2013 Nevada-Mojave Trip


Part five: Blue Scorpions, a blue sphinx, and 911!

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Click on any of the photos or links in the article to see more photos of each site...

Above: A huge scorpion, at least 4” long from head to tail, glows blue in UV light. This site is totally infested with scorpions and camel spiders!

Poinsettia Mine, NV

The Poinsettia Mine is a real gem! This small mercury mining camp is tucked away in a bowl-shaped canyon. The only information I’ve found so far states that the mine was started in 1929 and was worked until at least 1944. A Boy Scout troop from Hawthorne, NV has adopted the mining camp and maintained the cabins. However it looks like they don’t get out there very often.

When I arrived after dark I was disappointed to find that someone else was already here. I was really not in the mood for another long night of driving around in the dark trying to find some other mine. But it turned out the guy who was camped here was really friendly and didn’t mind sharing the site. He was an archeologist working for a geothermal company that was putting in a new facility in the valley.

I originally planned to camp out in the open, as usual. After two hours of chasing away scorpions and battling dozens of camel spiders (really nasty relatives of scorpions), I changed my mind. Fortunately the cabins here are really nice.

The camp has three cabins which are in great condition. The interiors are clean and not infested with rodents. Sturdy wooden platforms have been built for use as beds, so you’re not sleeping directly on the floor. There is no glass in the windows, and one cabin has no door, but in this hot, dry climate you want all the air circulation you can get.

Right: I spent the night in Cabin Three. It has an open porch that has been rebuilt relatively recently. All three cabins have new corrugated metal roofing.

Below: It’s not the Ritz, but it’s clean, cool and free of rodents.

Cabin Two is nearly identical to Cabin Three, but it has an enclosed porch and a working front door. The archeologist was staying in Cabin Two.

Cabin One also has an enclosed porch, and is larger overall, with a kitchen. It was probably the camp’s cookhouse and mess hall. The Boy Scouts use it as a meeting room. There is even a piano in Cabin One, but age and weather have made it unplayable.

Above: There are some shacks behind the cabins, which are more rundown, and some have fallen apart. This small shack contains a crude, homemade water heater.

Right: Nearby is a stone dugout that was once used for storage.

Below: Next to the dugout is a solitary grave marked with a wooden cross. I have been unable to find out anything about who might be buried here.

Right: A side-blotched lizard basks in the sun.

The primary mine shaft has a headframe which is beginning to lean quite a bit and may soon fall if someone doesn’t find a way to support it. Until a few years ago there was a shack near the headframe, but someone burned it down, leaving only a concrete foundation filled with ash and debris. There are also a couple of older shafts, a retort and a other items.

Blue Sphinx Mine, NV

Very little remains of the Blue Sphinx Mine -- a crumbling shaft, a rusty piece of machinery, a dilapidated powder magazine, and some debris.

The real attraction here is this spectacular natural stone formation, from which the mine takes its name.

Golden Pen Mine, NV - Mill

On my way to the next mine, I came across these ruins of a small mill in the canyon below the mine.

Golden Pen Mine, NV

The Golden Pen Mine is located just north of the Blue Sphinx.

Silver and gold ore was first discovered here in 1908. Originally the ore was taken to Rawhide for processing, but in 1919 the owners of the Golden Pen built their own mill with a capacity of 20 tons.

The last recorded production from the mine was in 1939. Sometime in the 1970s or 80s, some bulldozing and exploration work was done at the site but nothing came of it.

Above: The bunkhouse ruins.

Right: The main house interior.

Below: The main house and dugout.

Left: The mine adit.

Below: The bunkhouse ruins. The second story was still standing just a year or two earlier.

Above: The mine is here on the north side of this ridge. The main house and bunkhouse ruins are on the south side of the ridge. As I was leaving, I ended up on this trail, which comes to a dead end just above the mine ruins in the lower right hand corner. There was no place to turn around, so I had back out, all the way around the ridge...

Just before I got back to the correct trail, the Trooper suddenly lurched over the side!

The trail here is supported by a loose stone wall. Apparently both the front and back tires were right on the edge of the wall, and it collapsed out from under the rear tire. When the back end went over, it pulled the front tire over the side too.

The Trooper was completely hung up! There was at least a foot of air under the rear tire. The axle and skid plates were on the ground. If the stone wall collapsed any further, the Trooper would have rolled over.

I piled rocks under the rear tire in an effort to stabilize it, but it was clear I could not get out of this myself. I had to use my rented satellite phone to call 911.

I had always wondered what would happen in a situation like this, and now I know. The 911 operator contacted the Mineral County sheriff’s office, and they sent out Search and Rescue. This is a volunteer group that works with the sheriff’s department.

They came out in four “tricked out” off-road vehicles equipped with winches, arriving about two hours after my call. The guy with the biggest vehicle parked on the slope above, and slightly ahead of, the Trooper. He dug his rear wheels into ground to anchor it. The winch cable was secured to the tow hooks on the front frame of my vehicle. One guy got into the Trooper and gave it the gas, while the winch pulled on it.

The front end came up pretty easily but the rear axle was snagged on the rocks. For a moment I thought it was going to tear the axle off! But no, the rocks broke loose and the Trooper was back on the trail. (I wish I had thought to shoot some video of this.)

So, a hearty “Thank you!” to the men and women of Mineral County Search and Rescue!

Above: An antique wagon on display at Middlegate, NV.

I had planned to explore some more mines in the area, but getting the Trooper hung up and wasted too much time. I headed north to Highway 50, then east, stopping for gas and ice in Middlegate and Austin. From Austin I turned south on Highway 376, intent on spending the night at the ghost town of Jefferson, NV.

Go to Page 6 to read the conclusion of my 2013 Nevada trip:

Nevada Trip 2013 Part Six

Jefferson, Green’s Camp, Stateline, and more.

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


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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