The Silver Bell and Silver Cliffs mines in the eastern Rodman Mountains were our initial goal for today. The skies were blue and the temperatures were in the low 70's after an early season storm. Any excuse to head to the desert was a good one, and we had often seen the names of these mines and wondered what they looked like. We left Highway 40 in Newberry Springs and drove east on the old National Trails Highway until we picked up the trail heading south into the Rodmans. Things have changed. Not all routes shown on the topo maps are still there! We relied heavily on the Delorme topo maps with the real-time GPS that we run on a laptop. Without that we would have wasted a lot of time. Eventually we found that a new route that follows a pole line was headed in the right direction. This sandy trail climbed steadily up toward our destination. We stopped to stretch our legs and take some photos of the different species of cholla. Finally the Silver Bell ruins appeared on the right side of the wash and on up the hill. There was part of an old rock house, a couple of foundations, a water tank, mill ruins, the obligatory old car, a nice can dump, a couple of lizards, a mineshaft, and an interesting tower-like structure that looked like some type of boiler. Across the wash is the Silver Cliffs Mine, but someone was camped there and we didn't want to spoil their tranquility.
As we continued south up the wash we encountered some prospect pits. They were fun to explore and the reddish rock against the blue sky made for some good photos. Just before we crested the head of the canyon we saw two very large light colored raptors soaring high above. The Rodmans are known as one of the few raptor breeding grounds left in the Mojave. Golden eagles are one of the birds found here and possibly that was what we saw. At the head of the canyon we turned west on the road that follows the big transmission towers, and then northwest on BLM route OJ233 to visit the Rodman Mountains petroglyph site again. The skies were brighter today than the last time we were here, so we thought we'd stop and take a few pictures. This is such a beautiful spot. The vegetation is lush, the flowers always seem to be blooming, and there are lots of little critters running around that love to pose for the camera. After hiking around we returned to the car to have lunch, and to our surprise the growl of engines, lots of them, heralded the arrival of the Drifters Jeep Club. These friendly guys and gals were out doing some exploring. Many of the rigs were towing trailers with extra gear and camping equipment. We would have loved to stay, but after a brief visit we headed toward the Fry Mountains.
Our goal in the Frys was the Copper Strand Mine. When electric power entered the picture in the 1900's, copper became an important commodity. This mine capitalized on the copper boom and operated until the 1940's. To get there we continued west on OJ233, passing the rich black and deep red Pitkin Cinder Cone, and then turning southeast on the trail that runs along the northeast flank of the Fry Mountains. I use the term trail in a generous sense. We plowed down sandy streams, dropped over eroded banks, and made roads where none existed. Along the way, however, we did see lots of bleached white pieces of the skeleton of a cow. A vertebrae here, a rib bone there, a shoulder blade over there, and then finally we found the biggest chunk of all, the remnants of the carcass. Shortly after that we found the remnants of an old boxcar..........only in the desert! As we got near the Copper Strand Mine location we picked up some tire tracks in a wash and felt a bit better. However, there has been so much erosion that roads leading up to the Copper Strand were impassable. So we hiked up to the lower tunnel for a little exploring. Lots of debris covers the ground downhill of the mine area. It was while we were hiking that Niki saw what she thought was a bug. It turned out to be a baby horned lizard! As we tried to get pictures it ran under Niki's foot and I had to caution her to stay up on her toes while I scooped the little guy out from under her boot. All this didn't seem to phase it at all, and when I put it down it slowly wandered off. What a treat!
On our way back down to civilization the late afternoon skies began to haze over, giving the power lines a silvery look like a long row of spider webs. The day ended with a brilliant sundog, a compact explosion of color caused by the sun's rays interacting with moisture or ice crystals in the clouds. We took that as an omen that we would be back to do more exploring! If you'd like to do a bit of exploring, just click on the photo link below.