2016 - Trip Report -Amargosa Mine with Emmett
Amargosa Mine with Emmett
We set off south from Shoshone on 127 with a small band of Desert Explorers toward Dumont Dunes and Salt Spring for a ‘quick hike’ with Emmett Harder at Amargosa Mine. There is no question that Emmet Harder can tell a good story, and the tales he told on this hike were epic. He kicked things off with a brief stop where the pavement crossed a small arroyo and gave us a synopsis of the final moments of the Ballarat Bandit, an elusive thief who led police on a months-long manhunt. When the Bandit finally ran out of places to hide he decided that rather than be captured he would take his own life, and this was where he drew his last breath, just a few hundred yards from where we were standing. OK, Emmett, quite a colorful beginning
to a hike!
Moving on, we turned east off the pavement just beyond Dumont Dunes, following a low ridge for a mile or two until we reached a kiosk with some history about the Amargosa Mine site.
Emmett filled in all the blanks, telling us about how Jefferson Hunt, a former captain of the Mormon Battalion led a small group down the Spanish Trail in 1849. Hunt led a few on horseback over a notch in the ridge that saved them miles that the wagons would have to travel to go around the rocky point. As they passed through the area, Hunt noted that the rock of the area looked like it might have some gold, judging from recent experience he had in another location where he had been stationed. On closer inspection, he was right. The group found flecks of gold in veins right at the edge of their trail. One of the party followed the vein to find an area with BB sized grains of gold. They made their way across the saddle to Salt Spring, meeting the wagon teams who had already gathered there. The party moved on, arriving at Chino just before Christmas and announced their discovery.
The area was mined on and off over the next century and a half, and guess who ended up with the claim? Emmett.
When pressed, he told how he had aquired the claim after prospecting on the apparently abandoned site, when the former owners failed to renew their paperwork and missing the deadline for filing by one day. He showed us the addits and shafts, safety gratings that government agencies had built and secured, old diggings and the remains of the oldest dwelling in Death Valley, a rock house with walls still standing.
It was a great hike with a wonderful storyteller. He really brought the history of the area to life and all of us who accompanied him will remember it for many years to come. Thanks, Emmett.
– Jay Lawrence