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2/22 - 2/24/2013 Old Dale Mining District, CA

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members of the Offroad Passport Premium Club leave for the Old Dale trip tomorrow morning!


we should all be meeting in Joshua Tree National Park and heading off pavement around 1 or 2 PM Friday (Arizona time) and i'll turn on my SPOT Messenger then. you can follow along and see where we end up exploring over the weekend: http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0rVBhURxBd7BqIvqhnh5brOz3Zqgl9qvQ


more info on the SPOT system: http://offroadpassport.com/where.php



UPDATE: We're back, the trip report starts with Post #5 below...



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In for the night:



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we made it out alive!




i'll get a trip report together soon...

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Friday, February 22


This is a tale of exploration, mines, barren landscapes, and dwindling numbers. We originally had 8 rigs signed up, but as the date drew near, only 4 could make it. I usually avoid caravaning, so all the attendees were on their own till the meeting spot in Joshua Tree National Park, CA.


Aimee and I left Brady with the grandparents and set out from Phoenix around 8 AM. The trip out was about 4 hours and uneventful other than passing GearHead on the freeway at some point. I tend to go about 5 over, and Gear's YJ is much happier at 65 or under, so he was only a brief red blur ;)




Everyone made it to the Visitor Center by Noon CA time as we had planned. I want to give props to Dave (Hurricane) for being well prepared. He had recently fixed some issues with his yellow TJ, and to make sure that it wasn't going to cause any more problems, he left a day early. I appreciate the consideration that shows for everyone else's time. We all break down sometimes, but there's nothing more frustrating that hearing someone say "oh yeah, I knew that might break soon..." in the middle of trip.




We hit dirt within a few minutes and stopped to air-down and disconnect. Our 4th rig was Bob (Lazarus) and Sharon's silver TJ.






Mission Well & Mission Mill


The first off-highway stop was that of the Mission Well. Drilling nearly 450 feet deep in the desert had to be no quick job in 1934, but the well was an essential water source for many of the area's early mines and mills. A large valve marked "PEERLESS" sat rusting away on top of a concrete foundation.






A few other small foundations remain near the well:






Here Aimee captures me inspecting the early pioneer's masonry skills:





Just past the well sits a hill with more ruins marked Mission Mill on some maps and Sunrise Mill on others.




This sediment deposit remains even after most of a tank has vanished:




I'm not sure what the large rock base at the top of the hill was, perhaps just a foundation for another tank. It appeared to have a compass-rose painted on it currently.




Looking back into the Joshua Tree area:




Our small group of explorers:






On to Old Dale


We moved on North-East towards BLM land. There were several old paths now closed to traffic. I've never seen "No Vehicles" cement curbs in the middle of the desert before, so I asked Aimee to snap a pic:




Soon after passing the National Park boundary line, the road became a bit rougher:




We took it fairly slow as we had plenty of time to make it to camp, and were still loaded with all our camping supplies.




As we entered the valley near camp, we saw our first few mine ruins.









We would also see plenty of junk on this trip. Usually referred to as trash by standard definition, it's all now "mining relics" due simply to the passage of time.




We came across so many old mattress springs that Dave decided he should go into business selling them. There may be no demand, but with such an abundant supply, how could you go wrong?






Secret Camp


Early in the afternoon we arrived at the "secret camp". Not a really a secret by any stretch of the word, but just a really neat set of ruins that a few people have taken the time to improve for other campers to enjoy.


We'll start the tour with the main building - no roof, but there are 4 walls which provide some wind relief. It also features a rustic corner fireplace.




Out back sits a small cave with miscellaneous supplies for working on the area and camping items such as wood, water, tables, and a grill. The logbook says to take what you need and leave something if you can. We left a couple bundles of firewood and straightened the place up a bit, as some things had been left out.




On our previous visit an American flag hung on the main building, with a solar light directed at it. The light remains, but it appears the flag pole holder has come loose, so the flag is in the cave for now.




The south window sill has a little museum collection going. I added a small green rock found nearby.




Finally, like much of the Old Dale, there's also the "just plain wierd/creepy" items:




A nice patio and a couple more foundations and walls make nice areas to set a tent. The final selling feature is the cactus Zen garden, including a solar-powered "Gopher Chaser" (images of Bill Murray in Caddyshack come to mind).




The only negative to the area is if you need to stake down your tent, you had better bring good stakes - we're blasting into solid rock here!








Brooklyn Mine Loop


After setting up, some of us did a quick loop to visit a couple nearby mines and cabins. Looking back at camp from the Los Angeles Mine, you can just make out Lazarus' Jeep in the wash (they stayed behind to take it easy setting up):




Gear and I walked to several of the shafts of the Los Angeles Mine. Here he is tempting fate over a deep vertical shaft:






Plenty of head-frames and other wooden ruins were still intact.










Here's Dave surveying the remains of a concrete tank, and no doubt taking in the view:






We found a large chunk of bright greenish-blue rock in the tailings. I assume a copper ore of some sort?





As the sun began to leave the valley, we continued off the mountain down into a canyon were we stopped at creepy-cabin #1...








The stone walled cabin has no roof, except the porch. It's a random-junk-super-salad inside. My favorite item this time was the new box of wine glasses.







We also passed by several more mine ruins, including the Brooklyin Mine. The remains of a very old dump-trunk sat perched near some tailings in one area:





Exiting the canyon is a fun 4-LO crawl, nothing difficult, just a very bumpy ride and some careful tire placement.





Back at Camp


We arrived back at camp just before the sun disappeared completely. Hot burritos with melted cheese were on the menu for Aimee and I, thanks to the engine oven. The wind picked up a bit and it was around 40* when we first gathered at the fire. The wind died down soon though, making for a mild winter night.


All of us stayed up for a bit gabbing around the small blaze. I had a couple glasses of wine, so it didn't take long for the sleepy-bug to bite. Once the fire died down to just a small bit of one log, we said our goodnights and headed to our tents.





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Cool write-up! I'm continually jealous of the cool stuff y'all have to explore out there. I WILL make it out there to join y'all for a trip one of these days!

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Saturday, February 23 (Morning)


We awoke to pretty chilly weather, probably around 38*. After breakfast I tooled around taking pictures near camp for a bit while everyone else finished getting ready.








Gear was also ready early, so he rode just down the valley to check out a mine.






And Then There Were 3


Bob and Sharon were having some health concerns due to the cold, so they elected to go home early. I made sure Bob knew the route to get out and was comfortable finding his way. The rest of us left camp, headed South to begin a giant loop I had planned.




I told everyone we had to at least stop by Moose Mine to get a pic for ScottL. There was a nice view from near the mine entrance.






The mine actually turned out to be one of the few with horizontal adits that we could explore. (Warning: You should never enter mines yourself, text while driving, or go outside with wet hair. Seriously, just because you see us do something stupid doesn't mean you can assume it's safe.)




Half way back in the 200 or so foot shaft, the ceiling opened up where a vien had been followed. Parts of the "crack" went all the way to the top of the mountain. It seemed like only the old 6x6 beams were keeping the mountain from collapsing back together.




Just after the "crack", half of the floor opened up to a vertical shaft... hope you aren't still looking up when you get here:




The vertical shaft extended both below and straight up, letting sunlight in from the mountaintop opening.




There were a few patches of a thin crystals at the end of the tunnel, you can see them shimmering in this pic:






Continuing on a Mission


Our next stop was the Mission Mine. Apparently in use during the early 80's (based on the date in a foundation), this seemed to be one of the more recent ruins we visited.




The massive elevator support structure above the main shaft won't last much longer. Significant erosion has exposed most of the foundation while widening the shaft opening. There was fresh fencing and keep-out/danger signage around this entire area.




The other news since the last time we visited is the disappearance of "The Crane". I can only assume it was stolen for scrap. Several storage containers were also cut up and removed with only the floors remaining. The majority of the processing equipment is still intact.






The area also had some surface mining, and a smaller shaft just down the road behind the main area (perhaps a vent shaft).






Just below the main shaft is a flat area with mostly trash and some miscellaneous junk.






It did make for a few neat photos though.




This large tank was begging me to try and run inside it down a hill. I was pretty sure that would end with a femur poking out - or maybe a rib, so I left it alone.




I thought of Virgil when I ran across this old transceiver, so I grabbed a pic for him. Not sure if it's a CB or what frequencies it operated on, the brand is "konel". There was also a large antenna still standing nearby on the southmost hill.








Good Morning Sunset


After leaving the Mission Mine, we did a short trail requiring 4-LO to reach the Sunset Mine.




Beside the main vertical shaft is a structure that I deemed "The Bomb Shelter", a peculiarly rugged little building. It has thick cement walls, and the windows have swing out doors made of 1/4"+ thick metal. The roof is a curved thick metal as well. In contrast to it's utilitarian architecture, one side has an extremely bright American Flag painted on it.








Everyone took their turn inspecting the area:








The date in the sill of the door appears to be 10-22-1936:






The Golden Egg Mine


Our final stop before lunch was the Golden Egg Mine. Dave and Aimee both stayed with the Jeeps at the last available turn-around spot while Gear and I ventured down the rest of the worn road to the mine and mill.


The mine itself consisted primarily of a vertical shaft with a collapsed head-frame.




Gear dove right into the mess of the mill area:




These look sturdy:




An interesting processing device:




Above the mine was a hacked together tower made of pipe, perhaps a small tram for getting processed ore back to the top of the hill.




There was also evidence of some minor surface mining and a couple very short horizontal shafts nearby:




Having checked off another mine, we hiked back up the rough road to the Jeeps. Continuing on for just a few miles, we soon stopped on top of a hill with more vertical shafts for lunch. At about 74* and with a slight breeze, the weather was perfect for a desert area with no shade.





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Sure looks like you all had a great trip. I suppose you would have to take a class in geology or mining to figure out how all that equipment was used. What is really interesting is how people back then came up with all the different ideas to get the metals (copper, gold, silver, etc.) out of the ore. The amount of work it took was staggering. Whenever I visit sites like these, I try to put myself back in their day, and imagine how it must have been, especially without the modern conveniences we take for granted today.


Great Pics!

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we made it out alive!





Kbro you got a hair cut, i like it!

thanks for taking those cool mOOse mine photos; we both really wanted to be there 'splorin with you guys.


& awesome trip story thus far with such vibrant colored photos, i wish i had your reporting skillz. The details in my head always seem to get fuzzy after a night 'round the campfire:rolleyes:


looking forward to part 3!

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