Oops, Oh-oh, Oh no & OMG
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A Day with Emmett and Ruth Harder on FR1N09
By Marian Johns
Those of you who know Emmett Harder have undoubtedly heard some of his marvelous stories. Perhaps this tale can be added to his list of his life’s adventures.
Back in 2013, Ted Kalil led a Desert Explorer trip over FR1N09 in the San Bernardino National Forest. I had never been on it – never heard of it. Ted explained that it had been closed for many years because of washouts, but that it had recently been repaired and re-opened. The trail starts by the infant Santa Ana River just west of Seven Oaks (off of Hwy. 38 that goes from Mentone to Big Bear) and ends at Highway 330 which connects Highland to Running Springs.
The scenery along 1N09 is spectacular - with the San Bernardino Mts. looming high overhead and little streams to cross along the way. It is amazing how rugged these mountains are and they’re practically right in my own backyard. On a clear day there are some beautiful views of Mt. San Gorgonio and Mt. San Jacinto.
So now, fast forward to April, 2020. Ruth and Emmett Harder have kindly been checking up on me every week or so because they know I’m alone now in the midst of this virus business. Yes, I do get lonely and I get cabin fever being cooped up here at home. So when Ruth called recently, I told her about Ted’s trip and asked if they might be up for a day trip in the San Bernardino Mts. She and Emmett agreed, so a couple of days later – April, 22, we met at their house and headed for Mentone and Hwy. 38 which we took up into the mountains.
We turned off for Seven Oaks about 11:00 a.m. and headed west on a paved road alongside the river. However, after two or three miles, the pavement ended and we began our 1N09 adventure. At first, we generally followed the Santa Ana River, but it was not accessible since it was far below us in a deep narrow canyon. Most of the way, I used 4 low because there were many steep up and down sections
About 12:15 we came to an awesome view down into the Bear Creek wash – a wide, boulder-strewn canyon with a pretty spot for lunch beside the creek. Unfortunately, someone else beat us to it so we continued on across the bridge and had lunch on the other side of the creek which isn’t so nice because you can’t see the creek from that spot. The bridge here is the only one from one end of 1N09 to the other, although there were many stream crossings.
During lunch, Emmett entertained me with some of his stories – one about falling seven stories when the scaffolding he was on collapsed during the construction of the San Dimas Dam - and a couple of others stories about the problems they had when he worked on the nearby Seven Oaks Dam.
After lunch we continued on and eventually reached Keller Cliff, a high, naked escarpment. It looks like this formation is made of similar material to that of Mormon Rocks.
Somewhere beyond Keller Cliff, Ruth let me know via the CB that they needed a bush break. So, I drove on down the trail about 1/10th of a mile and waited. Pretty soon Ruth came back on the CB and said they had a problem – a BIG PROBLEM that involved a tree that they had hit.
I quickly returned to them and found their truck over the bank at a 45° tilt with its grill smashed up against a tree. Evidently, when Emmett got out of the truck to find a bush, he thought he put it in park, but actually left it in drive. The truck then idled itself on over to the bank and took a nose dive; down it went – not far though – maybe 25 ft. before it hit the tree. Emmett saw what was happening and yelled at Ruth to step on the brake, but there was no way she could have done that because she was in the passenger seat. If it hadn’t been for that tree though, I believe they could have continued on down for hundreds of feet - ass over teakettle - and may not have survived.
Next, Emmett had to rescue poor Ruth and help her get out of the truck and back up to the top. That was no easy feat because of the steep slope and low overhanging branches. Once they were both back on terra firma Emmett used his “snatch strap” to connect my truck to his. We were both pleasantly surprised how easy it was to pull his truck back up.
The next obstacle was getting their truck to Hwy. 330 where they could call AAA. Much of the way, Emmett was able to coast downhill. On the uphill sections we strapped him on to my truck. We traveled slowly in this manner for what seemed like miles. Ruth rode with me and we amused ourselves by counting the creeks we crossed; we lost count about number 12 or 13. However, I’m fairly certain that many of these are just seasonal, but it was nice to see so much water this spring.
It must have been almost 5:00 by the time we reached the end of 1N09 at Hwy. 330. By then we were all worn out – especially Emmett who did most of the work; he was exhausted. When Ruth called AAA she was told a tow truck would be there in about half an hour. She was also warned that she and Emmett would not be allowed to ride in the tow truck because of Covid 19. Luckily, they had me and luckily, I had recently (Sept. 2019) bought my four door/five seat, 4x4 Tacoma. While their truck was being towed to a repair shop, I drove them on home. Then I drove myself home, fed two dogs, had leftover lunch for dinner and went to bed. What a day it had been! ~ Marian
By Dave Burdick
On December 1907 Christmas came early for James Hart and brothers Hitt when they discovered a rich vein of gold. Claims were filed, a town laid out and by mid February the boom town boosted 700 people. The town had one first class hotel – Norton House, four boardinghouses and six saloons. The larger mines were the Oro Belle, Jumbo, and Big Chief. After the first year the population started to decline, however mining continued through 1917. In the 1920’s fine clay was mined near the Big Chief until the 1950’s.
The next gold rush did not take place until the price of gold deregulated in the 1980s. It was then when Canadian Viceroy Gold came in and spent nine years in exploration, raising money, mine design, and getting permits. They completed EIS/ESR and BLM permits in 1990. The mine was constructed, and the first gold poured in 1992. The mine ran until about 2000 when the gold value dropped below production cost.
When I first saw the legendary town, cemetery and mine, it looked about as it does today. The processing mill and electrical lines had been removed. The only signs of mining were two large pits, the Oro Belle, and Jumbo, and the scars on the mountain. The pits were blocked off and four wheelers had the run of the area. There was a BLM road which went from Lanfair Valley through the center of the mine to the Piute Mountains which was the first thing to be blocked off.
In the late 20-teens gold prices set a new record high and there signs of new activity, first one drill rig, then ten. In October 2019 the new mine operator started Phase 1 of new mining activity, expecting gold to be poured by the end of the year. Last Fall a chainlink fence about five miles long went up with big gates and a guard. It was bound to happen.
This Spring I decided to take a ride over to the Hart site to have a look and the road was blocked. I made a couple of inquiries, and learned that the mine and town site is not in the Mojave Preserve, not their jurisdiction. It is in the Castle Mountain National Monument (BLM jurisdiction). Also, most of the mine and town is on patented or private land. There are four different jurisdictions in this area.
Phase 2 of the mine plan will cover the town site, the Clampus Vitus Monument, and the fireplace (which may have been from the Norton House Hotel) with a mountain of “overburden” dirt. I returned and took photos while I could.
The BLM archaeologist informed me that the cemetery is not allowed to be disturbed, with a 300 foot buffer around it.
I believe that this area is one of the most beautiful around. This is my Disneyland and my favorite attraction is Castle Mountain Adventure. ~ Dave
East Mojave Heritage Trail
By John Marnell
The East Mojave Heritage Trail in four segments was created by Dennis G. Casebier in the late 1980s and into the early ‘90s. Each part of about 160 miles was featured in a guide book that contained historic, flora, and geologic information along with a detailed road log and mileages. With the implementation of the 1994 Desert Protection Act the trail was cut in 13 places by newly created wildernesses thus making the guide books useless as strictly navigational instructions. The experienced navigator, with good research, could still make use of many portions of the EMHT as Nelson Miller and others have shown. Today, however, a new and comprehensive set of trail route guidelines are being created to once again make most of the original aspects of the EMHT readily available with detailed instructions, maps, and a GPS track dedicated to keeping the user on a legal route utilizing wilderness bypasses.
Mr. Billy Creech, from Riverside, became interested in the EMHT a couple of years ago and has spent countless hours researching wilderness maps and communicating with many knowledgeable people to keep this project moving forward. Some months ago, Billy maneuvered around the East Mojave on the newly modified EMHT to assess its viability and equally importantly to determine if the roads and trails used previously were passable for the average four-wheeler. He found a few sections certainly more challenging than anticipated, with many parts showing little evidence of being driven on in years. He also, infrequently, came upon some of the original rock cairns used to mark turns that are still in place these 30 years later - all in all it was a great remote desert off-highway
experience. Billy wrote up his “adventure” a few months back and you can find it here: https://expeditionportal.com/the-east-mojave-heritage-trail/
Today, May 28th, work is continuing as refinements continue to both the maps and routing detail. It is anticipated that the first two segments “Needles to Ivanpah” and “Ivanpah to Rocky Ridge” will be completed before the end of June. Those of you that are fortunate to own a set of the four guide books will be able to coordinate the bypass, alternate routes, and maps with your individual books. Those who do not have the books, they will soon be available on the Mojave Desert Heritage & Cultural Association website under “store.” MDHCA.org. Additionally, the Mojave River Valley Museum has the books and you can call them to place an order (760) 256-5452. Use of the appropriate EMHT guidebook is essential to finding and staying on the correct route