Hansen Creek for Beginners
By Nathen Piela
Washington Rock Hounds folks… If you have never been to Hansen Creek before and you are thinking about checking it out soon, here are some basic tips, advice and equipment you will find helpful to have with you that first time. If you are a person who has been there once or twice but really struggled and did not seem to find anything or had a horrible experience for whatever reason, there is most likely something in here that could lead to an enjoyable adventure next time around as well. You have to understand that this is just basic stuff, like only chapter one in the Book of Hansen, but we have to start somewhere.
I have been going to these mountains since I was 14. Over the years I have accumulated some knowledge on how to have an amazing experience out there regardless of if it is rockhounding related.
When it comes to finding rocks on Humpback Mountain (yeah, that’s the name of the mountain where the Hansen Creek public dig area is located), if someone is interested in checking it out for the first time, I would pose them a question, I would ask them: Why do you want to go to Hansen? (Hey, don’t hate on me too much for this part, I am just trying to help.) Let’s imagine a scenario where a person is at a juncture in their life where they are wanting to go on a rockhounding adventure and maybe just Googled “best rockhounding in the Seattle area/Washington/King County/or whatever,” saw Hansen Creek as one of the popular spots, and is now considering a potential future rockhounding trip out there for the first time. I would ask that person, “Are we sure Hansen is right for you?” If you are just searching for a new rockhounding spot in that general area, I could name quite a few (like an adventure to First Creek) that would provide a less exhausting, less dangerous, and most likely better overall experience where at the end of the day you would walk away with better mineralization. Like even off of the same exit (Exit 47), if you take a left out of the off-ramp instead of a right to go to Hansen, Denny Mountain and all of the glorious mineralization it has to offer are directly ahead of you, but nobody goes there. I don’t get it.
But ok, let us assume you are set on going to the Humpback Mountain mineralization zone. Maybe you are just going down the list and are all “Well, Hansen is next,” or you are feeling determined or drawn out there for whatever reason. Perfect, let us move on…
The first thing you need to do in preparation of your trip is rummage up some tools, equipment and supplies. You are going to be spending the day crystal mining, most likely deep into the earth and it is exhausting and demanding work. You are going to need to make sure you bring some basic mining tools, but obviously it is more important that you also have rudimentary wilderness and survival supplies. Hansen Creek is located high up on a mountainside deep in the Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest. It is a really majestic and remote country. If you have never lived or ventured too far outside of a city your entire life, and/or maybe your rockhounding experience has been solely beach combing on a nice day, the experience of a trip to Hansen will be eye-opening. Because it is a dig site which is located at altitude, way up a giant mountain slope and surrounded by dense forest, it is an absolutely wonderful place to get away from everything (like the hustle and bustle of city life) but is again, rather remote and primal country where you just need to be prepared and remain mentally alert while you are out there.
As long as you ensure you have some elementary supplies and tools, and are aware of the safety hazards and concerns, I would take a deep breath and know you will have fun and find neat mineralization. I am not trying to scare you into not going there, more the opposite. If you are determined and are planning on going your first time, I just want to make sure you bring the proper supplies, get to and from Hansen safely, avoid some basic mining errors, and hopefully come home at the end of a great day with some beautiful new minerals. To have that ideal Hansen first time experience, you will definitely need some tech. Basic survival equipment you should bring would include rations for at least a day and a half (plan for an extra half day worth of emergency “something went wrong” rations on top of whatever food and hydration you would usually bring for your day trip), as well as some sort of warmth through the night (again, if something goes wrong it gets really cold out there at night, and imagine if you were also injured and trapped or whatever) so something to start fires, an extra pair of lightweight but warm clothing like thermal underwear, an emergency blanket (takes up no space at all in someone’s bag, but can save your life), as well as a knife, compass, GPS, headlamp (you are going to need it for the mining anyways), and spare batteries for everything. If you have never been this deep out in the woods, I would also suggest you also bring some bug spray because horse flies will chew you up, and make you forget there had also been mosquitoes there as well the whole time that had been biting you. I just use essential oils and I do not like the harsh chemical bug repellents, but I always have some (of the nasty aerosol stuff) in my bag for other people because they can get that bad. And if you are unfamiliar with being out in the deep woods at altitude and are thinking right now “What the heck is Nate talking about? I have been to the park, or had a barbecue in my backyard (maybe somewhere in a suburb) my entire life and have dealt with flies before. They never bother me.” Those were house flies. There are all sorts of flies in nature, but the type you will most likely come to despise at Hansen are going to bite you. House flies just hang out and while annoying, they just soar around and do their own thing. They do not interact with you and are sort of just a nuisance. Horse flies like at Hansen are different. The females bite animals, including humans, to obtain blood. They are like mosquitoes on steroids. Just bring bug spray even if you do not intend to use it.
There are also mining tools you will need to bring. As I already described, you will be spending the day crystal mining, but also it is good to point out that you are going to be soil mining, not hard rock mining. Items you DO NOT need to bring are things like chisels, hammers, etc. because you are not going to be breaking any rocks. You are not going to be chiseling anything from hard rock, nor are you going to find any sort of geodes that you need to open. When you are soil mining, the few things you do not want to leave home without would be some sort of shovel or digging implement, a collection container, at least one classifier, knee pads or kneeling pads, and I strongly suggest a hard hat or even bicycle helmet. If you do not bring a classifier, you drastically reduce your ability to mine at all, and you will 100% walk away with fewer crystals and minerals at the end of the day. It is like going to a beach on a nice day with no towel, or showing up to a high-end restaurant with no appetite. You just have to have one. More than one if possible. I have included both pictures and videos of the combinations of sizes and types that I bring with me when I soil mine.
When it comes to what type of classifier to use, I have found success with and will always only use these one-piece circular plastic classifiers somewhere like Hansen. I have many different types of classifiers manufactured out of different materials, or with different sizes of mesh for use at places other than Hansen. When I am just soil mining, and the mineral composition and size of rocks is similar to Hansen, I like to use a combination of multiple classifiers stacked. There is a lot of reasoning behind it. Let me try to explain. First, let me explain why I only use the more modern, manufactured (but most importantly one-piece plastic) construction classifiers versus the traditional (usually self-assembled) wooden framed shaker tables and trays. A shaker table has historically been a fundamental mining implement which has produced monumental results throughout the ages. When I talk about shaker tables or classifiers, those are all just names of slightly different apparatuses that achieve the same task, which in essence is mechanizing the sorting process of fresh soil and whatever rock, debris, etc. comes out of the bucket when you dig. You need some sort of classifier when you go to Hansen. Up until modern times, the only options were to craft your own, and that usually meant out of wood. Nowadays most people go to Home Depot and buy pieces of lightweight wood and fashion it into a sort of picture frame built around a section of chicken wire. I do not like using these, and am never caught dead with one at Hansen.
One thing about those types is that the self-made classifiers never last. Depending on your craftsmanship skills, it could break by the end of the day. Broken homemade wooden and sharp contorted chicken wire remnants that people have left behind is the number one piece of garbage you see constantly laying around at Hansen. I have included pictures of two of my favorite classifiers that make it out to Hansen. I have had these workhorses for over a decade. I am not just saying I have been using this type of classifier for over a decade, I am saying these exact ones in the pictures themselves are over a decade old. These have outlived so many homemade classifiers and are still going strong. Nothing wrong with them, good as new. One reason the one-piece classifiers last such a long time is that, well, they are just one piece. These ultra-rugged, durable plastic classifiers molded into one piece means there are no parts, rivets or components to ever come loose or rust over time. Regardless of the type of classifier you bring, the methods in which you will be using it will be the same.
Once you find a suitable area of mineralization in which you wish to mine, you will be shoveling material into the classifiers, and then with a combination of 60% bouncing the classifier or table up and down slightly, mixed with a 20% back and forth and then side to side motion, 15% swirling circular motions, and 5% tapping the pan (just hitting the sides of your classifier with the palm of your hand to allow built up soil to break free), you work the material. At the end of the process then you are left to sort through whatever minerals are remaining minus the soil that has fallen through the holes.
Another suggestion if you have never been there before and you actually want to get in a full day of mining and produce some neat minerals as a result, would be to leave your canine companion at home. Just at least that first time until you become familiar with how treacherous and demanding the terrain can be and how involved and intensive mining is. Do not get me wrong, I am a huge dog lover, and do not ever mind or judge people if I see them with their furry buddy out there. I know a few regulars who have smaller (on leash) animal companions and they have figured out a system that works. I also constantly see first timers come and the dog freaks out, runs away (I have put mining on hold to go look for random stranger’s dogs before) or gets injured. Imagine that as long as I have been going up to Hansen, Ezekiel (my personal canine soulmate) has never been up there once. Sure, I have taken him throughout those mountains for years (on walks or adventures that were not at the Hansen public dig area) and yeah, we have played countless times in and along the river down at the bottom of the mountain, but up at the dig site? You will never see him there. It is just too dangerous for a mid-large sized dog left unsupervised. If you just want to take your dog for a walk and get to the end of the trail, poke around with no tools, maybe find a few shards of crystallization or broken fragments, and then walk back and call it a fun dog hike, go ahead. It is a beautiful country up there. Your dog would love a walk. But if you actually want to mine tenaciously free of distraction and produce results, having another living being around that you have to keep an eye on is not the most conducive thing to the process.
Ok, let us get back to what it is like/what it is not like and how to get there.
You would not believe the number of times I have had encounters with random strangers out there who thought when they briefly researched online and saw the word “creek” in the title assumed they would be hunting alluvial minerals. If the majority or entirety of your rockhounding experiences and adventures have been walking along river or ocean shores, and ground spotting fun rocks, that’s not what it is like at Hansen. First of all, there is no actual creek (or any water source at all as a matter of fact) once you are at the public dig area where you will spend the majority of your day. On the way to and from the public dig area, there are a number of water sources, but again nothing at the public dig. Right when you get off the exit (Exit 47) and take a right off the ramp, you pass over a bridge crossing the South Fork Snoqualmie River (one last river where someone could search for alluvial minerals) and then you take a right at the next intersection in the road. You drive along a dirt road that has a few spots for camping (you could fit a small RV) but remember that because it is out in the middle of nowhere in a National Forest, there are 100% no camping amenities provided. I mean there are no restrooms, no rest stop, no RV hookups, etc. You are on your own out there. Also, to be noted is that in this National Forest it is illegal to camp for more than 14 days out of any 30-day period of time and then you have to vacate the National Forest entirely for the remainder of that 30-day period. Anyways, so you keep driving along this gravel road until you see the first road on your left which is to get to the NF-5510 which takes you all the way up to the public dig site. Do not take that road. I mean you can, it’s just a short road, but if you keep driving and take the NEXT left after that (like 10 seconds of driving more to get to the second road, it is like the other street of a city block, it is so close) you will find it has way less potholes and immediately turns into 5510 as well. If you have an off-road vehicle, take the first road, but if you have a lower clearance vehicle and/or less experience driving on roads that are more primitive, take the second. Your vehicle will thank you.
From where you get on 5510, it is about a 3.6 mile additional drive and this is where you really get going up the mountain. If you had ever heard of a “bad part of the Hansen road” that made you question if your vehicle could endure, this would be the stretch they were referring to. Right now, like as of this week, mid-August 2022, compared to the rest of the year, it is not too bad. Unless you have a lowered car (like aftermarket lowered further than manufacturer standards), you will most likely make it with no problem. There are a few parts of the road with quite a few potholes and the potential hazards would be running your vehicle into a ditch or bottoming out and getting your car stuck, blowing a tire, getting too close to the steep drop offs along one side of the road and plummeting down, as well as other drivers. Just take it slow and always expect someone else could be coming around the corner back down the mountain and you might both have to slam on your brakes skidding out and into a ditch or something. Just be mindful. Remember there are plenty of spots on the mountain where there is no reception, and let us say someone did get stuck, crashed their car, or encountered an emergency or survival situation… you are going to have to be the one to change the tire on your vehicle. There is no service station or anything for that matter within walking distance. It is advised to know how to change a tire on your vehicle, and have said spare tire (which you checked recently to ensure it was actually inflated) with you.
A couple of miles up the road you encounter the part of 5510 that has the most potholes right around when you get to the giant decommissioned railroad trestle. Just drive on the edges of the potholes and not through them and you should be fine. After you pass the trestle, you continue up the hill and the next notable landmark you will drive past is a fallen tree across the road that you have to scoot past. You will keep driving up the hill and it will be relatively straight until you get to what feels like a left-hand turn. The road will straighten out again and then right there before the road veers up to the right in a hairpin turn, is where you want to park for the trail to the public dig area. You will most likely see other cars if it is a weekday, and if you do not, there is the sight of a trail leading into the woods, a few larger boulders, and recent campfire remnants. The left turn out of nowhere followed by that immediate hairpin turn up the hill to the right (which is past where you want to park) is what you can focus on. Park there and head up the trail.
The trail is 1.4 miles. I have seen so many people get lost on the trail, or stop and mine halfway up the trail thinking “I thought this was it,” but just keep walking until the trail runs out. I have included a picture of the end of the trail where I put up some caution tape one day previously when I had been seeing too many people get lost at the end of the day trying to find their way back to the start of the trail to come out. Walk that 1.4 miles until the trail runs out and you see a giant 15’x15’ caution tape box suspended in the trees above you. It is hard to miss.
So technically, here you go… as you pass under the caution tape box you are now walking through the front door of the Hansen Creek public dig area and into a magical and exciting world of mineralization. But before you take another step, remember that caution tape box project I put up serves not only as a visual landmark marking the trailhead, but I also chose reinforced caution tape specifically because hey, from here on out to the end of the day when you pass back under this, you REALLY need to proceed with caution. Hansen is a deathtrap in my mind. Just please stay safe. Let me list some of the types of dangers with just traversing around. First of all, the entire public dig site is on a sloped area of a mountain. The terrain is in a slough zone to a degree where you won’t be walking around on any sort of bedrock. You will be hiking around on loose soil and displaced rocks littered between fallen trees and countless previous holes. If you were to go to Hansen this month, it is the dry season, so the dirt on the slope is very loose and you can slip very easily. You can slip and that might not seem like a giant danger (like recovering from tripping elsewhere is no big deal) but if you lose your footing here, you can really hurt yourself in any of the previous diggings, tailings and loose rocks, and also the sharp remnants of fallen trees.
Everyone always comments on the holes being a safety concern, as it is very easy to step into one of the previous holes you can see everywhere and hurt yourself. You really have to pay attention to what you cannot see as well as all the visual holes or entrances to the tunnels. When people mine into the mountainside, they sometimes have ceiling cave ins and the result could be a ceiling in their tunnel which is only a few inches or one foot below the seemingly innocuous forest floor 10 feet away from the hole anyone sees. I have stepped on an area of forest floor that did not show any signs of being mined recently, and had my foot go through the ground into someone’s tunnel where the entrance had been out of sight 10 feet away. Just be careful and test your footing. Using a walking stick can help.
Although the holes are a major concern, I find the remnants of trees and the sharp sticks everywhere are more of a threat. A percentage of the fallen trees at Hansen are due to natural causes, but the majority of the uprooted trees are from people digging. There is a big emphasis on digging under living trees and people think that will get them better minerals, but there is no need. We will go into that later. With all these fallen trees littering the area in which you need to traverse and mine, it can add up to potential injury if you are not careful. Many of the fallen trees have been downed for a long time, and the branches have all been broken off to the point there is just a small stubby remnant. This remnant is usually razor sharp and whether you are scooting over a log, picking up a walking stick, or even bracing yourself (like working your way down the mountain and reaching out to put your palm up against the trunk of a live tree for balance), you can get you nicked. The small cuts are not the big problem, it is sliding or falling and impaling yourself or sustaining a major cut that is the threat. Just take your time and be careful.
Ok, you went through the caution tape box, and you are aware of some of the dangers of traversing around out here, but now what, and now where? This is the point where a Hansen experience can make or break itself. I have seen so many people fail terribly at Hansen who told me, “Well I walked to the end of the trail and dug a bit, but didn’t find anything.” And I see it all the time. Sometimes I take this trail, get to the end, and like right alongside the trail, someone is poking around by hand in the topsoil, “…and I’m not finding anything,” and it is like yeah, ok, you got to the end of the trail but now the real adventure begins. Imagine if the Hansen Creek public dig area was a large Costco parking lot on any given busy day, when you are walking through the caution tape and are at the start of everything, that is like you are at the one singular parking spot at the bottom right corner of a giant mass of pavement and vehicles. The odds that out of everyone parking their cars to go in and enjoy warehouse consumer pricing, you are never going to find “the nicest car in the lot” in that one way out in the middle of nowhere corner spot you are standing. You probably are not going to find any car parked there at all. You have to go walk around the parking lot, or in this case hike around the mountain if you want to be impressed by the best mineralization. At least try to get a couple of hundred feet in any direction, but remember there is a whole mountain to explore.
Lots of people really stress out about where to dig when they go to Hansen. It is a big topic of contention in mining or prospecting in general, but even for someone who is coming to Hansen for the first time, I always hear “Where’s that ONE spot man?” and it is always rather comical to me. It really matters less where you dig, and instead matters more that after picking any random hole or area to dig, that you use the proper methods and equipment for recovery during your mining. Usually when I go to Hansen, I walk around and maybe check out a few of the previous holes that I had been working on, you know to see what’s changed, or if anyone had been digging there and left behind any fun tailings they had not seen. When I am ready to actually dig somewhere, I usually pick a completely new spot and just plow into the mountain. When people stress out on where to dig, or try to claim jump, they are failing to understand how small we are on a mountain/human scale. All of Humpback Mountain has beautiful mineralization, and the Hansen Creek public area is just one small sliver, of one section, of one slope, of one face, of one giant mountain. Trust me, there is mineralization anywhere you go. But it is not necessarily going to jump out at you, and requires a considerable amount of effort and work to access it. Quite often I see first timers coming and expecting really nice crystals to be laying around. Usually this coincides with someone who has had the majority of their rockhounding adventures having been hunting along a river. Mining is a very different beast altogether.
Imagine once you get out there, the mountainside is like you are standing on one giant hamburger. Your feet above the ground are like you are standing on the top of the bun, and we really need to remove that top bun to get down to the more succulent bits. I have included various pictures of the layers out at Hansen and to what depth you really want to be working material. Wherever you decide to dig, imagine the top five to seven feet of dirt is like removing that top bun. That is a lot of material to go through just to get to a good area to start classifying. Whenever I start a new spot to dig, I just power through that first five to seven feet of dirt without classifying at all. Your job at that point is get it out of the hole as fast and efficiently as you can in a responsible manner. You might still pocket a few crystals that are inadvertently getting through the mix, but again you want to get down to those middle layers of the hamburger. Once you get down that deep, you will notice the type of ground you are digging into really changes. When previously that top layer had a really loose texture (imagine if you are a baker there was no binding agent in your mixture) and fell apart at the slightest touch, you will now start to see and feel harder ground.
This is where you are getting to the heart of the hamburger. If the meat of the hamburger are the crystals you are seeking, they will mostly be found right under the cheese, tomatoes, lettuce or whatever toppings are on the burger. Without specifying which is which (it is sort of on purpose as I could go on and on about different scenarios where the layering of whatever specific hole ended up drastically different), you will see these certain indicators when you get down to the right depths. You can tell you are getting to the toppings when you start to see and feel harder ground that does not resemble the topsoil. A first topping layer could be argued to be when you start seeing those larger rocks or cobble layer which is a bunch of small, medium and occasionally larger sized rocks almost concreted into this really hard dirt. Unlike the topsoil layer you were moving aside and could pick through by hand, this harder sediment mix is going to require a mining pick, brass screwdriver or other tool to pry free. It is really tough stuff. Another layer or indicator could be a band of heavy iron staining. Another layer or topping would be when you see what looks like ash or kitty litter and it is like gravel. When you start to see these signs in any given hole, that is where you start mining.
If you actually read this to this point and were like “Wow, Nate that sounds like a lot,” I have to laugh a bit and smile and remind you we JUST got to the starting line. Now is where you have some caffeine or whatever to get you going, put your brain into work mode, and put in hours of intense physical mining. Mining is tough work. I come from a family heritage of miners and let me tell you it is demanding, brutal work when you get into it. You are moving boulders, constantly at risk of collapsing material, occasionally injuring yourself, and by the end of the day if you are doing it right, you should have burned 15,000 calories or more hopefully.
If step one of your first day on the job at Hansen was to find your workspace cubicle (whatever hole you chose) now it is time to go to work. Hopefully you brought someone with you and did not venture to Hansen for the first time on your own for safety reasons. To achieve success, you can really benefit from mechanizing the whole process. At this stage of the day, having additional people can really pay off. You can form a mechanized assembly line in which you alternate spots occasionally. One person in the hole digging the material and filling a bucket, another person outside the hole hauling the bucket out and dumping it into a classifier or shaker table, and another person helping with shaking and sorting works well. I do it all alone, but help can assure nobody gets burnt out, everyone has fun, and a good amount of material gets moved by the end of the day. I assure you, if you dig down to these layers of ground, spend a period of time working the layer (like continually chasing it sideways or whatever direction) while classifying the material, and then REALLY paying attention to what comes out of the ground, you will find fun mineralization.
But now that you are actually mining, there are a number of additional safety hazards you should be mindful of. The number one thing that I am always dreading happening to myself personally whenever I visit Hansen (again, I have gone there enough to not worry about things get lost, which might be as important to someone who has never been there and is planning on visiting), for me specifically even with familiarity with the mountain and mining as a skill and technique, I am still constantly worried about and susceptible to falling debris and collapsing material. You have to understand, the whole side of the hill is in a state of collapsing in a grander sense, so when people have been digging there for years and you never know how prone to collapse any “new” ground you might be working really is, you just have to take extra precautions. I do not tunnel under live trees personally, but under stumps or even up against walls out in the open with nothing overhead, I constantly experience myself and witness collapsing material around others which can be pretty scary. If someone is tunneling into the mountain or under something, you can perform tap checks on the ceiling before you go in and as well along the course of the day, hopefully dislodging anything ready to fall at random. I always wear a hard hat. It has saved my life a number of times this season already. I could tell you countless stories. You have to understand when the mountain collapses on itself (as in nobody is even around and things collapse and that is partially exacerbated further right now because it is the dry season), there can be no warning. I have had silent boulders end up crushing my work space when I get the random intuition to take a break and get out of the hole or away from whatever wall I had been working. I have included pictures and videos if you do not believe me. This is another reason you should be working with someone else, just in case something happens. If you are alone, and you survive one of these boulders pinning you down, you could be trapped like in any of those mining movies or survival situations (like ‘127 Hours’) and then maybe because you picked a remote spot and nobody ends up finding you, you have to endure going into the night and hopefully do not get hypothermia. Just be safe.
As a whole, if there is one reason people (like first-timers) who go to Hansen do not come home with any neat rocks, it is because after locating one of those layers on the hamburger and then classifying the material, they did not spend enough time looking through and sifting over the results. I cannot tell you the number of first timers (especially people coming from being used to only hunting for rocks along and in rivers) end up casting aside really nice crystals because they do not realize when you are soil mining, everything comes out completely caked or encrusted with sediment. It is really easy to miss absolutely stunning mineral specimens if someone does not spend more time assessing whatever they shook in the classifiers than they did with the shoveling and classifying process. You just really have to pay attention to what you are pulling out of the ground and I cannot overemphasize it enough.
While you are going through all that ground and moving all that material in pursuit of your own minerals, remember to be mindful to not accidentally become a safety hazard to someone else down the hill. Lots of people get zoned in, or thirsty to keep finding crystals and lose focus that they might be right above the hill from someone who might have arrived later in the day. When you are pulling out giant rocks and boulders, please be mindful not to throw or roll them down the hill because the entire Hansen dig site is on terrain of nothing but steep mountainside; even a small rock can roll endlessly and build up momentum. When you are taking out your tailings, one thing you can do to prevent this, which also equally benefits the forest and ecosystem as an act of reclamation, is to just be mindful of how you deal with your tailings.
For safety reasons, everyone should already be removing all of your overburden and tailings in a responsible manner. That obviously means not throwing them down the hill, but also if someone takes an additional moment to carefully remove them and place them in “best case scenario new locations” as in pulling out a boulder and not just rolling it out of your hole aimlessly, but manually lifting it and carrying it over to a flat spot on the mountain a few feet away from your workspace where you know it will not be a tripping or rolling hazard in the future for others, you can actually start to re-terraform a bit of the mountain. You can get pretty creative with how you give back to the mountain that by the end of the day hopefully showed you some amazing mineralization.
Getting lost on the way back is also a major safety hazard with a trip to Hansen. When you are working your way up the mountain and exploring on the way to finding wherever you will end up mining, you can take steps like even something as simple as turning around and looking at what going the other direction on your way back will look like. You can even turn around and take a picture of the reverse angle multiple times culminating in a visual story trail that you can reference back to on the way out. Another reason (it is really the number one reason) I put up that caution tape box was for lost first timers (it even happens to people who feel familiar with the mountain and have been there a few times) who cannot find the start of the trail you need to take back down to where everyone parks. This type of forest is a chaotic visual mess where everything starts to look similar and it is very easy to get lost. When someone is tired at the end of the day, carrying heavy gear or collection buckets, making their way back down unfamiliar steep terrain littered with loose material, ankle breaking holes, sharp broken remnants of dead trees (hopefully also not in dying light, leave early that first time) is when there is the most chance of getting injured. People have the tendency to get a little hurried which could inevitably lead to recklessness on the way back out at the end of the day. The feeling of “well we are done, and we are almost back” is when people can sometimes really let their caution down. Just take your time, remember there is no rush, and while you are walking out you can think ahead to all the fun you will have cleaning the new minerals you just found.
Remember this is just chapter one of things you need to know to have that great Hansen experience, but everyone has to start somewhere. Hopefully this helps keep some people safe, at the same time they can appreciate the excitement of mining crystals from the earth for the first time.
Thanks everyone and have fun out there!