White Mountains Trip
Friday-Sunday, July 21-23, 2017
Leader: Ron Lipari
Text & Photos: Ron
The White Mountains trip took a different turn when several folks who had signed up for the trip ended up not being able to make it at the last minute. Mignon Slentz, Glenn Shaw and John Bell ended up meeting on Thursday, June 20 at 2:30 in Big Pine. The temp in Big Pine was 95 degrees and the group decided that camping at altitude would result in cooler temps! So we headed up to Bishop and up to the 4x4 Buttermilk Road to a campsite (altitude 8,000 feet) that the leader and John had camped at before. The snow and rain last winter really rutted out the road. To quote Glenn, “it was a good test of my new 4x4 truck!”
Arriving at camp at 5:00 after at least one wrong turn, we enjoyed a delightfully cool happy hour and evening. Friday morning we decided to stay at this camp site another night, but Mignon suggested we visit fellow long time DE member Allan Schoenherr and his wife Kenna at their home on Bishop Creek near South Lake. Fortunately the Buttermilk Road is a loop and we did not have to back track over the very rough inbound road to get back to Bishop Creek. The creeks in the area are all part of the City of LA water and power system and on our way we passed by the giant intake tube on Bishop Creek. We arrived at Allan’s home and had a wonderful visit with he and Kenna. Leaving Allan and Kenna after inviting them to our Happy Hour that evening, we attempted to lunch below South Lake, but the mosquitoes were relentless, and decided to go back to our bug free camp high in the Buttermilks on Mcgee Creek. We relaxed that afternoon and began Happy Hour early. Mignon received an email from Allan stating that he would have loved to come to Happy Hour with us but his wife had an appointment in Bishop and could not make it. Bob and Sue Jaussand were meeting us Saturday morning to join the trip in Lee Vining. We met up and had a delightful lunch at the Whoa
Nellie Deli in Lee Vining with a beautiful view of Mono Lake. After lunch we headed up Tioga pass to the Log Cabin Mine, which is also called the Mine in the Sky due to its 9500 foot elevation. We explored the very extensive mine works for over 3 hours as there is much to see. Most interesting was the windlass and the machinery that operated the elevator cables. We all took turns sitting in the operator’s seat and pulling at the levers. Moreover, since the mine was operational for over 80 years, the old original stamp mill and necessary flywheels were pushed off a nearby ledge, but still able to be enjoyed and explored – including an old truck from the 20’s which Bob thoroughly enjoyed! Getting late we left the mine and camped at a hand-hewn log cabin from the late 1800’s and enjoyed a great happy hour and dinner.
The next morning Bob suggested that we explore the area between Lee Vining and Benton and also the area over Montgomery Pass. The first stop was Mono Mills, the saw mill that built Bodie and fed the steam engines of the Standard Mine. Not much is left of the mill but the venue produced by the National Forest rangers was historically informative and contained pictures of the mill and 32-mile railroad that was built from the mill to Bodie in only 6 months in 1872. We then headed for an old ranch to check out some abandoned buildings and a native American cremation site near a very lovely spring. We hiked up the ridge and found several “sleeping circles,” as well as some metate slicks. Very interesting rock formations!! We checked out the abandoned ranch house and looked for Wild Bill Gossett’s signature among the written names… no luck!!
Around noon we headed up to Montgomery pass to find a dirt road that was to lead to the a stamp mill and mine. Following Bob and his GPS we drove quite a distance looking for the mine - climbing up and up and up into the pines. We finally reached some shafts and determined that the structures we were searching for had to be near the many diggings. Mignon and John were the first to hike around to see if they could find any structures through the trees. The rest of us began to eat
lunch. After eating Bob asked me if I wanted to go search for Mignon. Off we went in the direction she hiked, and soon heard the horn honking and Mignon saying she was back at the cars. Bob and I kept walking on the road and glancing to my right there was the 10 stamp mill we were searching for!! The mill was intact and magnificent. There was also a steam motor that operated an aerial tramway to bring ore to the stamp mill. The date on the stamp mill which was manufactured in San Francisco was 1913. After many picture and lots of ooohs and ahhhs we headed back to Montgomery Pass and down the valley to search for the ghost town of Oneo.ta. Following Bob again we found the road and began the long journey up the canyon to the ghost town. Arriving we found 2 cabins, one of which was well taken care of and was neat clean and usable. Also found was the body of a 1930’s vintage old truck – Bob was hap.py!! Getting late we took a short cut to Deep Springs Valley stopping at Dyer, Neva.da for gas. We arrived at Cot.tonwood Creek to camp next to the flowing stream and un.der the shady cottonwoods. Some of us jumped in the stream immediately to cool down as it was about 90 de.grees. We enjoyed a balmy evening and good comradery. The next morning John and I headed south to Big Pine and Bob, Sue, Glenn and Mignon headed up to Lida to explore more mines and cabins and outhouses in that area!
Everyone had a great time and really enjoyed the trip!! A little different as instead of going up into the White Mountains we circumnavigated them!! ~ Ron