3 Days in the Boonies - Rondy Inbound
March 29-31, 2016
Leader: Bob Jaussaud
It is hard to imagine now, but a couple of months ago it was cold in the desert! The temperature for our inbound was predicted to drop 20 degrees with Mach I winds, so at the last minute we abandoned our planned high country agenda and opted for camping lower and warmer, preferably in a nice cabin with a stove. Actually we were lucky to find at least six cabins during our inbound noodle. There were nine hardy Desert Explorers in six vehicles who braved the elements and assembled at the Valley Wells Shell station, which is noted for a beef jerky wall and a classic soda pop collection, not to mention its water fall urinal in the mens’ room. Starting out in the vehicles, Vicki Hill pointed out that our group must be setting some kind of record, as we had more women drivers than men. There was Vicki driving Dave McFarland and Marian driving Neal Johns, while Mignon Slentz and Nan Healy drove their own vehicles. Glenn Shaw and I were the only male drivers. Sue Jaussaud was our navigator. Ron Lipari joined Mignon, Sue and I for the pre run earlier in the month.
Our first destination was the old townsite of Valley Wells (also known as Rosalie) where we explored the many dugout cabins and the historic cemetery, where “Boots” and Bessie Yates (owners of the Yates Ranch) are buried. Sidney Yates got the nickname “Boots” because growing up, he wore hand-me-down boots that were always too big. Although he was 6’ 2” as an adult, he only wore a size 8 boot.
Valley Wells is noted for at least 3 things: (1) It was the headquarters for the historic Yates Ranch (1894 - 1952), (2) It had a copper smelter for ore from the Copper World Mine and the Shadow Mountain Mine, and (3) Kelly Field, a 1930’s airfield, serving the postal route from Salt Lake to Los Angeles, was nearby.
From Valley Wells, we started across the valley to an old Yates corral and tank, then turned west to locate a mysterious UFO site. This site needs to be seen to be believed. After lunch at the UFO, we headed into the hills to locate the Huber mine and cabin. Turning north, we visited the townsite of Shadow Mountain and our second cabin, a beautiful old rock house. There were a lot of ruins at Shadow Mountain including the remains of a 5 stamp mill. Daylight was growing short and the wind was picking up, so we made tracks for lower elevations and camp. Our first happy hour was spent pleasantly in Kingston Wash. We enjoyed an evening stroll to the site of Coyote Holes and signed in at the Heritage Trail #3 Mailbox.
After a short stop at Kingston Spring the next morning, we continued on to the Eastern Star Mine and our third desert cabin. Nearby, Mignon located a horizontal mine shaft that had also served as a dwelling. At Valjean, we turned south for a short ways along the old Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad berm. The T&T operated from the early 1900’s until it was ruined by floods in 1938. It ran from Ludlow to near Beatty and served all the folks living along the track. During our trip, we visited several sidings that serviced the local mines.
After maneuvering around some wash outs, we finally reached the road to the Alta Mine and followed it to our fourth cabin. The Alta was one of the early silver finds in the Silurian Hills. From Alta, we continued onto Riggs Siding. Along the way, we were lucky to find a few Desert Lilies blooming. Our second happy hour was spent on the cobblestone deck of the Riggs cabin, our fifth cabin thus far. Mignon actually added a sizable area to the cobblestone deck with rocks she instructed us collect before we were allowed to imbibe.
Our last day started with a rock crawl to the “silver cabin.” Most of us took a short hike up the wash by the cabin to the big ore loader. This was probably the actual area of the main Riggs’ Mine. Frank and Sarah Riggs came to the area in the early 1900’s and stayed for many years. They were unusual in that they did not sell their claims and enjoyed the benefits from them for many years. They were able to live quite well and traveled internationally in style. Of interest is that in 1910 they had a black boarder named Thomas Cunningham. There were not very many black miners in the area and Thomas evidently had a sense of humor, as he recorded some of his claims as the “Uncle Tom Mining Company.”
The last mine we visited on the inbound was a remote talc mine about 10 miles northeast of Silver Lake. The claims in this area date from before 1911 and there was a lot to see, but the road in was a bit rugged. The wildflowers were off their peak, but still very abundant. After returning to the T&T berm near the Talc Siding, we detoured a short ways to an interesting and modern day “bug out” camp where we relaxed for lunch. Afternoon found us on the road to Shoshone for a much needed shower and swim. Thanks to all who joined us. It was a fun group and our women drivers are to be commended. Ladies, you rock!