Monday, May 1, 2017

Pine Log (Sugar Hill)

Yesterday I felt like exploring. Usually that means hiking, but given how much of the stuff to see at Pine Log is right off of the road, I was on the bike again, seeing what there was to see.

Actually, the first interesting thing was on the drive in. I stopped at the local convenience store that I often stop at on the way in, and got a photo of my favorite bathroom sign of all time.

No Missing and Please Flush

"No missing, and flush please"

So many things to love about this sign...

First, the message is so oddly stated: No missing. You heard me. No missing. Missing is not a passive activity. You choose to hit or miss. Choose to hit. That is the acceptable choice.

Second... What is going on in the picture? If you're a woman in a business suit, with a briefcase, don't peel the large black wall covering off of the wall behind the toilet. Without the message, that's what I'd imagine it means. Why the business suit? Why the briefcase? Those are fun details.

Third... The "Please" is clearly an afterthought.

Fourth... The sign is a printout of a photo, of another sign. So, these guys didn't come up with this sign. Someone else did, and posted it somewhere else. Then these guys took a photo of it, printed the photo, and posted it themselves, strange wording, ambiguous picture, and all.

Fifth... There's a second sign on the door, opposite this sign, but it's black and white. So, they made a color copy, and a black and white copy, separately. Not just 2 color or 2 black-and-white copies. One of my favorite things in the world is noticing subtle differences in things that serve the same purpose. Like, look at two locomotives next time you get a chance. They may be painted the same, but they are subtly different. It seems that no two are alike. It was like that with these signs. Why different? Who knows? I love that.

But, I digress. Back to Pine Log...

I mainly wanted to check out the Sugar Hill area, on the north end of the property, but as I was also interested in getting in some good climbing miles, I parked in the lot at the south end.

There was a horse trailer in the lot when I pulled up. I often see prints on the roads, but I hadn't yet run into anyone riding. I kind-of hoped I would, but right as soon as I pulled away from my car, I noticed the horse and its rider at the far end of the lot. They'd already finished their ride. Well, I guess that still counts as running into them. Beautiful, young, white horse, who wasn't afraid of me on the bike. The rider had a new-looking, bright blue camelback too, which made me jealous because mine is old and busted. We had a little chit-chat, and I headed off up the hill.

Somewhere back there I saw this corn snake crossing the road, and managed to get a shot of it before it got away.

Corn Snake

I didn't see anyone in a vehicle, on foot, on horse, or on a bike all the way up and over Pine Log Gap and it made for a relaxing ride. At least, as relaxing a ride as it could be, given the climbing.

My first stop on the Sugar Hill side was the Bluff Cut Pond. Basically, if you bomb down off of the gap, the road bends hard right, and abruptly flattens out and straightens out. At that point, it joins the old railbed of the Iron Belt Railroad. To the left, the old railbed continues up into the woods a bit, leading directly to:

Bluff Cut Pond

...the Bluff Cut Pond.

This was once part of the Sugar Hill Iron Mine. One of the earliest cuts, actually. You can still see iron ore on the walls of the cut.

Bluff Cut Ore Wall

I guess that ore wasn't decent enough to keep mining.

The cut now remains filled with water. There were ten billion waterstriders flitting around on the surface of the pond, and small fish were eating them left and right. I didn't expect there to be fish in that pond, but I guess nature finds a way.

There are actually two old railbeds jutting off of the main road. One goes directly to the pond. The other is a reroute, skirts the south side of it, and becomes overgrown quickly, but allegedly leads to another, unnamed mine cut uphill from the Bluff Cut. The unnamed cut is alleged to be the last cut ever worked at the site. I'll have to bring my hiking shoes and go check that one out some day.

A ridiculously steep road next door to the Bluff Cut leads up the hill, and as I discovered later, out of the WMA (though the border is unmarked in the field), to a campsite, presumably on private property.

Which is too bad because the views from up there are pretty nice.


Rydall View

Pine Log Mountain:

Pine Log Mountain View

Further north along the road is the Sugar Hill Pond.

Sugar Hill Pond

This was the first mine cut in the area, originally called the Pine Cut. Same story as the Bluff Cut. It was mined out, abandoned and eventually filled with water to form a pond. I didn't see any evidence of fish, but who knows?

There were these two guys parked next to the pond when I rode up, who seemed to be in a bit of distress. Just to be sure, I asked one of them if this was the Sugar Hill Pond, and he confirmed that it was. He also told me that he and his buddy had caught a 6-foot king snake on their property, put it in a bin, put the bin in the truck, and driven up to release it in the woods. But, it had gotten out of the bin at some point, and was now somewhere in their truck! Their dog seemed to be aware of the problem and wouldn't go near the truck.

Oh, man!

At least it was a king snake.

I wished them luck, and they wished me luck, and we both got back to it.

Downhill a bit the road passes through a railroad cut.

Iron Belt Railroad Cut

I could see the Cripple Creek Ore Bank downhill to the right. It's another old mining cut, but it's tough to see in the spring. It had water in it before the trees started leafing out, but it was pretty dry that day. I'll have to check it out some other time too.

I met a guy walking his dog a bit further down the road. Big, friendly German Shepherd. Gave me lots of kisses, and let me give her lots of scratches.

I followed the old rail bed where it bent away from the road. To the east was the Kinsey Cut, the largest cut of the entire mine. It follows the road north for a long way, and butts up against the railbed. Uphill there were a bunch of fragmented cuts, not just one big one. Various sources allege that there were two cuts in the area: the Sugar Hill Cut, and the Kinsey Cut, and they were eventually merged together. Uphill from the railbed is Sugar Hill proper, so it seemed likely to me that the cuts uphill are Sugar Hill, and the ones below were Kinsey, but for all I know Sugar Hill was cut above AND below the rail. I can't find any detailed info on it.

I did find this weird shaft out there on the west side of the rail.


A well? An old pit mine? A test shaft? I saw Mike Rowe filling in old mine shafts on Dirty Jobs once, and they looked much like that when he was done. I wondered if that one was deeper than it looked, and had just gotten plugged with rubble and deadfall over the years.

Further north on the main road, I crossed Sugar Hill Creek. There were a bunch of male tiger butterflies congregated there, displaying for the ladies.

Male Tiger Butterflies

Total sausage fest though.

Poor guys.

To my right lay The Great Rift. Sugar Hill Creek had been dammed. The lake had quickly filled in (presumably from the ungodly mine runoff) and become a meadow. The creek overtopped the dam, and began eating its way back into it, and back into the meadow, forming The Great Rift, as I have come to refer to it. When I first saw it, I was tired and in no mood to explore it, but I was yesterday.

It was rather difficult, actually. The creek itself was alternately incredibly muddy, incredibly rocky, swift, slow, deep, and shallow. There was no neat shore. Too much weight on rock or dirt sent it pouring into the creek. Two different times I found myself wondering if the whole hillside wasn't about to come down.

The Rift 1 The Rift 2

Idyllic mountain stream or monstrous dam cavity? You decide!

I'll tell you what I decided though. I felt like I was being lured into a trap. Like some kind of geological Venus Flytrap. F-you mankind. Dam me? Give me time. I'll eat your f-ing dam. Come on back in here and see. See what I've done. Come on... look around... I'll drop these f-ing walls on you.

(Geological Venus Flytrap likes to cuss.)

There were innumerable Indian Strawberries back in there though, so if you're hungry...

Indian Strawberry

At the time, it just felt like more of that Venus Flytrap action. Tempting me with fruit. Luring me in deeper.

I passed some folks fishing on Neel Lake. Two guys were even packing up a pair of fishing kayaks.

On East Valley Road, the sun was ahead of me so I flicked on my red blinky light.

I so badly want there to be a legal way to get from there to Oak Street, but every neighborhood I tried had one of these at the back.

You Shall Not Pass

The land didn't appear to be owned by a single owner though, so maybe farther on there'll be something.

I took 411 back to White and from there, took the road back to the car. Last time I'd ridden it in the dark, and it seemed to take forever. I felt better yesterday though, and it was still daylight, so I guess between the two the time flew by. I'd wished I'd brought my card with me though. I was getting hungry, and there's a gas station at the intersection with East Valley Road. I sure could have gone for a chocolate iced honey bun right about then.

On the way home, I got some dinner at Wendy's, but I had a hell of a time making the left off of the highway. I saw a break in traffic, and pulled up a bit to get ready to go, but then, the lady who was turning right (my left) stopped, to let me go ahead of her. People, please, don't do this. I know you're trying to be courteous, but it's always a disaster. The cars behind her started to back up, and some started going around her. If I'd gone, I'd have been hit by one of them. Also, the cars she backed up closed the break in traffic, so I just had to wait longer. And, I was a little bit out in the intersection, which would be bad if my light turned red. And the guy behind me had already pulled up a bit too. Right as I decided, OK, I guess I'll go, she went! Ha! Classic! Then, the whole scene replayed again with a second woman. Finally, after her, I was able to go.

It was worth the wait though. My Wendy's was delicious.

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