Deering Travel Blog› entry 27 of 38 › view all entries
The narrow Kougruk River joins Independence Creek just a hundred yards downstream. Up that clear blue waterway, less than a mile, is an old mineshaft dug deep into a hillside. Around the 1950's, the legendary miner Rhinney Berg skidded the materials, supplies, and equipment, from Nome on winter's ice, to construct our present-day camp then dug the shaft to mine silver and lead. He also recovered traces of zinc and gold.
I had been to the mineshaft in June, but snow and ice had blocked its entrance. After this morning's fog lifted and the sun came out, in the early afternoon, I paddled a canoe across the Indy then hiked back up that way; walking light with only shot-gun and shoulder bag.
I ignored the 'Keep Out' sign and approached the entrance. Not knowing what lurked inside the darkened tunnel, and lacking a serviceable Mini Mag-Lite, I reached an arm inside and flashed a picture. I was able to study the image closely for the red glowing eyes of unwanted predators; for expressions of surprise captured on furry faces. I mentally tallied the plus for the digital camera.
The mineshaft seemed to be about five to six feet tall by four feet wide. Thick round posts supported ceiling and walls of heavy logs and beams. The air was cold and damp. Gravel and loose rock pushed their way through weakened seems and broken timbers. Water dripped from overhead. Being somewhat claustrophobic, I only entered for about six feet. I could see at least forty feet into the shaft, unable to tell if it curved or where it ended.
I like to sit for an hour or two to watch for what might show, to listen to the quiet, and to absorb the peaceful surroundings. Hillsides are nice for that by offering distant views of the open tundra with its winding waterways lined with green willows.
About a hundred yards beyond the abandoned shaft, the Kougruk River makes a sharp bend to the south. I found a spot on rocky ground, close to the water, then sat in silence for a long while hoping to glimpse a cow and calf moose make a crossing or to see other game come out of the willows to drink. But only a Hawk appeared out of distant willows. It flew a low-level, zig-zag pattern in search of small game or rodents. I reminisced of years ago when just a hundred miles west of here, a Peregrine Falcon tucked its wings, went into a high-speed dive, then flared skyward just inches above my head. The terrain there had consisted of higher, rocky hills while here they are more of rolling tundra.