2016 Nevada-Mojave Trip


Part five: The Exciting conclusion!

Above: I spent a night at the former mine superintendent’s house in Minnietta, CA.

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

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Minnietta, CA

After leaving Gold Point, I returned to Minnietta, CA, arriving right around midnight. I camped outside this cabin, which was originally the mine superintendent’s house. The cabin has been fixed up and maintained by volunteers and is quite nice inside, but at this time of year it was much too hot to sleep inside, and I’d rather be out under the stars anyway.

Mining began here way back in 1876 with the discovery of the Minnietta Star Belle, Mountain View, and Keystone mines. This cabin was built in the 1930s to replace a previous structure that had burned down.

When I first started coming to Minnietta in 1988, there were more buildings here. The mine office was badly damged but still standing. The former bunkhouse and mess hall were both intact, as was a small tin shack at the Keystone mine. These structures were all destroyed by vandals using stolen dynamite some time in the early 1990s.

Above: The cabin has a living room, bedroom, bathroom and kitchen.

Below: A view of the mines and mining camp from across the canyon. There are numerous adits and shafts on the mountain, all the way up to the top.

Below: An ore bin and water tanks near the cabin. Ore from the mine above, was brought down to the bin via aerial cable tram. The water tanks have large holes blasted in them by vandals.

Above: A small headframe and ore bin at one of the shafts on the mountain.

Below: This ore bin was the upper terminal of the tram which connected to the ore bin near the cabin.

Above: Self-portrait at the entrance of a mine high on the mountainside.

Below: There are numerous stone ruins and foundations on the canyon floor, across from the main camp.

Above: Self-portrait with stone ruins.

Below: Nope, not another self-portrait! It’s one of the many wild burros that roam the area.

Above: A nearly intact stone cabin is located at the upper end of the canyon.

Below: A view of my 4Runner through the hole in the cabin wall.

Left: Layers of dark and light limestone in the canyon near Minnietta.

Lead Mine, NV aka “Hughes Mine”

Pronounced “leed”, this small gold mine in Stone Canyon was also known as the Hughes Mine. The only structure is this unusual, wedge-shaped ore bin, which is built on an outcrop of natural rock.

Above: A large, folded limestone formation in Stone Canyon.

Right: Heading up the trail to Lookout City.

Lookout City, CA

Lookout City is located on a barren plateau, way up near the peak of Lookout Mountain. It is directly above Minnietta to the south, and the Lead Mine to the north. The town began as a mining camp in 1875. It was part of the Lookout Mining District which included the Modoc, Minnietta Star Belle, Carbonate, and Queen of Sheba mines. At its peak, Lookout City had more than 50 dwellings, five saloons, two general stores, a boarding house and restaurant, and a blacksmith’s shop and stable.

Although I had been to Minnietta many times over the years, I never even knew about Lookout City until recently. The trail to reach it is long and rugged, with several spots that could become impassable after one good storm. It was getting pretty late in the afternoon by the time I got up there, so I didn’t have time to explore the whole area or any of the mines.

Above: This was the general store. The stone walls are the remains of the basement and living quarters. The store was upstairs and made of wood, which is mostly gone.

Below: A wagon road from the town to several mines on the ridge. At the end (left) is a wide spot for turning the wagons around. There are also traces of a pack trail, used to haul supplies up from the valley on burros.

Above and below: Dust devils in Panamint Valley.

Right: The temperature in Panamint Valley was 111 F.

Ballarat, CA

Ballarat was founded in 1896 as a supply point for many of the mines in the Panamint Mountains. It was named after a famous gold mining town in Australia. From 1897 to 1905 it had a population of over 400 people. Currently there are one or two permanent residents, and several part-time residents.

Many of the original buildings were made of low-quality adobe that is deteriorating rapidly.

Above: Notches in a hill mark the site of a small ore processing or loading facility at a mine south of Ballarat.

Above: Entering Goler Canyon.

Left: A small stream flows through part of the canyon, while craggy peaks tower above.

Goler Canyon has the only trail that provides access from Panamint Valley to Death Valley, over the Panamint Mountains. The only other options are farther north -- either via Wildrose Canyon Road or Highway 191 (and Wildrose Canyon was closed). Although it's been several years, I'd gone through Goler Canyon many times before and never had any difficulty with the route.

My plan was to take Goler to Death Valley, then go south through Baker, CA and spend the last night of the trip at a mine near Amboy, CA. This would give me the best route home, traffic-wise, as well as providing the best scenery and camping location.

Goler Canyon, CA

Along the way I explored some places of interest in the canyon -- the ore bin from a mine way up on the cliffs, Newman's Cabin, and the Lotus Mine.

Above: A pair of chukars scurry up a rock face in Goler Canyon. It’s not a great photo but the best I could get before they were gone.

Lotus Mine, CA

The Lotus Mine is also known as the Manson Mine or the Keystone Mine. The earliest workings here date to before 1900. Lotus Mines, Inc. acquired the property from Carl Mengel in 1935. Production was intermittent. In the late 1960s the mine was unofficially “worked” by the infamous Charles Manson gang, who were living at the nearby Barker Ranch at the time.

In 1972 new exploration was undertaken and considerable work was done not only on the mines but also on the road through Goler Canyon. One of the Lotus claims, the Keystone mine, became a producer of rich ore in the 1980s.

I reached Mengel Pass, the highest point on the Goler Canyon route, after dark, much later than I had hoped. As I started to head down into the Death Valley side of the route, I came to a place where the trail was just a jumble of boulders decorated with parts of the last vehicle that had tried to go over them.

By day, with plenty of time, I might have been able to build up the trail enough to get through it. In the dark, when I'm already running late and short on sleep, I wasn't about to attempt it -- especially with no guarantee that I wouldn't come to an even worse spot farther down the trail. I had to go back to Panamint Valley.

But even that was tricky. I was in a very tight spot, with a vertical wall of solid rock on my left, and a steep, rocky slope on the right. Backing up the way I'd come in wasn't a good option without plenty of light and a spotter. The slope on my right had just enough space to do a multi-point turn, but was so steep that the front bumper was coming into contact with the bottom of the canyon. I didn't realize until after I got up the hill that the bumper valence (and license plate) had come off.

By the time I got back to Panamint Valley, I was too low on gas and too short on time to take an alternate route into Death Valley. I had to head south via 395, through a part of the Mojave that is dull and doesn't have any mines or other places of interest. Traffic in the middle of the night was not bad on that highway but in the morning it would be terrible. So I decided to just cut the trip short and go home. I arrived around 3 a.m.

And so ends my 2016 Nevada/Mojave adventure. I hope you enjoyed following along.

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