Well it’s been about two and a half years since I was last able to get out to the desert and two years since my first Jeep died. Last weekend I was able to finally get out into the great wide open. My first trip was back to the El Paso Mountains just south of Ridge Crest and north of Cal City. Nestled between the 14 and 395, the El Paso’s share a portion of their territory with Red Rock State Park.
The entrance to the El Paso’s is on the east side of the 14 Freeway about 10 miles north of Red Rock. The trip began with taking Bodie into the dirt for the first time ever.
Meeting up with Scott in his XJ.
The first stop along the is the Dutch Cleanser Mine. A pumicite mine, the powdery mineral is used in soaps and make up products. The mine opened sometime in the early 1920′s and had closed shortly after the end of WWII in 1947. You can still find Dutch Cleanser Products in grocery stores although the pumicite is now mined outside of California.
The mine consists of 4 or 5 horizontal shafts extending far down into the side of the mountain. When you reach the bottom a lateral tunnel extends about 1800 feet. There are old mine carts, track, various support beams, and even little rooms carved into the side of the tunnel. I’ve been down there a few times and would recommend a good pair of hiking boots, a helmet, and a flash light if you are going to go down there. Also be aware of barbed wire.
Our next stop took us to the Bonanza Gulch Post Office. When mining operations were in full swing the Post Office served the communication needs of every one including the Chinese Immigrants who worked the mines along side the claim owners. There isn’t much else to say about the Post Office except that it has almost been completely rebuilt. I wish they had preserved it in a state of decay.
Stay tuned for Part II as we head towards Bickle Camp and bring you the first ever aerial footage of that location.