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East Ord and Fry Mountains

East Ord and Fry Mountains

by Nelson Miller

We had twelve vehicles and over twenty people for our visit to Fry Mountain Gold Mine with its unique wooden arrastra. Fellow explorers included: Bill and Julie Smith, Dave Burdick, Peter Browne, Therese Holm, Alan and Ding Wicker, Bob Peltzman, Michael J. Sugaiz, Bob Jacoby, Nan Savage Healy, Mal Roode, Pete and Janet Austin, Rod MacDonald, Tracy Wood, Lindsay Wood, BJ Keeling, and several other family members and passengers.

We had barely started when someone observed I was losing my gloves, which I had carelessly left on top of my vehicle when I was putting up my antenna, but a couple of people picked them up for me. It was chilly to start Saturday morning. After that auspicious start, we headed east on Old Woman Springs Road and north on Camp Rock Road. At Anderson Dry Lake, we encountered a considerable number of very large RV’s camped on the lake. We headed east and soon found one of the World War II bomb targets that Bill Mann had identified in his Guide to the Beautiful and Historic Lucerne Valley. These bomb targets are 600 feet wide, consisting of three concentric rings around a center point, with two radials at the cardinal points. The center point was white rock, about twelve feet in diameter. You could still also see some of the desert asphalt mix that was apparently used to make the rings. It is interesting to me that 75 years later we can still find things like this, even in the Johnson Valley OHV area where this is located, which has a spaghetti of motorcycle and ATV tracks everywhere. We also found several pieces of heavy metal which may have been some type of fragments from whatever they used as practice bombs. We left the fragments in the center-point.

That spaghetti of tracks was to sorely test my wayfinding skills as we continued. I had carefully mapped a route using Google Earth. However, it is difficult to tell the ATV tracks from something that actually resembles a road. When we got to one turn I had mapped, the route went right up the side of a wash, which had been further undercut with the recent rains. There was no way we were going to climb that. So, we backtracked a bit and went around the hill instead of over it. However, I managed to go up the wrong wash on the other side and eventually wound up within two hundred feet of where we had been in December, searching for the Fry Mountain Mine. Bill Mann’s GPS coordinates were off by about 0.40 miles and in December about ten of us spent over an hour searching the mine. I later found the mine and wooden arrastra on Google Earth using some hints from Bill Lembright, the owner of Lucerne Valley Market and the person who had helped Bill Mann with his book. After more backtracking I finally got the caravan back into the right wash. We had definitely taken the “scenic” route, going up and down through several washes that were a bit challenging. Then we had to backtrack right through them again. The right wash was fairly narrow and rather rocky, but we eventually made it to Fry Mountain Mine. Once there we lined up tightly nose to tail in the “Y” where we all had to turn around.

The wooden arrastra is definitely unique. It is about twelve feet in diameter and the whole thing apparently turned on a center steel post, as there were washers with ball bearings underneath the whole assembly. You could also clearly see a foundation and motor mounts as well as where the gearbox would have been. I was not able to figure out the purpose of the metal pipes projecting from the assembly. It sure would be nice to have a historic mining expert along on these trips! There was also another smaller arrastra a little higher up the hill. But all that was left of it was a half circle of smooth stones. We also located two inscriptions dated 1911. A quarter mile down the wash were more concrete foundations, perhaps a hopper, or something else?

Mal Roode, who had done another outstanding job as tail to our caravan, led us back to Camp Rock Road, since there was nowhere to get the column back in reverse order again. Once back to Camp Rock Road, we headed north a short distance to the turn-off for the Grandview Mine. This is one of three mines in this area on the east side of East Ord Mountain. All three are described in Bill Mann’s book, but the Grandview seemed to have the most remains. According to Desert Fever: An Overview of Mining History of the California Desert Conservation Area, February 1980, there was a three-stamp mill and a black smith shop operating here in the early 1930’s. We all gathered around one of the mill foundations for a group picture, although the kids were still off exploring. By this time, the clouds were rolling in and wind had picked up and it was decidedly chilly! There certainly was a grand view from this mine, with the snow-capped San Bernardino Mountains as a back drop. All twelve vehicles had jammed into the little parking available and Mal Roode one again led us out.

Once back to Camp Rock Road, we headed for the Maumee Mine, another mine described in Bill Mann’s book. I was having some difficulty locating the right track, but Mal Roode was able to locate the mine and track on the topo program on his GPS. So, Mal led us up to the Maumee Mine, which is on the northeast side of East Ord Mountain. On the way back, we observed some Jojoba bushes and a guzzler that had been installed by Quail Forever. I expected the guzzler to be full from all the recent rains, but it was still about six inches from capacity.

At this point, we all headed for home and managed to leave Lucerne Valley before it rained, which it did later Saturday night.            ~ Nelson Miller

Photos: Allan Wicker and Janet Austin