First a word about the photos. I had failed to keep the camera in a cool place and as a result the whole roll has a greenish cast. We are making a valiant effort to color-correct the prints. Regardless, the area is so unique, I felt you, the reader, would put up with this minor problem.
Last month, JUNE 2001, we took a fast look at the Randsburg California area. This month’s destination is Cuddeback Dry Lake which is East and South of the Randsburg area. Larry and I have been there many times, mostly to get away from it all, but this month we will be doing some exploring. Join us now as we go back to October 1995.
I was living back in San Diego from eighteen years in Los Angeles, and I had put together a small trailer kit to haul out my dual-purpose motorcycles, loading ramp, gas jugs; the usual stuff involved in our kind of explorations.
For the insides of the camper, I had over time, compiled a Master List of equipment that ran three pages 8 ˝ x 11 inches including sub groupings for specific kinds of trips. It made things infinitely easier for me at three or four in the morning when I did the final packing. I’m also the weather man, dutifully logging the temperature, humidity, and wind direction and velocity hourly unless we are away from camp. I like lists! Further, we have Citizen Band radios to keep our small caravan together. To me, getting there is half the fun, be it freeway or dirt roads! And yes, I carry the 48” tall farm jack, as well as pick and shovel.
Now back to October, 1995, and we have been driving some two hours from San Diego, and had crested Cajon (pronounced: Kah-hoe-n) Pass and there the desert lay before us, as well as a handy gas station to top off my tanks; both the pickup’s and the five gallon jugs on the trailer. It felt good to stretch, check for hot trailer wheel bearings, web-belt restrainers holding our motorcycles firmly in the trailers, and all that. Like pilots we had circled our crafts and found them fit to continue North up hiway 395. Wagon Ho! And off we went back onto Interstate 15E until eight miles later we left the Interstate and headed North on State Hiway 395 bypassing Victorville (cement mills and railroad tracks).
Passing through sleepy Adelanto we were truly on the “High Desert” at last. It looked like it and smelled like it. The black-top had narrowed down to just two lanes; one NNW and the other SSE. Our road mates were big 18-wheelers loaded with freight and speedy cars headed for the “High Sierra” to hike or to ski depending on how fast summer had ended. Everyone else was at work for it was Monday.
At last Kramer Junction hove into sight. A major cross road, two restaurants, and two gas stations fueled the vehicles and the inner man.
We stopped at our favorite, a little non-chain fast food that makes good burgers etc. It takes a little longer but we think its worth it. I can’t remember its name. After filling the inner man, Larry and I got back into our trucks, turned out of the dusty parking lot and back onto US 395, heading North. Soon we saw Cuddeback Dry Lake to our North East and kept a watchful eye out for the so-called better road with a BLM number on it.
As I get older, I begin to forget things, but this road was memorable! One lane wide, with an occasional pull-out for those desiring to pass me, and sure enough someone with a cloud of dust was coming up behind me and it wasn’t Larry. I pulled off and a young fellow in a 4 wheel drive vehicle flew by, making the washboard grooves a little deeper.After his dust cloud settled, I drove back into the “road” and called Larry on the CB radio to let him know about it.
Because I had added helper springs to my truck’s rear axle, it so stiffened things up that over ten miles per hour on a washboard road and I lost control of my steering. Fun. So I crept along mentally counting all the bolts and nuts I would have to tighten up, especially on the motorcycle trailer when we finally made camp. Shortly Larry radioed that he had found a good camp site on the West edge of the dry lake. That was a good location. Prevailing wind would be behind us blowing through the bushes instead of continuous dust. 2:42 PM! I was on-site and stopped. I swear the truck bounced up and down for several minutes after I stopped. So much for that BLM road; we would leave by the shorter washboard close to the site of Atolia, North of us.
I think, from the map, our road was once part of the 20-mule-team road. Quickly I deployed the maximum/minimum thermometer, and tied a couple of pieces of Day-Glo surveying ribbon to the radio mast for wind direction, and grabbed my Dwyer wind-speed device. Deploying a plastic chair, and an ice cold can of beer and I was set to take notes.
Bulletin 188, California Division of Mines and Geology, Geology of the Fremont Peak and Opal Mountain Quadrangles, California told us about the geology of the area we were in, including the Hamburger Mill site which we would look at in detail and take some pictures on Friday. Right then, it was great just to sit, or tighten nuts and bolts, and make sure my electric light and fans were still working, for the coming evening. It was 94 degrees when we arrived on site. The temperature had dropped to 62 degrees by moonrise at 7:21 PM. A stunning full moon. Larry had retired early while I stayed up and enjoyed the bright moonlight on the dry lake until 9:15 PM when I too retired to my bunk.
Tuesday was a day of unwinding from the pressure of the city. Occasionally a military jet would fly by on the way to the gunnery range. While we can escape the cities, so much land out here is government land used for flying, gunnery and such, it is hard to truly escape the world. Still, its quiet and you can see forever! The day’s high temperature was 94 F and the low, 36 F. Periodically we would fire up the dual purpose motorcycles and ride around and across the dry lake. It gets us back in training before we take on the radical parts of exploration.
Wednesday, Hi of 94 F and a low of 40 F. We decided to check out the Monarch-Rand mine located on the West side of Fremont Peak. We checked the gas and oil, water bottles, day packs, and maps and soon were on our way. We drove to the South end of Cuddeback Lake, crossed over Westward and around to the front of Fremont Peak A short climb brought us to the area. Not much to report on there. In the geology report the mine is called the Fremont Peak Mine. The Monarch-Rand name appears on all the maps of Fremont Peak, and the locations match. The mine produced gold, pyrite (fools gold), and arsenopyrite. We returned to camp for lunch and refreshments. At our camp the wind was starting to come up from the SW. Larry said it looked like rain. My notes indicate it didn’t rain on us.
By 5 PM, the wind was back to normal, from the West. I retired at 12:26 AM. and got up around 7 AM a bit sore from the ride of the day before. I decided to spend the day in camp while Larry explored locally. Temps were hi of 86 F, low of 45 F.
Friday, Expedition Day, arrived as I knew it must. Following my usual breakfast of a noodle soup cup (freeze dried), decaf coffee, and a donut or two, it was time to look at the maps and plan the day. After the usual motorcycle prep, off we went. 76 F out as we headed South down the middle length of Cuddeback Lake. We had a 9 mile ride to get there, zig zagging through islands of low brush, then more dry lake bed.
Finally we arrived. The geology map, which shows the minerals, listed gold for the Hamburger Mill site, though the text indicated the mining and milling operations did not go beyond the “prospecting” stage. Several people sure put in a lot of effort. I counted 4 shafts and 8 tunnels in the immediate area, and within 2 miles, 3 more shafts that could have fed the mill.
I took photos, while Larry dry-panned some of the tailings for gold. All we got was a 3” nail in my rear tire. All those years I carried a can of tire sealant in my day pack it finally was there when I needed it! A fast nine mile dash back to the camp in case the sealant leaked out. Well, that was enough excitement for the day, and called for ice cold beer and chips. What a great week! Tomorrow we would head for home some six hours away.