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2019 - Trip Report - Eastern Sierra Exploratory or "Leading from Behind"

Eastern Sierra Exploratory or “Leading from Behind”

Leader: Ron Lipari Photos by Allan Wicker, Vicki Hill and Ron Lipari

Another Eastern Sierra Exploratory was in the works after meeting with Bob and Sue Jaussaud. It was decided to begin the trip at the Eastern California Museum on Tuesday. The participants included Allan Wicker, Dave Hess, Vicki Hill, Dave MacFarland, Ellen Miller, Mignon Slentz, Glenn Shaw, Gary Zell, Johnny Bell, and Bob and Sue Jaussaud. I drove with Johnny Bell in his 2006 Nissan Pathfinder.

Leaving Thousand Oaks at a reasonable hour we made it to Mojave and stopped for gas. After starting the Pathfinder warning lights were visible in the dash and the vehicle lacked power – not good.

After asking the gas station attendant directions to a reputable mechanic (I know we are in Mojave) we limped into the repair shop. The vehicle was placed on an OBD reader and it was discovered it needed a Cam Shaft sensor (What?). The part was $140 and it had to come from Bakersfield!!  Fortunately, it was early in the day and the part was ordered. Four hours later the part arrived – it was the size of a D battery, made of plastic and it was a wonder to me that this little part disabled the entire vehicle. The mechanic installed it and we were back on the road – cost with the part -$431.00!! Ouch!

Meanwhile the group met in Independence while I communicated with the group that we would not be arriving at camp till after 5:00 p.m. The resolute DE members under the leadership Bob and Sue and Vicki and Dave took the group to Harada’s mill and then to the volcanic tablelands to see the petroglyphs and the views of the Owen’s Valley! The group then headed up to a beautiful camp above Bishop on McGee creek. Johnny and I joined them just in time for Happy Hour!! After a delightful dinner and campfire provided by Mignon and a peaceful rest next to the bubbling stream we awakened to coffee and breakfast.

The group then headed out Highway 6 and then on to Chidalgo Canyon led by Bob and Sue with Mignon as tail sweep. Chidalgo is a beautiful canyon with tall red colored  rocks and wildflowers – accurately identified by Sue and Ellen. The group continued on through the canyon and up to the Lone Star Mine. This gold mine had a headframe, some out buildings, and several kilns used to purify the gold, and a “cute” outhouse.

Continuing up the road Bob led us to a couple of cabins that were very interesting. We had a long day so we headed up the road over to the back side of the Glass Mountains to Sawmill Meadows. This area is at altitude and was covered with pine trees, small streams and aspen trees with commanding views of Boundary Peak and the Sierra Crest. We found several cabins and what looked to be parts of an old flume from the logging days – the lumber was used to build Bodie and the railroad serving it. After attempting to get to a cabin through a grove of beautiful aspens we were stopped by a locked gate. We backtracked to Black Cow Canyon and camped in a grove of trees next to a stream. The entire trip was blessed by great weather – and wonderful sunsets!!

The next day Bob and Sue led the way down from Sawmill Meadow to Taylor Creek where we found another great camping site next to a stream under a grove of aspen trees. We stopped for a rest in this bucolic location and enjoyed the beautiful surroundings and the wonderful morning. Then back to the vehicles to Highway 120 then off road towards Nevada. On the way Bob spotted an antelope directly in his path. All of us were able to enjoy this beautiful animal as he was not afraid of us and sauntered off slowly as we all were able to get a good look at him.

The harrowing part of the story starts now as Bob found a short cut to Bass Camp. On this shortcut was an interesting rocky descent that required a bit of road building and spotting for the vehicles. Sue smartly got out of her vehicle as Bob descended the “hill” expertly and without car damage. The rest of us descended while being spotted. Thanks to Dave Hess for his help in this and for the road building. After everyone descended safely with a few damaged mud flaps we continued on our way to Bass Camp, finally entering Nevada. This road was really a testimony to the driving skills of the group and the helpfulness of our members! This road was really in the boonies, but the state line was demarcated! 

We arrived at the Judge’s mine (apparently owned by a Nevada judge who was interested in politics) and wanted to explore it, but it appeared as though the mine was being worked. We all wondered why the judge chose to live so far into the boonies! We then wanted to go toward Cow Camp, however, the road was closed momentarily as the USGS team was doing seismic readings! Fortunately, the crew was ready to complete the work in that section and we were able to move forward to our next stop. Cow Camp was a small but intact cabin neatly appointed inside with stove, small fridge, two beds and a desk. It was clean neat and livable! The group ate lunch at this location – some inside the cabin as it was a bit windy. After lunch, that included ice cold water melon from Vicki and Dave, we headed out to Bass Camp. On the way to Bass Camp Bob had seen a mining area with cabins and mining debris on Google Earth. Mignon went up to check it out as we had passed the turnoff. She found petroglyphs and several cabins – so all of us went back to check it out. One of the buildings had linoleum as wall paper on all of the walls. The rock formations at the Pine Crow mine were incredible as the miners had chiseled steps into the rock to access the ore.

Unfortunately, Gary’s vehicle would not start at this point – for the 2nd time this day. After removing the gas cap - a trick that worked the first time – was not effective, the shifter was placed in neutral and the brake depressed and it started! We were on our way but it was getting late in the day.

Heading up the 4x4 road with Bob in the lead we were heading up a steep rocky grade. Bob and Sue checked it out but we determined it was too late in the day to attempt this difficult section, and everyone was tired. So we headed back down to the ruins of Marietta, Nevada. We hastily set up camp for the evening as it was getting late! Marietta was a boom town in the late 1800’s mining Borax. Lots of rock walls and rock works, bricks and a graveyard with at least one grave dated 1880. After a great meal, which was provided by the group we enjoyed one of the most spectacular sunsets we all had ever seen – I know, there are lots of them but the location was incredible overlooking the dry lake the mountain views and Boundary peak!!

The next day after failing to reach Bass Camp, we decided it would have to wait until another trip and  on we went into Fish Lake Valley to check out more mines. At Trail Canyon we found the most interesting mining area. The history of the mining area was delineated in one of the cabins. Turns out one family had been mining mercury there since the 1920s. Lots of neat buildings, cars, equipment and stuff! Unfortunately, our government leveled the mill in 2012 as it was decided it was a danger to itself and others – a real loss! Bob has written an article in this issue that Miner’s steps at Pine Crow Mine outlines this chapter in Nevada mining history.

Since we had been driving over 200 miles – most of which was in 4 wheel low, we needed to get gasoline and stopped at Dyer, Nevada to fill up. This took quite a while as we had 9 vehicles and only 2 gas pumps! On the entrance door to the store/ restaurant in this quaint little Nevada town was the sign, “No dumb people allowed!.” Good idea to let Johnny go inside and pay for the gas.

After gassing up and getting a little food we headed up Indian Canyon to the Milliti Gold Mine. After climbing up a beautiful canyon with a roaring stream and beautiful flowers – identified by Sue and Ellen (I think they were pink roses) – we finally arrived at the mine. There was a trailer and Razor 4X in the “garage” as well as several old buildings in various states of disrepair. One of the buildings was secured and we could not enter. A sign identified that the “gold mine” and 25 acres was For Sale! Bob, in his usual manner was exploring the area and found the Wash Plant by the stream, a home-made water heater for a shower (consisting of tank with place underneath to light some wood – guessing we have no room to complain), the mining site with mine tailings, several flumes for moving water consisting of wood, concrete and galvanized metal, as well as a conveyer to move dirt! All was very interesting!

We left the mine and headed back down canyon. The views were incredible – as were all of theareas on this trip as most were at six to eight thousand feet. Mignon took the lead and headed back to rendezvous at Dyer again. It was decided that we could go visit the mining town of Sylvania or go to camp early – it was 2:30 – so it was decided that we were all tired and in need of rest, alcohol and appetizers. We headed out to our “go to” camp on lower Cottonwood creek. Camping under the shade of the cottonwoods next to the stream with a cool breeze blowing was nothing short of idyllic. We enjoyed the afternoon and a  wonderful dinner of spaghetti, rigatoni, 2 salads, cake and cookies provided by the group. The next morning we all headed for home.

I want to thank the folks who led portions of the trip including Bob and Sue, Vicki and Dave and Mignon!

Another great DE adventure in the books! ~ Ron