Thursday, December 27, 2007

Sunflower Mine Trail

It's cold and crisp here in Arizona, great Jeeping weather! We headed out this morning, destination, Sunflower Mine. The trail began as a nice Jeep trail, easy for a stock Jeep, however, it quickly changed from an easy trail, to a grip your seat, maneuver the rocks, cross the river, hell of a Jeep ride!  The previous time we'd visited the area, the riverbed was dry, exposing the rocks and daring us to cross. On this trip however, the river was running, hiding the rocks beneath the current. We managed to cross the river carefully, with no problems...all the while thinking that once this obstacle had been crossed that the rest of the trail would be a snap. WRONG! Just past the river we came upon an area that had been washed out from previous monsoon rains, all that remained of the trail were rocks, and more rocks. Ralph & Larry carefully chose the line they'd take and proceeded to  head up the trail...whew...we made it, no damage to anything but our nerves. After further meandering and maneuvering, we were within sight of the old refinery. Parking on a hill above the refinery area, we proceeded to hike the 1/4 mile down into the canyon to reach the ruins.
Sunflower mine was a large Cinnabar mining operation. Cinnabar when processed, produces Mercury a necessary ingredient when mining for gold. The mines operated from 1911 up until 1982, with most of the production taking place before the 1960s. The old refinery is still standing, though much of it has been reclaimed by Mother Nature, you can still get a good idea of what an extensive operation it once was. 
We checked out the refinery area, marveling at how massive it was and wondering how in the world the equipment and supplies were hauled into this remote location.
We didn't have time to check out the numerous mine shafts in the area since we all had dogs at home waiting for us. (canine guilt trips) I found this site however, if you're interested, you can take a virtual tour of the interiors of the mine tunnels. It's quite impressive to see how large an operation this once was. Sunflower Mine 1 -  (hit your "back" button to return to this journal)
We had no problems on the way out, and we all breathed a sigh of relief after our mission was accomplished.
It's nice to be home, the fire is crackling, dinner is on the stove and all's well in our world.