One of the first things I did after relocating to canyon was, naturally, to begin the search for caves and mines. While there’s no shortage of solution caves in the walls of the Grand Canyon, almost all are located along the river corridor or in otherwise inaccessible locations, and few are of any substantial length.
So far I’ve found the many abandoned mining operations in and around the canyon have been much more rewarding. These are shaft-style mines, rather than the larger quarry mines that are common throughout the Ozarks in places like Carthage and Springfield. As such, they more closely resemble the stereotypical "Hollywood" mine.
They also tend to vary a great deal in terms of construction and design. The Last Chance Mine is interesting because it was built on a plateau called Horseshoe Mesa, which is located inside the canyon, halfway between the rim and the Colorado River. A special trail had to be constructed in order for workers to reach the mine, which is still in use by hikers today, and miners were forced to live in camps on the mesa for extended periods of time, due to their remote location.
The mine itself is comprised of several levels which run horizontally throughout the depth of the mesa, connected by vertical shafts. Machines are located at the top and bottom, once used to circulate air throughout the system of tunnels, and a couple of mine cart tracks run through the lower levels of the mine.
The Last Chance started out as a copper mine, and copper is still abundant there, as evidenced by the green-hued walls. I believe it may have been converted into a silver mine at one time, but I’ve been unable to substantiate that claim. Regardless, the mine failed to turn a profit due to the logistics of operating in a place like the Grand Canyon, and was abandoned around the turn of the century.
I’ve been to the Last Chance twice now, most recently with Arch, but have only scratched the surface in terms of exploration. I hope to return shortly when Zen Master comes to visit, and will update if we find anything of interest.
An abandoned house was demolished in my neighborhood over the winter. While it was no great loss (it had been an eyesore for years), I received disturbing intelligence that a nearby long-abandoned motel might also be at risk, so I called in Zen Master to help document and explore the place while we still had the chance. I had driven by hundreds of times, due to its proximity to my own home, but never stopped to investigate. It’s easy to ignore the ones you see every day because they seem less exotic. That is, until it’s too late.
I don’t know the name of the motel, as it’s been closed for as long as I can remember. All I know is that it may have been associated with the “Truck Harbor,” a truck stop that went out of business about 20 years ago. I vaguely recall going there as a child and finding several rooms unlocked and still furnished, complete with beds and Gideon Bibles. However, the property had since changed hands several times and was used for storage at one point, so I had no idea what to expect.
The area behind the building was interesting, as it had been turned into a graveyard for discarded gasoline pumps and other things, including a forklift, an abandoned semi truck trailer, billboards, and an industrial refrigeration unit.
After having our fill of the junkyard our first order of business was, of course, to try and access the roof. Being a one-story motor inn this was not a monumental task. I was able to reach the top by climbing up the side of the refrigerator, though I almost fell when one of the doors sprang open. Zen Master opted to climb a nearby thorn tree and go from there. I’d say I got the better deal.
After taking in the incredible view afforded by a 15 ft change in elevation, we climbed back down and went about investigating the rest of the building. The office, which apparently contained laundry facilities at one time, was all but destroyed. It was made of cheap lumber, separate from the main building, and had simply succumbed to the elements. Luckily, the actual guest quarters were completely intact.
After trying a few locked doors Zen Master was ready to declare the mission a failure, announcing that “All these doors will be locked,” but I was able to apply my Fonz-like magic touch and find an unlocked room on my first try; the only unlocked room, it turned out. It was basic cheap motel fare – wood paneled walls and deep pile carpeting. The furniture had unfortunately been removed, along with the Bible from my childhood, most likely during its storage unit phase.
Curiously, the room we were in did NOT contain a bathroom. It’s unclear whether other rooms had private baths, or if they were simply bedrooms that shared a communal lavatory. We reckoned it may have been in the destroyed office space we visited earlier.
Mere days later I happened to drive by and notice the motel had been reduced to a pile of wreckage. We had come just in the nick of time, it seems, and it’s likely that if one were to visit the site now they would find no trace of its existence, as it was being bulldozed away the last time I visited.
In a way it’s an honor, knowing that (with the exception of the demolition crew) we were probably the last people to ever see the old motel, and knowing that these pictures may be all that remain to prove it was ever there. Its salvage archaeology meets urban exploration
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