Friday, December 12, 2014

A night and a day at the Norwich mine

This is the first in (hopefully) a series of posts about my adventures from many years ago, when I lived in the beautiful Copper Country of Michigan. These were originally written for fellow Copper Country explorers and history fans such as myself, and so I've added a little more background information and history. I'll start the series with one of my all time favorite explorations.

The trail back home

The Norwich mine is a vast series of interconnected mines, all sitting atop a rugged and remote bluff in Ontonagon county. The Norwich, and its nearby cousins (with names like "Ohio Trap Rock", "Hilton", "Windsor", and countless others) were all started, lived a brief life, and were abandoned in the mid 1850's, when copper fever was running through the western Upper Peninsula. Only the Norwich lived longer than a few years, limping along in various forms for several decades.

The Norwich lives in a very unfortunate location: West of the Ontonagon river. Something about the geology of the Copper Country cursed the trans-Ontonagon region. Only one truly successful copper mine was ever established west of the Ontonagon, and it most certainly wasn't the Norwich. Of the hundreds of mines, prospects, explorations, and test pits in the far west of the copper range, few brought more than a couple pounds of copper to the surface, and virtually none made a profit.

This rugged, broken landscape of cliffs and ravines is called the "Trap Hills". The Norwich Bluff itself rises 500 feet above its surroundings. With no room for big surface plants like those at Quincy or Calumet & Hecla, the mines left very few signs of their existence... above ground. Without any reason for anyone to return, the houses rotted, the roads grew over, and only the shafts and adits remain to mark the mine sites.

It's this exact remoteness, ruggedness, and nearly complete disappearance that attracts me to mines like the Norwich. That, and a taste for hiking alone in a rocky and beautiful land, put the Norwich square in my sights for exploration.

Now, Norwich Bluff sits squarely in the middle of Ottawa National Forest. In 2010, the Forest Service proposed a "recovery plan" for Norwich, intended to stabilize and secure the many abandoned mine shafts at Norwich (which had been left open for the last 150 years). In particular, the wide open shafts left near the North Country Trail were considered "unsafe" and would be filled or covered. Images of bulldozers and chainsaws flashed across the minds of Copper Country explorers everywhere. While reality wasn't quite so bad, I was eager to see the results of the "rehabilitation". But classes had to get taught, research had to get researched, and other (closer-to-home) exploring had to get done.

At long last, one Friday in early October of 2011, I made a last-minute decision to run off to Norwich, camp overnight, and spend all of Saturday hiking and exploring there. That spur-of-the-moment choice turned into one of my fondest memories of exploring in the UP. I could have spent a week there and not see it all. (Indeed, one of my fellow explorers -- nailhed -- did exactly that.) Here's the story of my night and day at Norwich.

Friday, October 7, 2011: I skipped out of work (that is, grad school) early and headed south on a beautiful fall afternoon. The trip from Houghton south to Ontonagon was uneventful. A small dirt two-track leads from the main road to a Forest Service gate, which bars all but hikers from following the overgrown mining roads which criss-cross the bluff. I parked on the two-track just off of the Norwich Road and walked in, checking out the rest of the road for drivability and scouting for campsites.

Suddenly, I heard a heavy "thunk". Running ahead, I found a big pickup truck with its nose in the ditch and its rear wheels right off of the road. The sheepish-looking driver and passenger were just getting out and surveying the damage. Apparently my car parked on the shoulder had faked them into thinking that it was solid all along the road, and they drove right into the ditch. After some false starts, two of us jumped up on the tailgate to add some weight and the truck managed to get out with minimal damage. The two men pulled out and left me alone at the bluff again.

I took a short walk along the base of the bluffs to see what I could see. To the west, I followed a trail which leads up to the location of the Norwich's adit, a horizontal opening drilled into the face of the cliff. While the adit has been long since covered over, I could feel cool air still blowing out of it.

Norwich bluff at sunset
Heading east past the gate, I followed an overgrown two-track down to the Norwich Cemetery, the only remnants of the town which once served the mine. A few monuments in the cemetery still remain. The scenery along the way was gorgeous. A cluster of aspens near my campsite were lit up by the setting sun, making a dramatic scene with the bluff in the background.

The forest service road was dry, but it was filled with prints from the last week's rains. There were plenty of boot prints, but also some deer... and either a large coyote, or a small wolf. At that moment, I had my first second thoughts about my spontaneous camping plan. As things turned out, I was in no danger of any animals being out and about that night.

It was a pretty windy day, so I decided to set up camp at a small flat patch near the gate, in the shadow of the bluff. Naturally, as soon as I had pitched my tent and anchored it thoroughly against the northwest winds... everything shifted, and the winds began to race out of the south. In fact, all night winds raced up along the Ontonagon River flats and smashed into the Norwich Bluff face, trying to toss my tent into the bluff in the process.

I never sleep well alone in a tent, and the ridiculous noise of the wind didn't help. As the tent shook and shimmied around me, I was startled by every creak and crack from the trees. I eventually started covering my ears with spare clothes, my sleeping bag hood, and even a backpack, before falling asleep some time after 2 am.

Saturday, October 8th: I had planned to get up with the sun (a lazy 8 am), but my late and sleepless night delayed me until 10. I made breakfast, packed up camp, and sorted out the essentials into a daypack.

I started my hike in a dramatic fashion: Climbing straight up the bluff. A large rock slide comes off the bluff face, made mostly from poor rock dumped by the Norwich while in search of copper-bearing rock. (The sheer volume of poor rock hints at how successful they were.) I tackled this rock slide with energy, hoping to find the Norwich B shaft just above it. The climb was tough, but I was rewarded with spectacular views along the way.

Norwich road from above

The entire countryside was filled with yellow aspens and green pines. The Ontonagon river ran right through the middle. Gorgeous.

Sure enough, B shaft was right where I expected, sitting wide open at a cut in the rock face. The B Shaft was Norwich's main shaft, and connected to the (closed up) adit far below. A huge chunk of rock sat in front of it, the result of a botched attempt to fill the shaft. A frayed nylon rope descended down into the dark hole, left by some more adventurous -- or more crazy -- visitors. My fear of falling back off the cliff was perfectly balanced with my fear of falling into the shaft, which is truly a spectacular hole in the ground. I pondered how difficult it must have been to begin the shaft, up there on the sheer cliff face, before moving carefully up the cliff. After climbing to a convenient rock at the top, I sat, resting and enjoying the view. Also, I tried not to get blown off the bluff by the strong winds which continued from the previous night.

After a rest, I headed straight north into the forested interior of the bluff, knowing that the Norwich "A" shaft was nearby. I found it with no trouble -- seemingly dug out beneath a giant boulder (really an outcrop of the bluff). It was covered by a metal bat cage, but is otherwise sitting out as if waiting for miners to return. Someone had left a plastic water bottle in the cage. Grr!

The Elusive A Shaft in its native habitat.
At that point, some pink tape caught my eye, dangling from a nearby tree, and another past that. Following these, I ended up on a faint trail which must have been the nearly overgrown Norwich Mine Interpretive Trail (which is itself a branch of the North Country Trail, which runs through the area). The trail headed north away from the bluff face, running along a deep gorge. I decided to stay on the trail, and see where it brought me.

I had brought with me a GPS and a small, hand-drawn map. The map was copied from Joseph Papineau's fascinating and heavily en-colon-ed book, The Norwich Mine: An Historical Journey Across Time, Or, A Dream of Copper Riches Lost: 150 Years, West of the Ontonagon, 1841-1991: A Timeless History of One Copper Mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The included a sketch of the roads, ruins, settlements, streams, dams, and other features which had once existed around Norwich. As I would find, it was extremely not-to-scale, but it still proved quite useful.

The trail brought me past many small pits and trenches, and finally to the North Country trail. The trails met up right at what seemed to be a small earthen dam, presumably used by one of the many mines nearby. The North Country trail continued east along a high ridge.

The Norwich Bluff is really a series of high parallel ridges, separated by deep valleys. On each ridge and in each valley, the Norwich and its cousins "gophered" for copper, digging uncounted numbers of trenches, pits, shafts, and adits. Throughout the day, I tried to keep track of which ridge I was on -- the first being the steep cliff face of the bluff itself. I believed that I was probably on the second ridge.

While it was a lovely hike, there wasn't much to see until I came across a sign giving directions to quite a few locations. This was a major intersection in the North Country Trail -- as major as you can get in the middle of the Trap Hills, at any rate -- and I thought through my options carefully while trying to identify my location on a map. In the end, I followed an arrow east towards Front Run Creek, which cuts a deep gorge as it runs towards the Ontonagon River. After a long descent, I came down into the creek valley, where several trails branched off -- one north up the creek (seemingly unlabeled), one down the creek and out of the bluff, another to the west into the valley between the first two ridge lines, and yet another (the main NCT branch) heading east towards the high bluffs on the other side of the creek.

I headed north up the creek bed and quickly found myself in the "Miner's Cut". Living on top of a 500 foot high bluff, the Norwich had unending troubles trying to ship copper out to the rest of the world. The Miner's Cut was one attempt at making a passable road to the outside world. About 100 yard up the creek, the trail began to run between steep rock walls, partially cut by the stream. The cut had been artificially widened and deepened, resulting in the spectacular feeling of a pass through mountains. I don't think that the photo really does it justice, but it's a spot worth visiting:

Miner's cut
I continued onwards and quickly came to Forest Road 642, which is an overgrown grassy two-track. It's about as fancy as the roads get in the Trap Hills, though. Following the road back west, I came to a branch trail leading to the fire tower.

Norwich Bluff, being one of the highest spots in the area, was a natural site for a fire tower in the early 20th century. Of course, the tower has long since been torn down. In the meantime, trees have grown up, leaving only cement footings and not much of a view.

Just down the branch, however, was a mysteriously well preserved shaft. It was fenced with nice new logs and a bat cage. It looked as if the winds of the night before had taken their toll, and dropped an entire tree onto the nice new fence:

Norwich "firetower" shaft
My path took me back to the many-arrowed trail sign, and I re-followed the trail down to Front Run Creek. This time I took the southwest branch which led into the valley between the first and second ridgelines of the Norwich Bluff. My plan was to head in towards an old stamp mill site, but I was about to be seriously sidetracked.

As I walked along, I started to see depressions off to my left. The ridge just south of the trail was literally riddled with old shafts, but these had suffered an unfortunate fate. They had previously been guarded by old wooden fences, maintained by locals with an interest in preserving the area themselves. As part of the Forest Service's plan, those fences have all been removed now, and a number of the shafts were closed up with foam. However, not all of them were filled -- for example, this series of scary-looking stope holes which are merely covered with dodgy-looking bat grills, which you could easily walk right over:

Newly barred stope

At this point, a bit of a sideline... and a rant. This area was the first place where the capping and covering at Norwich became really obvious to me. It was clear that most of the shafts in this area had previously been open and surrounded by the old wooden fences. In fact, all around I could see the small rock bases which had held the fence posts in place. Most of the time, these bases were the best way to find the shafts. The old fence posts and cross-bars had been cut off and tossed into the forest willy-nilly. They were all over the place, even where there were no obvious shafts -- as if the Forest Service had had a caber tossing competition with the remnants of the fences. Given the amount of "respect for nature" which was indicated in the paperwork and planning, it was especially strange.

Wherever the shafts had been filled, they must have been filled in at bedrock level. In the months since the plan had been completed, they had become covered over with leaves and now looked just like the usual depressions around filled-in shafts -- except for those fence post bases surrounding them. However, the shafts were in no way more safe. Without the fences, it's incredibly easy to stumble onto caving ground or fall right into a shaft -- with a bat grating 2 or 3 or 10 feet down into the ground. It was easy to see how you could stumble onto those stope holes, and the ground on either side consisted mostly of rotten rock, ready to collapse into the mine. I would guess that the entire location is less safe for most purposes, and a lot of history has disappeared.

OK, back to my story. At this point, I was entering a cut in the ridgeline which lead into a small valley, where I believed that the Hamilton mine had once had a small stamp mill. A stamp mill was a building which processed the copper-bearing rock produced by these mines. All stamp mills worked effectively the same way: By smashing the living daylights out of the rock, until it crumbled apart and released the tiny copper fragments trapped inside. The Hamilton mine was a very old mine indeed, and used very old stamp technology: Big heavy iron blocks, called stamp heads, that were repeatedly dropped onto the rocks. (This is effectively the original stamp technology. More modern mines used steam-powered stamps and even rollers.)

There was a small flat area to the left which looked like a shaft (but turns out to have been blasted away to make room for a trapper's cabin). There was a lot of metal scattered around, including a heavy iron stamp head, marked with its maker's name! I was definitely in the right place. Following the trail further, I came to a cut where a seasonal stream tumbled down the cliff face. Looking up from the bottom of the cliffs that evening, I saw that I had been close to one of the most spectacular lookouts along the entire bluff, but I didn't climb up to it at the time.

So far, I hadn't seen any stamp sands -- the coarse sandy remnants of crushed rock, left by a stamp mill. In fact, the valley seemed to be filled with low swampy growth and tag alders, making for a dense bushwhacking nightmare if I went off trail. The trail looped around the valley and, contrary to my map, continued on west towards the Norwich A and B shafts again -- apparently I had found the other end of the long-abandoned Norwich Mine Interpretive Loop of the North Country Trail. I turned north again to try my luck bushwhacking back to the Valley of the Shafts, as I had mentally named it. As I rounded a small head of land -- what was that? Ruins! In fact, the only ruins that I would see all day. I had managed to stumble upon the Hamilton mine's stamp mill without even trying.

There isn't much there besides some a few threaded rods poking out of very old stone foundations and another stamp head. Those buggers are so heavy that even scrappers didn't find them worth carrying down the long trail out of the bluff. I also found a small field of stamp sand with nothing growing out of it -- a surreal reminder of the distant past, surrounded by the high cliffs of the Norwich Bluff.

Hamilton stamp mill -- the only ruins I found all day
Nearby, there were even more shafts, pits, and trenches in the hillside. I headed back down the trail, intending to return all the way back to Front Run Creek. Along the way, I noticed a rather large earthen dam off to my left (north), which must have dammed the small seasonal stream which ran through the valley. It was hard to imagine how this was ever effective -- although given the lack of success of these mines, perhaps it never was.

At the same time, to my right (south), I noticed even more poor rock pouring down the ridge line. Climbing the ridge and finding the source of the rock required quite a bit of effort. Along the way, I passed a filled-in adit. At the top, sure enough, there was another barred-up shaft, and a series of filled shafts running along the ridge. Wow, this was almost getting to be monotonous -- was there any place that wasn't dug out up here? What, exactly, was holding up the ground that I was standing on?

I finally headed back down to Front Run creek, and this time took the North Country Trail to the east, up the other side of the creek's valley. The trail headed right over an even larger earthen dam which must have once dammed up Front Run Creek, undoubtably built by the Norwich or one of its relative, in one of the many attempts to make the mine pay.

The trail up the side of the valley was very steep and covered with wind-fallen trees, but no mines that I could see. I hoped to make my way to the old Windsor mine along the eastern extension of this bluff. After perhaps half a mile, I came to an excellent lookout, and took the chance to lay back and take a power nap in the sun. It was awesome.

After the nap, time was getting tight, so I abandoned my plan to find the Windsor shafts and headed back down to Front Run creek (which had turned into my base of operations, it seems). At long last, I headed down the creek towards the bottom of the bluffs. Along the way, I noticed some funny looking clearings below the trail. Climbing down, I found two barred-up adits, both with lovely rock walls and gates built out front. No, not a "keep out" kind of gate -- a little wooden gate like you might put on your garden. These were much older than the Forest Service's restoration, and must have been built by the Norwich's old caretakers.

The adits were clearly draining their mines still, as I nearly lost a boot in the muck in front of one of them! These adits ran beneath the trail (formerly a mine road) and were only visible with careful observation.

Welcome to my adit. Make sure you close the gate behind you!
I continued down the steep trail, reached the bottom and headed west back towards the gate and my camp. Taking stock of my provisions, I noticed that I was nearly out of water. I had packed 3 liters just for today, which is usually more than enough for one person, even on a hot day and working hard. Clearly I'd been working harder than I thought! It was about 3:30, and I had been hiking for only around 5 hours.

After a detour to visit a fellow explorer, get a glass of water, and check out the Bergland historical museum, I headed back north towards Houghton. I was exhausted, my legs ached, and I still felt dehydrated, but boy did my soul feel good. Norwich is a wonderful site, and even now -- after all of the Forest Service "improvements" -- it is still a magical place to visit. I highly recommend it to anyone who might be in the area. I plan on returning as soon as possible to explore even more.

Advice for explorers: If you plan on going to the Norwich, channel your inner Boy Scout and be prepared. I used two maps (one from Papineau's book, one of my own drawing), a compass, and a GPS extensively. If you plan to go off trail -- or even just try to follow one of the less maintained trails -- you can easily get lost. Even the best maintained trails are faint at best, and most maps are horribly out-of-scale. I also used a full day's worth of water in 5 hours. The climb up the rock slide was incredibly dangerous, and in retrospect was not the smartest way to do things. My GPS reports the slope as 70%. Do that ridiculous climb at your own risk.

Above all else, know how to read the ground around a mine site. With the "improvements", it's easier than ever to walk onto dangerous ground. If you're not proficient at identifying shafts, adits, subsidence, and the signs of caving ground, don't even think about going off-trail. Help is not close at hand.

Thanks for reading this far. If you have a Norwich story too, feel free to post it in the comments.


nailhed said...

This is awesome--I just now saw this. Thanks for the shout-out too, by the way! :D

I love the shot of the "Miner's Cut"...i didnt know it was called that, but i totally remember it.
I'll always have strong memories of Norwich Bluff and the days i spent there, glad that I saw it before the Forest Service tampered with it by "child-proofing" all those shafts, pfft. by the looks of it, they did such a good job too, lol! that's total BS about throwing the old fence posts in the woods. i'd make a formal complaint about it if theyre still there. make them go back out there and pick it up...i mean if we're paying for these "improvements" with our tax money, we have the right to demand better results. or maybe even write a letter to the Mining Gazette.

"What, exactly, was holding up the ground that I was standing on?"
LOL good question

I'm glad that you seem to have felt the same way after your adventure as i did...the place is definitely magical, but it is rugged as hell. i didnt carry a bunch of water i only had a 1-liter bottle that i kept refilling every time i found a water source, but all that up & down climbing really does it.

DC said...

Yup, Norwich made my "top 10 bushwhacking places" list too. I'd love to spend some more time in the trap hills, hike the North Country trail in the UP, or just generally be up there. I've enjoyed reading your UP trip logs, partly out of sheer vicarious joy!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great blog on the "Bluffs." I've explored the Norwich bluffs many times in the the past (mid-seventies) and always was impressed by the history that was there. Back then the tailings pond from a stamp mill was there towards the back of the valley surrounded by many of the old shafts you mentioned. After climbing Front Run Creek and turning left to enter the valley going towards the tailings pond there were two old foundations on the left (at that time just impressions in the ground) and some friends from the area and I think that one was a blacksmith shop. There were plenty of old pieces of iron within the first foundation.
Returning and taking the North Country Trail east from Front Run Creek you will eventually come to an overlook where you can see the Hole In The Wall across the valley of Whiskey Hollow Creek. I've climbed up into the "Hole" twice and there were wonderful views looking out. The hole only goes in about 15 feetand stops. The last time I climbed into the hole was 1978 with my nephew and the rock hand holds were so bad we had a hard time getting back down. It's probably not safe to climb to it any more.
In 1976 I backpacked 30 miles from the Bergland fire tower to Rockland. At the time the North Country Trail ended at the Hole In The Wall overlook, so it was quite a bushwack up Whiskey Hollow Creek north to find the Victoria Cut Across road to get to Rockland.
Now (2020) I plan to go back to Norwich and do some more exploring with my wife, who has never been there. I'm very excited to go back and use the updated info from this blog.

DC said...

Hi anon, thanks for this great comment! I wish I could have seen Norwich back then, before things were "tamed" so much. I didn't know about the Hole in the Wall overlook and wish I'd gone far enough to see it. I've heard about the "hole" but never made it there.

If you haven't heard of it, you might be interested in the Copper Country Form -- lots of discussions there about these very places: -- you might get some more up-to-date info there as well (since this story is from nearly 10 years ago).

I hope your trip back to Norwich is a great one!

Mileswalker said...

I appreciated the read, thanks for posting. Seems like a great place to spend the day.

DC said...

Thanks, glad you enjoyed the post! :)

Anonymous said...

KH (Anonymous)
The Covid thing prevented my trip back to the Norwich with my wife in 2020, but we finally made it back there last week. It's been 42 years since I've last visited the Norwich Bluffs and oh my gosh has it changed! We hiked up the steep trail along front run creek and saw a gated opening on the left. When I last visited this open adit wasn't barred and you could walk in. It ended about 15 feet and dead ended there, so I'm not sure why they blocked it (maybe to be safe?). I looked for the two walled openings you mentioned below the trail, but I must have been looking in the wrong place and couldn't find them (I'll look more when I return). The mine interpretative trail they added is pretty well marked and we followed that in. The whole area is now so overgrown with brush and you can't see very much alongside the trail. Before you could see across to the other side of this valley. Not wanting to bushwack, I didn't see the Hamilton stamp mill sight and I've seen this several times in the past, although I didn't know that's what it was at the time. I also didn't see the tailings pond beyond it. We hiked the rest of this trail and joined back up with the North Country trail crossing Front run creek and headed east. After a couple miles we got to an overlook above Whiskey Hollow Creek and could see the Hole In The Wall across the valley. The trees in that area too have grown up a lot. Before you could plainly see the "Hole" and the cliff face around it, but now one tree is threatening to block the view. You will need binoculars to get a good view of it now. We returned to the Norwich area and headed back down to our car. Up in the bluff area we didn't see but one old mine shaft, but I will return in late fall when the leaves are down and do some serious bushwacking to locate these and the other features we missed on this trip. If I had my way, I would clear a lot of the brush away from the shaft locations and other historical spots, but that's not for me to decide.
It was really great to get back and refresh my memories of the area. One memory I will never forget was on a day when I hiked up on the bluff by myself and was sitting on the edge enjoying the view. At the time KI Sawyer air base was still open and they regularly held training flights for the pilots in the area. On that particular day I heard this sound coming from my right that kept getting louder and louder. Suddenly a fighter jet flew by level with the top of the bluff and the pilot looked right at me! He must have had spectacular views of all the bluffs in the area as he flew by.
We visited the old cemetery before we left and were quite impressed at how well it was taken care of. There is a bronze plaque on one grave for a world war one veteran that I've seen before, but we were surprised to see more recent graves there. Some of these were from the 1990's. We wondered if these were possibly distant relatives of the long deceased residents of the Norwich mine location. It adds another mystery to the history of this area.
I want to thank you for sharing this blog and allowing me to share my "two cents worth" on experiences I've had in the Norwich. This is such an interesting and historical place. I hope others will continue to explore there and share their experiences as well.

DC said...

KH, thanks so much for sharing your story! (I just saw it -- not sure how I missed it.) Please let me know what you find if/when you get back there when the brush is down. (Also, what an experience with the jet!)

Pris said...

You are not going to believe how long I've saved this link! I never had a chance to get out that way to explore and now I can barely make it to my mail box.
I'm in Illinois now and my ex is in Lake Linden. We once had a home in Kearsarge and the mine piles behind our house became my playground so-to-speak. I'm a 'rockhound' and my first 'rock' was a gorgeous piece of copper given to me when I was about 7 years old.
We used to camp in a number of places in both northern Wisconsin and the UP when we were younger and before we bought what he calls "Big Red". My favorite park was McClain's State Park when they had the bunnies. I found a nice chunk of an Amethyst agate the day after we set up camp in a storm. There was snow on the ground when we got up and was the first time I was touched by Michigan snow but not the last.
I am glad you have written about the UP, it's a special place and holds many memories of over 30 years for me and I think Chuck (my ex) also.
Thank you, Priscilla

DC said...

Priscilla, glad you liked it! The UP is a special place... the Copper Country is even specialer (is that a word?!).

Joe said...

Went there this Monday for an afternoon excursion. At first debated climbing the rock face right above the adit, which was easy to find thanks to the cool breeze coming out of the rock pile. Decided it was too steep and too hot out, so took Victoria road to the gate on forest road 642. Hiked up that until we found the foundation for the old fire tower. Just before that we had found the sign for the trail, but since 642 wasn't on there we weren't exactly sure where we were. Headed down the little trail past the fire tower and came across a capped shaft (full of water) with old wooden fencing around it. Just past that we found the main trail where the NCT branches off. We decided to head west first in hopes of coming out somewhere above the adit below, but that didn't happen. Followed the trail along a deep valley until we found the other junction with the NCT. There was a slightly better map here, so we stayed on the loop trail. Crossed a small dam before it started heading downhill. Looked on the gps quick and realized we were going to miss the upper area of the norwich mine, but decided to continue onward. Came across a sign that explained the horse driven hoist for a mine, but we couldn't locate it. A bit further down we came across some stamp heads, other various metal remains, and a large iron pipe, all relatively close to another capped shaft with wooden fencing around it. This one looked dry. There was also a odd looking clearing close by that looked like it may have been a shaft, but turned out to be the remains of a miners home that you mentioned. After that we saw another dam, and eventually the junction with the mule trail heading down to the base of the bluff, but due to it getting late and the sun setting, we decided to continue on the loop and head back up to the first junction. Headed back down 642 to the truck.

Unfortunately we didn't see anything of the other things you'd mentioned on this trip. We're hoping to head back in the fall when there are less leaves and see if that helps any. Would love to get in touch and share pictures and gps coordinates if you're interested, we tagged everything we found.

DC said...

Hi Joe, glad you had a good trip! I would also be interested in photos and locations. You can email me at dcclark (at) gmail (dot) com.

venturesomeminority said...

I climbed up to the Hole in the Wall in the late 1990s. It was still very accessible, with some assists from companions. Tough, but not impossible. There was some poison ivy below it, but I wasn't allergic at the time, so it was okay (not the case, now). Dan Urbanski and our crew searched for access for quite a while, but eventually found it. It was a happy day! I'd like to know which mine it was associated with. There is another adit lower on the bluff, along a former road cut in Whiskey Hollow. None of the mine maps I've seen show mines in Whiskey Hollow. That place is so special to me. Dan, an amazing friend and photographer/explorer/botonist/historian, died in the early 2003. This was one of our best finds, done before the internet, GPS, etc. We sat many nights with paper topos and photos from Norwich to find it.

DC said...

That's a great story! I would love to see the Hole in the Wall myself, but never did make it. I never knew Dan, but I've long admired his photography and work with the Porcupine Mountains.