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Christmas Flower
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A summer trip that starts low and ends up at an awesome peak overlooking the sizzling desert

It was July and the Mine Explorers needed a mine fix. But where? The low desert was in the 110s and the upper dez was not much better. We needed a cool spot so we could at least get some sleep at night with out cooking in our beds. We looked at various spots and then hit on a brilliant idea! Where could we combine the desert with it's mines and the coolness of the mountains? Why in the desert mountains, of course! So then we had to start scouring the ranges so we could meet our needs. In one range we found at least the cool part. A great ghost town known as Cerro Gordo. There are even over night accomodations that filled the need to be cool in our beds- and provided the beds as well! Perfect! Now all we needed was a few choice places to go.
Well, Cerro Gordo and it's environs were definitely OUT! All of that area is private land and the mines are posted STAY OUT so we heeded the warnings.  And we kept looking.

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A tight squeeze
Now for the desert part. It was going to be a drive to be sure but hey, the Mine Explorers don't mind a little tit-for-tat when it comes to a good mine. So we headed up the first morning knowing we were in for a good adventure.  We ended up running up a small wash that turned into a big wash that put us way out in the ever heating dez before we gained some elevation and pulled into the area containing the remains of a once thriving mine-the Christmas Flower. It was a gold mine that was worked all the way up to the 40's when the war came and most of the mines were shut down. We geared up with lots of water and the usual multiple lights and such and headed inside.
 
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What a great mine! It had several levels and some amazing stopes and haulage ways. We wandered around for hours. And we had to enter the various levels by going back outside and then climbing up higher on the mountain. Some of the trails were mere goat tracks and others weren't even that good! But it was all worth it! One stope we saw from both the bottom and the top-a distance of a hundred feet or more. And there were plenty of tunnels and great things to see. But some of the best stuff was accessed by climbing down a series of ladders that disappeared into the bowels of the earth! It was easily 100 feet if not twice that. Dezrat decided to go first to see "If there was anything there." And sure enough, it looked promising as I hit a few new levels. So I radioed up and told the rest to come on down. It was a long climb and the ladders had rungs missing which made it fun..
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This ore cars dangles above us as we decend

This far down- maybe several hundred feet inside the mountain, few people had been brave enough to tread and it showed. We found some great old tools and flotsam right off. Then we walked through a passage and came into a two story room. A wooden railing kept us form falling to the lower level.  We found a ladder leading downward and took that. The lower level was even better! An overturned ore cart materialized out of the darkness. And then we walked through an arch to find a huge chute going upward and a platform which hung out over an enormous glory hole! It was like being in a gymnasium underground! And lashed to the pinnings of the chute was this awesome ore car-still ready for service and dangling over rails leading downward! We were speechless! We decended carefully using a ladder that sat right between the tracks the hanging ore car sat on. We decended another level to the bottom of the glory hole and found it went even farther than that!
How much deeper could we go? Sadly, we'd have to leave that for another trip as we'd run out of time and the others were waiting topside. We decided on a torturous route up the tailings pile the glory hole had generated that was left behind as the miners worked the lode. We sweated up loose talus who's turminus was the gaping maw of the lower levels. One false move and you'd take a ride to God knows where! But we prevailed and stumbled back out onto the main haulage route for the lower of the levels we had found at the bottom of the first ladder set.

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Perfectly preserved after how long?

As we trudged back to the last set of ladders that would take us back to the upper levels of the mine and the bue sky, we came upon this unfortunate beast. Someone had a nasty sense of humor to say the least. This coyote was nailed at face level near the final level terminus for the downward manway of ladders we needed to ascend. If you were coming all the way down, you'd touch bottom, turn to enter the tunnel and get this up close! Not fun! We wondered how many tens of years he'd been here perfectly preserved by the heat and low humidity of the desert air. There was no telling. But the ladders awaited us and sore muscles told us we didn't have too much in reserve so we began the grind of getting upstairs. I can't imagine what it would have been like to need to climb these ladders day in and day out just to make a living wage. Once again we were reminded through our own hardships what it was like to live and work in these black holes of history. We were filled with admiration as we groped upward to the light.

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The definition of picturesque

After finally reaching daylight we discovered there wasn't much left of it! We hurriedly loaded up the vehicles and blasted back down the way we'd come to pavement for the long drive back to Cerro Gordo. You haven't experienced a true ghost town until you make the haul up to Cerro Gordo. The main road is quite a climb- about a 5 thousand foot evelvation gain as your vehicle labors upward. But it could be worse- you could have been on one of the wagons going up the yellow grade back in the day and the trip would have been brutal. When we finally gained the top and the town, we happily settled into our various accomodations which range from the Belshaw House and it's running water and shower of sorts with 3 beds to the bunk house with several beds but an out house. And just for flavor- both places are said to be haunted. Too exhausted to care, our intrepid Explorers pretty much passed out after dinner and didn't come up for air until well after sunrise the next day.

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Testimony to hard work

The last day of the trip still held many great locations! We'd tired of the desert heat and so we chose to stay atop the mountain as we knew of a fantastic spot for some plain old sight-seeing. Northward up a fairly nasty four wheel drive road are the remains of a salt tram which ferried salt from the eastern side of the mountains to the western side via a huge tram mechanism which remains to this day. So we loaded up and four wheeled our way along the two tracks that hugged cliff sides and rolled over mountain tops to the site of the tram buildings. The view was just astounding. You can see forever from up on top. And as you walk through the newly restored tram operator's building and then through the tram winches and structures you are simply awed by the amount of sheer determination that brought these structures to be up here atop this mountain. We left with a new respect for the miners and others who made this area their home for so many years.