Today I went back to Dawn mine with some of my friends, with the intention of looking for the upper mine entrance, which we skipped last time because it was so dark when we arrived. It was the same rocky hike up and over and around boulders up Millard canyon to the mine. Unfortunately by the time we picked up the adventure parking pass from REI (which opened at 10) and drove to the trailhead, the temperature was already starting to reach its peak. This was unpleasant on the high, exposed trail to the ranger station where the trail drops into the riverbed, but once we reached the canyon floor it was actually pleasant in the lush, overgrown and therefore shady areas.
The other difference since the last trip was an increase in dense vegetation in the wet areas, and the presence of small frogs, tadpoles, newts, and tons of lizards. The frogs were a few cm across (1-3 cm), and were green with black spots. The newts were a dull orange, and were maybe 6-7 inches long. The lizards ranged from very small (3-4 in) to large (about a foot), with a variety of striping patterns
After a quick stint in the lower mine, we decided to search for the upper entrance. I noticed a climbable ledge to the left of the entrance. This path seemed to match up with the path to the upper mine entrance mentioned on LA goldmines, so we decided to proceed up the steep cliff above the mine entrance. It was a not a particularly tough climb, but it was amazing how rapidly the ground seemed recede as we climbed; I would estimate that the upper mine entrance was about 80 feet or so above the original entrance. As we gained elevation, even the simplest of traverses began to seem risky, and we became unsure of ourselves. Finally, at the entrance, we were stalled by a final traverse that had a nice fall line straight down the cliff, almost directly over the lower mine entrance.
We almost didn’t get past that point-we almost turned back. But it was a case where “The lust for travel was more powerful than the common sense” (quote from Across Eruope in a Paperboat).
Once we turned the corner and entered the upper level, we skirted around a giant vertical shaft, and found some more tunnels. It was a lot dryer in the upper tunnels than the lower tunnels!
After exploring the upper portion, left the way we came, being careful not to fall and die. I would not recommend a trip to the upper mine due to the very long fall that is possible, and because it lacks any particularly amazing features, other than the pit.