There are a number of Red Cloud mines. Early on, in this column, I took you, the reader, to the Red Cloud Mine in Arizona. This month, I will feature one of California’s Red Cloud Mines; the one in the Chuckwalla Mountains.
Hurricane Kathleen, as it spun it’s way across Desert Center, California (a small gas stop on Interstate 10) drastically changed the topography of a desert world unused to such forces of wind and water. The changes wrought were mostly visible in the smaller canyons and around the base of the larger mountains.
A once open canyon, was now completely filled with house-sized solid rock boulders. Roads were washed away as were the works of man. We made many trips trying to locate a mine or what was left of a mine The search still goes on.
In April of 1974, I and my friend Winsor were tooling down Interstate 10 (US 60) from our homes in Los Angeles, watching for the Red Cloud offramp. At last, after our 4 ½ hour journey, I drove down the off-ramp, over a small piece of asphalt paving and onto real dirt. Our adventure begins.
The area at that time, had a fair amount of Creosote bushes, claw-tipped “wait-a-minute” bushes, some Ironwood (mostly dead), and the usual “jumping or teddy-bear” cholla (pronounced choy--yah). (Of course, when you have accidently come in contact with one or more cholla balls, you are not really concerned with how it’s name is pronounced).
The dirt road over which we traveled in the truck was a plum-pudding mixture of grapefruit-sized down to gravel-sized rocks as well as an occasional washout to go around. But I being an old off-road driver took it all in stride.
I found a nice camp site first. Close to the road fork I wanted, but not too close to any other campers and with room to park the dune buggy. 9:15 AM. We had arrived. The sunshine at this time of year felt good.
Preparations for the dune buggy were somewhat different than they are for a motorcycle. I had to remove the oil-filling bolt on the transmission, add oil if needed, and put the bolt back in, wipe any spilled oil off my hands, check and add gasoline. We towed it on its rear wheels, so we couldn’t top off the tank until the tow-bar was removed and the “bug” was all four wheels on the ground. A final check of the battery, any loose chassis bolts and it was done.
We spent the rest of the day just enjoying the desert and doing the small chores such as putting film in the cameras, consulting the maps and books, taking compass sightings to locate our camp on our topographic maps and all the various things done to make our camp comfortable.
Now that I have a GPS unit, finding our camp location is a breeze.
After supper, we watched the sun go down and the stars come out. Living in the smoggy city of Los Angeles, you don’t get to see many stars and seeing stars through crystal-clear desert air is fantastic!
The next morning, after a leisurely breakfast, we got together the gear we were going to take with us on our exploration of the Red Cloud mining area, installed the seat cushions, water and snacks, secured the camp, and started up the ever-faithful dune buggy. For those readers who missed my earlier description, the dune buggy was built from an elderly Karmann-Ghia as an open sand-rail. The floor being expanded industrial steel mesh, we could see what we were going over as well as all around us. It was built by my buddy Larry, in San Diego.
We rejoined the dirt road heading in to the Red Cloud Mine, the Great Western Mine, and the Sterling Mine. Once again the offshoot road to the Red Cloud was invisible. The road to the Great Western was completely washed out, even for motorcycles. The “jeep-trail” that perhaps lead to the Sterling Mine was impassible.
But, we did see and climb around on the stone buildings of the mill that served this area and if you click on the picture here in the story, it will expand and you can enjoy it too. To return to the text, click on GO in the toolbar and BACK..
Imagine, if you will, the scene around us; an aerial tram perhaps from the mill to the Red Cloud, that being the shortest and easiest route. Stamp mills thundering into the night, steam hissing from boilers, storage tanks and pipe lines, the hustle and bustle of the mill workers, the noise and smells of mules used for hauling ore and materials.
Before we knew it, it was time to get back to camp, wet our whistle and have some lunch.
In the afternoon, we drove down Salt Creek Wash and back, taking in the Smoke Trees (that under certain lighting conditions resemble puffs of smoke above the wash), and the Paloverdes (a thin all green tree that sometimes gets pretty large).
Returning to camp, we fixed supper and sat around admiring the late afternoon sun shadows.
The next day we packed up, hooked up the dune buggy, after pumping up its rear tires to freeway pressure and returned to the land of smog.
I hope you enjoyed our adventure. December 2000 marks the first birthday of this column,