May 2000

The Virginia Dale mining district was an early favorite area to explore. Located East and South of Twentynine Palms, in the California desert, it still had bits and pieces of abandoned mining equipment, and a tottering head frame or two. There was lots to see. This month we are going to visit the Brooklyn mine and the Los Angeles mine, two mines that shared the same ore vein and the same mill. The San Bernardino county line/Riverside county line runs between them.

It is very early morning, icy cold out, a day in January 1970. Long before the rest of the inhabitants of the sleepy little wide places in the road we are on, have stirred. Places like Morongo Valley, Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree, and Twentynine Palms. Our road is an asphalt two lane road. That time of day when the brightening sky heralds the giant orange ball of the sun is still filled with the scents of cold night and the various vegetation.

My faithful 1967 Ford F-250 ĺ ton pickup rolls nicely along, towing my buddyís dune buggy on itís rear wheels with a home made T-bar hitch to my truckís rear bumper.

About four miles East of Twentynine Palms, we watched for the Gold Crown Road and turned off the asphalt road onto a well maintained hard-dirt road. Over to one side we saw the "bed of nails" road-restoring device the county uses to maintain this dirt road. Its a big square wooden frame with lots of spikes that rake and breakdown the teeth-jaring washboard ridges for a while.

With a rooster tail of dust rising behind us and hanging in the air, we continued until we came to a group of mining equipment: cyanide leeching tanks, air classifiers, and broken-down machinery. This was what was left of the thriving "city" of "New Dale". "Old Dale" was located back at the road junction.

Finding a flat spot, we set up camp. My truck camper was pretty primitive then. A tarp across the bare metal truck bed, air mattresses, sleeping bags, and more blankets, and to top it off, another layer of canvas. I also added a framework of painted boards from which still another sheet of canvas could be hung to shut off the wind at night.

We next unhitched the dune buggy, removed the tow-bar and set about tying on all the necessities that we might need. This included water, food, tools, map tube, air pump, tire repair equipment, and all the things we learned not to leave back at base camp. Larry had fitted his dune buggy with a VW Bus gas tank, so we had several hundred miles range and didnít have to worry about gas. I mention all this so the reader doesnít assume that we just hopped out of the truck, pressed the starter button on the dune buggy and off we went.

At last we were ready. The dirt road weaves away from the Virginia Dale and passes through and around some smaller hills as it heads now South. It seemed as if every hill had itís own prospect tunnel or shaft. Now we were clear of the edges of the Pinto Mountains and into the Pinto Basin. Time for a good look at the topographic maps and decide on our route. We had several choices. The dirt road running North along the very edge of this part of the Pinto Mountain looked the best, and off we went. Some four miles later we arrived at a fork in the road and to our surprise, a three-stamp mill some 100 feet to the left of us. We could see on our left, the foundation slabs of the Los Angeles Mill and beyond, the location of the Los Angeles mine. Straight ahead of us our dirt road pitched down to the Brooklyn Mine and itís minerís barracks by the road. We drove down the smoothly graded road to the bottom of the canyon, parked and looked around. The usual large round cyanide leeching tanks were still in place.

Two stone buildings were still standing.

Discovered in 1893, it wasnít worked until 1901 thru 1916 and then intermittently until the 1930s when both it and the adjoining Los Angeles Mine were in operation. The mill on the site included a stamp mill with three 750 pound stamps and a 30 ton rod mill. At the time of our visit, only the stamp mill was left. As can be seen in the pictures, time and the elements have not treated the stamp mill very well. An even later trip showed some vandalism had occurred. Both mines were gold mines although some silver and copper minerals resulted from the milling process.

The final picture is of the minerís barracks taken from the Gold Standard mine across the valley. If you look sharp you can see the partly green roof of the building.

Our ride back to the Virginia Dale camp was uneventful and once there, we enjoyed a nice sunset with

Jerome W. Anderson


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