2013 Nevada-Mojave Trip


Part One: a thrilling new adventure!

Every summer I spend my five-day vacation camping and exploring the desert, mostly in Nevada but also in the Mojave Desert and parts of eastern California. I explore old ghost towns, mines, mining camps and anything else of interest, while enjoying the beautiful scenery and wide open spaces.

My 2013 trip was a real adventure in every sense of the word! I saw wonderfully preserved sites, historic ruins, and a mine big enough to drive a car in; ancient log cabins and fascinating machinery; thunderstorms, flash floods, wildlife encounters, and a blue sphinx! I also had a variety of car problems, a near-disaster, and my first-ever call to 911! I visited many interesting sites, most of which I’d never seen before, and a few I had not seen in many years.

As usual, you can click on any of the photos or links in the article to see more photos of each site...

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

I seemed to be getting off to a good start. I’d just spent over $5000 on car repairs and maintenance, so I wasn’t expecting to have any trouble in that department. I had almost everything packed early and managed to leave shortly after 10 A.M. Traffic out of San Diego county wasn’t too bad. Then I hit a bumper-to-bumper jam that went all the way through Riverside and the city of San Bernadino.

Suddenly... the engine died, and refused to start. It turned over fine but seemed as if it wasn’t getting spark. I managed to get into the median, and started checking fuses. They all looked ok so I tried the engine again. This time it started right up. Relieved but concerned, I got back on the road.

Reward Mine, CA

My first scheduled stop was the Reward Mine, located on the western flanks of the Inyo mountains southeast of Independence, CA. I’ve wanted to visit this site for some time and finally got the chance on this trip. It was truly a “rewarding” experience!

The Reward Mine is actually a cluster of several different mines and structures from various eras. The first mine discovered here in 1860, was called the Eclipse Mine. The most recent is a large adit (tunnel) on the north side of the ridge, which is large enough to drive a car into!

The mines were active until 1935. There was a nearby town called Reward which lasted from 1900 to 1906. Some mining continued off and on up until the early 1970’s.

I stopped at the large adit first. Although it is possible to drive into it, and many people have, I preferred to walk in. Not only was I concerned about clearance with the rockets on the roof, but it just seemed to risky.


The mine goes deep into the mountain, with many branches and levels. At some places there are shafts going up or down to other levels.

Below: A collared lizard poses for the camera near the Reward Mine.

After leaving the large adit, I went around to the other side of the ridge where most of the earlier mining took place. Here there are a variety of mines, ore bins, chutes, and aerial trams clinging to the mountainside. These can only be reached by hiking up from the canyon below.

Left: A loading bin with a long metal chute leading down to a large ore bin. In the foreground is the remains of an ancient wooden ore chute.

Below: The large ore bin at the bottom of the chute is the first thing one encounters on climbing up to the mines.

Right: A side view of the large ore bin.

Below: Underneath the ore bin are the remains of a winch or hoist. This was used to lower ore down the mountain on an incline or aerial tram. The incline or tram are now long gone.

The mechanism was fitted with rods and levers which allowed the operator to run it while standing in front of the ore bin, where he could also fill the cart or tram bucket.

Left: The loading bins funnel the ore into the metal chutes.

Below: An older loading bin on the right has collapsed. Note the “walkway” alongside the chute, consisting of a single width of planking that has wooden strips nailed to it. Definitely not OSHA-approved!

Above: Except for a couple of newer sections, the ore chute is made of spiral-wound, riveted metal tubes.

Right: Looking past the loading bin, towards a mine, visible in the upper right corner.

Below: A mine, at far right, and the ruins of an old ore chute coming from another mine higher up the mountain.

Below: This elaborately built trail leads from the mine, to the site of a former cable incline around the bend in the distance. It appears that the ore was originally transported via ore car, on tracks, to the incline, where it would be lowered down the mountain. I suspect this was abandoned and the tracks removed after the large loading and ore bins were built.

Left: From the trail I could see an ore bin and aerial tram near the top of the ridge.

Below: The mine on the ridge. The tracks lead to the ore bin.

Below: Most of the ridge top has been undermined. Some parts were backfilled as the digging progressed, as seen here.

Left: The tracks going from the ore bin to the mine. It appears that they started mining the vein near the site of the ore bin. Then as they followed the vein westward, they just kept extending the tracks to reach the ore.

Below: The ore bin and aerial tram terminal. This is the smallest and simplest aerial tram equipment that I’ve ever seen. In fact it appears to be hand-cranked.

Below: Note the unusual shape of the ore bin. Most ore bins have vertical sides.

Right: One of the two tram towers.

Below: The mill site at the foot of the mountain. There are scant ruins here -- an old tank, some foundations, rusty equipment. Until a few years ago, there was also an ore bin at the lower end of the aerial tram. There’s no sign of it now. Most likely it was burned down.

By the time I made my way down from the mine to the mill site, it was already getting dark. I would have to press on towards the town of Lee Vining, CA, where I would head up into the eastern Sierra Nevadas. I planned to spend the night there and check out the Log Cabin Mine in the morning.

On my way up the mountain, I came across this little critter. I think it’s a marmot, but I’m not positive. He doesn’t have the same coloration and markings that I’ve seen in photos of marmots.

Update: I’ve been informed that this guy is an Aplodontia, aka “Mountain beaver”. They are a very primitive rodent and considered a “living fossil”.

Go to the next page to read more about my 2013 Nevada trip:

Nevada Trip 2013 Part Two

See the amazing Log Cabin Mine, Chemung Mine, Masonic, and more as the adventure continues!

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 subjects for dioramas, or for 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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