Wednesday, 26 January 2022 09:06

2021 DE Christmas Party

Photos from Ingo Werk and Bill Neill

We had a spectacular day for this year’s DE holiday party. Ron Ross and Nancy Maclean outdid themselves preparing a beautiful setting in their La Cañada backyard looking out over Los Angeles all the way to the Pacific. Nancy baked macarons, sweets and Christmas cookies and put out a wonderful homemade cheese and sausages she and Ron brought back from Croatia. Their house was decorated to a fare-thee-well for the season with heirloom toys, Nancy’s train setup, a gingerbread house and clock tower and their Christmas tree with oraments gathered from their world travels. The day and the setting could not have been better and all of us who gathered enjoyed an excellent afternoon with a fine group of friends. 

Thank you Nancy and Ron!

Wednesday, 26 January 2022 07:55

The Passing of Thanksgiving 2021

by Joeso

It was over all too soon. The good eats, the desert adventures, the wonderful camaraderie. After all the planning and preparation it is sad to realize that another Thanksgiving has passed us by so quickly. I wish it could have lasted longer… I seem to be wishing that a lot lately. Could age have something to do with it?

Anyway, the Desert Explorer “Thanksgiving on the River” revival was a huge amount of good old time fun with just a small group. After all the Covid scares and family emergencies, there were only eight of us left around the Thanksgiving Table. Even so, we managed to eat enough to account for a much larger group. Those seated at the table included Mignon, Vicki, Glenn and the Werk family, Ingo, Mary and Cory, plus Sue and I.

Louisiana Ingo and son Cory were anxious to see as much of the desert as we could, so on Thanksgiving morning we headed out and found some abandoned sections of Old Route 66, some hidden petroglyphs and some WWII insignias at Camp Ibis.

On Black Friday we coffeed up before bouncing our Tacomas plus one over Monumental Pass in the Sacra-mento Mountains. Along the way Ingo was able to water his two dogs during our stops at the old mining camps of Cherokee, Lima, Vega, Hill Top and what we have dubbed the “Old Car Mine.”

On Saturday we took the day off from exploring and instead stretched our legs collecting treasures from the thrift stores in Needles and river rocks from the ancient deposits near the town of Golden Shores.

And… every evening (and morning, and lunch) we ate like there was no tomorrow. Many thanks to all for their meal contributions, especially Sue, Mignon and Vicki. They were truly the spark plugs that made it happen. ~ Joeso

(click Read more, below, to see photos)

Wednesday, 26 January 2022 07:47

War Eagle Mine

Bullion Mountains, San Bernardino County, California

Lat. 34° 27’ 31.71” N, Long: 115° 55’ 25.86” W.

By Joe de Kehoe

The October edition of the Desert Explorers newsletter included an article by Jay Lawrence about the War Eagle Mine which immediately caught my eye because I thought it was the one south of Bagdad that I tried for several years to visit. I quickly realized there are at least three mines in California named War Eagle.

Although the term War Eagle is now most commonly associated with Auburn University, the term dates back to the Civil War. Why mines were so named is a mystery; maybe it just sounded good.

The War Eagle Mine that is the subject for this article is in the Bullion Mountains, about 9 miles south of Bagdad on National Trails Highway, old Route 66. The mine was in operation from the late 1800s until about 1931, but the exact dates of mining operations are uncertain, and there were times when the mine was inactive for several years and then reactivated. The principal ore being extracted was wolfenite, a lead ore, and molybdenite. Secondary minerals included gold, silver, copper, and tin. Ore 

from the mine was taken to Bagdad, initially by horse-drawn wagons and later by trucks where it was loaded on to rail cars and shipped to the mill in Barstow. The other important mine using Bagdad as a staging point on the railroad at that time was the Orange Blossom copper mine, 8 miles northeast of Bagdad in the Bristol Mountains. A map of Bagdad drawn in 1910 indicates several businesses in Bagdad that supported the two mines including a general store, mining offices, and livery stables

When I visited the War Eagle Site in 2008 all the buildings were gone, and only a few concrete foundations remained, but there was an extensive network of mine shafts containing rotten wooden ladders; the mine was almost entirely an underground operation.

Access to the mine today is severely restricted because in the 1950s almost the entire eastern part of the Bullion Mountains was included in the Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command base at Twentynine Palms where live fire training occurs including small arms, artillery, tank, and close air support aircraft. Consequently, the entire area became off-limits to the public. Trespassing in the area is a felony in addition to being monumentally dangerous.

I tried for two years to gain access to the area, explaining that I was writing a book about the history of the area, but my requests to the Marine Corps were repeatedly denied for all sorts of reasons. Finally, in 2008 a person whose family lived in the desert and whose mother I had interviewed for my book heard of my requests to visit the mine and agreed to take me. This fellow worked as a contractor for the Marines analyzing soil samples on the base. Although I volunteered to drive my Jeep, instead, three marines picked me up from my hotel in Twentynine Palms on the morning of our visit and escorted me through the area for the entire 

day. I felt like quite the dignitary and was treated to one of their MREs for lunch in the field.

Driving through a bombing range in the Bullion Mountains was almost as interesting as visiting the mine. Several times during the day I asked to get out of the vehicle to take photos. Although they agreed, I was instructed to stay on the dirt road because of unexploded ordinance.

I don’t know what the marines are firing that can drill a hole through a bulldozer blade on the front of a tank, but I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of it. On the way back to the base we drove through the range where tanks practice firing on steel silhouette targets moving across the area downrange on railroad tracks. I was impressed!

In addition to the bombing / artillery range the Marines have also built a mock-up of a Middle Eastern village, complete with a mosque, native role-players, trash piles and junk cars. I was not allowed to photograph that.  ~ Joe

(Click Read more, below, to see photos)

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