The Seven Dwarfs Mine from Last Grand Adventure
Glenn W. Taylor, and his sons Glenn E. and Robert W. Taylor, who own the Victoria Copper Mine located in the center of the Dolly Varden mountains near Currie, Nevada, gave us cause to stop our wild flight for a day of underground adventure.
When I drove our six-up-hitch into the parking lot of the Currie Store the Taylor family came out to examine the covered wagons and burro team; while my eyes just popped from my head at three huge, colorful boulders dressed in the garb of peacocks. Such beauty! The huge stones fronting the store contained blue azurite, green malachite, and peacock hued bornite in chalcopyrite.
I introduced myself as “The Last of the Jackass Prospectors a writer for ‘Rock & Gem’ magazine ” and asked where the ore had come from.
Glenn Taylor, Sr. replied, “I have a copper mine called ‘The Victoria’ up in the hills behind us, and I sure could use your burros to pack out some ore!” Then he offered to take us to see the Victoria and I jumped at the chance.
Leaving our trusty burros corralled in the care of some new friends I headed out to the mine site with Glenn and Carol in the “mine truck” while Glenn’s sons, Glenn, Jr. and Robert, went ahead of us in another truck.
“Up in the hills behind us” turned out to be 15 miles into the Dolly Varden Mountains on a graded dirt road through picturesque scenery with eagles flying overhead and deer and elk hidden in the breaks. With so much to look at, and pleasant conversation about the mine, the ride seemed short, and we were soon on Glenn’s property.
The three of us in the mine truck stopped at the site of the ghost town “Old Victoria” first, while Glenn’s sons went ahead to alert the guards at the mine, and open the gates.
There were no buildings left at the town site but it was easy to tell where they had been from the way copper ore had been stacked up around them. Glenn showed me some boulders at “Old Victoria” that were identical to those that I had seen at the store and we hiked some ridges and explored eroded red rock canyons of intrusive volcanic rock where junipers, cedar, and pinion pines grow out of ground littered with specular hemitite rosettes, and jasper.
Loath to leave the beautiful place we climbed along ledges of white marble, and wonder stone, as well as apple green and sky-blue semi-translucent chert. While we walked we filled our pockets with rocks and asked a great many questions.
Glenn didn’t seem to mind. He answered every question we asked and then told us that he had found gem silica worth over $1,500 a carat in the Victoria mine!
That statement worked as an impetus and we hurried back to the truck eagerly headed to higher ground.
The guards had the gates open for us when we arrived and Robert and Glenn, Jr. were loaded down with buckets of samples that they had garnered in the short time we had been apart.
They took us “over the edge” of one of the stock piles to show us larger samples of copper pitch and bornite before we walked with them over piles of oxides and then mounds of sulfides.
Both of the young men had a good eye for finding prize specimens. As Carol and I traveled over the ground with our buckets in hand, bending low in order to find the best, Robert handed me a sample of almost perfect azurite crystals and as we admired it, Glenn, Jr. came in on our left with an oval piece of lumpy malachite that would polish down to lovely circles of varied green hues!
We took an hour to go over the stock and tailing piles and then the five of us drove to the mouth of the Victoria, passing an old open pit mine along the way.
When we got to the mouth of the mine, Glenn, Sr. unlocked the antique Iron Gate blocking the ore tunnel. Leaving one truck behind at the entry, we all donned hard hats and with three of us (Robert, Carol, and I) on the tailgate of the mine truck and Glenn, Sr. driving, we entered the mine.
Riding backwards like that down into the darkness I saw the sunlit tunnel mouth grow smaller, and smaller, and then disappear altogether. The headlights of the truck lit up lengths of old iron strapping that interlaced across the ceiling of granite above us. It had been placed there years ago to shore up the roof, but the years had taken their toll. It was now rusted through in places and was no longer able to do the work it had been assigned.
About a quarter of a mile later, Glenn parked the truck at “the lunch counter” where fresh water, food stuffs, candles, matches, and extra batteries were stored for the use of underground adventurers.
We disembarked there and as we checked our flashlights, Glenn told us the story of how he and his sons had first entered the mine by way of a vertical shaft using ropes and ladders to descend to this very spot. And, how he accidentally came to the end of the rope just above this level and fell! It was a short fall that scared him almost to death! He landed on a rock shelf just a step away from the next vertical shaft. If he had fallen just a few inches to either side he would have plummeted to his death three levels below!
We shivered at the near tragedy and it was a sober party of explorers that turned away from the lunch counter stoically prepared to venture further into the dark. Glenn’s sons led the way and we followed along a floor littered with fallen rock, climbing steadily and quietly behind our guides with Glenn, Sr. bringing up the rear. “Low ceiling,” came whispering back to us and we ducked our heads, and then bent double to finish the climb. We were in a small grotto surrounded on three sides by the main ore body, and it was a beautiful sight!
Glenn, Jr., and Robert climbed a slope of rock that lead to the ceiling and began to use their rock hammers to pry out some samples of malachite rosettes and azurite in copper pitch.
I began to collect some of the same ore but then became mesmerized by the hundreds of (pyrite) crystals located above us in the touchable ceiling. Huge copper and iron pyrite crystals studded the ceiling more thickly that stars in the velvet of the night sky! I was instantly reminded of the diamond mine in the animated version of Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and I began to whistle softly,
“I dig, dig, dig, dig…
In my mine the whole day through,
I dig, dig, dig, dig…
It’s what I like to do,
It ain’t no trick, to get rich quick,
In a mine, in a mine,
Where a million diamonds shine!”
I had explained to Carol and the men while we were still topside that even though we’d join in the fun and gather up all the rocks that took our fancy we could not take the rocks with us on our journey.
That was okay with the Taylor family; they assured us that they could sell the rocks in the Currie store, so we helped to fill two large buckets with ore samples before we left that dead-end tunnel. Robert, refusing my help, carried those loaded buckets all the way back to the truck. As I watched him swaying away into the darkness ahead of us with a loaded bucket in each hand, I teased Glenn, Sr. about not needing my burros to carry the ore as long as he had Robert along to haul the load!
We reached the truck without mishap and once there, the truck was turned around and backed further down into the dark. While the truck was going in backwards, Robert, Carol, and I were actually going in face forward as we sat on the lowered tailgate of the truck.
We couldn’t see much. But I could tell from the sounds of our travel that the floor of the tunnel was muddy. Suddenly the tires began to lose traction, and we came to a slippery, sliding halt with mud squelching beneath the tires.
We were at the edge of an underground lake! We hopped off into the mud to have a closer look and Glenn, Jr. pointed out a rubber raft lying crumpled up against the wall of the tunnel. “That’s the S.S. Minnow,” he said, and told us about how he had explored the lake on the rubber raft.
He had gotten out to the middle of the lake when he heard a metal clank and felt the water surge around him as something submerged itself in the lake. His first thought was that there was a monster in the deeps and then as he sat undecided on what he should do, there was a sound of stressed metal and thump against the far wall of the cavern. He rowed silently forward straining to see beyond the light of his miners lamp.
When he reached the back of the lake he was amazed at what he found there. An old ore car was backed up against the wall of the lake, sitting at an angle on a slanted surface beneath a stream of water cascading down the mine wall. As he watched, the water level in the ore car reached three quarters full, and the car tipped dumping the water into the lake. When empty it righted itself to be refilled. A spooky thing to find in the black, cold confines of the cavern… Archimedes’s principals of fulcrum balance at work accidentally in an ancient copper mine!
We laughed at the shivers Glenn’s story induced and then he explained the rest of his rafting adventure. It seems that the raft was over-inflated and on his way back it exploded out from beneath him, plunging him into the icy water, and putting out his light. He was able to reach the shore before the cold water completely drained his strength; and of course, no one ever goes into the mine alone, so he had help as soon as he reached shore.
Standing in the cold at the edge of the lake, and listening intently we could just hear the ore car off in the distance, as it dumped its load of water with a metallic clank and righted itself with the springs squeaking in protest. Glenn, Sr. laughed, “Someday I’m going to put in a deep sea monster, to scare my visitors!”
After several more hours of exploring the mine, our lights began to dim and rather than replace the batteries and continue, we decided that we would have to leave the underground wonderland.
The mine truck was riding a bit lower to the ground on the way up out of the mine, because it was loaded down with sample buckets. Resting my back against them, I worked at keeping my dangling legs safely up away from the sloping tunnel floor. I was sorry to leave the mine and finish our grand adventure at the Victoria. I had gotten used to the darkness around me and was feeling warm from the exercise and excitement. It was almost a disappointment to ride out into the autumn sunlight again, but Carol wasn’t a bit dismayed. She slipped on her sunglasses and trotted off to find “just one or two more rocks.”