I’ve lived in the Black Hills all my life and I’m still constantly in awe at the myriad of interesting places hidden away in the pines. Abandoned mines, waterfalls and ghost towns are strewn throughout, waiting to be rediscovered by the intrepid adventurer. Despite an abundance of travel books and hiking maps, many of my favorite places are learned by word-of-mouth. Such is the case with the Bob Ingersoll Mine near Keystone.
The directions I received seemed sparse: “Drive into Keystone, take a right on Old Hill City Road, drive for a little over three miles and keep your eyes peeled for the trail head on the right,” but I managed to find the trail head on my first attempt. (The three other vehicles parked at the scene were a good clue.) The journey to the trail is a treat in itself. Old Hill City Road winds through a steep, pine-clad canyon and then back and forth over the railroad tracks used today by the 1880 train.
The hike to the mine and mill is fairly easy, with a gentle incline the entire way there. The path is actually the vestiges of the road that the trucks carrying mica, lithium, feldspar, beryllium, tin, niobium, tantalum and other minerals from the pegmatites traveled on. Looking at the path it's not surprising that shafts were sunk in the area. If the sun manages to sneak by the tree line, the whole trail shimmers as the abundance of quartz and mica on the ground reflect the light.
At a leisurely pace, the blue sheet metal walls of the mine will come into view about 20 minutes into the hike. The building is impressive. Though privately owned, the area is devoid of any no-trespassing signs or other means of deterring curious hikers. Regardless, the building is old and unmaintained and should be enjoyed without entering.
Further up the hill, directly behind the mill are several draws containing exploratory shafts and a road leading to a large mine. The mouth of the mine greeted us with a chill wind emanating from within. The remains of pipes and cart-tracks run along the sides of the mine. Sunlight pours in through several openings in the ceiling throughout. The mine isn’t very long, but there is a large chamber near the end replete with benches and another skylight where you can sit and wonder about the gems and crystals that were unearthed there.