Friday, December 23, 2011

Mining the Christine Marie: Moving Into The Cabin

Gene enjoying the solitude.

The cabin almost finished.
The cabin was nearly finished but I wasn’t sure I was ready to move down. Moving to my new cabin on the Christine Marie was not without a little trepidation. It would mean I would be isolated and further from any kind of assistance. Such isolation is of a little more concern to me than most people because I am an insulin dependent diabetic. I cannot be without insulin or food for very long. A severely sprained ankle or broken leg could easily be life threatening.
I packed my propane tank, stove, propane refrigerator, bedding, food, clothes, explosives, water, and other supplies in the scout until it was full and headed down the steep road. I arrived without incident, and moved into the cabin. I walked back up the road to get the loader, drove it down, and went to work.
A Christine Marie Morrisonite Specimen
Living in isolation is something relatively few people get to experience. The people who have, will say that after 3 or 4 days with no human interaction or communication a fundamental change takes place in your personality. For some people the experience is horrifying and for others it can provide a sense of confidence and peace that is hard to describe. The depth of solitude after 3 or 4 days is different than the solitude experienced in the more temporary time dictated by our busy society. Go ahead and try it. Try to find a place where you will have no contact or communication with another human for 24 hours. It is actually hard to do. The need to communicate, however, never leaves and has been portrayed well in the movies. Tom Hanks’ character in Castaway befriends a volleyball and refers to him as Wilson. Tom Hanks’ character has many conversations with Wilson. The character was marooned on an island for many months and when he tried to leave the island on a raft, he takes Wilson with him. When the volleyball falls off the raft and floats away, the loss felt by Hanks’ character is far more than that for a volleyball.
Sun setting on the canyon.
At first I was just pleased to not drive the road up to the top every day. I was close to my work and I was spending more time mining. After a while I noticed I would speak directly to my tools. If I could not find my pick I would call for it. Over time, in the absence of not being able to talk to anyone, I had numerous conversations with my rock pick and long bar about the jobs they were or weren’t doing. I encouraged them to find more jasper.
A Buzzard circling  above.
I loved sitting in front of the cabin watching the weather move through the canyon. The canyon is so big that you can see any storm or change in the weather long before it arrives. The canyon itself causes thermal winds with the sun first heating up one side of the canyon and then the other late in the day. The winds come down cold over the east slope in the morning and go up warm in the late afternoon. About 2 miles to the south about 20 buzzards live within sight of the cabin door. They live on the edge of a cliff on a rock face that turns red in the late afternoon sun. The buzzards hunt their prey in pairs, one following the other. They float on the warm rising thermal winds and seem to take pleasure in effortless flying. Sometimes they are almost motionless on the rising air as if glued to the sky. Despite all the mining problems and restrictions, I consider my time living alone in the cabin on the Christine Marie a mere 100 yards from my work site to be some of the most pleasurable of my life. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Mining the Christine Marie: A New Cabin

The Christine Marie cabin at a distance

Side view of the cabin
Driving the Scout down to the mine on the Christine Marie and back every day started to wear on my nerves. The drive had to be executed with precision and that was hard to do after a hard day of mining. One time on the drive up on switchback 9 (which cannot be driven around without stopping and backing up) I put the Scout in reverse, backed up, and started revving the engine for the next stretch up to switchback 8. Normally I would put in the clutch, let the Scout roll back, and be ready to go forward again. Somehow, perhaps because I was so tired, I forgot that I had shifted into reverse. I let out the clutch expecting to get a good running start on the next hill and almost backed the Scout over the cliff behind me. Another time, the engine started cutting out on the steepest grade of the drive. I determined later that if the gas tank was less than ½ full the engine could not suck enough gas to keep running on the steepest parts of the road. To solve the problem I installed a second gas tank in the back of the Scout where the gas could run downhill or level to the engine going uphill. I had a switch on the gas lines so I had my downhill gas tank and my uphill gas tank. You had to make sure you were on the proper gas tank depending if you were traveling down to the mine or up to the cabins.
Gene visiting the cabin years later
                I eventually decided to build a cabin on the Christine Marie. There was really only one good spot to do this. There was a very large rock on a flat area just a few yards off the road. The back side of the rock was relatively flat and about 7 feet high. The flat side would be the back wall of the cabin and the rock would support the roof. I had no money to spend on building a shelter so I started gathering things I could use. I, of course, had lots of big rocks so I moved several of them that had nice flat sides close to the larger rock with the loader. I found 4 long poles left over from building a coral half buried in the desert and dragged them to the upper cabin with the Scout. Getting them down to the Christine Marie was an adventure worthy of “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” Back in Wisconsin at The Gem Shop we had replaced several glass counter tops because they were scratched. These were packed up and brought out to the mine to use for windows.
Interior view of the cabin with the built counter and shelves.
                In the front part of The Gem Shop we pulled up the old linoleum tile floor to reveal the wood floor beneath. 8 of these 4x8 sheets of plywood with 1 foot square tiles attached with a black tar like glue were transported out to the mine and used for the roof. Pieces of wood of all sizes and shapes were gathered without concern for how they would be used. All the scraps from construction would later be used for fuel in the ancient, cast iron, hot water heater originally designed for coal that I found to use as a heater in the cabin. On the way to Oregon each year I usually stop at the large Army Surplus store just north of Ogden, Utah to look for supplies. There I found a nice large metal framed window with hinges that opened which I bought for $5.00.
The view looking out while the cabin is under construction.
                I worked on the cabin off and on for several years. After I positioned the large rocks for the base of each of the walls I built a heavy wooden frame to put on the top of the front rock.  I attached the large wooden poles I found earlier in the desert to the large standing rock by drilling some holes in the rock and pegging the poles in place on the rock. The other end of the poles rested on the wooden frame and extended out in front. This provided a strong support for the tile covered plywood roof which was later covered with dirt and rocks. I then built the walls on top of the rocks to meet the roof, leaving an overhang in front and on the sides. I had a window in each wall and a doorway in the front. Two of the windows were made from ¼ inch scratched counter glass and the third was the $5.00 window I purchased near Ogden. Inside I built a few shelves to hold food and a small counter for my propane stove. In the opposite corner I constructed a frame to hold my bunk about 3 feet off the floor just under the window I could open. The inside space was about 10 feet by 10 feet and with my old, coal burning, hot water heater in the corner it was very cozy. I spent a total of $34.00 building this cabin excluding gas and diesel for transportation.