This morning we made another return trip to Sunset Mine, this time with our friends Jean & Larry. We spent a few pleasant hours rummaging through the litter and rocks surrounding the mine and speculating on each tidbit of history we came across. Now that the temperatures are cooling, it's easier to explore without worrying about disturbing rattlesnakes.
Visit to Sunset Mine, Arizona
The Sunset mine, located just inside the Tonto National Forest, bordering the Sierra Ancha Wilderness was a Fluorite mine. We're not exactly sure of the dates of operation, but judging by the equipment left on site, we'd speculate it was working as late as pre-WW1 and as early as the late 1800s. The mine itself consists of a vertical shaft, with a much deteriorated head frame in place and a main shaft going straight down at least 30 feet, at which point a tunnel takes off to parts unknown. We found two collapsed adits, probably connecting to the vertical shaft somewhere deep underground. Although partially collapsed, one could have been entered, but a beehive could be heard just inside the tiny opening with active bees going in and out. The other entrance looks like either the years or someone had purposely collapsed the timbers supporting the opening and now rocks and dirt are blocking the way. There's also the remains of an ore loading bin which once stretched out over a roadbuilt into the canyon's edge. We haven't located any living quarters nearby, but from what we've heard, many times minersin this area lived in tent houses, consisting of a canvas roof with some wooden siding, if that was the case, they would have deteriorated long ago. The entire area is littered by the telltale black coated tailings of a Fluorite mine.
It's a neat site, easy to get to with four wheel drive or at least a high clearance vehicle. It's got fabulous scenery with the beautiful Sierra Ancha Wilderness mountains surrounding it and an abundance of great Saguaros and Prickly Pears. There's even a couple of friendly mules and a horse running the open range around the mine who like to come over and nibble on your vehicle.
No Rattlers today, only a very long, very fast, silver and green unknown variety snake we passed along the road.
Life is good...the monsoons have brought cooler mornings, it's great to be back to exploring again...hope the weather holds!