It was the middle of January. We were headed north on the Copper Mountain Road out of Barstow. It's a well graded road and the 33 miles to Goldstone, our ultimate destination, should have passed in no time at all. However, we had a detour planned. We had found a reference to a turquoise claim, the Chut Turquoise Mine, and decided to see if through the magic of GPS we could locate it. This necessitated a detour off of Copper Mountain Road onto a two track that would lead to Williams Well, the center of a placer mining area that is now attracting metal detectorists. From Williams Well we headed northeast in our quest for the turquoise claim at 35*08.28 N and 116*55.10 W. We were a bit skeptical about the coordinates because these are interpolations when it comes to the old mines. They didn't have GPS then! However, we did find an area of mining activity near that location and we set out to explore it. A long exploration into a tunnel failed to turn up any evidence of turquoise. However, on top of the hill that the tunnel went into, we did find something that resembled turquoise! Some additional exploring turned up more old mine evidence and it was with reluctance that we turned north toward Goldstone to make camp before nightfall.
We arrived at Goldstone (35*17.963 N and 116*55.039 W) at sunset. This town, now mostly obliterated, began life in the 1880's as a gold mining town. Activity in the area continued until just before WWII when all mines were finally abandoned. The major mines were the Goldstone, Belmont and the Redbridge. We drove slowly along a ridge that had a nice view to the north of the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex. This facility is at the edge of the Fort Irwin Military Reservation and is a deep space communications center. It uses huge dish antennas up to 230' to provide radio communication for all of NASA's interplanetary spacecraft, as well as for radio astronomy and radar observations of the solar system and the universe. From the campsite we chose we could just see the tip of one of these antennas. A cozy fire and a full moon made for a reasonably comfortable night at this 3000' elevation.
As the sun gradually warmed us up, we broke camp and began our explorations of the mines. Our first discovery, sadly, was of the carapace of a desert tortoise. A mine near our camp had an interesting tunnel and some nice debris. Another location due south of our camp proved to be great for exploration. Old foundations, shafts, tunnels, debris, an arrastre, and all sorts of old junk held our attention for several hours. Finally we headed for what once was the main part of town. Again, very little is left. We found some foundations, scattered glass and other assorted flotsam and jetsam. On our way out we checked out another shaft. This one was extremely deep. We dropped a rock down it and are still waiting to hear it hit bottom!
As the afternoon lengthened we scurried across Superior Dry Lake and then turned south on Copper Mountain Road to take us back to Barstow. We had certainly had a busy weekend. Any of the spots that we visited could have had several days devoted to them. Click on the pics to see some visuals.