Tull Canyon

Posted by Ken Campbell October 11, 2011 0 Comment 2342 views

I’m not really sure why it took so long, but I finally made it up to the Tubal Cain mine this past week. It’s a fairly long driving approach off of Highway 101, gravel logging roads ascending through National Forest land, ending at the trailhead parking area.
It wasn’t raining so much as the air was just thick with suspended moisture, much as I would imagine the interior of a cloud would be like. Which is precisely where I was, I guess. Some of the descriptions I had read of the area commented on the views that open up along the logging roads, etc. I don’t have anything to say about that. I car-camped at the trailhead, figuring to get an early start the next morning. Steak and beans for dinner.

(There is nothing, and I mean nothing, like eating beans straight out of the can.)
The trail is well-maintained and although it’s a steady climb, it’s not difficult. At least not up to the Tull Canyon junction, which is where I turned off. (The trail that leads from that point up to Tull Canyon – where the mine is located – is not signed and it angles off in a way that might be hard to see if you’re not looking for it. There’s a mine shaft in the cliff just above the main trail right by the spur, probably the best way to find it.)

The spur trail ascends steeply, right from the start. It’s not long, but it is a workout and slippery when wet. There are boulders and exposed rock cliffs along the way, and just when the trail begins to level off, at the entrance to the valley, is where I came across the first piece of wreckage.
In January of 1952, a B-17 that had been retrofitted as a search-and-rescue plane crashed into the mountains just above Tull Canyon. The snow was deep and the plane slid down the high-angle slope to come to rest on the valley floor, almost 2000 feet from the initial point of impact. Of the eight crew members on board Flight 746, five survived the crash and were located by rescue teams within 24 hours. The wreckage has been pretty thoroughly picked over in the years since then, but there are still large sections of wing and fuselage, along with landing gear and engine parts, strewn throughout the area.
Back when I used to fly for a living, I had my share of inflight emergencies. I had some hard landings too, although none of them were as hard as this one, and I found the whole scene there in Tull Canyon to be sobering and thick with perspective. The entire prospect of heavier-than-air flight is a risky one under the best of circumstances, and it only takes a blink of an eye for those circumstances to change.
I came across a section of the cockpit where the flight numbers were still readable. Fading paint on brushed aluminum, like a headstone there in the most exclusive of cemeteries. I removed my hat for a moment, just because it felt sort of sacred, in a way I find I can’t explain now.
I came across a few of the mine shafts up there as well, remains of the copper extraction business that once dominated the canyon. From what I hear, it never was a very lucrative venture and it closed for good in the early 1950’s, around the time of the crash. The forest and the rest of the natural flora has rebounded well, hiding almost all of the evidence of the buildings and machinery that once occupied the area, leaving just the random holes in the mountain.
I would like to come back again someday when the skies are blue.
(For more details about the fate of Flight 746 and the events surrounding the crash, check out this excellent site.)

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