In 1898 copper bearing minerals were found perched in a narrow canyon not far from the now defunct settlement of Halford, WA. Eight years later in 1906, the Buckeye Claims, as they were known, were surveyed for patent.
Much improvement had been done in that short time; bunkhouses, cookhouses and barns had been constructed on the site, in addition to trails, bridges and three tunnels totaling about 1500′ in length.
Then as now, access to the Buckeye is a little remote, which required any ore wrested from the claim to be carried out to the nearest railroad depot by miner or by mule.
Despite the hardships of transport, and difficulties involved in driving tunnels through the Buckeye’s particularly hard rock, work continued. However, the miners discovered only dwindling amounts of unspectacular ore as they chased the vein through the mountain.
These less than stellar mineral showings coupled with a tunneling cost of $25/ft (about $650 in 2018 usd) had conspired to halt further diggings at the claim by 1907, with the vast majority of the Buckeye’s hard won ore ending up in the tailing dump.
Scattered chunks of iron pipe and metal debris can be seen here and there on the way up the steep gully, as well as tell tale ore samples amongst the rock.
Most relics and such, including the ore cart mentioned in DWHM #1, have long disappeared from this site
The tunnels house cart tracks and ventilation piping throughout, with one drift in the back used as a store room for now decaying timbers.
One of the more memorable features of the Buckeye’s tunnels is a high pressure jet of water literally screaming out of a crack in the wall.
Honestly it’s a little unsettling at first, as you hear it before you see it. “W…t…f… is that?!?”
Around the adit one can see metal bars set into the cliffs which once supported a timber roof to protect the miners from whatever might come tumbling down the gully.
A quick peek inside the adit reveals it to be a widened chamber perhaps a dozen feet back and about five feet wide. The remains of a wooden platform are set in the mud.
Just outside, you’ll notice a narrow ledge leading off toward the gap in the cliffs, where the miners dumped their ore carts into the gulch.
This narrow cliff could easily dump your ore cart into the gulch as well. Stay out, stay alive!
The journey to the Buckeye begins in the vicinity of the popular Lake Serene Trail.
Follow the trail to a junction with the old forest service road 6020 at about 1200′ elevation, a little before the Bridal Veil fork. This road, or what’s left of it leads to an old BPA powerline road which skirts the long east arm of Philadelphia Mountain.
The BPA road can also be accessed from the Index River Sites, but it is a private community with strict access rules. Know before you go!
Just uphill of the Index River Sites, where the BPA road meets the 6020, the road will climb steeply to a gate. From here you’ll travel eastward and up and down a lot of hills, but at least it’s a navigable road!
If you can get a mountain bike out here, that’s the way to travel imho.
After about three miles from the gate, you’ll see the rusting hulk of an ancient jeep at the top of yet another down hill section.
Luckily this is the last hill.
At the bottom, an old road can be found leading off toward the mountain where you’ll be looking for a…
At the base of Buckeye Gulch is the remains of a clandestine backwoods campsite known by some as the “Meth Camp.” This eyesore is probably one of the best clues that you’re on the right track.
An absolute cacophony of debris are strewn around; cookware, coolers, tarps, clothes, children’s toys…? Gradually the forest is burying the mess with duff, but it ain’t going anywhere soon.
An earlier adventurer shares his impression:
“I first saw the camp back in ’08; wasn’t as bad as it is now but I still thought a meth lab blew up. Got up past that ugly scramble to the mine and the freakin’ ore cart was gone. Tweakers jacked it I bet!”
-Davey Leghorn, enthusiast
So what was really going on at the Meth Camp? Was it actually a deep woods drug den? A mountain meth mill? A tweaker-fest in the timber?!?
Old maps suggest that the area may have been the site of some of the aforementioned bunkhouses, cookhouses and barns that supported operations at the Buckeye.
It’s unlikely that Meth Camp ever served as any kind of alpine amphetamine (ah)peration, however the true details remain shrouded in mystery…
Which really, might be for the best.
If you’ve found “Meth Camp” then all that’s left is to head up the gulch…
At first it’s not too bad, heading up through comparably light brush via the canyon’s main drainage channel, which by late spring may be running dry.
Eventually you’ll break out into open talus and have a good view up the canyon, which you’ll notice gets very narrow. As you approach the squeeze you’ll notice the lightly vegetated ore dump appearing on the canyon’s western wall.
Where the steep granite walls pinch together, you’ll find yourself faced with a scramble up a 15-20′ wall of wedged boulders. This will turn some people back, and rightly so. You’re now a very long way from a hospital. Especially with a compound fracture!
Just above the scramble, you’ll find the adit of the Buckeye No.5 blasted into the center of the canyon, which forks steeply beyond this point.
- 10mi+- (16km) rt
- Travel time could be significantly reduced by riding a mountain bike.
- The gully contains a scramble up a steep boulder jam that is sometimes also waterfall.
- Potential rock fall danger while traveling in the canyon. Got a helmet?
- Off trail travel and routefinding skills and equipment a must.
Woodhouse, Phil; Jacobson, Daryl; Petersen, Bill; Cady,Greg; Pisoni, Victor, Discovering Washington’s Historic Mines Vol.1: The West Central Cascade Mountains. Oso Publishing Company, 1997
This information is for historical purposes only.