Wednesday, September 18, 2013


It was a quiet day, though the morning started with a lurking visitor to my hummingbird feeder.

i could hear the hummingbirds yelling (squeakily) at the invaded feeder

A pretty big mantis can actually take down a hummingbird (yes, it's true, not a crazy snopes story), so I'm not sure what this guy's intentions were, but he got moved to a nearby rose bush.

But later Major and I went and took a relaxing walk around the neighborhood. We've had some nice bareback forest jaunts, and little rides, but still taking it easy with no plans this year. So we had a really exciting walk:

Finding a nice bunch of grass to eat.

just take the whole weed with you

Major likes to check out the better addresses.

this place looks good, let's move here

And find a nice tasting moss rock.

mmm, moss

Playing with buddy Cisco.

it's all fun and games till someone loses a fly mask

Then back home to a tiny flake of crack (alfalfa). But beware, someone else is lurking and  watching, biding his time, ready to take down larger prey.

lurking below

creeping above

I see my next prey, just give me time...

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

empire mine

While "empire mine" may be something a succinct Darth Vader would say, it's also a local state park in Grass Valley, CA. I went exploring on a recent strangely cloudy day (when it was too chilly to go to the river like my original plan). You can ride horses here and I wanted to see the trails, look around, as it had been a few years since I'd been.

Empire Mine, established 1850

Not a lot changes at an historic park, but I had forgotten how cool it really is. Empire Mine is the oldest, largest richest gold mine in California. (If you want to read more, their site or this history site have lots of info and pictures). Now old in California may make other people laugh, it was established in 1850. (I read a great blog out of England, White Horse Pilgrim, where they ride trails the Romans and Celts once trod. Makes me realize how "new" the new world really is)

But it is still old and cool to me. First we took to the trails, just to check it out. The ranger said that this one trail got a bit hilly and rocky. So we walked the criss-crossing trail system  (walked about 4 miles total, there were 7 miles of trail open, much of it overlapping) and encountered about 20 large rocks, easily navicable. "Are these the rocks he was talking about?" we asked ourselves. Needless to say, the trails are very easy, for horse or human.

a path well traveled

hidden gear
well maintained path
i love bridges, what is ahead?

lovely small creek
a hint of fall
not a hill, a pile of mine tailings

But the trails were lovely, even with a hint of fall in the air. And you could search for the hidden mine equipment, half buried and forgotten. A pile of dirt is actually the mine tailings. Some of this park is closed off due to toxic levels of arsenic and lead used to extract the last bits of gold from the dirt. But many of the old buildings are still there, some restored and lots of old equipment.

stamp mill base, had to withstand the giant steel machine, crushing rocks into smaller rocks all day

mine buildings and equipment

carts, gears, unknown stuff and more
assay office, gold per ounce 1850: $20, 2013: $13

giant boulders for a bannister, how cool!

You can wander the buildings, peer inside their workshops (too dark for photos). This was a working mine for about 100 years. In that time they created 357 miles of tunnels, down 11,000 feet. The miners (mostly from Cornwall, England, who already knew hard-rock mining) rode the sled down into the mine every morning, with all their provisions for the day. Almost all the mine shafts are now filled with water, though you can peer down one shaft and imagine the depths and darkness below.

sled for rocks, and men

down into the mine shaft

not an easy life

And it wasn't just men in the tunnels. They had mules to pull the carts. An informational panel made me sad for the mules, but did say some lived up to 30 years. But some in darkness, with no sun or grass. Our luxury horses are sure lucky.

the mule's last sunlight before his ride down into the shaft, all trussed up

hard working mule, pulled up to 8 carts, imagine the weight

There is an amazing juxtaposition between the mine area and the mine owners home and grounds. The mine owner wanted an English cottage style, this was their small retreat (they lived in the San Francisco area) .

the english cottage

The entire inside of the house is paneled in clear-heart redwood. There are leather curtains to dampen the noise from the stamp machine, which crushed rocks most hours of the day. The walls and floor are also extra thick to reinforce from the pounding and noise less than 1/4 mile away. Truly how the other half lived.

and old child's toy from inside the house
windows with small panes to create strength in the glass to resist the vibration
courtyard, imagine your carriage waiting

rose arbor would be amazing in bloom

the mine was a rich place…for some…

Overall a fun adventure. With horses maybe a day trip, not for training miles, just for fun. The trails do hook up with another larger trail system, but that is to be explored another day.

closed mine shaft, but so intriguing...