Bristlecone Pines White Mountains Trip
August 6-10, 2016 • By Ron Lipari
The trip began on August 6 where the participants met at the Country Kitchen in Big Pine at 10:00 a.m. The participants included Ron Lipari, Mike Vollmert, Bob and Sue Jaussaud, Mal Roode, Mignon Slentz, Vicki Hill, Glenn Shaw, and Sunny and Jean Hansen. Neal and Marion Johns were signed up for the trip but called on Thursday stating that their pop up camper had detached from the bed of their Toyota and had to be repaired… they were missed!! Ken Sears was also at the Country Kitchen, but was traveling home and was there to say Hi! Great seeing Ken.
Upon leaving Big Pine, we quickly began our climb out of the Owen’s Valley up Westgard pass turning left at the road to the Bristlecone pine forest. We stopped at the Schulman grove to take pictures and look at the ancient pine trees. The weather was cool and pleasant, and the new forest service visitors center was exceptionally nice. I remember the old visitors center as an aluminum covered trailer!! The new building is wonderful.
Next we loaded up the vehicles and drove the 4x4 road to cottonwood creek. Many of us who have been down the road before remarked that the road was in very good shape compared to previous years. The afternoon and evening were spent in a beautiful meadow next to the stream! Some of us took a hike down the stream to enjoy the meadows and wildflowers. Happy hour was upon us and a wonderful dinner was prepared and enjoyed. The campfire was inviting as the night grew cold at almost 9,000 feet. The sun ushered in the next day, and the temps grew warmer.
Climbing out of cottonwood creek, the group traveled down Wyman Canyon. We stopped at a mining camp, that included a cabin and some kind of smelting oven. We also stopped at a cowboy camp that was part of Deep Springs College. Very interesting. At the bottom of the canyon we reached the site of White Mountain city where a smelting smoke stack still stands, and petroglyphs are found along the stream.
The next destination determined by the group was to visit the mining ghost town of Sylvania. As we traveled highway 266 we quickly found the dirt road into the town. Leading the group equipped with GPS and 1953 topos included Bob and Mal. However, the desert in the general area had been hit hard by thunderstorms and flash floods - the same floods that have closed Grapevine canyon to Scottys castle. The group was stopped as the road moved into a sand wash that was severely washed out and full of rocks. It was decided to go back to a camping spot at the base of the White Mountains on Cottonwood Creek. The location is beautiful and shaded by numerous cottonwood trees, The weather was much warmer, but in the shade of the trees and the delightful stream made the campsite magical.
The next morning we traveled up Highway 266 to Dyer to get gas. Then backtracked towards Palmetto to check out an old stage stop and to approach the mining ghost town of Sylvania from the north. After checking out some old inscriptions at the stage stop we made our way off road to Sylvania. This mining town was worked in the 70’s, and the workers were known by Wild Bill Gossett, who visited this town in the 70’s. There are numerous buildings, vintage cars and trucks (circa 40’s and 50’s), mining equipment, and lots of old stuff to check out. To quote Mike, “It is the best mining ghost town he has ever seen next to Bodie.”
Leaving Sylvania we retraced our steps and traveled to Hanging Mesa to check out some petroglyphs, but also to find a camp at altitude for cooler temps. We camped in a pinyon pine forest and enjoyed a pleasant evening. The next morning we headed for the ghost town of Gold point. We stopped at the closed bar and walked around to enjoy the various old buildings and artifacts. After about 15 minutes the caretaker (friendly guy packing a 45!) arrived and opened the bar for us to check out. All of the drinks in this old bar are free - but, they do take donations. Mike and Bob competed in a game of shuffleboard - I think Bob won, but it is worth noting that the friction less game was produced with the use of sand!!! After spending some time talking with the caretaker, and picking his brain as to what to visit, it was decided, after looking at an old map, to go to the ghost towns of Old Camp and Stateline with a visit to the Treasure mine. The group, with Bob, Mal, Sunny and Jean using their GPS and 1953 topos on their tablets and phone, were led to an area with numerous mining adits and old building foundations. The first place we visited was Old Camp. There were dilapidated buildings, stone foundations and old stuff laying around. Mal found an old arrastra that was interesting. Lots of evidence of cattle ranching was everywhere. The next location to visit was the Treasure Mine. This mine had a large spray painted sign in front that stated, “Theives Beware, We have no morgue.” We entered the mine that included rails for ore carts, and went in about 100 yards or so. It was very interesting and well preserved.
The next location to visit was the large mining area of Stateline. We drove to the well preserved cabin and stayed a while. Also in the area were head frames, adits, and some small outbuildings. Then the group traveled to a higher altitude to check out some other mining areas, and finally ended up in the pinyon pine forest just above Devils Gate road into Highway 95. We camped in the pines and enjoyed a nice happy hour and campfire. The next morning we drove down Devils Gate road and to highway 95 where the trip ended. After our goodbyes, folks traveled home, after a fabulous experience in the desert!
~ Ron Lipari