Lundy Canyon Mining History

tonykrizan@hotmail.comJuly 30, 2013 

How about a hiking adventure on the east side of our Sierra Nevada Mountains? Driving time from Oakhurst is around two and a half hours to Lee Vining (Highway 395).

Drive north seven miles and on the left a sign will read, Lundy Canyon. Drive two miles to the first trailhead at 7,730 feet just left of the Lundy Lake Dam. This trail will rise in elevation following the south side of Lundy Lake to Lake Canyon. Follow this scenic canyon south to Oneida Lake and the historic May Lundy Mine.

The second trailhead is another four plus miles past the dam following Lundy Canyon Road past the resort on a dirt road. This second trailhead is called the Lundy Canyon Trailhead at 8,200 feet and will be the completion of our four day loop previewing the mining history of the Lundy Canyon area.

Once again with my hiking partners Clem Bingham and Fred Cochran we'll share another wilderness adventure. The road or trail leading to Lake Canyon and the base of the May Lundy Mine has deteriorated over time but much easier to follow than expected. Hard to believe as we followed the road, a few original telegraph poles were still standing since the 1870s.

First campsite Oneida Lake

We set up our first campsite at Oneida Lake at 9,735 feet. This location was ideal for us to explore the discarded rusted mining equipment left over from the 1930s. During that time the Chrystal Mining Company purchased the May Lundy Mine and set up operations to rework the tailings brought down from the major May Lundy Mine and surrounding mines above 10,000 feet.

Originally the May Lundy Mine began in 1878 and during its 20 years of production over $2 million in gold was extracted at $14.90 per ounce. Today's price of gold per ounce is around $ 1,272 dollars.

This is our second morning and it's time to locate that switch back trail which leads up to the May Lundy Mine at 10,700 feet. In the beginning this trail is difficult to follow because of the loose tailings at the lower elevation. Once beyond this point the trail is identifiable and easy to follow.

A few of the wooden A-frame structures supporting the ore car cables on the mountain side are still standing. Even though the wooden cabins that offered lodging and cooking facilities to the miners have deteriorated, their stone foundations still exist. Above this area is the May Lundy Mine named after one of William Lundy's four daughters.

From this point there is no trail to the mine and I recommend only to continue if you are a seasoned hiker or climber. The steep angle and loose gravel makes this final assent to the mine very difficult. But the personal rewards of this five hour adventure overshadowed all those obstacles.

Ready to climb Dore Pass

The following day we increased our campsite's elevation to 10,000 feet at Ada Lake in preparation to climb Dore Pass at 11,300 feet the following morning.

In 1881 this historic route connected Lundy and the Bennettville mining areas. This pass was not only for moving men and supplies back and forth, but also heavy equipment. The "Homer Mining Index" describes moving 16,000 pounds of equipment on this route in the winter of 1882. This task took 12 men with one mile of rope and winches over two months to complete by using wooden sleds.

The heaviest load was 1,400 pounds also transported on a wooden sled in the dead of winter. Now consider it only took the three of us in July under five hours to complete this adventure over Dore Pass to Saddlebag Lake. One has to feel respect for these miners over a century ago for their efforts in trying to help themselves become successful under those extreme conditions.

That same day we descended to Saddlebag Lake and once again started climbing following a trail past Hummingbird Lake and over Lundy Pass at 10,300 feet.

Next we passed Odell Lake and continued to Helen Lake at 10,100 feet for our final campsite. In the morning we'll prepare for our final 1,000 foot descent to the Lundy Trailhead and our first view of the huge beaver dams that follow this water source.

Another point of interest along the road to the Lundy campground is the large portrait someone painted in vibrant colors of an Indian Chief in full headdress on a huge 18-foot boulder. No one knows who or when this work of art was completed but it offers a change of atmosphere on the long four mile dusty road.

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