2014 Nevada-Mojave Trip


Part five: big trouble in a little town!

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

Buffalo Summit, NV

This former miner’s camp is close to Buffalo Summit, just across the canyon to the east. It is also about a mile north of the Highland Mine. There is nothing at the mine save for some shallow prospect holes and trenches, and the remains of a very small stamp mill.

Here at the camp there is a cabin made of old railroad ties, a dilapidated shed, and some foundations and other artifacts that appear to be the remnant of a homemade mill, or perhaps a facility for washing and separating gold dust from placer ore.

Right: Shortly after leaving this site, I encountered a small group of pronghorn antelope.

Knickerbocker, NV

When I reached the Ione area, I bypassed it to check out these ruins a few miles to the south.

This was an early mill town at the mouth of Knickerbocker Canyon, a couple miles south of Ione, NV. The mill was built in 1865 and had twenty stamps and six furnaces. About 25 people occupied the site. The mill operated until 1875.

The mill reopened in 1887 to process ore from Grantsville, but closed two years later when the Grantsville Mill was built. It reopened once more in 1896, closing for the final time in 1897. In 1898 the mill’s equipment was dismantled and moved to Berlin, NV to be used in the mill there.

The ruins of the mill and a few stone cabins are all that remain. The stone work is remarkable and the ruins are quite attractive. However the site has a reputation for having numerous rattlesnakes, no doubt due to all the “nooks and crannies” among the rocks.

Ione, NV

From Knickerbocker I turned north to Ione. The last time I’d been to this small mining town was in 2007. At that time, many of the older buildings and ruins were hidden by thick stands of sagebrush, making it difficult or impossible to get decent photos.

This time I was pleased to find that someone has recently cleared away the brush from these structures.

Silver was discovered here in 1863, and by 1864 Ione had become the county seat. The county courthouse was a wooden cabin which still stands today. But the boom was short lived and in 1867 the county seat was lost to Belmont, along with most of Ione’s citizens. Yet the town never completely died, experiencing many small resurgences due to new strikes, a new mill, or other factors. The last boom was in 1912 with the discovery of cinnabar deposits, and although the boom ended two years later, some cinnabar mining continued into the 1930s. Ione’s post office closed for the last time in 1959.

Above: Cattle freely roam through Ione, NV.

My plan was to spend the night at a former mining camp near Ione, at the head of Sheep Canyon. The low-resolution map I had with me made it difficult to locate Sheep Canyon, so I took an alternate route up Shamrock Canyon. The maps shows a lot of other mines in that area, so I figured even if I couldn’t find the one I wanted before dark, I should at least find something else interesting. I could explore the area thoroughly the next morning.

But every side trail I came to was gated, and about halfway up I found a gate blocking the road through Shamrock Canyon. To make matters much, much worse, I also had some car trouble. The past couple days, the Trooper’s engine noise had been getting louder due to an apparent exhaust leak. While driving through Shamrock Canyon I hit a bad bump and it suddenly got VERY LOUD. The exhaust pipe had broken off just below the manifold.

Without any back-pressure from the exhaust system, the engine ran poorly and lacked power. I couldn’t do any serious off-roading, and it would soon be too dark to look for another place to camp. So I made the decision to leave Ione and head south to Tonopah, about 70 miles away. I found that even on good roads my top speed was limited.

I arrived in Tonopah much too late to get any repairs done so I headed to a site south of there where I camped near some old mine shafts. I returned to Tonopah in the morning with high hopes that I could get this fixed and get back out on the trail. No such luck -- there are no muffler shops in town, and no one who could do even a temporary repair. I was told the nearest qualified shop would be in Las Vegas, 217 miles away! I called AAA and arranged to have it towed.

Fortunately the tow truck driver had a better solution. He knew a shop in Bishop, CA that could do the work, and it was 100 miles closer. With the 100 miles of free towing I got from AAA, I would only have to pay for 17 miles of the tow, plus I could get the job done quicker and still be near the region I wanted to be in.

As it turned out, the shop in Bishop wasn’t able to replace the broken exhaust pipe or do a permanent fix, but they were able to weld about halfway around the pipe. This was good enough to get me back on the road and would last until I got home, at least, as long as I wasn’t too rough with it off-road.

Still, I had wasted almost an entire day dealing with this, and was supposed to be back in San Diego the following day. But Cris was feeling well enough that she said I could take an extra day and salvage the rest of my trip.

Pigeon Springs, NV

I drove south to Big Pine, where I topped off the gas, then headed east back into Nevada. I wanted to find the Sylvania Mine, but I was afraid the most direct route would be too rough and might crack my partially-repaired exhaust pipe again. So I chose to take an alternate route which was not well-documented on my map.

My first stop was the stamp mill ruins at Pigeon Springs, in the Sylvania Mountains. The stamp mill was active from 1890 to 1907.

From there I headed into the canyon south of the stamp mill and soon came to the remains of another, more recent mill. One of the interesting artifacts here is the rear half of an early model water tank truck, used to hold water for the mill.

Sylvania Mountain Mine, NV

What I didn’t realize at the time, was that the route through Pigeon Springs was not the one I wanted. So I spent several hours searching for the Sylvania Mine without finding it.

However, I did find several smaller sites along the way. One of them was this unidentified mine located on a ridge high in the Sylvania Mountains. I’m calling it the Sylvania Mountain Mine.

Below: A rail spike protruding from a small log which had been used as a tie on the mine’s tracks.

Left: I found the shed skins of cicadas clinging to the branches of the sagebrush near the mine. The wingless larva live underground for years, then  when they mature, they crawl up onto branches and shed their skin to reveal their winged, adult form.

Log Spring, NV

South of Pigeon Springs is a mining camp at a site called Log Spring. There are a few insignificant mines in the area and a pair of cabins. One of the cabins is made of beautiful white stone, and has a wooden addition at the south end. The other cabin is made of wood. Both were occupied into modern times, possibly by squatters, and there are some modern sheds, refrigerators and trash marring the site.

Willow Spring, CA

Just across the state line into California, I found a pair of small wooden cabins at a site called Willow Spring. One cabin has collapsed, and the other is leaning.

Olsen’s Folly, NV

On the way back from Willow Spring, I spotted the foundations of a large mill located high on a ridge of the Sylvania Mountains, overlooking Cucomongo Canyon.

The site isn’t shown or named on the topographic maps I’ve seen. The only identifying feature is the faint trace of a hand-painted sign on one wall, which says, “Olsen’s Folly”.

Above: Sunset over the Sylvania Mountains.

Right: A Great Basin gopher snake that was warming itself on the road after dark. I chased it off the road so it wouldn’t be run over.

Read on as I visit some famous (and not so famous) sites in the thrilling conclusion of my 2014 Nevada trip:

Nevada Trip 2014 Part Six

Bonnie Claire, Rhyolite, 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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