2020 - Trip Reports - Hauling Ass
By Lindsay Woods
Several months ago, Tracy reached out and asked if I would plan a trip to the Death Valley area. In my planning for the trip I wanted to explore somewhere I had not already been, while taking my fellow explorers to some other places I had been but they had not. My traveling partners were BJ, Tracy and Jarred.
We departed Hesperia midday allowing ourselves an opportunity to stop at the Lynwood Del Taco for lunch. After having lunch outside of Del Taco we hit the road with our next stop being the Barstow Museum. When we arrived one sign out front said “open” but the handwritten note on the door said closed due to something called COVID. I tried calling Pat on her cell to let us come in so we could purchase a few books we wanted to add to our libraries. Unable to get ahold of Pat, we moved on down the road to lovely Baker, California.
On the way to Baker I discovered that my traveling companions had never been to Alien Jerky. We topped off our fuel, headed to the Alien Jerky where we stimulated Baker’s economy before heading toward the War Eagle Mine near Tecopa, in the Tecopa Mining District.
I first heard of War Eagle Mine while watching videos on YouTube. I was hooked when I learned the mine was so large you could spend the better part of a day going through all 5 levels of the mine. Primary mining in the area included: Gold, iron, copper, lead, silver, and zinc.
While the deepest levels are located at War Eagle East side of the mountain, we chose to visit South facing which provided a great deal of exploring within our time constraints. We camped near one of the largest ore hoppers I have ever seen. We were pleasantly surprised to find a large concrete slab on which we made camp which provided us with an excellent view of the surrounding area, primarily overlooking Tecopa. After a good night we headed to the mine and began our exploration of it. It was definitely impressive and I look forward to going back and spending more time exploring the rest of the mine on the East side.
Next, we headed to Shoshone to top off fuel and get a cold drink. We were happy to find that the Museum at Shoshone was open and provided us with an opportunity to learn more about the area. The last time I visited Shoshone the wind was blowing so hard we ended up being stranded there. I was able to reach out to my contact at the Amargosa Conservancy where we were able to spend the night. The weather this trip was much better than my previous trip. The museum staff was very welcoming and the displays highly informative. The best part was they had the books we were looking for.
My traveling companions had never been to Warm Springs in Death Valley. I on the other hand, have been there numerous times, even once while Pfizer was still operating the talc mine. Memories of staying in the bunkhouse with my father and grandfather and sharing a meal with the caretaker named Red came back to me.
My plan was to head to the Geologist’s Cabin and hope to get lucky and be able to stay the night. As we neared Stripped Butte I could see that both cabins had flags up, indicating they were occupied. We turned around and headed toward a small campsite we passed on the way in. We made it to the site just before sunset and made camp.
The next morning shortly after breakfast I heard what sounded like a cattle trailer coming toward us on the rough narrow road. To my surprise it was a cattle trailer full of wild burros. The driver said he had been staying at Geologist’s Cabin for a couple of weeks and hauling wild burros out of the area. He said it was a seven-hour trip to Furnace Creek and back. Once in Furnace Creek the burros would undergo a health screening before being shipped to Arizona or Texas for adoption.
After breaking down camp we headed back to the mining camp at Warn Springs. The mining camp was established in the 1930s. The mining area was purchased in the early1970s and last operated in the mid 1980s. It was donated to the National Park Service in 1984 . The camp is truly an oasis with large cedar trees, a hot spring, caretakers house, bunkhouse and chow hall, which now are getting run down. Much of the old mining equipment is still in place and is interesting to see. The highlight is accessing the mine. We explored the mine finding water in the lowest level and a number of large tunnels wandering through the mountain.
Our next stop was back to Baker and then on to Hole in the Wall. Just outside Kelso I noticed that the second vehicle was flashing their headlights. As I took a closer look it was a BLM Ranger pulling over BJ for driving 85 mph (with a trailer). No ticket was issued but rather BJ employed his charm, with a promise to slow down.
Our last night out was spent at Hole-In-The-Wall Campground which is in one of the most beautiful areas in the Mojave with spectacular views of volcanic rock walls and the surrounding mountains. While my travel companions had camped at Mid Hills they had never been to Hole in the Wall. It’s a great place to spend time around the fire and under the stars with friends.
As great as the trip was, heading home is always the best part. Hope to see you on the trail. ~ Lindsay