Thursday, November 5, 2015

Galena King Mine

This is a little delayed (all right, a lot delayed) as a post but here goes... Jeff is still trying to go caving here in NM even though it is a nightmare getting permits, permission to go on land, and everything seems to be 6 hours away and gated. I gave up since I have no tolerance for groups that blab about doing stuff but rarely DO stuff. I have a rule that the activity has to be at least as much time as the time to get there.  I want to keep my Puerto Rico caving adventures intact since caving there was the most exciting and wonderful stuff I've ever done! Going into a short dust hole here just isn't on my list of enjoyable things to do. That said, a speaker came to the cave group meeting and gave a talk about the Galena King Mine. They mainly wanted help to install a gate across the openings and maybe get someone to rappel down a shaft to do some exploration. The gates are now up and as of today no one has even tried to explore or drop the shaft.

We met the Friends of Galena Mine people at the Kirtland Air Force Base and proceeded to get the background checks needed to be able to cross the base onto private land to enter the mine. It took an hour or more for everyone to get the paperwork and then off we went! We drove across the base and then loaded up the ATVs with cement, buckets, water etc so we would have supplies to close up the entrance to the mine. It was pretty warm out and sunny. We hiked the mile or so up (it is at 7,000 feet) and waited around ready to help. The group was around 10 people or so. The mine is private and people had somehow been finding their way in to break off minerals and haul them out. I am not sure where they would come from but the gate project was an effort to preserve the history of this mine and its booty. There is a nice group of people working on preserving the history here. They are also getting University students involved in the preservation and study of the mine.

This mine is small. We stood around a bunch and tried to be useful. We got some background information on the mine that I don't remember much of. It was first mined around 1910 for galena (type of lead) and later for fluorite. We were there to help out and take a tour hoping to see some of the fluorite veins. There was a temperature drop and it it started to snow! Weather is really unpredictable and 30 degree temperature shifts are pretty common. We did not, however, come prepared for this! I huddled inside the dusty shaft waiting for gate progress to be made so we could go in further and see the thing and get out of the cold! Several people left and in the end only a few of us were there to tour the thing.

Mines are not like caving. This one wasn't anyway. There is no climbing, route finding, water, etc. What WAS interesting though were the veins of intact fluorite. We went into the bottom entrance. The bottles here are set up so you can tell if a person or animal has entered (or may still be inside) the cave. With the dust you would be able to see bear footprints easily or people prints.

The total mine would take 15 minutes at most to walk through but we tried to stretch it out looking for cracks and crevices and holes (none). There was one spot at the end of the mine that had exceptionally large veins of purple fluorite in the shaft. We spent some time looking at that area and also taking some chunks of the stuff that had fallen (we had permission). Minerals are really neat! The fluorite was purple and almost bluish. At one point a black light was used to see show the mineral in a different way. We exited and headed up to the top entrance. There were mounds of white fluorite at its entrance. Flourite loses its color in sunlight. Still though, the white/clear stuff was neat too. We took some samples when we were done before heading out. We had some nice biggish chunks to carry out. Galena is very heavy and a small chunk could be 7 or 8 pounds! Once you find something though you just want it and keep walking (and resting) to get it out!

The best part of this trip was the nice people (and the little mouse a couple photos up) . I personally have a problem with the "don't share information" and "restrict access" mentality but I can understand it. It was the same thing with diving spots in the NW and even Puerto Rico is restricting access to its caves to "preserve" them. How many people actually get off their butts and explore stuff like this any way? The other nice thing is that we got pretty fired up about the minerals and have joined the Albuquerque Gem and Mineral Club which actively goes out rock and mineral hounding every month. The trips are to private mineral stakes or require permits but the group is with it and active. It'll let us visit places we wouldn't otherwise see in the state and start our extensive rock and mineral collection. We are even going to build a special shelf in the courtyard to display our finds. So as always we find ourselves doing things we never thought about...which leads to more things we never thought we'd be interested in. Not quite the level of excitement and physicalness we enjoyed (loved and hated) in Puerto Rico but some pretty neat and interesting things to do!

No comments: