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One More Day in Dale | Mine Mania #3

Nestled into the canyon at the Golden Egg Mine, I'd either gotten the truck leveled just right or I was extra tired from the previous day's mine hopping. Whatever the reason, I slept fantastically until about three minutes before my alarm went off. I love nights like that.

What a place to wake up. As if I'm the only one in the entire mining district!

Exploring into mine adits, shafts, etc. is not safe. I joke around about that a bit in this story, but I just want to be clear: Stay out, stay alive.

Still bummed that I'd failed in my search the previous evening, I ate a quick breakfast snack - of donettes and Fritos - before heading back to the mill to poke around a bit more and hopefully turn up a clue to the fate of the infamous ore cart.

I started by revisiting the adit that was marked on my map. Definitely collapsed.

After checking out the still-collapsed adit, I poked around the mill a bit on my way back to the Tacoma. It was on the upper level of the mill that I got my clue. There, a vertical shaft plunged down, deep into the mountain. Surely that shaft had to connect to something, didn't it?

I dropped in a rock. Silence. Then, a sound. Not coming from the vertical shaft - instead I heard an echo off the canyon walls below!

Making my way to the edge, I noticed a faint foot trail switch-backing its way deep into the wash below. I'd missed it earlier as the remains - walls and roof - of an old cabin, as well as bits of sheet metal from the mill itself, had collapsed over the closest 30 feet of the trail. Suddenly, I was full of hope.

This looks promising. Could it be that my GPS waypoint was in the wrong spot?

Having only ever gotten a single set of GPS data from Mike @mk5 - as we planned this trip - my perception was that he's usually quite accurate in his placement of waypoints and trails. This leads me to only one possible conclusion, and it's not pretty: Not only did he hope I wouldn't find the ore cart in the first place, but he wanted me to feel a deep sense of regret that I'd missed it before the adit collapsed.


I emailed Mike when I returned and shared a few photos with him, including this one. His reaction confirmed my suspicion, this guy is a complete weasel:

Damn, just some seriously great shots, man. All my favorite spots and more! So wish I had more time to stay out there with you.

Aww shit, you found the ore cart - high-five, bro!


Amazing. Come back some time.

Of course, I can't wait to meet up again!

A little further into the adit, I found myself looking up towards the mill from the bottom of the vertical shaft.

Flush with the warm fuzzy feelings that I can only imagine are what successful people experience on a regular basis, I headed back up to the Tacoma, indulged in a well-deserved bowl of Cheerios, and climbed behind the wheel for the bumpy ride back to the main road and the start of my last full day exploring the plethora of mines that dot the Dale Mining District.

Heading out.

My route for the day - at least the one I'd planned out the previous evening as I'd decided to stay put at the Golden Egg rather than heading south under cover of darkness - would take me in a generally northwesterly direction, exploring a series of mines along the eastern edge of the Pinto Mountain Wilderness. I didn't know if I'd find any "totally safe" adits worth exploring at any of these mines, but not knowing when I'd be in the area again, I figured that this was as good a time as any to go explore these remote stretches of "totally safe" roads.

The Duplex Mine

I pulled onto the main road - JT1994 - just before 7:45am, and just after the Texan (who'd been camped and cooking dinner at the Sunset Mine the evening before), drove past.

It was slow going behind the Texan.

Luckily, he noticed me within the first few minutes, and as soon as a wide spot in the road presented itself, he pulled over to let me pass. Recognizing my truck as I pulled along side and stopped to wish him a good morning and let him know that his dinner had smelled divine, he rolled down his window to wish me the same and apologize for not sharing! Now that's some Texas hospitality!

A few minutes later I was once again off the main line, winding my way along a well-built trail that snaked its way along a ridgeline toward the Duplex Mine.

I often wonder if it took miners longer to build the roads than to strike out at their actual mine sites.

When I arrived at the end of the road and the Duplex Mine, there wasn't much besides this metal frame and a few vertical shafts that remained.

The views weren't half bad up here.

I happened to get cell service for the first time in three days up at the top of the Duplex Mine, so I spent a few minutes catching up with @mrs.turbodb, checking the weather forecast, and making sure that there was nothing urgent in my email, before heading back - the entire visit taking less than 20 minutes!

Heading back, the Pinto Mountain Wilderness rising in the distance.

The Gold Crown Mine

Following a series of roads that have since become a jumble of JT#### designations in my mind, I wound may way through the rocky desert terrain of which I was becoming so accustomed. Headed to the Gold Crown Mine, I was sure that this was going to be something special. After all, ore from the Mission Mine - that I'd visited the evening before - was sent here for processing, so it had to be a reasonably large-scale operation.

What I'd failed to remember - as always, I'm a slow learner - was that large-scale doesn't necessarily meant that anything is left on site. In fact, the more organized an operation, the more likely they are to clean up after themselves... or at least sell off anything of value.

Concrete foundations, shafts, and tailings were all that was left at the Gold Crown Mine. Though, of these, there was no shortage.

Though there wasn't much remaining, the Gold Crown Mine was one of the most important gold mines in the district during the 1920s and 1930s. Established by the Gold Crown Mining Company in 1926, it consolidated twenty-five claims into a single mine. Mine shafts tunneled to more than 600 feet. The mine got pipe water from New Dale town and for milling its gold and that from the neighboring mines. It closed down in 1938 following the exhaustion of its ore, though reprocessing of tailings continued until 1940.

The mill - with obviously specialized footings - for round tanks, diversions, and of course whatever pulverized the rock into a fine powder - was fun to wonder about.

I found this photo after I returned.

As usual, someone wanted me to know they'd been here.

Recognize this guy from the Carlyle Mine? I still don't know (or care) what it says.

The "Pack Trail" Mine

After a quick look around, I was headed back the way I'd come - across the main road, JT1927 - to a mine that I'd seen on satellite. From that vantage point it appeared to have some structures - perhaps a headframe, maybe some rail line - but was, as far as I could tell, unnamed.

The structures I'd seen turned out to be a collapsed ore chute.

What I couldn't tell at the time, was that the road up to this unnamed mine was the roughest I'd encounter in my time in the district. Cut into the side of the mountain, the narrow trail was filled with sharp basketball-and-larger sized rocks. It was clear that not many people made it up this way.

Mike would later tell me that it was labeled as a "pack trail" on his old USGS maps. The unnamed mine now had a name!

After getting turned around and having a quick mid-morning lunch of breakfast foods, I gathered up the plethora of lighting equipment that makes any mine adit totally safe, and climbed the tailings pile, hoping that the adit I'd noticed above was open.

I thought it was cool to find some miners marks - Bill and Dennis worked this mine in 1837. Almost 200 years earlier!

I didn't know it at the time - I've only learned some of this since my return - but one of the things I discovered while I was investigating the "Pack Trail" Mine was the old fuse table. This is where blasting fuses would have been measured and assembled, and in this case, a series of load count dots as well.

Huh, never seen "safe" spelled that way.

After poking around the adit for a while - these little LEDs that Mike left are addictive - I headed back towards the collar and proceeded to pick my way down the pack trail, now much more confident since I wasn't worried about running into a washout and finding somewhere to turn around.

Warm glow.

This looks significantly more inviting than it felt on the way up.

The Imperial Mine

Still before noon, I headed west again, towards the last mine I'd visit in the district: The Imperial.

One of the lesser visited mines in the district, The Imperial is located in Humbug Mountain - further west than most think of when it comes to the Dale Mining District. Historic details of the mine are scant, but Mike mentioned that when he'd visited several years earlier, he'd hesitated to enter the adit since it was signed as active.

Crossing the desert pavement was pleasurable, the road smooth and the outside temps, perfect.

Wonder if I'll run into anyone out here?

Reasonably modern stairs leading up the waste dump outside the lower adit, a convenient touch.

The mine is made up of two adits and a connecting shaft containing a wooden rock chute, allowing for easier removal of material from the upper shaft. Wooden support structures and braces have been built into the lower adit, which also contains an empty storage room.

I was hoping to find out more details about the mine when I ran into this sign.

I got a nice chuckle reading this note. My type of folks!

Whie the upper adit was collapsed, the lower extended 300 feet or so into the mountain, and there were a few spots where modern lighting and tools were present to aid in the removal of ore. I can only imagine how much easier portable generators and modern lighting would have made mining back in the day.

The chute to the upper level has been modernized and is clearly still in operation. (left) | Enough with the LEDs already. (right)

Ultimately, I never ran into anyone at the Imperial Mine, though I did run into one of the First Class Miners members as I was on my way out. Perhaps 65-years old, she was emptying 5-gallon buckets of gravel onto the road as it passed through a sandy wash. "So that our members with 2WD vehicles can get through," she related to me as we chatted for a few moments. She'd been at it - hauling seven buckets at a time from Twentynine Palms in her Nissan Frontier - for nearly a year. Talk about a lot of work - and ready to be washed away with the next major rainfall - yikes!

Headed out of the Dale Mining District.

In three days, I'd visited twenty historic mines, ventured further into more adits than I'd care to admit, and gotten a fantastic introduction to the Virginia Dale - Pinto Basin Mining District from Mike. As I headed south towards my next adventure, I already knew that I'd need to come back. In some cases, to visit places I'd already been, but also to travel some roads that were even more remote - to places I'd not yet explored!

Time for my first visit to Joshua Tree!



The Whole Story


  1. Bill Rambo
    Bill Rambo April 3, 2023

    Snakes.....I bet when its warm there are lots of snakes! Big Snakes!! Great pictures of not snakes, but old mines. Be safe!!

      JOHN D MORAN April 3, 2023

      Actually, living out here in the desert, hiking and bicycling, I've seen very few snakes over the years. Actually I've seen more large, colorful king snakes than rattlers.

    • turbodb
      turbodb April 3, 2023

      I wish there were more snakes! Like John, I've seen very few snakes - though, no king snakes (which I'd love to see), I've only seen rattlers. I'm a big fan of reptiles, always keeping my eye out for lizards, snakes, and tortoise (I've yet to see a tortoise, but I've seen a lot of burros). As a kid, I was known as "the guy who could always catch the lizards," and I still enjoy it to this day! ?

    JOHN D MORAN April 3, 2023

    I had to chuckle a little at your comment about a shaft much lead to something. In our many decades of exploring mines out here in many parts of the desert we've found that some of the deepest shafts only lead to the bottom of the shaft! Not another level, but you can always hope, LOL. Always enjoy your adventures very much and now I think I may take a look at the Dale Mining District. I plan to get back into the Rand District also before long. We had a registered claim there many decades ago and I'd like to see if the shack and the shaft have changed.

    • turbodb
      turbodb April 3, 2023

      Oh, I'm sure the vast majority of shafts, adits, etc. lead nowhere. Shoot, I always joke with my wife that the most successful folks in a "rush" are those who support the miners. Saloons, general stores, mill makers, and of course, the red light district. That's where the money was to be made 99% of the time; not in the mines!

      Glad - as always - that you've enjoyed the stories. They are a ton of fun to go out and experience, and it's nice being able to share a bit of that with anyone whose willing to waste a bit of time reading them! If you do get out to Dale, I'd love to see some photos of places you explore, or even just hear the stories. So much context and additional value can be attributed to a place when you know more stories about it!

  3. Biff O’Brien
    Biff O’Brien April 4, 2023

    I’ve enjoyed reading about your adventures in the desert and mining districts.
    Some of our Jeep Club members, including my family, have been exploring the deserts of Southern California since the early 70’s , during Easter break, sometimes we had good information on where we were going and sometimes we just winged it, but we usually had a great time.
    Our son and some of the other kids, who grew up in our Jeeps,(who are in their 40’s &50’s now, with their own families) are keeping up the tradition.
    I hope to join them on one of those trips !
    Keep the stories coming, please

    • turbodb
      turbodb April 4, 2023

      Thanks Biff, glad you're enjoying the stories, it's always nice to have folks like yourself comment when you do; puts a smile on my face every time.

      I grew up in a Jeep family - my dad and brothers all had old CJs, and my uncle still has a CJ5 that's a bit worse for wear, but that has my name on it when the time comes ?. What are some of the places that you and your family enjoy exploring out there? I'm always looking for great places to go! ?

      • Biff O’Brien
        Biff O’Brien April 5, 2023

        I’m glad that you liked my reply and I’m Biff, not Bill.
        I bought my Jeep in 1963, brand new, (it was the Tuxedo Park model for 63) , I have done many upgrades to it in the last 60 years.
        At present, it’s at my son’s house, in a hundred pieces, getting a full restoration, including a new frame, but it's taken a backseat while my son works on my daughter’s 74 Jeep !
        Our travels,
        Death Valley and the surrounding areas. Bodie, Aurora, Goldfield, Silver Peak, Chloride and much of the surrounding area.
        Much of the Mojave from north, down to the Sonoran desert, 29 Palms, Joshua Tree NM, Anza Borrego and surrounding areas.
        North: we’ve been on the Lassen Applegate trail.
        I used to get,”Desert Magazine”,(no longer in print) and I used to plan trips by the information in the articles in the magazines. I still have them, or my son does.
        My son has kept up the trips, investigating and exploring mining districts and mines.
        I’m hoping to join him on one of his trips, sometime, until then I’ll keep enjoying your trips !
        Thank you ??
        Biff O’Brien and “Short Stuff”, (my Jeep)!

        • turbodb
          turbodb April 5, 2023

          Whoops, sorry about that name snafu Biff; must have been too early in the morning for me, and I misread it!

          Regarding the Jeep - that teardown is something I’ve talked about doing with my dad and uncle as well; I think it’d be a great time, but of course, we’re all busy (and getting older), so who knows if it’ll actually happen.

          You have certainly gotten around; I think it’d be cool to meet up some day since I bet you have a ton of stories of things long gone now.

  4. Kenny
    Kenny April 4, 2023

    Another great adventure on the books. I love graffiti art, I have no clue what they say either but these guys/gals are true artists. Your experimenting with light painting is interesting. I have done a fair amount of light painting photography and some unusual places over the past years.
    Finding these old mines one can't help but think about the life they had and the hardships they endured. I am going to go exploring south and west of the Tindall place this spring.
    Happy Exploring!


    • turbodb
      turbodb April 4, 2023

      Thanks Kenny. Those old miners definitely had their work cut out for them, or rather, cut it out for themselves! So much work, with so little reward most of the time. Amazing.

      I've only ever light painted with a flashlight before, and it's very finicky. These LEDs take some careful placement, but it's very nice to be able to setup, and then do consistent exposures as I make tweaks to the lights to illuminate one thing or the other. I do think I'll start using more "warm white" light as opposed to the colors, at least in mines; the colors are fun, but I feel that they get overwhelming a bit quickly.

      Have you made it out to Grasmere yet? I'm itching for a ground report on the conditions! ? After my next trip (a few weeks from now), I'll be driving the Tacoma home for some preventive maintenance, and I hope to hit up the Owyhee area for a spring trip in May. Always love it out there when it's green.

      • Kenny
        Kenny April 4, 2023

        I have tried the colored lights too but didn't care much for them. The LED lights send out a bright light and the incandescent lights put out a soft yellow glow. I have experimented with both and used both on different subjects. I also have set lights in strategic places to offer a different shot. My next experiment will be time lapse photography.

        Haven't made it to Grasmere yet as it is still under snow. So it may be May or even June before I can get out there. Have you ever explored the Oreana area? There are lots of old mines out there and a few vertical mines to boot. Good folks out there, I have gotten to know many of the locals and have permission to go on their land. Around hunting season they do lock a lot of the gates as the hunters are not very respectful of their property.

        Where are you going to go in the Owyhees?

        Keep in touch.

        • turbodb
          turbodb April 4, 2023

          No plans yet on where to go in Owyhee. There are some petroglyphs that I looked for on the edge of Jordan Craters on a previous trip that I never found, so perhaps I'll try to check those out. I'd also like to take my wife through Painted Canyon, as I very much enjoyed it when I was solo.

          Of course, there are always more places that I've never been - both on the Oregon and Idaho side - which constantly call my name. Really, I feel like there's no way to go wrong in country like that.

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