Allison Mine hike, circa 1973 (yes, friggin’ 1973!)
And now for something completely different.
In the early 1970s I was obsessed with finding an old mine in the San Gabriel Mountains of California called the Stanley-Miller Mine. This was probably my first big quest and perhaps what started my ongoing affliction of hunting for weird shit
I had studied historic USGS maps of the area which showed several old trails going to the Stanley-Miller. One of these trails traversed the easterly slopes of the East Fork of the San Gabriel River Canyon, and well…It needed checking out. Along the way it passed by a mine called the Allison Mine. Didn’t know much about it as this was the days of libraries, not the Internet.
Being young, stupid and apparently insensitive to trail miles or altitude gain this seemed like a potentially fun outing. I talked a friend of mine, Phil Budig into going along as he was equally stupid.
So sometime in the winter of 1973 Phil and I hiked up out of Heaton Flat to Heaton Saddle, which looks down into Coldwater Canyon. From there we spotted an old trail which essentially stayed level and went westerly then easterly around a ridge spine into the canyon the Allison Mine was in. The trail was pretty overgrown but mostly decent. Eventually we ended up at the Allison Mine.
OMG was there stuff here. Not just stuff, but STUFF! There was a covered workshop with no walls, which still had tools hanging on the supporting posts. Behind it was a cabin with all sorts of interesting things in it. The cabinets hanging inside on the walls of this cabin were covered with graffiti from the 1940s and 50s. There were phone numbers written with four digits. I kick myself today for not getting pictures of this. It appeared most of the operations were from the 1930s.
Nearby was a second cabin with more artifacts. Adjacent to it was a large one cylinder gas engine, connected to a generator by a belt that had rotted away. In fact, on the property there were four to six of these one cylinder motors of various sizes. There were ore car tracks going into the mine, a trestle and ore dump. Below it in the canyon was a ball mill for grinding the gold ore.
We quickly lost interest in looking for the trail that continued on to the Stanley-Miller and spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the Allison. It was really something.
What was very unusual for this trip was that I had brought along a Super 8 movie camera. It was a really shitty camera which I had purchased for reasons I have long forgot. I also forgot about the film until only a few years ago when I found it in a box. Not quite sure what was on it, I sent it off to be converted to a DVD and was amazed to see the Allison Mine of so many years ago. Of course a shitty camera equals a shitty film, but at least it shows what the Allison was like. Why is this important? Ahem…
Probably around 1976, about three years after my first Allison Mine visit with Phil, I made a solo trip back to the location. This was my second visit to the site. I forget exactly why, as I had already found the Stanley-Miller (Ironically I found it on the day I ran into a ranger that morning who said he doubted it existed any more, but that’s another story and so worth all the hunting!). I went the same route in and eventually saw the ball mill below the trail. Continuing on a little further I reached the stream that I knew ran next to the cabins, but there’s nothing there, just a clearing. Hmmm…Perhaps I’m mis-remembering and the cabins were a little up the stream. So up I go. Still nothing. At this point I’m really confused and a little disorientated. It all SEEMS like it’s where the cabins were, but clearly they’re not so I must be mistaken. But some of the mining stuff was still there and I knew that it had been next to the cabins……Then I realized….The cabins were gone.
I don’t mean gone like in people taking souvenirs over time. They were gone and their locations rehabilitated to blend into the existing vegetation. All that fantastic stuff…vanished. Tools, motors, pots pans, foundations….gone.
Now the public generally sucks and there are always some assholes who will do a number on interesting things in the middle of nowhere. That’s one of the reason I get cagy on this website when I write about unusual places. But to make a site completely vanish and look like it was never there? Well that takes an outfit with substantial resources, an outfit like, oh I don’t know,…..the US Forest Service. At the time I still had the naive notion the Forest Service were the good guys in the funny hats who protected our public lands from the assholes. As I was standing there where the Allison cabins used to be my world view took a major shift and I realized there were more assholes out there than I had even considered.
Now I have no idea why the Forest Service would do such a thing, but since then I have heard of other cabins they’ve removed. Usually the concern was over squatters or something like that. It was deep within the Angelus National Forest. In those pre-Internet days it was hard to get answers and it usually involved a lot of time with telephone books. I had more interesting things to do. But I never forgot it.
So below I’ve linked to the YouTube video of the Super 8 movie I took during the hike. Phil and I were young, stupid and generally idiots so much of the film is cringeworthy. But it shows at least in a grainy way what the Allison Mine once was. These days the Allison Mine is much better known and people visit the site via a couple routes (Google it). And none of this folks know what they are missing. But if they stumble across this video, maybe they will. And should any of them later come across a fantastic hidden cabin somewhere in the woods, maybe, just maybe, a remembrance of things long gone will help them to STFU.
But probably not…..