In Search Of A Vein

Tucked in the Cuyamaca Mountains, is a small town called Julian. Originally a mining town, there is still a real gold mine and THERE IS STILL GOLD IN IT. This piece of history is right here behind the town and it is fascinating to see the entire process as well as how man went into that mountain and brought the gold out with crude tools and no electricity; levers, hoists, gravity and manpower got it done.

Back in the day, the tunnels one can now wander through were bustling with activity that the dream of gold created. Once nuggets were found in a nearby creek in the 1870s, it was only a matter of time before word got out and crowds gathered to set up camp.

Those early campers became the first townspeople. From extraction to the milling process, the Eagle Mine did it all. This one site drew quite a few penniless prospectors that walked away as very rich men.

The gold-bearing veins here are contained within the Bedford Canyon Formation from the Triassic age (200 million years ago). This formation was at the edge of the North American continent in a shallow, marine-type environment. Dry land was much farther east with the rocks underlying southern California having not yet been born.

The tectonic situation changed during the Jurassic Period (175 million years ago) and a subduction zone developed in this region. When the Pacific Ocean floor converged with the North American continent, this area metamorphosed due to the heat and pressure into a rock known as schist. Today, we call the resulting area the Julian Schist.

Miners wore candles on their hats back then but today it is well lit thanks to electricity. During a tour, the lights are shut off for a few seconds and it was pitch black. Back then, a miner would earn $1.50 per day at a chance to be part of a big find.

He also exposed himself to mercury and cyanide in the process. If his candle went out, it might be EIGHT HOURS before someone would check on him. In a rumbling, dark tunnel with 1000 feet of rock overhead, dynamite blows would send most into another dimension.

There is still gold in the mountain but extracting it would be dangerous and costly. For now, one can look at these relics of the past to see what those early prospectors went through for the dream of finding gold. The early pioneers and their desire to change their fortune for the better, strike it rich and hit the mother lode still lives.

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