Nestled into the canyon at the Golden Egg Mine, I'd either gotten the truck leveled just right or I was extra tired from the previous day's mine hopping. Whatever the reason, I slept fantastically until about three minutes before my alarm went off. I love nights like that.
What a place to wake up. As if I'm the only one in the entire mining district!
Exploring into mine adits, shafts, etc. is not safe. I joke around about that a bit in this story, but I just want to be clear: Stay out, stay alive.
Still bummed that I'd failed in my search the previous evening, I ate a quick breakfast snack - of donettes and Fritos - before heading back to the mill to poke around a bit more and hopefully turn up a clue to the fate of the infamous ore cart.
I started by revisiting the adit that was marked on my map. Definitely collapsed.
After checking out the still-collapsed adit, I poked around the mill a bit on my way back to the Tacoma. It was on the upper level of the mill that I got my clue. There, a vertical shaft plunged down, deep into the mountain. Surely that shaft had to connect to something, didn't it?
I dropped in a rock. Silence. Then, a sound. Not coming from the vertical shaft - instead I heard an echo off the canyon walls below!
Making my way to the edge, I noticed a faint foot trail switch-backing its way deep into the wash below. I'd missed it earlier as the remains - walls and roof - of an old cabin, as well as bits of sheet metal from the mill itself, had collapsed over the closest 30 feet of the trail. Suddenly, I was full of hope.
This looks promising. Could it be that my GPS waypoint was in the wrong spot?
Having only ever gotten a single set of GPS data from Mike @mk5 - as we planned this trip - my perception was that he's usually quite accurate in his placement of waypoints and trails. This leads me to only one possible conclusion, and it's not pretty: Not only did he hope I wouldn't find the ore cart in the first place, but he wanted me to feel a deep sense of regret that I'd missed it before the adit collapsed.
I emailed Mike when I returned and shared a few photos with him, including this one. His reaction confirmed my suspicion, this guy is a complete weasel:
Damn, just some seriously great shots, man. All my favorite spots and more! So wish I had more time to stay out there with you.
Aww shit, you found the ore cart - high-five, bro!
LOL YOU LIT IT UP!
Amazing. Come back some time.
Of course, I can't wait to meet up again!
A little further into the adit, I found myself looking up towards the mill from the bottom of the vertical shaft.
Flush with the warm fuzzy feelings that I can only imagine are what successful people experience on a regular basis, I headed back up to the Tacoma, indulged in a well-deserved bowl of Cheerios, and climbed behind the wheel for the bumpy ride back to the main road and the start of my last full day exploring the plethora of mines that dot the Dale Mining District.
My route for the day - at least the one I'd planned out the previous evening as I'd decided to stay put at the Golden Egg rather than heading south under cover of darkness - would take me in a generally northwesterly direction, exploring a series of mines along the eastern edge of the Pinto Mountain Wilderness. I didn't know if I'd find any "totally safe" adits worth exploring at any of these mines, but not knowing when I'd be in the area again, I figured that this was as good a time as any to go explore these remote stretches of "totally safe" roads.
The Duplex Mine
I pulled onto the main road - JT1994 - just before 7:45am, and just after the Texan (who'd been camped and cooking dinner at the Sunset Mine the evening before), drove past.
It was slow going behind the Texan.
Luckily, he noticed me within the first few minutes, and as soon as a wide spot in the road presented itself, he pulled over to let me pass. Recognizing my truck as I pulled along side and stopped to wish him a good morning and let him know that his dinner had smelled divine, he rolled down his window to wish me the same and apologize for not sharing! Now that's some Texas hospitality!
A few minutes later I was once again off the main line, winding my way along a well-built trail that snaked its way along a ridgeline toward the Duplex Mine.
I often wonder if it took miners longer to build the roads than to strike out at their actual mine sites.
When I arrived at the end of the road and the Duplex Mine, there wasn't much besides this metal frame and a few vertical shafts that remained.
The views weren't half bad up here.
I happened to get cell service for the first time in three days up at the top of the Duplex Mine, so I spent a few minutes catching up with @mrs.turbodb, checking the weather forecast, and making sure that there was nothing urgent in my email, before heading back - the entire visit taking less than 20 minutes!
Heading back, the Pinto Mountain Wilderness rising in the distance.
The Gold Crown Mine
Following a series of roads that have since become a jumble of JT#### designations in my mind, I wound may way through the rocky desert terrain of which I was becoming so accustomed. Headed to the Gold Crown Mine, I was sure that this was going to be something special. After all, ore from the Mission Mine - that I'd visited the evening before - was sent here for processing, so it had to be a reasonably large-scale operation.
What I'd failed to remember - as always, I'm a slow learner - was that large-scale doesn't necessarily meant that anything is left on site. In fact, the more organized an operation, the more likely they are to clean up after themselves... or at least sell off anything of value.
Concrete foundations, shafts, and tailings were all that was left at the Gold Crown Mine. Though, of these, there was no shortage.
Though there wasn't much remaining, the Gold Crown Mine was one of the most important gold mines in the district during the 1920s and 1930s. Established by the Gold Crown Mining Company in 1926, it consolidated twenty-five claims into a single mine. Mine shafts tunneled to more than 600 feet. The mine got pipe water from New Dale town and for milling its gold and that from the neighboring mines. It closed down in 1938 following the exhaustion of its ore, though reprocessing of tailings continued until 1940.
The mill - with obviously specialized footings - for round tanks, diversions, and of course whatever pulverized the rock into a fine powder - was fun to wonder about.
I found this photo after I returned.
As usual, someone wanted me to know they'd been here.
Recognize this guy from the Carlyle Mine? I still don't know (or care) what it says.
The "Pack Trail" Mine
After a quick look around, I was headed back the way I'd come - across the main road, JT1927 - to a mine that I'd seen on satellite. From that vantage point it appeared to have some structures - perhaps a headframe, maybe some rail line - but was, as far as I could tell, unnamed.
The structures I'd seen turned out to be a collapsed ore chute.
What I couldn't tell at the time, was that the road up to this unnamed mine was the roughest I'd encounter in my time in the district. Cut into the side of the mountain, the narrow trail was filled with sharp basketball-and-larger sized rocks. It was clear that not many people made it up this way.
Mike would later tell me that it was labeled as a "pack trail" on his old USGS maps. The unnamed mine now had a name!
After getting turned around and having a quick mid-morning lunch of breakfast foods, I gathered up the plethora of lighting equipment that makes any mine adit totally safe, and climbed the tailings pile, hoping that the adit I'd noticed above was open.
I thought it was cool to find some miners marks - Bill and Dennis worked this mine in 1837. Almost 200 years earlier!
I didn't know it at the time - I've only learned some of this since my return - but one of the things I discovered while I was investigating the "Pack Trail" Mine was the old fuse table. This is where blasting fuses would have been measured and assembled, and in this case, a series of load count dots as well.
Huh, never seen "safe" spelled that way.
After poking around the adit for a while - these little LEDs that Mike left are addictive - I headed back towards the collar and proceeded to pick my way down the pack trail, now much more confident since I wasn't worried about running into a washout and finding somewhere to turn around.
This looks significantly more inviting than it felt on the way up.
The Imperial Mine
Still before noon, I headed west again, towards the last mine I'd visit in the district: The Imperial.
One of the lesser visited mines in the district, The Imperial is located in Humbug Mountain - further west than most think of when it comes to the Dale Mining District. Historic details of the mine are scant, but Mike mentioned that when he'd visited several years earlier, he'd hesitated to enter the adit since it was signed as active.
Crossing the desert pavement was pleasurable, the road smooth and the outside temps, perfect.
Wonder if I'll run into anyone out here?
Reasonably modern stairs leading up the waste dump outside the lower adit, a convenient touch.
The mine is made up of two adits and a connecting shaft containing a wooden rock chute, allowing for easier removal of material from the upper shaft. Wooden support structures and braces have been built into the lower adit, which also contains an empty storage room.
I was hoping to find out more details about the mine when I ran into this sign.
I got a nice chuckle reading this note. My type of folks!
Whie the upper adit was collapsed, the lower extended 300 feet or so into the mountain, and there were a few spots where modern lighting and tools were present to aid in the removal of ore. I can only imagine how much easier portable generators and modern lighting would have made mining back in the day.
The chute to the upper level has been modernized and is clearly still in operation. (left) | Enough with the LEDs already. (right)
Ultimately, I never ran into anyone at the Imperial Mine, though I did run into one of the First Class Miners members as I was on my way out. Perhaps 65-years old, she was emptying 5-gallon buckets of gravel onto the road as it passed through a sandy wash. "So that our members with 2WD vehicles can get through," she related to me as we chatted for a few moments. She'd been at it - hauling seven buckets at a time from Twentynine Palms in her Nissan Frontier - for nearly a year. Talk about a lot of work - and ready to be washed away with the next major rainfall - yikes!
Headed out of the Dale Mining District.
In three days, I'd visited twenty historic mines, ventured further into more adits than I'd care to admit, and gotten a fantastic introduction to the Virginia Dale - Pinto Basin Mining District from Mike. As I headed south towards my next adventure, I already knew that I'd need to come back. In some cases, to visit places I'd already been, but also to travel some roads that were even more remote - to places I'd not yet explored!
Time for my first visit to Joshua Tree!