Articles - Saga of Tunnel No. 9

Saga of Tunnel No.9

By Hugh Blanchard

    For the past several years the writer often assisted by Dell Quick has attempted to locate and map the mines and tunnels of Las Flores Canyon at the top of Lake Avenue in Altadena (see August 2004 Explorer). While the area may lack the ambiance of a Death Valley or Joshua Tree it is somewhat closer being about 5 miles away from our monthly meeting place al Cal Tech.

    We had managed to locate and map six of the mines ranging in length from 200 to 850 feet; one with unique geological features and another containing an old ore cart dating back to the 1880’s. However one mine continued to allude us. This was one marked ‘Tunnel no.9’ on the old (1906) water company map. The map showed its location in a gully a mile up and adjacent to the very popular Echo Mountain trail. A year ago I attempted to reach it by leaving the trail at the first zig zag. However the off trail route was so rough and dangerous that I never reached the gully. Getting more exact directions from the water company foreman, who 10 years before had seen the entrance from the bottom of the gully, Dell and I left the trail from the second zig zag and worked our way about 100 difficult feet to the edge of the gully. We then scrambled down 50 feet to the bottom. There I noticed a small hole which I dismissed as a minor erosion feature. Dell observed a dark spot, possibly the tunnel, more than 50 feet above us in the gully.

    We decided to return with rope and a larger group. In February 2006 our motley crew returned with the addition of Curt Wheeler, Eric and Mike Bull, Roger Brown and Dan Veelik. We first took another look at my ‘minor erosion feature’. The Bull Brothers were soon chipping away at the hard dirt nearly covering the 7 inch high opening and announced that ‘it goes”. Indeed it did with the height increasing to over 5 feet and the length continuing for 50 feet. Roger noted quartz veins and a bathtub ring on the walls indicating a long standing presence of water.

        Dell Quick at the entrance to Tunnel No. 9 Annex (Blanchard 2006)

                        Inside Tunnel no. 9 Annex (Blanchard 2006)

    With the assistance of the rope we soon worked our way up the steep rocky gully to an alcove containing the long sought Tunnel no. 9. It was over 5 feet high, 4 feet wide, and went in straight as an arrow for 100 feet. The long search was over.

                        Looking up the gulley (Kent Williams July 2007)

                    Entrance to Tunnel no. 9 (Kent Wiilams July 2007)

         Dan Veelik and the Bull Brothers at the entrance to Tunnel no. 9

                            Inside Tunnel no. 9 (Blanchard 2006)

        Tunnel no. 9: looking out from the inside (Kent Willaims July 2007)

    The first mine found for reasons we will never know is not shown on the old map. We dubbed it Tunnel no.9 Annex. Unlike the mines previously seen below in the canyon, which showed signs of recent visits, both mines in the gully showed no indications of having been entered in the past hundred years. Rather curious considering they are only 100 feet away from one of the most popular hiking trails in Southern California but understandable considering the difficulty in reaching them.