Skip to main content
| Nelson Miller | Trip Reports

2018 - Trip Report - East Mojave Heritage Trail

East Mojave Heritage Trail – Second Segment Ivanpah to Rocky Ridge

February 23-25, 2018

Trip Report  By: Nelson Miller

We had an adventure, following Dennis Casebier’s book. Neal was the “pathfinder” and developed the road log for all four of the Heritage Trail Books, so we had his recollections along the way. We met Friday at Yates Well Road, just south of Primm. There were Neal 

and Marian Johns, Nelson Miller, Bob and Sue Jaussaud, Dave Burdick, Dean Linder, Tracy Wood, Lindsay Wood, Dave Rehper, B.J. and Jerrod Keeling, Glenn Shaw, Ron Lipari, Bruce Barnett, Mignon Slentz, and Randy Peterson.


We headed off through the Solar Plant up to Old and New Ivanpah. I kept trying to picture and imagine the large mills they had at these sites in the early 1880’s. There are only a few rock foundations and flat spots left, so this is difficult to imagine. From Ivanpah, we headed up the mountain toward the huge Colosseum Mine and tailings. This funny white stuff began to float around us and we were soon caught in a brief snow flurry. Yes, it was cold. We stopped and had lunch at what Bob said was the Frank Curtis Cabin.

After crossing Excelsior Mine Road, we briefly stopped at Kelly Field a 1930’s era airfield along the Los Angeles to Salt Lake airmail route. We did not drive out the site of the wind sock, which is now a quarter mile inside the Wilderness boundary. Casebier relates that Ken Wilhelm, who with his wife Mabel operated Kelly Field, was one the first “off-roaders” in his modified Dodge, which he called “Leaping Lena.” Earle Stanley Gardner highlighted the Wilhelm brothers in his book, The Desert is Yours. I remember a Plymouth we had when I was growing up, which my Mom called Leapin’ Lena. Now I know where that came from!

Since the upper part of Kingston Wash is now in the Wilderness Area, we followed Excelsior Mine Road up to where it met the “Kingston Cut-off” along the old Salt Lake to Los Angeles Trail. The Kingston Cut-off is an 1850’s era road used by emigrants and freighters, which was a shortcut along the route of 

the Old Spanish Trail. We followed the Kingston Cut-off southwestward until we intersected Kingston Wash. This is a “cherry-stem” between two Wilderness Areas. We stopped at the “Mailbox” and Coyote Holes, which Neal was able to locate for us since these are no longer adjacent to the trail. At Kingston Spring, Neal related how he had followed a mule trail which leads directly from Coyote Holes to Kingston Spring.

Friday night camping, it got down to 23 degrees! It was chilly, but Glenn stayed toasty in his new pop-up camper, as did Neal and Marian in their new camper. The rest of us were a bit cold. Neal and Marian now have an old camper they want to get rid of.

Saturday, we drove along the old Tonopah and Tidewater (T&T) Railroad grade for over 5 miles, from Valjean to Riggs, two sidings along the T&T. It is a wonder to me how the T&T operated for over 30 years (1907-1940), with as many washouts as it must have had. We explored three cabins, the nicest of which is just east of Riggs. It has been fully cleaned up and restored and is a beautiful little cabin, complete with some really nice rock walkways and patio. In the interest of time, we bypassed the Silver Lake  Talc Mine.

At this point, we departed the Heritage Trail route to take a short cut around the north side of the Hollow Hills Wilderness Area. This saved thirty miles by avoiding driving into Baker along the powerline roads. However, it also began our misadventures, as Nelson repeatedly missed turns and took wrong turns. Dave, Bruce, Randy and Bob all tried to keep us on track. Bob lead us up to the microwave relay station on Turquoise Mountain. This has an awesome view in all directions, but was freezing cold, with 

the wind chill. After the microwave relay station, Nelson continued leading us astray, but Bob eventually was able to lead us to a nice campsite at an old inn/way station along one of the early auto roads near Halloran Springs. These misadventures means we missed what some have called the “UFO Site”, see photo, which is a short distance off the Heritage Trail. Dave and Dean had enough of the cold, so went off to stay at Dave’s place in Cottonwood Springs, but rejoined us Sunday morning.

Sunday, we took the freeway from Halloran Springs to Cima, where those that needed to, got gas. We rejoined the Heritage Trail at Valley Wells. From Valley Wells, we basically paralleled the powerline road, which comes from Hoover Dam, to Mountain Pass. We crossed the freeway at Mountain Pass and headed south. Our misadventures continued as Nelson made a couple more wrong turns. We stopped at the Riley Bembry grave site and then had lunch at Riley’s Camp, which has several nicely restored cabins.

Heading east from Riley’s Camp we reached Cima Road, where a number of people headed for home to beat Sunday traffic. A few had left earlier at Mountain Pass. We had to detour south around another Wilderness Area, but headed toward the Lava Tube. To end the day, Dave, Dean, Randy and I drove out to Kelbaker Road and went over to the Dry Falls. Once again, Randy had to get us there as we had taken another shortcut from the Heritage Trail. In my defense, I must have already been getting sick, as Monday through Wednesday, I was sicker than a dog.

Thus ended, our trip along Book 2 of the East Mojave Heritage Trail.               ~ Nelson

Thank you,  Nelson Miller!

I would like to give Nelson a big thank you for taking on the leadership of the Second Segment of the East Mojave Heritage trip, (Feb. 23-25). Since Neal and Dennis Casebier laid this route out some 30 years ago things have changed. Neal’s memory of all the turn lefts and turn rights is fuzzy after all these years. We have done some of this route since then, but not all of it. Then too some of the landmarks and other physical things on the ground have changed. Anyway, Nelson did an honorable job of guiding the group of 12 vehicles over the parts that Neal didn’t remember too well.

Thanks also to all the participants who came on this trip for their patience. It was nice to see some new (to me)  faces - and some old familiar faces too.

                                    Marian Johns