March 2000

     September 1971 arrived with Ray and myself heading out Interstate 15 toward an area near the Nevada border. Our destination was the "high desert" of California, a land markedly different from the "low desert" still baking in the sun along the lower Colorado River. A previous journey put us in the ghost town of Providence with it's Bonanza King lead/silver mine. Now we left the freeway at the Cima Road offramp and entered almost the extreme borders of the Joshua Trees, in the Mojave Desert. To add to the magic of the Mojave, range cattle were seen from time to time sleeping in the shade of the Joshua Trees and around a watering tank.

     We made camp in a cluster of Joshua Trees, along one of the interconnecting roads that led to some still operating small mines. Morning came too soon as it has a habit of doing. Normally the deserts are still quite hot in September, but remember, we are now in the high desert and while colder through the night, the days are what we Californians call "T-Shirt" weather. The cactus we are familiar with in the lower desert did not appear here. A type of Spanish Dagger grew along with the Joshua Trees and several kinds of bushes.

     After breakfast, we prepared our dual-purpose motorcycles for our day of exploration. I had a brand new Honda SL125, and Ray was riding his Honda SL350 Twin. As a carryover from my hiking days, I wore a roomy day pack. Using motorcycles instead of 4-wheel drive vehicles required the rider to carry a number of items that would make sure he got back to camp. I carried a small first-aid kit, towing rope, small tools rolled up in a T-Shirt, snacks, fire-making items, motorcycle owners manual, water, along with paper to wrap interesting rock samples, and one or two cameras (a Stereo Realist 3-D camera, and a Pentax H3V single-lens reflex camera). To all this might be added our riding jackets and gloves to keep the bushes at bay. Top this with our fiberglass helmets and we should come to no harm. I added a metal fishing-rod case strapped to the motorcycle loaded with the topographic maps we thought we might need, as well as the auto club maps to give us the big picture. Quite a load!!

     Tromping on the kick starter levers we brought our iron ponies to life and off we went. From our camping spot we headed West to rejoin the Cima Road, thence South East on the well paved road down to Cima (a small store and gas station). The Union Pacific railroad passes by Cima, and we rode down to and on the railroad service road paralleling the tracks to Ivanpah. Not the mines of Ivanpah which were in a direction said to be on the back side of Clark Mountain, but a rail signal stop.

     We left the railroad and explored a connecting road that led to the site of Vanderbilt, on the West side of the New York Mountains. We saw some abandoned workings; mostly some tailings and an unshored tunnel. The tunnel mouth was nice and cool, so we made it our "riding break", leg stretch and posterior blood circulation restorer. It was a good time to look at our maps and decide where next to go. And that was to head back to our camp and pick up another mine or two depending on how hot my new motorcycle's tight engine got going back uphill. With several stops to face my hot engine sideways into the breeze, and thus to forestall seizing a piston, we got back to camp, rested a bit and had some lunch.

     After lunch, we again refilled our gas tanks and loaded up the motorcycles and headed North East into the the early afternoon through the Piute Valley, ending up at the Iron Horse Mine. It was for the moment abandoned. The Iron Horse was a very small mine. It is a silver/lead mine of low grade and was worked for a short time before 1941. Along with some silver and lead it also had some copper and iron. We parked in the afternoon shade and explored the mine area. Despite the jerry-built form of consruction, we saw a clever method to route the no-value "country rocks" over the storage bin and the road used by the trucks loading ore for transportation to a mill, using one set of track to either fill the ore bin or dispose of the "country rocks" on the tailings pile.

     The track had two openings along the dumping route. If it was good ore, they stopped the ore car at a certain point and released the dumping mechanism, dropping the ore into the storage bin. If it was "country rocks" the car continued along the track until it was stopped at the end, and the car dumped onto a long chute that took the material beyond the loading road and dumped it onto the tailings pile. Ray is seen standing on the rail bed in one of the pictures. In another picture I point my camera down the ore chute for a rocks-eye view of the holding bin. The long shadows of late afternoon drew our attention to supper time back at our camp some eight miles distant. The weather was still pleasant and the sun on the Joshua Trees painted them a golden color.

     Next morning after breakfast, we decided to look at the Copper King mine near the West side of the Ivanpah Mountains. Riding preparations as usual. At last we set off, bouncing over the dirt roads and came at last to the Copper King mine.

     You can see in the pictures the head frame used immense wood beams. Thats Ray climbing up the stair steps from the deck above the sorting bins. I soon joined him and had a great view of a rusty steel building and an old one cylinder engine near it. It may have been used to pump water from a well. This mine brought up copper carbonates. An inclined shaft was sunk prior to 1910, and went down as deep as 225 feet. There were other shallow diggings in the area, but no actual production was listed. Leaving the Copper King mine, we did further exploring on this trip, but I'm saving that for another adventure from the pages of Jerome's Notebook. I hope you enjoyed the trip. --Jerome W. Anderson -- Jerome W. Anderson