The rugged Never Summer Range stretches from Cameron Pass southward to Apiatan Mountain, a distance of some 20 miles. The northern half of the range forms the boundary between Jackson County and Grand County. The Never Summer Range is home to a number of 11,000 foot peaks and several 12,000-footers. These include from north to south, Iron Mountain (12,265 feet), Lulu Mountain (12,228 feet), Howard Mountain (12,810 feet), Baker Mountain (12,397 feet), Mineral Point (11,488 feet), Ruby Mountain (12,008 feet), and Gravel Mountain (11,769 feet). The southernmost peak in the chain, Apiatan Mountain, rises up 10,319 feet and overlooks Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain Lake, and Lake Granby.
The Never Summer Range consists of an ancient core of Precambrian gneiss, schist, and mixed rock intruded by much younger Tertiary granitic plutons. These granitic magmas actually breached the surface 24 to 29 million years ago, forming a chain of volcanoes which have since eroded away. The Tertiary granites in the Never Summer Range are actually the exposed roots of these ancient volcanoes. The overlying lava flows and pyroclastics have been stripped away, revealing the magma chambers deep in the bowels of the volcanoes.
One of these large Tertiary granitic intrusions occurs in the northern portion of the Never Summer Range, just west of Lulu City. Nearly 6 miles in length, this granitic pluton forms the bulk of the range north of Mount Nimbus. In the central portion of the range, ancient Precambrian basement rock is exposed. These primordial
gneisses and schists comprise most of Baker Mountain, Bowen Mountain, Cascade Mountain, and the Blue Ridge. Another large Tertiary granitic intrusion occurs at the southern end of the range, near Porphyry Peaks and Apiatan Mountain. This intrusion is contemporaneous with the pluton west of Lulu City.
Apiatan Mountain is the southernmost peak in the Never Summer Range and lies at the head of at least one proven gold-bearing stream. It is drained on its eastern flank by Stillwater Creek and Soda Creek. The two streams have carved their courses through mid-Tertiary granite, Precambrian metamorphics, and younger upper-Tertiary volcanics. West of Apiatan Mountain, Cretaceous and Tertiary clastic sedimentary rocks crop out in a wide band that includes most of nearby Gravel Mountain.
The Never Summer Range is only sparsely mineralized. Thin veins of gold and silver-bearing sulfides occur near the sites of Gaskill and Lulu City. These deposits were mostly worked out during the early 1880's, but a few of them were rich enough to support hard rock mining operations for several years. The richest mines included the Wolverine, Ruby, Eureka, North Star, and Iron Mines.
Placer gold is present in nearly every stream draining the southern end of the Never Summer Range. The Gravel Mountain/Apiatan Mountain area in particular is surrounded by gold-bearing streams. Stillwater Creek, Willow Creek, Gold Run, Denver Creek, Kaufmann Creek, and Bronco Creek all contain placer gold in small amounts.
Prospectors have their work cut out for them in their search for the Lost Gold of Soda Creek. First of all, the area is only weakly mineralized. The Never Summer Range has never been a major producer of gold, nor has the surrounding country. Secondly, the area has been heavily prospected. During the 1880's, hundreds of prospectors scoured the mountainsides looking for precious metals. It is quite probable that all of the large veins and replacement bodies have already been discovered. Thirdly, the country is fairly rugged, although the southern portion of the Never Summer Range is much easier to negotiate than the northern part.
Prospectors may want to focus their efforts on the Apiatan Mountain/Gravel Mountain area, just northwest of Grand Lake. The area is literally surrounded by gold-bearing streams although none of them are particularly rich. Apiatan Mountain in particular may harbor a small gold-bearing vein that has served as a source for all the placer gold in Stillwater Creek.
Soda Creek and Stillwater Creek both drain the eastern slopes of Apiatan Mountain. Obviously they are tapping the same source of gold.
Prospectors should probably concentrate on the Tertiary granite and younger Tertiary volcanics that crop out on Apiatan Mountain. The surrounding country rock should also be scrutinized for any signs of mineralization, especially along the intrusive contacts. A careful search of the southeastern slope of Porphyry Peaks would also be advisable. A metal-detector may prove useful in the search for gold-bearing float in Soda Creek. Tracing the float upstream may reveal the presence of a small hidden vein.