09 July 2009

Quick Backpack Trip: In search of the Lost Dutchman mine...

At a party a few years ago, after being plied with a few beers, a friend (Quakes, you know who you are!) told us about a "lost" miner's cabin--an intact building with tools still hanging on the wall, now surrounded by dense forest, along a forgotten road...

Probably to our friend's delight, this has set Dave & I off on a few dayhikes looking for the place. With the prospect of a sunny day or two, we planned a quick overnight backpacking trip to more thoroughly explore this area of low hills (c. 8,000 feet) along the Continental Divide. Here's Dave at the Land Rover, marking the "trailhead" with his GPS (this has somewhat simplified our old map & compass exercise of, "Where the hell did we park?"):

"Trailhead" in quotations since we follow no trail. Sometimes we are on closed Forest Service roads, but much of the time it's cross country through the dry lodgepole pine/subalpine fir forest and open parks (note the extensive beetle kill of lodgepole pine):

It was lovely to hike through gardens of Arrowleaf Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata):

And mixed meadows of wildflowers:

This is a prime year for Beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax), which in some years hardly blooms at all:

It's called "Bear-grass" for a reason, since bears do like to nip off the flowers and seedheads. So, each time you see a boquet of Bear-grass:

You know it began with a clump of Bear-dump (note the maggots in this rich specimen--it wasn't easy keeping the dogs out of it, either!):

Well, enough scatology. We thought we hit the motherlode when we came upon this lovely sight--oh boy, come late August, there'll be coffee cans overflowing with huckleberries:

Alas, like the miner who mistakes pyrite for gold, we found with a close look (and a little help from Schlieman Wildflowers of Montana) that this was Fool's Huckleberry (Menziesa ferruginea):

Dang. Still, we can take a lesson from Jack- and Molly-The-Dog--a cool, clear stream and a friend to hang out with, and hey, life is good:

Ah, hey dogs, we human people will be drinking from that creek, so let's keep the mud downstream of the cooking fire (built near the stream so that next year's high water will wash away any sign of our being here):

Though we found no historic treasures on our hike, there are a number of new wildflowers coming into season, including White Bog Orchids (Habenaria dilatata):

Western Sweet Cicely (Osmorhiza occidentalis; the roots make a tasty anise-flavored cooking ingredient and tonic):

Low Larkspur (Dephinium bicolor; ranchers consider it a weed and kill it with herbicide):

Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea):

And Western Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia; not much of a flower to look at, but oh, what a sweet fruit to eat, if you can beat the moose to it; it was favored by Indians in making pemmican):

The trip ended with cold rain and sleet showers as a front pushed down from Canada, but that's why we carry raingear even on a dayhike.


Anonymous said...

Nice shots there, Eco. I heard "Quakes" mention that Lost Cabin on a backcountry ski trip. Let's take him to the brew pub and not let him out until we have a mark on the map!

Rio Arriba said...

I'd say you found lots of real treasures on your expedition, and shared them with us very nicely.

(And never mind about the Lost Dutchman. Years ago when living in Tucson I found it and have been living off the take ever since. I could give you the GPS coordinates, but there might still be some nuggets I might need in this economy. Sorry!)

Baruch said...

Looks like such a beautiful area and you might not have found the treasures you were looking for but the treasures in nature were abundant.

Janie said...

Your crosscountry trips sound a lot like ours. We always mark the truck location with a GPS. Very handy.
You had great foresight to photograph the bear scat. It really spiced up your post!
Beautiful flower photographs. Thanks for the tip on our Yellowstone "unknown" flower.

Arija said...

I came for your skywatch and got utterly hooked on your nature photos.

troutbirder said...

Oh my. These hiking/wildflower posts of late have sent me salivating Eco. Hiking/wildflowers/flyfishing...my kind of heaven.

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

ER: You certainly found so much beauty on the search.

Kirsten said...

Are you sure you're looking in the right state? Tuscon's closer, but not quite there...


Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi There, We're home after a wonderful weekend in the gorgeous North Carolina mountains. I'll post in the morning.

Looks like an interesting hike, ER. George and I sometimes go 'off-trail' when searching for waterfalls. Thank God we now have a GPS.

Hope you had a great weekend.