Vivid swirls and bands of reddish-pink characterize the strawberry onyx from the old Ribbon Rock mine. This material has often been referred to as the best onyx to come from the Mojave Desert. We'd known about this mine for some time. However, its relative isolation caused us to pass it by in favor of easier trips. Finally, curiosity got the better of us. After two weeks of incessant rain we were ready for anything! Our guide was Mitchell's Gem Trails of Southern California. We left Interstate 40 at Ludlow and traveled the power line road east for about 15 miles. The road is difficult, but nothing that the average four wheel drive can't handle. We probably experienced worse conditions due to the erosion from the rains, but that will certainly be repaired in short order. As we turned off the power line road and onto the old road leading to the mine area we were struck by the solitude. The pink of the Kelso Dunes and the lofty Providence Mountains can be seen in the distance. We saw no cars or people until later the next day as we approached Kelbaker Road on our way back to the highway. Well, you're asking, was the trip worth it? Read on!
The two mile hike through the wilderness area went quickly. The desert was green due to all the rain, and colorful rock formations abounded. As we approached the site we spotted the cabin! It's made of old railroad ties and at one time was covered with tar paper, chicken wire, and cement. Most of that is peeling off now. There's a little wood burning stove inside. The shaded porch made a great spot for our base as we hiked into the surrounding hills to see what was there. There was no one area where the onyx was mined. It came from all over the hills, mainly to the east of the cabin. If you prowl around you can find huge boulders of it, find ledges of it, or look through the smaller rocks remaining around the quarry areas. The onyx is indeed beautiful! However, there is even more. If you follow a dim road further south from the cabin you will come to an area that has colorful jasper and agate. Some of the material here was very nice and was quite plentiful. Much of the jasper is tan with quartz stringers, but a reddish variety can also be found. There are even pieces with the two colors mixed together. Time was our biggest enemy. By the time we had driven to the wilderness boundary and then hiked in, we only had about four or five hours to explore. We barely scratched the surface, but were very impressed. There is plenty of quality material, and the location is incredibly scenic. We'll probably have to go back! We had a hard time deciding what to take with us. In the end we took lots of photographs and just brought a few pieces of onyx back to polish.
For the hike back to the car, we passed up the road and instead explored a scenic wash which took us in the right direction. As the shadows lengthened and the bats flitted about, we set up camp just outside the wilderness boundary and spent a lovely night around the campfire while the full moon lit up the desert. The following morning we decided to continue east along the power line road. This would take us between the Kelso Dunes and the Granite Mountains to Kelbaker Road. We took two side trips off of Kelbaker Road before returning to Interstate 40. The first was to explore the area around Arrowweed Spring, where we hiked up a stream and found a huge cougar print. The second was to the Granite Cove area where we found some WWII memorabilia nestled amongst the boulders.
This was indeed a great trip. If you've wondered about what the area is like, click on the link below to see some of the scenery and the rocks that can be found there.