The De Soto Mine(AZ) – 02/07/10

Tailings of The De SotoHaving just spent the last few hours in The Golden Turkey, it was time to move on to what the day was all about.  A look deep inside the De Soto Mine was next on the agenda.

The De Soto mine sits above where the town of Middleton once stood at an elevation of about 4967′ or so.  Still wet from rain, the road was a bit slick including just a little sideways action 😉

I would not suggest going in anything but something with clearance as the rains have exposed some rocks that might challenge a car or small pickup.  The Hummer had no problems and I’m sure most 4×4’s would make it especially when it’s dry.  It was actually an enjoyable drive with the vegetation and surroundings changing quickly.  You gain elevation pretty quick on the trail to the mine which as you can imagine affords you a great view of The Bradshaw’s.

Looking NE from The De Soto

Despite the cloud cover, the view was fantastic!  I guess it wasn’t cloud cover as much as the fact that we were actually in the clouds at this point which meant it was just a little cooler than down at The Golden Turkey where it was about 3100′.

BreathtakingWe stopped short of the mine to check out the area where the Tramway started.  It was a great chance for a few pictures as well as time exploring one of the tailing piles.  This pile actually had some great specimens if collecting is your thing.  While I did find some pretty neat goodies, I was really chomping at the bit to head up and check out the mine.

I will certainly make it a point though to return and spend some time in the tailings to see what interesting rocks I can find, not to mention finish exploring the area which I think could easily take a day.

After a brief exploration of this area and some pictures, we made our way up to the mine itself.  As soon as I saw this opening, I was already feeling much better about this mine.  In fact, I recall making the comment that it would have really sucked to do this one and then the Golden Turkey.

Come inside and play with me!

We made our way into the tunnel and I was blown away by the size compared to the last mine, not to mention the cold air coming from inside.  Cold and fresh as a matter of fact.  I damn near could have driven my golf cart down this tunnel…Maybe.  😉

There was a bit of water on the floor but folks before us were kind enough to place stones, wood, and whatever else they could find in the wet areas so we could avoid the wet step.  There was also pipes that ran along the floor as well which came in handy to help keep our shoes dry.  The pipes still carry water today down to the various watering tanks in the area for the cattle.  While some mines have some nasty water, this one is actually spotted with spring fed pools throughout the mine, although there was one or two I wouldn’t want to fall in.  Others though, were crystal clear when hit with the lights.

I like to think of myself as being very observant, always scanning the ground, walls and everything else.  Of course you knew that from reading about the first mine of the day now didn’t you?  Anyway, as we walked further away from the opening, I caught black spots here and there on the walls and ceilings.

Ssshhh, Baby sleeping!Upon closer examination, I found these black spots to be brown actually, and not really spots after all.  Yes, the familiar prop to any mine, the bat.  Right away, Kao said not to bother them because they were sleeping and they would die if I woke them.  I asked him on the way out if he meant sleeping or hibernating?  They were hibernating apparently.  I did not know bats hibernated actually.  I knew they slept during the day so I guess that’s kind of what I thought he meant earlier.  Anyhow, you learn something new everyday.  I took a few more pictures of them if you want to check out the gallery but I’ll give you that link later.

Again, after a few hundred feet into the mine, we killed our lights and let our eyes adjust to the darkness although there was still a bit of light coming from the entrance.  Darkness or not, I was feeling good, damn good.  This mine was already so cool and way better then where we were just a couple of hours ago.

Moving onAfter a few minutes time and chatting about the Golden Turkey, we turned our lights back on and continued walking along the walls of the mine where we needed to stay out of the water.  Most of it though was pretty dry in the center so a little water was no big deal.  I took note along the way of the various vibrant blue colors I was seeing on the walls here and there, colors that seemed to be oozing out of the walls but at a very slow pace.

This was odd.  Nothing I had ever really seen before.  I looked closer and it looked like liquid crystals or something, but it did not look nasty!  I have never seen anything in my life like it so I was in awe.  The further we went, the more prevalent the blue was.  I certainly wasn’t going to touch it, because if it was crystal of some sort, I could do more harm than good by touching it.

The next thing I saw was incredible.  The ceiling in spots, was covered in tiny stalactites.    I’ve never seen stalactites anywhere other than on TV.  This however was something entirely more rewarding I think, as these were still in the straw form or stalactite infancy?  I soon realized this mine has started a life of its own.

Oh it get’s better, or shall I say bigger?

The Blue Beauty
The Blue Beauty

Or shall I say more colorful?  High on the ceiling Kao pointed out this incredible blue stalactite that was probably 2″-3″ in length maybe?  Keep in  mind my friends, we’re barely getting into this mine so to speak and these are the types of things we are seeing.  I was in LaLa land at this point.  A mine I could walk in that had things I’d never seen in my life.  I know in some cases, caves are notorious for this, but a mine?

I know there have been many who have come before me to this mine, so KUDOS to you for not destroying this stuff and leaving it for the rest of us to see.  I’ll have to research these a bit and see how long it takes for them to form.  I would say that about 99% of the straws had a drop of water at the end of them, and if one were patient, you might just get a shot of a drop in mid air just below the stalactite.

We explored each of the side tunnels even though they were clearly marked “DE” which obviously means dead end.  We wouldn’t be exploring though if we didn’t check every tunnel.  At this point it became a crystal hunt to find the greatest accumulation of them.

I’ve done a few mines in my time and in those mines I’ve seen some infrastructure with regards to ore chutes and things like that.  I’ve seen things that looked as though they were probably pretty tough to build.

Where does it end?This picture really does no justice to what is in the heart of that mine.  I know there have been huge wooden structures and pulley systems at these mines, but much of that I usually see out at the mill site or somewhere outside.  The super structure shown in this picture disappeared  into the darkness above me several feet up, maybe a couple stories were visible in the light and that’s it.  That’s MEGA!  By the looks of the ore buckets and the size of this super structure, I can only imagine the amount of material that must have moved through this area and the noise echoing off the rocky walls.

What’s amazing amount seeing this and other similar things in this mine is the fact that it was built right where it stands.  I think all the pounding and such would have really had my nerves fried worrying about a cave-in.  Granted, the mine itself was pretty solid, but this was some big timber and there were some big nails used.

Another interesting area we found seemed to be a stopping point for other folks as evidenced  by the batteries on the floor and other things.  This was a huge cavern with a few different entries, but only one that would get you where we were.  The other two, well, you might get wet if you come that way.  The acoustics were pretty awesome.  My first thought was playing with my drums in here and see what I can do with the echoes.  The young whipper snapper in me thought it would be a great place to have a little get together in, but not the kinda place for that I’m afraid.  Helluva great place for a beer though.

After spending at least 4 hours in the mine, I could feel the air get very very cold and thought there would be one of two things waiting for us when we got out.  Either snow or rain.  So we explored a bit more and pretty much came to the conclusion that we were not going to finish this mine today.

As we made our way back to the entrance of the mine the air got much colder.  We made it out of the mine to a temperature of 34 degrees, and as we started walking to the Hummer it began to snow.  It's snowing!I didn’t get a good shot of the snow falling, but you can almost make it out.  Believe it or not, as we started heading back down the mountain, not only did the air warm up some, but the snow flakes got bigger.  Go figure.

I’m sure there’s more I can share with you, so if you’re interested, drop me a line either here via comments or in the Forums and I’ll be glad to tell you more about this or any of my other trips.

As always, there are several more pictures than what I have here.  If you’d like, click THIS and you can check out the pictures.

It was a great day with the guys, and I’m looking forward to more outings before long.  We did find one other place of interest, but until our research is complete on the area, we’re keeping a lid on that one.  More on that possibly later.

With a 3-day weekend just around the corner, I’d say there might just be another adventure or two.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the rest of your day!


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