2014 Nevada-Mojave Trip


Part One: My latest 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 2014 trip was a mix of adventure, discovery, and frustration. Some sites I’d planned to visit proved to be inaccessible. Others were difficult to find. I had some car trouble too. Despite all this, I still had a great time and managed to see some interesting new places, and revisit a few sites I hadn’t seen in a long time. And I shot a lot of photos of amazing ruins, vintage equipment and historic structures.

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

Viking Mine, CA

My first scheduled stop was the Viking Mine, a small mining camp located at the south end of the Inyo Mountains, just off of Saline Valley Road. So far, I haven’t been able to find out any of the history of this mine.

I first came here in 1988. Since then, one wood-framed cabin has collapsed. Another, smaller one is completely gone. The dugout garage is now roofless and has been turned into a sheltered campfire area. The stone cabin’s roof has almost completely blown away or collapsed.

The stone cabin has a wood-framed addition at the south end, and that is still intact. There are also two bunkhouses made of old railroad ties, and they are still standing.

Above: The bunkhouses made of railroad ties.

Left: This used to be a dugout garage. Now the roof is gone, the walls partially collapsed. Someone has built a crude fireplace from the debris.

Below: Bunkhouse interior. Its plastered walls are riddled with bullet holes.

The mine is reached by driving a short distance up the canyon, to the north of the camp. Then there’s a brief hike up to the mine on the canyon slope.

The mine has two different shafts, and a couple of adits (horizontal mine tunnels) at two different levels on the hill. At the highest level there is a small headframe, with the remains of a long ore chute leading down to the lower level.

On my last visit to the mine back in the early 1990s, the chute was still intact. Now it is twisted off to one side, either blown down by the desert winds, or pulled down by vandals.

After I left the Viking Mine and headed towards the Saline Valley, I noticed another headframe and ore chute of the Viking Mine, over on the east side of the ridge. It was getting late though and I didn’t have time to stop and check it out. Maybe next year...

Buckhorn Mine, CA

My next stop was the Buckhorn Mine, in the hills south of Saline Valley.

The only structure at this site is the cabin made from a former boxcar. The history of the boxcar is unknown, but my guess is that it most likely from the Carson & Colorado railroad, or possibly the Death Valley Railroad. It appears to be the right size for an early narrow gauge car, and both railroads were not too far from here. The cabin has been officially “adopted” through the BLM’s “Adopt A Cabin” program.

According to a history of the site posted inside the cabin, the first mine claims in the area date back to the 1930s. The original Buckhorn claim was filed in 1958, with additional claims being added in 1961. It is unknown when the cabin was put here, or by whom. It was occupied into the early 1980s.

My only previous visit here was about 1990 or so. At that time the cabin was not maintained. The windows were broken out and I think the door was missing. It’s good to see it in better condition now.

Below: The kitchen end of the boxcar cabin’s interior.

Saline Valley Tram Towers, CA

There are several old, wooden tram towers on the floor of Saline Valley. These were used to transport brine from the slat flats, to the processing plant in Keeler, CA. To get there, the aerial tram had to cross over the mountains in the background of the above photo.

Gray Eagle Mine, CA

By the time I reached the Gray Eagle Mine, it was late in the day. The sun was low in the sky and the mine was in the shadow of the mountains, so the photos aren’t as good as I would have liked.

This mine in the Saline Valley area is fairly old yet has seen activity off and one in recent times. There is even a video surveillance camera to protect the site from vandalism and theft.

The mine itself is located way high up on a very steep mountainside. I had hoped to hike up there, but there wasn’t enough time on this trip.

A very long pipe is used as an ore chute to transport the ore down to an ore bin at the base of the mountain. Some of the wooden braces supporting this chute have been recently replaced, and look almost brand new.

The most interesting feature is a “Skagit B-20 Logging and Loading Donkey”. This is a two-drum winch, powered by a Ford flathead V8 engine. It is used to operate a steep aerial tram, for hauling supplies to and from the mine. I have created a separate page for the photos of this rare piece of vintage equipment.

Bunker Hill Mine, CA

My last stop before dark was the Bunker Hill Mine. This interesting mine and mining camp are located up a canyon in the Saline Valley area.

Originally you could drive to the site, and camp inside one of the cabins. Unfortunately when Saline Valley was made a part of Death Valley National Park, the park service closed the road to the mine, erecting a veritable Berlin Wall of steel. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, “Mr. Park Bureaucrat, tear down this wall!”

I had to hike about a mile or so up the canyon to the mining camp. The mine itself is much higher, positioned on the side of the mountain. I arrived just after sunset and barely was able to photograph the mining camp. Someday I hope to return with more time, and hike all the way up to the mine.

So far I’ve found no history for this mine. All I know is that it was a lead/silver mine. There are four standing buildings, all sheathed with corrugated metal. The smallest contains a gasoline engine which must have been connected to a generator; the generator is missing. There is a long bunkhouse which is sealed up, and a cookhouse which has been maintained nicely enough to provide a good place to camp in cold weather.

Another building is the assay office or shop, where the ore samples were tested. It still contains a small mill to grind the ore, and a furnace or forge to melt the ore. One workbench still has some broken assay crucibles.

Below: The cookhouse.

Above: Interior of the cookhouse. It still has a small wood-burning stove for heat in the winter.

Right: An early automobile engine which was once used to turn a generator, inside the power house.

Marble Canyon Mines, CA

As I headed north out of Saline Valley, I passed through Marble Canyon. Here there are several small mines and a couple old cabins. Unfortunately it was long past dark by that time, so I was only able to get a few photos.

From there I had to go west to Big Pine, CA for gas and ice, before heading east and north into Nevada. My destination was the North Star Mines, where I would spend the night.

Go to the next page to read more about my 2014 Nevada/Mojave trip:

Nevada Trip 2014 Part Two

See the quirky North Star Mines, the Black Hawk and Silver Gulch Mines, a herd of bighorn sheep, 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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