Sally and I hiked in the footsteps of miners who searched for their fortunes way up on the higher peaks in the Tioga Pass Area. The May Lundy Mine was one of the few gold mines in this area that paid off big. It paid off big for me because it is full of old mining stuff.
Where: Inyo National Forest, Hoover Wilderness
Distance: 7.16 Miles
Elevation Range: 7,807′ – 9,679′
Date: September 27, 2016
Maps: Big Alkali, Buckeye Ridge, Falls Ridge and June Lake Topographic Quad
Dog Hike? Maybe
Sally and I had headed across Tioga Road, north on Highway 395 through the town of Lee Vining, then up Lundy Lake Road to the Mono County Campground for a few days to feel the beginnings of fall.
Our trail had a name, the Lakes Canyon Trail, and it started at the south side of the Lundy Lake dam.
You can easily see the old road system from across the lake on Lundy Lake Rd. The portion of the road that you see tied in with a section heading up from the town of Lundy, then headed up the canyon to the May Lundy Mine. The Lakes Canyon Trail utilizes that old road that headed up to the May Lundy Mine.
A toll road was started in November 1880 with work stopping during the winter, and completed in August 1881. It was only wide enough for one wagon but there were 20 turnouts in order that teams could pass each other. A toll house, a stone building with an attached stable, was at the top of the grade where the road turns into the mouth of Lake Canyon. And you wonder what the tolls were?
For one wagon, 2 animals and return: $1.50
For one wagon, 1 animal and return: $1.00
For each additional span of animals and return: .75
For each additional wagon and return: .75
For each saddle animal and return: .50
For each pack animal and return: .15
For each led animal and return: .15
For loose stock, each animal: .10
For loose sheep or hogs, each animal: .03
Along with Sally, my hiking companions on this adventure were Margy and Wayne.
We started heading up the old road, which turned up a fork of Mill Creek. I was really surprised at what good shape the road was but we were headed up to what was once a bustling community. We were heading for the remains of the May Lundy Mine but there were several other old mines in this area with names of Dick Turpin, Lucky Morton, Jackson, Bryant, Lakeview, Josie Green, Little Emma, Curry and Free Gold.
At the top of this road and beneath the May Lundy Mine, a townsite was laid out in November of 1880. On November 27, 1880, the local Lundy newspaper, the Homer Index, reported that “it is expected that quite a town will be built up there in the spring, as it is almost certain that two or three mills will be erected as soon as the winter is over.” Well, the town never happened but it was a happening place. In August 1881, the Kelly sisters, Rosa and Maggie, opened a boarding house. At the same time an Inn known as the Oneida House was operating. By June 1, 1882, the Homer Index stated that it now had “three drinking saloons, two boarding houses, a laundry, and new houses and habitable cabins are springing up in every grove.”
There was a telephone line that ran from Lundy, where it shared space with the telegraph office, to the May Lundy Mine then farther on up to the Great Sierra Mine at Bennettville. The poles were placed in November 1881, the wire was stretched in February 1882 and it was working great that March. This is really an amazing feat because the telephone was invented only a few years prior to this in 1877. A newspaper article on March 11, 1882 said that it is the highest telephone line in the world. “The line is about nine miles in length, ascends 4,245 feet from Lundy, crosses the Mount Warren divide at an elevation of 12,250 feet above sea level, descends 3,750 feet to Lee Vining Creek, and again ascends 800 feet to Bennett City, which is 9,300 feet above sea level.” The line was used to order supplies for the mines and emergencies. The fare was $1.00 for the call.
Some of these telephone poles are still standing today! Well, kind of standing, with some help . . .
We starting seeing some nice fall color at around the 8,400 foot elevation. The aspens were beautiful!
The old road took us to the top of a hill that was made up of processed ore waste, known as tailings, from the mine. We could look down the draw back to where we had come from. We had found old mining things along the road as we got closer to the old mine but now we were seeing lots of old stuff.
We never could have guessed how rich this area was with old things.
The May Lundy Mine is located just below Mount Snowden, 11,016′ elevation. It is said that it was discovered in the late summer of 1879 and named after a daughter of William O. Lundy whom the town of Lundy was named after.
I always get curious about the people who lived in these mining communities and can’t help but do some more snooping. I did a little research and discovered that people have confused the Lundy’s over the years. May Lundy is on the 1880 Lundy, Mono County census living with her parents Otho J. and Priscilla Lundy, along with siblings Almora and Minnie. Per that census, Otho J. was born about 1828 Ohio and was keeping a Boarding House.
Going back to the 1870 census, the Otho J. Lundy family, along with older daughter Ella is living in Kern County. Otho is a farmer. On the 1860 census, he is living with his family in Elkhorn, San Joaquin County and a farmer.
Jumping forward to 1900, Otho is enumerated alone in Fresno County, says he is married and working as the manager of a poultry farm. On the 1910 census, he is living in Fresno County with his daughter Ella Lundy who is widowed. He says he is still married but his wife isn’t there with him. As a side note, Ella was born 1858 in Hite Cove, Mariposa County.
OK, a little about May Lundy. She was born May 19, 1868 in Nevada, married Fred Justi Dow 1894, had one son named Kenneth and she died December 13, 1967 Fresno County. I discovered that she had a couple of travel records associated with her and one of them was sailing from Havana, Cuba to New York in 1926 where she lists her place of birth as Amoura, Nevada. I believe this was probably a typo and it meant to say Aurora.
OK, here is where I think folks got confused. Otho and Priscilla Lundy’s daughter Ella married a man named William O. Lundy on July 27, 1877. William O. Lundy was born 1853 Michigan and his parents were James Martin Lundy and Abigail Peck. These families are shown on the 1880 census in Lundy in the same household.
Otho Johnson Lundy’s parents were Enoch Lundy, born 1788 Grayson County, Virginia and Ann Collins. James Martin Lundy’s parents were the same! So, Ella H. Lundy, sister to May Lundy, married her first cousin.
And William O. Lundy didn’t have any daughters that I can find. I located his grave in Fresno County. He died October 30, 1905. He had three sons and on the 1910 census his widowed wife, Ella, even says that she had three children, three of them still living. But by the 1920 census the census confuses things a bit. Ella is widowed, living in Fresno with her mother, and there is a person named Fletcher, born 1887 Kentucky and the census taker says it is her daughter. I think it is more likely that it is the wife of her son Charles though. On the 1930 census, Ella is widowed and living with her widowed sister Almora aka Allie.
Hope I didn’t make you dizzy with all of that. The bottom line is that the story about who the May Lundy Mine was named for appears to be slightly off to me. May was a sister in law and a niece of William O. Lundy and not his daughter. There was a real May Lundy that the mine was named after though and she died December 13, 1967 and is buried at Sanger, Fresno County.
They were driving tunnels into the claim the summer of 1880 and by August 1880, the ore vein that they were after became larger. Building were erected at the mine site, including a boarding house, a lodging house, blacksmith shop and a storehouse. The boarding house employed a Chinese cook to feed 50-60 miners in 1880-1881. On October 1, 1880, the Lundy mill began producing bullion, shipping weekly shipments estimated at $5,000 except during winter.
In spring 1882, they put in a tramway to bring the material in carts from the mine down to a landing. It is unbelievable that some of the wooden towers of the tramway are still standing and one even has an ore cart still hanging from it. The ore carts landed on rails and the ore was packed down to Lundy on mules until the wagon road was completed Can you spot the remains of the old tramway?
Productive mining occurred until the mine was suddenly shut down on August 21, 1884 due to attachments related to depts estimated from $38,000 to $45,000. It was eventually sold to George W. Butterfield, a long time Lundy resident and work started back up in 1887 and 1888. In 1891, the mine was bought and worked by the Jackson and Lakeview Mining Company and in 1894 they were operating a 10 stamp mill at the base of the tramway. In 1900, the Crystal Lake Gold Mining Company was organized and now owned the property. They expanded the mill at the base of the tramway to 20 stamps and built additional buildings.
An avalanche in January 1911 destroyed the machine shop, warehouse and boarding house at the mine. At this time it was estimated that the mine had produced $3 million dollars. The Crystal Lake Gold Mining Company folded in 1915 and the property then belonged to Thomas R. Hanna, a son-in-law of John Muir. In 1935, he received a loan from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) for $48,000 and he built a mill on the shore of Crystal Lake, a two story bunkhouse and a new power plant. His operation continued until gold mining was shut down by the government in 1941 as a non-essential industry. In 1942, the RFC foreclosed on the loan and that summer all of the equipment was sold. In 1945, the mine now belonged to E.F. Smith and he announced big plans that never came about. They say that there is still plenty of gold up there.
What a big surprise to see this wooden dam at the base of Oneida Lake still standing!
Large pipes remained near the base of the dam that were used to channel water.
From the dam, we could look south and see Lake Oneida. Ada Lake is a smaller lake beyond that.
The old trail didn’t end at the May Lundy Mine. The main trail continued up through Dore Pass, then over to the Bennettville area. I found a reference to this trail in One Hundred Years in Yosemite by Carl P. Russell, stating “a trail was built from Tioga over the divide from Leevining Canyon into Lake Canyon, thence down Mill Creek Canyon to Lundy. In 1881 Archie Leonard, renowned as a Yosemite guide and ranger, put on a ten-horse saddle train between Lundy and Yosemite. The trip was made in a day and a half, and the fare was $8.00 one way.” The earliest topographic map of this area that I could locate was 1901 and sure enough, it has that trail through Dore Pass on it, following the crest down toward what is the trail to Gardisky Lake today, across Lee Vining Creek and hitting a dirt road that went to Tioga aka Bennettville. Mystery solved!!
Based on other sources, they may have also gone up to the Warren Crest and down Warren Canyon. Remember, this was long before Tioga Road was ever built and these were the routes they used to get to the Great Sierra Mine at Dana City, Bennettville and the mines in the Tioga Pass area. Here is a Google Earth image to help show the relationship between Lundy, the May Lundy Mine and the Bennettville/Dana City mining community.
As we walked around, the old buildings appear to have been hit by an avalanche at least once, maybe more.
We came across lots and lots of other abandoned mining equipment.
Was there a kiln that made bricks here? Sure looks like it to me.
I spotted some telephone poles that seemed to be leading somewhere.
They led to this flattened building that I think may have been the office.
We headed down toward Crystal Lake where we had spotted a larger partially collapsed building. This had been a newer two story bunkhouse that had been constructed circa 1935.
Cyanide tanks were used to process the gold from the May Lundy Mine, as was the case with 47,000 abandoned mines in California are present on public lands. Arsenic and lead are heavy metals that are commonly found at abandoned gold mines. Both arsenic and lead pose a potential human and ecological health hazard. This health risk at abandoned mine sites on public lands has been quantified as 100 ppm for arsenic and 2,000 ppm for lead, as the maximum safe values for limited incidental exposure that would occur most during recreational use. Heavy metal hazard is commonly found in tailings. While high concentrations of arsenic are often found in tailings, some tailings also have high concentrations of lead.
Signs along Crystal Lake warned of high concentrations or arsenic and lead.
We headed back, staying above the lake’s shores. We saw areas adjacent to the lake that looked like remains of old building foundations.
Heading back down the trail the same way that we had come up, through yellowing aspens.
There is an excellent book written about Lundy that I cannot recommend enough if you can get your hands on it. It is Lundy by Alan H. Patera. It is one of a series of books from Western Places written by Patera that give a lot of detail about old mining communities and ghost towns, especially on the east side of the Sierra. I utilized his book on much of my research for this blog and am very thankful for him sharing his research.
This area can be a great place to hike with your dog, if your dog is a good fit. The rocks on this hike aren’t as bad as in other areas of the Hoover Wilderness. Just over the mountain, it can be tough on a dog’s feet, wearing the paw pads down, with the possibility of slicing them. I carry boots with me when I bring Sally, just in case she gets too much wear or an injury to her foot. The water sources that a dog can access are good year round but remember that the area around Crystal Lake is contaminated with arsenic and lead, so you will want to keep a tight rein on your dog. This is also an area that has Bubonic Plague, so need to keep your dogs away from squirrels and rodents. Below are the dog rules for the Hoover Wilderness:
- Dogs are allowed in the Hoover Wilderness, but are not allowed in wilderness areas in adjacent national parks.
- Pet food must be stored to the same standard as people food. In areas where use of a bear resistant food storage container is required, pet food must be stored in your container.
- Leashes protect dogs from becoming lost and from wilderness hazards such as porcupines, mountain lions, and sick, injured or rabid animals.
- Unleashed dogs may intimidate other hikers and their dogs, depriving them of a peaceful wilderness experience.
- Unleashed dogs may harass, injure and sometimes kill wildlife.
- A leashed dog’s keen senses can enhance your awareness of nearby wildlife or other visitors.
Map and Profile:
Prior Blogs in this Area:
Patera, Alan, Lundy, Western Places, Lake Grove, Oregon, 2000
Carl P. Russell, One Hundred Years in Yosemite; The Story of a Great Park and Its Friends 2d. ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1962), 2d. ed. copyright 1947 by The Regents of the University of California. LCCN 47-030335. http://www.yosemite.ca.us/library/one_hundred_years_in_yosemite/mining.html