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Gold Basin – Finding The Lake
by Marcy Hafner

Let’s turn the calendar back to1894 when a mining boom was fresh out of the gate in Gold Basin. This would be the latest news: Despite a lack of transportation facilities, Gold Basin has suddenly turned into a mining hot spot, especially for gold. Prospectors are staking their claims, and the Interstate Mining Company now owns a sawmill so it can cut timbers to meet the growing demand to build the mines.

The boom continued: In 1901 John H. Clark bores a tunnel 75 feet down one of his five mine shafts with a cross-cut at the bottom. This opens a 75 foot ore vein where he plans on keeping a large crew working underground throughout the winter. Elsewhere WILSON & PROCTOR are putting in a large dyke and come spring they want to erect a cyanide mill.

For a while it just kept on growing and growing. In 1905 the big headline is: five teams of horses haul 25,000 pounds of freight from Cisco to the Interstate Mine. Another freight awaits delivery, which includes equipment to install an electric light plant.

It didn’t take long, however, before boom turned to bust, and since almost nothing is left of that era, it’s hard to picture a stamp mill, cyanide mills, a crusher, a sawmill, a power plant and all those mines. Now only remnants of the primitive road are still visible to remind us of those dozen or so frantic years that have long since faded away.

To get to Gold Basin from Moab, drive approximately eight miles south on Highway 191, and take a left for the Ken’s Lake-La Sal Loop Road. Then go right on to Spanish Valley Drive, which quickly becomes the La Sal Loop Road. After driving approximately 12 miles, take a right turn on to the graveled Geyser Pass Road, which despite the washboard, is suitable for any vehicle. Then proceed 6.5 miles to the turn off for Gold Basin where it’s 1.5 miles to the end of the road and the beginning of the trail.

I had heard rumors for a long time about a reclusive lake - an unnamed body of water in the heart of upper Gold Basin. But I’d been searching for it by following the old mining road, and it constantly eluded me. One day I left the main drag, and finally stumbled upon this intriguing small depression - a natural punchbowl filled with spring run off.

The National Forest is currently constructing a trail to this lake, and the route has temporarily been marked with red and orange flagging. So from now on finding “the lake” will no longer be a big mystery.

On a crystal clear morning in mid-July, I can’t resist another three-mile round trip hike to visit it again. The familiar route to the lake starts with a sharp drop down to a fantastic view of Tukuhnikivatz and Tuk No – two well known peaks that are prominently displayed above Gold Basin. On this short descent I am traveling through a tapestry of green – a lovely meadow peppered with the rich blue blossoms of lupines.

Before long I’m scooting over four logs, and shortly after that the trail splits. I go left. The right is a nice diversion to a huge meadow, but it ends there.

Entering the deep shadows of firs and spruce, a red squirrel belts out his screechy disapproval that I am trespassing on his property. Solitary and very territorial, he emphasizes his rapid-fire scolding with violent jerks of his entire body and tail, which is very amusing to watch.

A short distance later the shaded canopy ends. Back in open sunshine I mosey through a series of lush meadows accented with groves of aspens and a delightful showcase of flowers: brilliant red paintbrush, lovely lavender Aspen daisies and big yellowish-orange blooms of sneezeweed, which remind me of a sombrero with floppy petals. This intriguing plant received its odd name because Native Americans used the dried flowers to induce sneezing to clear out the sinuses.

The only stream crossing involves some easy rock hopping over a small marsh overflowing with the graceful nod of bluebells, thick clusters of tiny white flowers, the triangularleaf senecio with its disorderly hairdo of yellow flower heads and a tall plant with a top that looks like a white bottle brush. Walking further the show goes on and on - deep blue larkspur, creamy white geraniums and my favorite - a wealth of blue columbines. I can certainly see why these exquisite beauties are the state flower of Colorado.

Eventually I reach the spot where Brumley Creek (named after the operator of the sawmill) crashes along the edge of a rock-strewn talus slope. Moving to the other side of a grazing allotment gate the old road has vanished, but the flagging marks a route back to Brumley, a long mountain-to-desert stream with a habit of being intermittent. One minute it is madly dashing down the streambed, the next it has strangely disappeared underground.

Then it’s up, up, up I go on the old faded rocky road until it flattens out into a steam-fed section of low growing vegetation nourished by the abundance of water. Several cairns tempt me to cross the creek, and stay on the more obvious path, but instead I continue following those orange ribbons on an extremely faint trail through deep woods until – voila – I have arrived at the lake.

After cautiously boulder-hopping to the shallow water’s edge, I am delighted to discover a colorful bouquet of wildflowers that have managed to gain a foothold in this rocky terrain.

Though this was not an overly difficult walk, I’m still more than ready for a long pause. Heavily forested, this shaded spot is a refreshing retreat offering a more peaceful lakeside setting than other drive-in lakes in the La Sals.

A boulder provides a comfortable backrest where I can kick back and gaze down upon the reflections of the trees mirrored on the green-brown colored water. I eat my lunch while a robin comes in for a drink, and a junco darts through the branches before commencing to twill his song. The soothing gurgle of a small stream in the background lulls me into a relaxed state of mind – Ah what bliss to escape the desert heat - what a marvelous haven of solitude!

What a great way to spend a lazy afternoon and leave the stresses of every day life behind...

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