Creek and the mine snuggled into that mountain side. Another mountain secret almost solved. Was today's discovery a gold or tungsten mine?

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