Bountiful man spends 7 years clearing Burro Mine hikeApr 05, 2021 12:01PM ● By Gail Newbold
For seven years Aubrey Guynn made it his mission to singlehandedly carve a trail to Bountiful’s forgotten Burro Mine in the mountains high above Mueller Park Canyon.
His determination to unravel the mystery of both the mine and the trail is nothing short of remarkable.
The fruits of his labor resulted in a strenuous 11-mile round-trip trail fit only for the most adventurous and curious of hikers. Those who do follow Guynn’s trail must be willing to navigate frequent vertical slopes slippery with dust, shale or snow, and seven makeshift log bridges. But the rewards are many. Observant hikers will see remnants of the trail’s mining past such as tangled phone lines, pieces of concrete, twisted iron and steel tresses, and eventually the mine opening itself.
The trail decoding began when Guynn, a Bountiful resident and amateur photographer, was poking around Mill Stream below Elephant Rock.
“There was a pretty good trail for a while before it stopped, but I saw some intriguing things like a concrete wall in the stream, twisted steel tresses and signs of an old road now and then,” he remembers.
He started researching old mines in Bountiful. First, he went to the Bountiful Museum where he was told there hadn’t been any mines. Next, he began digging at the Utah Historical Society where he found old newspaper articles about the Burro Mine in a publication called the Utah Mining Quarterly. The site was discovered in 1907 by Pierre Peugeot. Further research at the University of Utah revealed that Harvey Sessions, (grandson of Perrigrine Sessions--one of Bountiful’s first settlers) was hired by the owner of the mine to build a road to it.
“I downloaded about 55-70 articles from the U archives of the Davis County Clipper, laid them out chronologically and pieced together the story,” said this Sherlock of trails.
Then came the physical work. His four children were grown and gone, so every night after work and on Saturdays, Guynn returned to the area with an axe, heavy clippers and/or a hand saw. He laboriously began creating a trail on the vestiges of the original road. He did this from 2007 to 2014 and estimates he made about 400 trips to the trail. Each trip took him about 100 yards further.
The bridges were tricky. “One was a log 15 feet above the stream,” he said. “One is not level. My grandson helped me with that one and it’s scary as heck.”
The last thing he’d think about before falling asleep each night was the trail. “I’d trace my steps in my mind,” he said. “I was always losing the trail and going in the wrong direction, which is why it took me seven years.”
Eventually he noticed that deer and animals were walking on the trail. “That helped me a lot,” he said. “A trail needs people walking on it and no one was at first. After four or five years, I’d see more people on it.”
To his knowledge, people rarely go all the way to the mine because it’s difficult and very remote. “And it’s wild back there,” Guynn said. “About every kind of animal in Utah lives there--moose, bear, bobcats, cougar, elk and a lot of deer. I’ve had cougars growl at me, I’ve walked up on bears and I was chased by a crazy territorial moose.”
In addition to his fear of encountering wild animals, another fear dogged him. He wondered if his trailblazing might be illegal.
“I arrived one day to see a big 4-wheel drive State of Utah pickup truck,” he recalled. “I went about a mile and a half up the trail carrying my tools when I saw a 6-foot 4-inch imposing looking man coming toward me. Turns out he was the state fire marshal who’d hiked all the way to the mine. He said, ‘You’re the man, I’ve been looking for you! This trail is great!’”
At that point Guynn confessed he’d cut down big cottonwood trees to make bridges across the stream. Instead of getting chastised, the fire marshal thanked him. He told Guynn there were two or three back canyons with no fire access, but thanks to Guynn, now there was a trail up Mill Stream Canyon.
“I slept better at night after that,” Guynn said.
Now 66, he rarely hikes all the way to the mine but enjoys going partway.
“Some people thought I did what I did because I hoping to find gold,” he said. “It wasn’t that. It was the history that drove me. I love that canyon and hiking the trail feels like walking to an old friend’s house.”
He’s heard that other hikers are carrying on his legacy, bringing their nippers and cutters. That makes him happy. The only way to prevent the trail from getting overrun again is for hikers to use it. He’s always happy to offer advice and guidance.
How to get there: Walk up through the middle of Mueller Park Canyon past the picnic sites and onto the dirt road that ends at a little pond. There you will see the unmarked trailhead. It’s listed on the AllTrails app as Mill Creek and is rated difficult.