Saturday, November 5, 2011

Finding an Old Desert Mine!

So last weekend, my wife and I were out in 29 Palms... the weather was perfect, and I had the bug to go explore.  It was either that, or paint the house trim (an easy choice!).  A road on the map heading south off Highway 62 out by the airport that heads in the direction of Joshua Tree National Park caught my eye.  We've explored this area before (going to Marbolite Mine... here's the link Exploring Wide Open Spaces).  However, this road links off more to the southeast and the map shows that after about 10 - 12 miles of "road" (Jeep trail is more accurate) it reaches a series of mines (Gypsy Mine, Maria Mine, Goods Mine, and Golden Eagle Mine).  It's fairly remote, so as we pack the Jeep, I go through my mental list of safety items:

  • 5 gallon Igloo container filled with water
  • Blanket, hats, light jackets
  • Fully charged cell phones (Note:  I also frequently check during the drive to see where we lose reception.  Always good to know how far away a phone call is!).
  • Extra food, full tank of gas
  • Since it's just my wife and me in our Jeep, we're careful, and I plan for the worst-case scenario... car trouble in the middle of the desert.  Auto club will never find us out here!!  With plenty of water, blankets, and food, we can be comfortable overnight if necessary, and I can hike to the top of a hill to place an emergency call.

    After traveling what seemed like the necessary distance to reach the first mine (Gypsy) and not seeing anything, we were about ready to give up.  The road was deteriorating, it was getting later in the day, and mines are notoriously difficult to find.  Most are unmarked, and many have been filled in or sealed off by BLM for safety reasons.  As we exit the Jeep and look around, I notice a post off on the horizon.  Ah ha, there's the mine!!

    Dang, false alarm.  Turns out to be a pole marking the 'SW Corner'.  Southwest corner of what??  What the heck?!  I have no idea, but a very strange place for this pole.  Truly is out in the middle of nowhere!  And no mine in site.  After exploring on foot, we notice another area off in the distance that looks promising, and it looks like the road heads in that general direction, so off in the Jeep we go.  If this isn't it, we'll head back.  Here's what we find.
    I think I can make out the words "oro fino", which means "fine gold", and below it, "working" and much dimmer the word "mine".  Perhaps a sign staking out a working mine?  As we look around, I see something down in a gully that looks like a rock wall, and (drum roll please...) I notice the opening for a mine leading into the hill!!  I'm so excited I yell for my wife and immediately climb down into the gully to the mine entrance.

    If it weren't for the stone walls outside the mine opening, I doubt we would have found it!  Based on my map, this has to be Gypsy Mine.  The other mines in the area will have to be saved for a future adventure, as we are running out of daylight.  But this was a great find, and we will definitely be back!
    Gypsy Mine entrance
    We discover multiple additional mine openings in the area... one is covered by wood to protect people from falling in (although the wood was rotten and likely would not hold much weight).  This opening appeared to drop at least 40-50 feet, and likely much more!

    My guess is that all these openings (we found at least 4) lead to the same mine, which is probably quite extensive.  The opening on the left (my right) in the photo below is large.  It's a steep, short drop off and then looks like it cuts deep into the hillside.  You would need a ladder or rope to get down.

    Here's an interesting marker with the words "oro fino #1" etched on the surface.  You can see another mine opening on the right.  Cool!!

    The shadows are getting long, and we know it's time to head home, but what an awesome day!  Let me close with a view through the Jeep windshield as we're driving home... desert vista and clear blue skies.  No one around for miles and miles, and we didn't see another vehicle all afternoon.  Then again, this wasn't much of a road, and it was hard to find, so perhaps I shouldn't be surprised!
    Hope you enjoyed my little travelogue!  Important note:  Mines are extremely dangerous!  It's really fun to find these old mines, but please do not go inside!!


    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Sorry, what a cool road trip! (or non-road, if you will. The shots are excellent too, it must have been a fun day...

    3. Wow! It reminds me of the great "mines" at Knott's Berry Farm (my only "mine" experience). Be careful! Thanks for the travelog. It looks beautiful out there.

    4. Sounds like you really plan for the "what if" factor. Few people would consider checking the loss of the cell phone signal periodically. Good thinking. I have seen many mines in the desert but what you found is like striking gold (pun intended) I know the feeling you must have felt locating this gem (sorry, I couldn't resist) Great post and looking forward to your return visit to the Gypsy mine.

    5. Interesting post! I never would have thought to look for old mines. When we travel up 395 to Mammoth, we go through an area with mines...Randsburg and thereabouts. You can see some of them from the road. Also, Bodie...have you ever been there? It's up almost to Bridgeport.

    6. Your adventure made interesting reading for me. I never looked for a mine back in 1952 (the last time I was in Tucson, Arizona) but did find a box canyon with gold in it and sold what I was able to bring out. Had not gone looking for gold and the small pieces I found went into my Levi pocket. I sold it but in those days Gold was going for top dollars — $35.00 an ounce. I think I saw it was over $1,400.00 yesterday or Friday.

    7. This looks like a great adventure!

    8. Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. DSB, haven't been to Randsburg or Bodie, but would really like to explore that area. I see so many great photos of Bodie on Flickr. Abe, so cool that you actually found gold and know what to look for. Not something many people have experienced!

    9. You asked about linking a map. If you have a GPS, set it to decimal and make a way point where you take the picture. On mapquest put it in the box where you would put an address, don't forget the minus on the longitude. It will put a push pin at that location. In the upper right hand there is a box labeled link-imbed click there and it will give you the link.
      Alternate way to get the push-pin: if you can zero in on the map (I often am pretty sure where I took the shot)right click on the location and mapquest will give you the co-ordinates, put them in the address box and hit search to get the push pin at that location.
      It took me a lot of experimentation to figure out how to get the push pin where I wanted it and what format to enter the co-ordinates. I am glad to save others the frustration.

    10. Definitely like the shot through the windshield. Beautiful scene ahead.

    11. Thanks, Martha. Very much appreciated! Peter