Paul invites me along whenever he finds some place scary to go. The best location was the one I now affectionately call “the boneyard”. It’s a spot in Franklin Mountains State Park with a natural spring, tree cover and deer bones scattered all around. It’s a like a bar/restaurant with great food and drink – if you’re a mountain lion.
This time he wanted to look at some mine shafts he’d stumbled upon near the northeast end of the park while riding his mountain bike. Paul said that he found one hole where he couldn’t see the end and he hadn’t brought a flashlight. Later, while looking at satellite images, he found a shaft nearby and wondered if they connected. He knew I’d be willing to go along to find out what was there.
We left Chuck Heinrich city park before sunrise. Eight miles of mountain biking later we came to the end of a very old road with a few piles of mine tailings visible on the nearby mountain side. First we took our flashlights to the site he’d found earlier. No luck. You could stand in the hole, but it only went back about six feet.
Then we walked all over the area and investigated five or six other places with evidence of mining activity. Most were small, but one was a shaft that went straight down. The opening was five feet across. The soft gravel lip at the top sloped into the abyss so we couldn’t lean far enough over to see the bottom. It took a second or two for rocks we tossed in to hit bottom. It was probably about 40 feet deep.
The adventure didn’t have any big discoveries. That was OK – we were just happy to be outside and scrambling over rocks that we hadn’t crawled on before.
We are so lucky to have these mountains, mostly undisturbed, right in the middle of El Paso. From the late 1800s to the mid-1900s numerous attempts were made to find commercially viable deposits of minerals (mostly tin, but also gold and silver) in the Franklin Mountains. Thankfully none of these ventures led to more than a few exploratory digs and the loss of gullible investors’ money.
Someday soon Paul will call me again. As soon as I see his name on the caller ID I’ll know he’s stumbled upon another location that he’s hesitant to explore without someone else looking over his shoulder and making noise. I’ll say yes before I even know where we’re going.