Abandoned mining equipment – Horseshoe Mesa – Grand Canyon – South Rim

Abandoned mining equipment – Horseshoe Mesa – Grand Canyon – South Rim

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Abandoned mining equipment – Horseshoe Mesa – Grand Canyon – South Rim

Image by Al_HikesAZ
The National Park Service has left some of the mining equipment for the Last Chance Mine on Horseshoe Mesa.

I went on a 4 day 3 night backpacking trip down Grandview Trail to Horseshoe Mesa and Cave of the Domes to Cottonwood Canyon, across the Tonto Trail and out the South Kaibab Trail to Yaki Point. Here is my triplog hikearizona.com/x.php?I=4&ZTN=1449&UID=21152

Impressions of the dazzling topography of Grand Canyon have changed and shifted since that day in the summer of 1540 when Garcia Lopez de Cardenas gazed out from the South Rim. The conquistador saw a worthless desert wasteland, nothing more than a barrier to political expansion. At the opposite extreme, the modern view tends toward the romantic, reveling in what we today perceive as the remarkable spirituality of the gorge. Products of the age in which they lived, American pioneers arriving in the 1890s were more practical and utilitarian: they assumed with so much exposed bedrock inevitably there had to be mineral riches waiting to be claimed by those willing to go below and look. Would-be miners fanned out across the inner canyon, probing everywhere, and at a place called Horseshoe Mesa found what they sought. Rich copper deposits initially averaging 30% pure promised wealth, but only if transported from the depths. Optimism reigned supreme, a route was scratched out, and in February 1893 an endless succession of mule trains began moving raw ore to the rim along a rough canyon track originally known as the Berry Trail, more recently as the Grandview Trail. More than any other canyon trail, the Grandview is steeped in the legacy of the mining days at Grand Canyon. Numerous small artifacts associated with these halcyon days are scattered across the top of Horseshoe Mesa, providing a link across the years. Hikers can inspect the physical remains of this bygone era while enjoying canyon scenery at its finest.

Trail Description
The original Grandview Trail was created to connect the rim with the copper mines on Horseshoe Mesa. The well built trail eventually provided access to more tourists than miners, as the Grandview trail provided one of the best access routes into the canyon for its time. The undamaged segments of the pioneer trail in the upper half of the canyon testify to the engineering prowess of the builders as they devised solution after creative solution to the problems posed by the landscape.Start off the rim from the established Grandview Point overlook. The Kaibab/Toroweap section traverses steep ground and the old trail is eroded so attention to the problems at hand is essential. Vertical steps were surmounted by construction of log "cribs" that were chained or pinned to the cliff face to provide a foundation for the trail where nature provided none. The exposure here impresses some hikers as hazardous. Unfortunately, several of the historic cribs were swept away by landslides during the winter of 2005. Trail crews restored the trail, but not the historical context of the old logs. A series of sloping ledges at the top of the Coconino cliff demands caution especially when icy or wet. Be careful throughout the Kaibab and Toroweap – a fall here could have catastrophic consequences.

Original "cobblestone riprap" trail construction shows throughout most of tthe Coconino. Large slabs of sandstone placed edgewise provided a durable (albeit labor intensive) walking surface. The trail comes to the top of a dramatic east-facing gully at Coconino/Hermit contact (known locally as Coconino Saddle) that offers tantalizing views into the upper valley of Hance Creek. Steep cobblestone switchbacks below Coconino Saddle dispense with most of the Supai Formation before the walking moderates and the trail begins a gradually descending traverse across the slope to Horseshoe Mesa. Horseshoe Mesa offers a myriad of attractions. The campsites are located east of the historic masonry structure. Remnants of mining operations, including rusty cans, nails, tools and structures are protected as archeological resources. Please leave these objects as you found them, where you found them. Backpackers headed deeper into the canyon can choose between three trails that link the rim of Horseshoe Mesa and the Tonto Trail. The northernmost trail that descends the east side of the western arm of the "horseshoe" is the most civilized of these options. Most of the original switchbacks have survived so this route is relatively straightforward, intersecting the Tonto Trail north of Horseshoe Mesa. Hikers can continue along the Tonto about 1.5 miles west to Cottonwood Creek or about 2.2 miles east to Hance Creek. The trail down the west side of the mesa is more demanding, severely washed out in the Tonto Group above the bed of Cottonwood Creek. The path off the east side to Page Spring and Hance Creek is probably the most difficult and exposed. Recent trail work has rendered the hardest place a bit easier, but the potential for a nasty fall exists throughout the Redwall descent. Watch for the spur trail to Page (aka Miners) Spring near the bottom of the Redwall. Modern backpackers use the Tonto Trail to connect the Grandview Trail with points beyond. An established trail follows the bed of Cottonwood Creek to the top of the Tapeats Formation where the Tonto heads west toward the South Kaibab Trail. Hikers walking east from Hance Creek can follow the Tonto Trail toward Mineral Canyon. The Tonto Platform starts breaking down near the west rim of Mineral Canyon causing the trail to drop below the Tapeats Sandstone to descend Supergroup slopes to the bed of Mineral Canyon. Exiting at the mouth of Mineral Canyon on the east side is a bit tricky. The trail splits as it rounds the point before starting down the slope to Hance Rapids. The upper trail is straightforward, but the lower option requires walkers to bend low and traverse a narrow and exposed ledge. There are a couple of ways across the talus to the shoreline at Hance Rapids and the foot of the New Hance Trail.


Staff Sgt. Sal Giunta receives Medal of Honor in White House ceremony Nov. 16, 2010

Image by US Army Africa
Staff Sgt. Sal Giunta, Fire Base Vegas, Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, after a patrol, December 2007.

U.S. Army photo

President Barack Obama presented the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry to Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, U.S. Army, in a ceremony held in the East Room of the White House Nov. 16, 2010 — the first living service member from the Iraq or Afghanistan wars to receive it.

When enemy forces in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley ambushed then-Spc. Giunta’s platoon on the evening of Oct. 25, 2007, the infantry team leader braved heavy enemy fire to rescue fellow paratroopers.

Giunta, of Company B, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, will be awarded the Medal of Honor, the U.S. military’s highest award for valor under fire.

The Hiawatha, Iowa-native is the first living service member to earn the award since Vietnam. The medal will be presented in a ceremony at a date and time still to be determined.

A 2003 graduate of Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School, Giunta has served two tours of Afghanistan. Now a staff sergeant serving in Vicenza, Italy, Giunta of Hiawatha, Iowa, knew of the nomination several months ago, but the announcement still came as a shock.

“This is a great honor, but it is not mine to take sole ownership of. I only did the next thing that needed to be done, and I was only able to do that because all of the men around me had the rest taken care of. It’s hard to take credit for simply taking the next step when so many steps had already been taken by everyone else,” Giunta said.

Not a day goes by that Giunta, now a staff sergeant serving at Vicenza’s Caserma Ederle, does not recall what he and fellow paratroopers faced that evening.

The first platoon of Company B – known to 173rd paratroopers as “Battle Company” – were heading back to their base camp in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley following a long day watching over fellow paratroopers in an Afghan village. It was the final day of Operation Rock Avalanche. Throughout the day, enemy radio intercepts spoke of an impending attack.

Evening was approaching as Giunta’s platoon stretched in to a snaking file down the spur to the Korengal outpost. Roughly thirty paces separated each paratrooper as the moved out.

Sgt. Joshua Brennan, a 22-year-old team leader from Ontario, Ore., on his second tour in Afghanistan, was up front. Behind Brennan, manning an M249 squad automatic weapon, was Spc. Frank Eckrode then squad leader, Staff Sgt. Erick Gallardo, 24, Chula Vista, Calif.

AH-64 Apache helicopters chopped the moonlit evening above as the platoon made their way down goat trails.

Giunta, who carried an M-4 assault rifle was just behind with his team. Pfc. Kaleb Casey carried his M249 squad automatic weapon, followed by Pfc. Garrett Clary with an M203, a 5.56 mm rifle combined with a 40 millimeter grenade launcher.

Along their path, more than a dozen enemy fighters waited, readying their Russian-style rocket propelled grenades, PKM 7.62 mm heavy machine guns, and Kalishnikov rifles. They had set up an L-shape, with an RPG and PKM at the apex of the formation. As Brennan walked just 30 feet from their over watch position, the enemy open fired.

An enemy RPG exploded, followed by a burst of machine gun fire. Brennan fell to the ground. China Machine guns fired at the platoon’s flank. Eckrode was hit. He dropped to the ground, returned fire and tried to find cover.

Gallardo tried to run forward, but was met with RPG explosions and sustained machine gun fire. He returned fire and started back to Giunta’s position, falling into a ditch as an AK-47 round struck his helmet. Giunta jumped up, exposing himself to deadly fire, to assist his squad leader.

Giunta ran just a few steps when two enemy AK-47 rounds struck his body. The first shot hit the body armor on Giunta’s chest, the second hit over his left shoulder, striking a disposable rocket launcher strapped to his rucksack. But Giunta kept going, reaching Gallardo and dragging him back to where Giunta’s fire team had begun fighting back.

Gallardo got Giunta’s team online and the four paratroopers began bounding through withering enemy fire to rescue Eckrode and Brennan. Dropping for cover, they prepared fragmentation grenades to throw at the enemy to cover their next move. Casey continued to fire his machine gun at enemy muzzle flashes, less than a half city block away. Gallardo counted to three and the team hurled grenades toward enemy positions. Once they heard the explosions, they moved closer to their wounded comrades.

Eckrode called out. He was wounded, but still trying to fight. Gallardo started first aid on Eckrode while Casey, who found a bullet hole in his uniform, scanned for enemy targets.

Giunta and Clary kept running toward where Brennan fell, only to find two enemy fighters carrying a severely-wounded Brennan away. While still running, Giunta fired his assault rifle, causing them to drop Brennan and flee. Giunta emptied the rest of his magazine, killing one enemy. Giunta knelt down to help Brennan as Clary ran past, firing 40-milimeter rounds toward the retreating enemy.

Giunta saw Brennan’s injuries were severe and required more than he could offer there on the battlefield. He removed Brennan’s gear and began treating his buddy, while calling back to Gallardo for help. Brennan was trying to talk. Giunta reassured his friend as he tended to Brennan’s wounds.

Other paratroopers from the platoon were also wounded. Spc. Hugo Mendoza, was killed. Brennan, who was hoisted into a helicopter, later succumbed to his wounds.

“Giunta is a great friend and an outstanding paratrooper,” said Gallardo, now serving with Battle Company in Afghanistan. “His actions that day meant the difference between life and death to myself and other Soldiers. For that I am grateful.”

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