Sometimes it's the hunt for information and the journey itself that ultimately provides as much reward as reaching the goal. That's the case today. The initial research for this trip actually began about a year ago and consisted of turning pages, taking notes and examining topographic maps and satellite images. We wanted to visit three small 1930's era gold mines that lie deep within the wilderness area surrounding the vast and isolated expanse of Pinto Basin. More specifically, we were hoping to locate two small metal cabins that reportedly still stood in lonely canyons dropping down to the basin from the Eagle Mountains. Recently, we made a discovery that added the missing piece that we were looking for. Routes were planned, GPS waypoints noted, and a weekend set aside. However, at the last minute, a family event cut our expected two days to one. Like any junkie whose fix is taken away, we were despondent. Niki wondered aloud if we couldn't somehow do the two days of hiking in just one day. At first glance the idea seemed impossible. Soon, though, we were reworking our routes and mileages and came to the conclusion that it just might work. We would need an early start, a heavy load of water and a cool day.
We did get an early start and we did carry seven liters of water between us. Instead of the cool day, though, we got ninety-five degrees. None of the water that we took made it back to the Jeep! Our GPS track log says that we did 12.8 miles in 9 hours and 34 minutes. The mines we visited are isolated. We felt kinda like astronauts walking on the moon. The terrain was much rougher than we imagined. With the exception of the sandy wash that took us into Pinto Basin, the remainder of our hiking consisted of crossing alluvial rubble cut by washes, some of them pretty deep. Of course, since we were going across the grain, we got to experience every single one of those washes! However, we were fueled by the sheer audacity of what we were trying to accomplish and ended up having a rewarding and memorable day!
If you're interested in checking out this remote area of Joshua Tree and seeing what's left at three typical small 1930-ish gold mines, then we'd love to have you join us for the cyber version of our trip. Since we ended up with too many photos for just one trip, we've divided our day up into the three mines that we visited. Clicking on the Mystery Mine, which is our first destination, will get you started. You can then move on to the Blind Mule Placer with us if your water and stamina are holding out. Finally, clicking on the Hard Diggings Mine will let you straggle along with us for a visit to the last site of the day. A word of caution, though. We ran out of water at the Hard Diggings Mine, so before you click on that one grab a bottle from the fridge! Well, let's get going!