The Sulphur Mines – Devils Punch Bowl..#8 (the 50’s)

Trail above Leona Creek

It was  Saturday morning Mike having left his Greenly Drive home riding  his bike to Rogers Monroe’s on Kuhnle St,  Roger having agreed to show Mike the sulphur mines and Devils Punch Bowl.  The two walking  to  Mountainview Ave  circling back west, heading NE up the hillside to find Leona Creek, Roger assuring Mike he knew where they were going. Before long coming upon the creek, the boys following a  scrub-lined trail that varied  ten to twenty feet above the forage shrouded creek bed.  It was narrow at times and one had to careful not to slip and apparently Roger wasn’t vigilant, he stumbled and slid down coming to rest almost in the creek.  Mikes dreaded fears coming to fruition with the rumors about Rogers medical condition, his friend being exempt from P.E because of a heart  from rheumatic-fever, then immediately a humorous thoughts  prevailed “Roger’s the one with the bad heart and I almost had a heart attack watching him fall.   Asking if he needed any help, Roger assuring Mike that he was fine and that they were almost there.

The bright sun enhancing the yellow glow of sulphur

Shafts and Tunnels underground

The creek veering away from the trail, a clearing the size of a football field appearing before the two and immediately they were struck with the pungent smell of sulphur.   Mike was struck with the yellow mounds of tailings, the center of the excavation site still had the remains of a building, iron and wooden beams protruded skyward, and remnants of what looked like an old elevator shaft still standing. The remains of old rusted mining machinery was spewed about as if still waiting to be transported for another long past due assignment.  Located further northeast were the tunnel entryways to mines that once were boarded up,  their  warning sign worn and tattered, no longer sending a clear message of the danger.  Mike wanting to spend time experiencing,  touch the walls from within, close his eyes in the darkness of the mine and inhale the zephyr of  history from days gone by, but his classmate and guide had other plans, apparently having seen all this before, wanting to move on.   Mike made himself a promise, he would return and it would be soon.  The journey began again,  the boys continuing their up hill trek heading back to the NE.

   There was no path or trail to follow unlike the canyon of Leona Creek,  just the incline in a treeless but shrub filled grass expansion.  Traveling what seemed a 1/2 mile the terrain plateaued, the remnants of  an immense horseshoe excavation encased in what appeared to be solid rock,  a large opening and at the bottom of this abyss were  broken rocks and boulders spewed as if thrust from their walled cloistered sanctuary.  and the remains of twisted rusting metal.  From the  downhill-side , walking to the edge,  the two boys were able to transverse to the floor of the old quarry amongst the remains of twisted rusting metal,  the rocky path once an entrance.  Mike reasoned that this was the side that workers used to remove the  magnitude of rocks for the crusher below.  The quarry floor was over 50 yards across and the unshakable rock walls towered to heighten apex reaching skyward.  Cave like fissures dotted the rock walls, could it be that this was where workers positioned the charges of dynamite, thus bringing down the promontory.

Giant concrete chutes used in Leona Heights quarry

The boys didn’t spend an abundance of time in the realm of this rock abyss,  this was a searching expedition, Steve’s classroom narrative wasn’t exaggerating when telling of what lay hidden within the confines of Leona Heights section of Laundry Farm Canyon.   Mike realizing that today’s adventure exposed a visual page of history and for him it was leaving bookmark for him to explore.   The return back finding the two walking  northwest from the quarry  reaching a fire trail in what was called Horseshoe Creek Canyon located south of Redwood Road, the serpentine road to Skyline Blvd.  On the way down they came upon one of the old concrete chutes used by the quarry workers and miners before both operations ceased.  Continuing on they found themselves adjacent to Horseshoe Creek which merged with Leona before traversing under Mountain Blvd into Lake Aliso on the campus of Mills College. On the return to Rogers house, where it all began, Mike questioned himself why he hadn’t heard about the sulphur mines, devils punch bowl and this part of Oakland, making a mental note to ask his Dad since he grew up in Oakland.


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