Hiking Osborn Hills, Friday March 3, 2017

Our options to go hiking this time of year are sort of limited, that is, if we don't want a long drive.  We get tired of traipsing the same places, too.  Many local trails are muddy now and, of course, higher elevations are buried in snow.  I remembered that Empire Mine State Historic Park in Grass Valley had some nice, easy trails, and it's close.  We needed to run a few errands in that area, so that cinched it.

We bypassed the Visitor Center, instead aiming straight for the trails.  From the parking lot, we veered off the Hardrock Trail onto Osborn Hills loop,and realized, Hey, this is a new one for us ... we've never been on this section.  With 14 miles of scenic trails in the park, I suppose it's easy to miss one or two!  Well, we like new adventures.  I'm pretty sure that's why we travel, our love of new places and adventure.

The first thing we did after setting out was to detour around a washed out road, rerouted onto a bridge over Little Wolf Creek (above, looking left and right from the bridge). We've used the washed out section before to get onto other trails and never saw a drop of water in the creek. Big changes this year! Little Wolf Creek was a major factor in the massive sinkhole in Grass Valley that was splashed all over the news media about six wks ago, caused by too much rain/run-off at one time.  That 70' deep by 80 ft-in-diameter sinkhole is still there, surrounded by huge piles of dirt on three sides, covered in heavy-duty plastic topped with tires.  Till the rainy season ends, I guess.

The sign in front of this cement, uh, structure reads "Prescott Hill Mine." I could wander all I wanted around these mining trappings, with abandoned mine shafts and stamp-mill foundations, etc., and still wouldn't be able to figure out the whys and wherefores of most stuff I see.

[A bit of history: The Empire Mine State Park area contained a complex of mines that were developed to get at gold-bearing rock veins below the surface. There were at least five mines in the Osborne Hill area, with varying levels of mining activity from the 1850’s into the 1930’s. Most easily visible are impressive remains of the Prescott Hill Mine which, combined with several neighboring mine properties in 1903, had a shaft down to 1,750′ and was active into the early 1930’s.]  I found this paragraph online.

We know what these piles are:  Mine tailings.

Enormous mounds of crushed rock left behind from the ore mining days.

The trees at the top of the photo are tall Ponderosa pines,
dwarfed by the size of this rock pile, turned a dull rusty-brown by pine needles.

Rated moderate, we hiked up and up on this loop trail, not really sure where it would lead, but it was fun to climb.  We couldn't calculate exact mileage since one trail merges into another, but we put between three-four miles on our feet.  Above, we passed next to this no-access road -- and no trespassing people or horses!  Stay out, Mr. Ed. 😉

I wondered about this ... Jimmy says it's a very large valve.
I am no wiser.

With rain and snow in our immediate forecast, again, today we enjoyed a pleasant day of filtered sun and moderate temps, and a lovely walk through a mixed oak and conifer forest.

Buzzing bees alerted us to a few (early) blooming Manzanita bushes.

But these will never bloom again -- part of a "dead" forest.

It was a grand hike on a late winter's day, perfect for us who like to get Out and About, exploring. Making up the southern arm of Empire Mine SHP, Osborn Hills was not exactly wild, but it was intriguing.  Looks like there are more trails on this map that we need to check out.  We're always ready for new ventures!


  1. Kudos to you for getting out and about! With four years working all those Mother Lode hills, I saw untold remnants of mining, everywhere. Fascinating history, for sure.

  2. Wonder if those mountains of tailings will ever go away? Or get covered up? Hmmm. Lovely walk, to be sure!


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