Fikes Generations

Into the Earth, an Alaskan Gold Mine adventure

by Billy L. Fikes Jr on Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 6:41pm
Hatcher Pass was one of the largest gold mining areas in Alaska, and there are still operating mines in the area. The “Hatcher Pass Mine” was closed many decades ago and the shafts sealed off, but there are still other, smaller mines in the area that are just abandoned.
The Lucky Shot Mine is one of those, it was an operating mine into the 1940’s when the operators just shut down and left. 252,000 ounces of gold extracted made it the largest producing mine in the area (total combined with adjacent War Baby mine)
The entrance to the mine was guarded by a large steel door, big enough to allow trucks and tractors access, but it was left open and you could walk into the mine entrance. Once inside you were faced with a block of Ice that reached almost to the high ceiling. Several of my nephews, a wife or two, my Brother, a friend and I climbed the ice and crawled on our bellies several hundred feet until the cold air at the entrance met the warm air for the depths of the mine and the ice block ended. We were now standing in a large shaft with a ceiling perhaps 15 feet high. We made our way down the gentle grade for a ways until we came to side shafts, some of which held explosive shacks with suspect looking piles of rotting material I can only assume were old dynamite. Cases beside them held blasting caps, adding to the assumption that these were indeed piles of “melted” explosives. Knowing that old dynamite bleeds out nitro we avoided these potentially hazardous blobs.
We found a couple large pools that had been built to contain seepage, both large enough to be respectable swimming pools. The water looked clean but we did not taste test it. The mine had shafts that wound around and doubled back into the main shaft and some that just dead ended, on in a mud pool, after a while the slope increased dramatically and a narrow gauge rail bed ran down the center of the shaft. For perhaps 1/2 mile the mine dropped dramatically until it finally leveled out again. The walls in these lower levels showed signs of being worked much more recently than the higher levels, and the side shafts were all much smaller in length, mostly just rooms. As we continued our descent we came to an area where we were no longer in a carved mine, but were now moving among fracture zones, some held open by huge rotting timbers, some just crawl spaces dropping ever further into the mountain.
We found one shaft that we guessed must link into the Hatcher Pass Mine on the other side of the mountain, we had come far enough that if the other mine went as deep as this one they should have met somewhere down there according to our guestimations.
We were lucky, we didn’t cause any caveins, find any gas pockets or any of the multitude of other ills that could have befallen us, like having an earthquake occur while we were in the depths of the earth.
It has been over seven years since we made our way down into the mine, so even if there were trespassing considerations the time to bring prosecution has gone by, and someone put a nice new high security steel door and lock that would take a blow torch to get through so there is no danger of any other foolish children trying to repeat our escapades. There were of course air vents but the dedication it would take to search them out without knowing their location make the likelihood of someone using them to gain access quite remote.
I admire the men that made their fortunes by spending their days in the depths of darkness, braving death every day to extract the gold held deep in the Mountain.

    • Don Burke Good story! I’m fascinated by caves, but old mines are death traps. In the AZ desert I’ve heard there are a lot of abandoned mine shafts covered by old boards, that claim lives every year.

      April 30 at 8:16am ·
    • Deborah Collins Excellent! Thank you.
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