Hidden history within Briceburg

Mountain Secrets

Tony KrizanFebruary 1, 2013 

Sometimes revisiting an area previously hiked can bring about surprises. While hiking down an old established trail, try deviating from the main path and follow a game trail. Or just follow through an isolated canyon and maybe you will discover another new adventure.

I started out the New Year by driving to Briceberg, crossing over the frost covered suspension bridge and attempted driving to the Railroad Campground. My thoughts were from that point I would hike to the North Fork of the Merced River to photograph the triple falls.

Keep in mind Briceberg was established in 1909 as a resort along the north side of the Merced River. William Brice moved his home and store to this location in the 1920s. When the convict work camp was abandoned in 1926, he moved to the south side of the river and continued operating from that location.

Gold and silver were located within the mountains surrounding this area. Of course the railroad followed the Merced River starting in the 1890s to transport minerals and timber from the surrounding mountains. Passengers were booked from Madera to vacation or just visit Yosemite National Park. This right-a-way was very important to establish trade and growth in this area.

After crossing the bridge I was stopped by a lady who was a resident of the area and she informed me that a huge rock had tumbled down the mountain and settled on the road. Following the railroad spur down-stream was impossible today. My back-up plan was to hike up stream by the same suspension bridge, following the old railroad spur.

Before departing I was informed by the lady at the road block to follow the spur about one mile and then look for an elevated area next to a stream. Here I would find the remnants of a cabin that burnt a few decades ago and an old rusted automobile.

My hiking partner Nancy Blades and I started our adventure following the railroad spur upstream. This pathway I've hiked before and I was looking forward to locating this hidden bit of history. Hopefully there are many photo opportunities that I missed on my hike two years ago.

After following this ancient railroad spur for almost a mile we started looking for the plateau with a pathway to its lofty setting. Finally the canyon walls became gentle in height and followed by a stream. Looking closely, maybe this is an abandoned road overgrown with grass and bushes. We followed this man-made depression for a short way before discovering a small flat area. On the right was the discarded automobile and above its location was a second smaller flat area with the foundation of an old cabin.

Maybe I'm on a quest of locating abandoned automobiles? Last year I stumbled upon a 1955 Buick within the trees on a mountain side on Chepo Saddle. Now starting my first adventure in 2013, with the guidance of a local resident, I found another Buick -- a 1940 vintage. Could not find any history associated with today's find. Both vehicles have been picked over and all that remains today are rusted shells. Interesting how time creates history within our mountains.

Finally we reached the pilings of the second railroad trestle. Looking up stream along the Merced River, following the railroad spur I could see a white marker post. Closer inspection reviled a mining claim verifying multiple mines.

We found one mine next to the mountain stream that flowed into the Merced River. But the other mines must be hidden in the thick underbrush. Just to keep you aware of the mining history of the Mariposa area, before the second trestle a natural white quartz vein extended down to the river.

I forgot to mention that this narrow pathway is shared with a few of the native residents. All along the trail there was verification of bear, deer and many small creatures living within this area. We had no physical sighting, but many of the tracks were from the night before.

Take your time when hiking these historic trails of our Sierra Nevada Mountains. Who knows what history you may discover on your next trek?

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