Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Mystery of the Iron Door Cave

What a title for my post... Sounds like a Hardy Boys book title!! The Iron Door Cave is somewhat of a legend to the locals of Joshua Tree. Tourists and occasional visitors have likely never heard of it and certainly never seen it. I had heard about it, but it was hard for me to believe that such a thing existed in Joshua Tree National Park. According to legend, there is a cave, large enough to stand up and walk around in, within 1/2 mile or so of one of the more popular campgrounds in the park. The cave is reported to have a large, heavy iron door with a lock on the outside. The cave is so well hidden as to be almost impossible to find unless you have the exact coordinates, and the few locals who know about it keep it a closely guarded secret.

The lock on the outside of the iron door would allow for someone to lock something (or someone) inside the cave by sliding a heavy bolt into place. Strange, right? Why not put the lock on the inside? Or use a padlock if you want to lock it from the outside so others can't get in? While people seem to agree that Bill Keys (of Keys Ranch fame... see my Keys Family Graveyard post) was very likely the builder of the cave, there are two urban legends as to why this cave was built. Rumor #1: Bill Keys stored his dynamite here. Bill Keys was, among other things, a miner so this would certainly make sense. Rumor #2, and the more bizarre and disturbing of the legends: Bill Keys had a child with mental illness that he, at least occasionally, kept locked up in the cave. Given the remoteness of the location (no medical facilities for hundreds of miles) and the deplorable way people with mental illness were treated back in the day, this rumor is at least within the realm of possibility. Where these rumors started I have no idea, but I've found three web sites that all share these same two rumors. The web sites say that Bill Keys may in fact have used the cave for both purposes (hopefully not at the same time!).

So let me get to the point. A reader of my blog posted about Iron Door Cave on his blog a while back. I contacted him and asked if he would be kind enough to give me some hints about finding the legendary cave. Heck, just tell me something that would give me better than a "needle in a haystack" chance of finding the cave. To my surprise, he did even better and gave me the exact coordinates! I owe him big time!!
Some beautiful desert scenery on my hike to find the Iron Door Cave.
See the lizard on the rock?
Do you see it?? You have to scramble up some large boulders to get to the back side of this very large boulder to get to the cave. That's something few people would be likely to do. The door color matches the rock pretty closely, so very likely you would walk (climb) right by the cave and never see it! If you look closely, you can see some concrete between the rock joints.
Dropping down over the the rocks guarding the entrance, you can see rock and mortar steps and the heavy iron door. Bill Keys put a lot of work into building this cave!!
The masonry work around the door frame is impressive.
Graffiti, or modern-day pictographs? Either way, the inside of the Iron Door Cave is heavily marked up, which is too bad.
The inside of the cave was very dark, but the cave floor appears to be concrete.
The cave has an opening built into it at the far side. I wonder what it was for? Perhaps simple air exchange, or perhaps to pass things in and out of the cave? Probably a mystery that will never be solved.
View from inside the cave looking out. The slide bolt lock has been removed (probably by the Park Service for safety reasons).


I hope you enjoyed the Iron Door Cave mystery. Makes me wonder how many caves and other mysteries I've walked right by during my hikes in Joshua Tree!!

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Hole-in-the-Ground Hike

Driving east on the lower half of Geology Tour Road along the south-facing Hexie Mountains, there are clear signs of mining activity. I carefully checked out the area on Google Maps, and yes, signs of mining are all over the area. I planned my route and added coordinates to my GPS.
See the disturbed soil at the top of the hill in the middle of the photo (above)? That's an example of an easy to spot area that's been mined. If you were to hike up there, you might find an old mine. Or perhaps just a hole in the ground. Or perhaps nothing. The authorities (BLM, NPS, etc.) have done a good job (many would say too good) filling in and fencing off old mines. It takes some of the fun out of exploring these areas when they are filled in with little left to see. You have to get pretty remote to find intact mining areas.
I started my hike going up this old mining road. Doesn't look much like a road, does it? Those old miners and their vehicles must have been tough and gutsy, or perhaps downright crazy!!
I made this hike back in April when things were a little cooler and some of the cactus were in bloom.
This area has abundant red barrel cactus. This shot is at the top of the old mining "road" before it veers off to the right.
One of the many areas of mining activity that turned out to be simple holes in the ground (likely much more extensive back in the day, but since filled in).
The old mining road as it turns and parallels the mountain. I would not want to drive this road! I decided to follow it further up the mountain.
Hey, this looks more promising! To this point, everything I've come across has been holes in the ground.
Turns out this was just a shallow exploratory mine, and ended after about 30 feet or so.
The view looking out.
One of my favorite shots from the hike... a hedgehog cactus next to a red barrel, both in flower.  Nice colors in an otherwise rocky and barren environment!
More sign of past mining activity. See the heavy cable coming out of the ground? Also, a good view west toward Geology Tour Road and Pleasant Valley.
What should we call this rock formation? Dinosaur's Back? Dragon Spine?? I like this B&W version.
How about this one? Birdrock??

Time to head home. I can't resist stopping to take this photo (even though I've taken a bunch from here in the past). The exit sign and picture of the sedan out here in the middle of nowhere seem so odd and out-of-place, they always make me smile!

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Thursday, August 4, 2016

You've Been Warned!!!

There is sometimes a reason people choose to live in remote and isolated locations.

A nearby house has an elongated water tank with an antenna on top that makes it look like something out of a sci fi movie!

And on the other side of the "craze person" house is this sweet little homestead cabin.


Ya gotta love the desert!!
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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Goodnight, Sun!

Watching the sun dropping down in the sky, as if it's falling off the edge of the world...




f8, 1/500 sec, ISO 125, 400mm lens
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