Owl’s Head Hike (Was Kelly Peaks)

Photo: Owl's Head
Photo by ?

On Saturday 3 September eight VFFN members hiked the Owl’s Head Trail near the old townsite of Blakeburn. Our hike that day was supposed to have taken us to Jim Kelly Peak but the weather in that direction was stormy so we decided to hike closer to home.

The hike took us on what appeared to be a very old trail. There were trees along the way that had been slashed many decades ago and were scarred as a result. Around each of them was a piece of coloured tapes saying, “Culturally modified tree.”

The trail goes up and down through the woods and in a couple of places skirts rocky ridges. We, of course, chose to climb onto the ridges to see the views. We could plainly see the area around Jim Kelly Peak, which was surrounded by clouds and streaks of rain, making us glad we had chosen to change our plans. The trees on the ridges were clinging desperately to the rocks and were gnarled and bent from the wind. In the forest there were many dead trees. Thanks to Kelly Cook and the members of the fire suppression crew, all the deadfall had been cleared off the trail; otherwise the hike would have taken us much longer.

After about an hour of hiking we came upon an old adit (a horizontal tunnel driven into the side of a mountain) with narrow rails sticking out of it. It was obviously an old mine and the rails were for the ore carts. The trail we had walked was presumably the trail to the mine. The adit was on a very precipitous slope and we wondered how in the world the ore was packed out and to where. About half an hour after the adit we came to our destination, a ledge on which there were two collapsing cabins. If this was where the people working the mine lived we wondered where they got their water because the valley with running water was several hundred meters down a cliff below us. The dogged industriousness of these early miners blew us away. Above and to the left of us was a rocky cliff on which was the “owl’s head,” a rock formation that, when the light hits it just right, looks like the head of an owl.

On our way back we stopped again at the adit and Peter Antonick decided to go inside. Because the entrance was partially covered with scree he had to crawl in on his belly. Peter was soon followed by Martin and Alexander whose echoey, muffled voices reached us from way inside the tunnel. About twenty meters inside there was a cavern in which the three of them could stand upright. Peter came out with rock samples containing traces of quartz and what look like gold flake but might have been pyrite.