We first learned of Big Red Mountain, west of Mount Ashland along the Siskiyou Crest, from the Ashland Hiking Group. It seemed to be one of their favorites, so we gave it a try and had a great time. It also appeared (tangentially) in the 4th Edition of Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon (Hike #58). What Sullivan added was a side trip to an old mine located on Big Red’s north ridge about 200 feet below the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). So, while The LovedOne was buried in her library volunteerism, I took advantage of the excellent Fall weather we’re having (which we’ll probably pay for later) to go see this old mine. And climb Big Red too. So, after essential caffeination, I drove Forest Road 20 to where it crosses the PCT at Siskiyou Gap, and parked.
The weather was, as noted, excellent for hiking – clear and sunny, with a cool breeze. The PCT was its usual excellent self and I made quick progress to where the PCT passes a huge meadow before turning around Big Red’s north ridge.
Here, the PCT descends and then turns sharply to the left (west). I left it at this turn and went 200 feet or so down slope to where a wire rope is wrapped around a dead tree and pays out over a rocky edge. This is the top of the simple tram system used to haul ore up from the Red Mountain Mines (Red Mountain is the old name for Big Red Mountain). The extent of the workings were several small cuts and trenches along the ridge and one short (10-foot) drift on the steep hillside about 250 feet above a small pond. About 18 tons of chromite ore was taken from these mines during the summer and fall of 1954. They don’t seem to have been worked much after that (likely because federal price supports for chrome ore were eliminated in the mid-1950s). All that remains is the cable, a simple ore hopper, some wood scraps, and the now collapsed adit.
After exploring the mine it was, of course, essential to take in the views from the summit of Big Red before heading back to the trailhead.