2012 Nevada-Mojave Trip


Part One: aNOTHER adventure BEGINS!

Every year I spend my five-day vacation camping and exploring the desert, mostly in Nevada but also in the Mojave Desert. I explore old ghost towns, mines, mining camps and anything else of interest, while enjoying the beautiful scenery and wide open spaces. During my August 2012 adventure, I visited many sites I’d never seen before, and a few I had not seen in many years. Some were major sites, others were small and obscure, yet still interesting:

Skip to:   Part One   Part Two   Part Three   Part Four   Part Five

Trona, CA

I made only one brief stop in this small Mojave desert town. The temperature was somewhere around 115° F. The nearby Searles Dry Lake is mined for potash, salt and other minerals. Facilities to process these minerals dominate the town.

This triangular, concrete church building (left) strikes me as a good candidate for the “ugliest church” award. But the thick, windowless walls probably help keep the heat out.

Four Metals Mill, CA

Next up was another brief stop, this time at the Four Metals Company mill and smelter ruins (right) just outside of Keeler, CA. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to explore this ruin or take more photos at this site.

Below is a shot of my Trooper as I headed up into the Inyo Mountains east of Keeler.

Morning Star Mine Tram Terminal, CA

About 5800’ up the mountain, I came across this large, combination ore bin and tram tower (below). An aerial tram was used to carry ore down from the Morning Star Mine, located near the 8000’ level on Cerro Gordo Peak. The ore bin was in excellent condition. Click on the photo to see more images of this ore bin/tram terminal.

There were several stone ruins nearby but I was unable to photograph them at this time.


A little farther up the canyon I came to the Estelle Tunnel, aka Estelle Mine. This mine had several interesting features, such as the curved, stone powder magazine (right). Another unusual feature was the large room carved out of the mountain near the tunnel entrance, with concrete foundations where some kind of heavy machinery had been mounted (below). Click on any of the photos to see more pics.


Sunset Mine, CA

Continuing up the canyon towards Cerro Gordo, I spotted this ore bin (above), which I believe was part of the Sunset Mine. I could only get a few pics of the ore bin, and none of the mine itself.

Cerro Gordo, CA

I finally returned to Cerro Gordo this year, the first time since about 1989. Sadly, the current owners do not allow visitors, nor do they allow photography. This is due to bad experiences they’ve had, with tourists and “ghost towners” who fail to respect private property and have posted false or misleading information online.

Coming back down the mountain, I took a side trail to the north and came across this unidentified mine (left). No structures remain, but the tunnel extends far into the mountain (below).

Swansea, CA

A short distance north of Keeler is the site of Swansea, a

small town that formed around a silver/lead smelter in the

early 1870’s. The most prominent feature still standing is a

small stone cabin (below). Just five or six years ago, this

cabin’s roof was still mostly intact.

Click on any of these photos to see more Swansea pics.

A pair of odd, homemade mechanical contraptions slowly rust away, a short distance from the cabin.

A stone monument (below) marks the site of the old mill/smelter. A pile of rocks and slag, scattered bricks, and other debris are all that remain.

SPNG Stock Car

Another interesting item in the Swansea area was this former Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge stock car (below), currently being used as a shed or stable.

Dolomite Mines, CA

My last stop before nightfall was the old dolomite mines, several miles north of Swansea. Each of these tunnels was big enough to drive a truck into! I had been in them once, many years ago, but now the tunnels are extremely unstable and mostly caved in.

Go to the next page to read more about my 2012 Nevada trip:

Nevada Trip 2012 Part Two

See the Mary Ellen Mine, Cherry Creek, the Nevada Northern Railway Museum and 4-6-0 steam locomotive #40 in action as the adventure continues!

Skip to:   Part One   Part Two   Part Three   Part Four   Part Five


Note to modelers:

Many of the structures I’ve photographed would make great additions to your model railroad. It is my hope that these photos can be a useful reference resource. If you need larger, higher resolution images, just let me know. Also, in some cases I have additional detail photos that have not been posted online.

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Above: This is what happens to a bag of chips that was packaged at sea level, then driven up into the mountains! If I had gone any higher without releasing the pressure, the bag would have popped.