Every place has a memory that resonates long after its been abandoned and covered in layers of graffiti. Nestled in a canyon north of Los Angeles and just off the Angeles Crest Highway, the ruins of Big Horn Mine represent a fleeting moment in the Golden State’s history.
The site was originally discovered by Charles Tom Vincent, while he was hunting big horn sheep near his cabin in the San Gabriel Mountains. The mine was established in 1895 and became the largest gold mine in California in its day, though it did not yield as expected.
On his death bed, Vincent admitted he was wanted for killing three men who were robbing his cabin in Arizona. He and his partner buried the bodies, fearing legal repercussions, and fled to California. He lived alone in his cabin near the mine for over 40 years. (Read more about the history on The Weekly Pioneer.)
My sister and I began the 4-mile out-and-back hike from Vincent Gap Trailhead. The crisp mountain air and golden leaves were pleasant reminders that fall does exist in Southern California. A short distance from the trailhead is the junction to Vincent’s Cabin, which can be difficult to locate without a compass. Instead, we continued straight along the mountainside to Big Horn Mine.
The structure seemed to appear out of nowhere. We explored the ruins, though the tunnel entrances had been closed off, broken into, and closed off again. Dangling precariously from the metal beams, we stopped to take in the front-row view of Mount Baldy.
Each time I do this hike, I am reminded to be grateful for these rare opportunities to engage with history beyond the walls of a museum. As the ruins continue to decay, I hope others treat it with the respect it deserves to preserve what’s left for future generations.