Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Wickenburg Mountain Exploration

John Deere trailer and Shack
This week has been a whirlwind of excitement and new things!  First off, we started Paul's confined water dives (towards his Open Water Diver certification) - put an entirely new meaning on "Breathe Baby, Breathe."  I sometimes forget how stressful it can be to put on a mask and regulator and breathe underwater - but Paul took to it like a fish - and in short order was removing and replacing his mask, clearing his mask, and swimming around with all the gear on and making it look easy!  

Saturday and Sunday I had two full Open Water Diver classes at Lake Pleasant.  They started at 7 a.m., but in order to secure a parking spot at Vista Point, I arrived at 5:45 a.m.  I got home each day around 2, and was pretty tired out.  

Saturday morning Paul installed my new Kenwood stereo in Calamity Jane, and Sunday he installed the backup camera!  Calamity Jane is in the new millennium!  Then Saturday we spent the remainder of the afternoon in the pool working on confined water skills, then Sunday, Paul picked out a place to go off-roading - some place we had both seen on Google Earth, but neither of us had gone.  This place is on a long road off of a familiar trail in the Wickenburg Mountains - but that's all I'm going to say about the location.  It was one of the rougher roads I've been on - especially towards the end.  I was amazed at the rock crawling we did - and how little jarring I felt while climbing over boulders, etc.  And many of these were more than "baby heads."  Paul said my truck could have done it with some careful tire placement, but I'm not sure.  

And I'm getting ahead of myself again...

Fully functioning windmill and tank
with VERY cold water!
So I get home from the lake, I clean my scuba gear (with Paul's help - thank you!) - we empty out his truck (which I took to the lake while he finished my stereo/backup camera), I took a quick shower, and then we were off.  We had about a 1 hour drive to the start of the familiar trail head - so we put on the satellite radio 50's station, and bee-bopped down the road.  It was a beautiful day out - I don't think the temperature even broke 95 on Sunday.  We hit the trail and air'd down around 4 p.m., and off we went - another hour or so to the end of the familiar trail and the turn off to this new area we had never been...

We spent a few minutes finding the correct route at first - did a bit of rock crawling down a river bed while looking for it - but finally found a clearly marked trail, with gate, which we opened and closed, then we took off!  The trail was easy at first - but it was so beautiful and remote...from the point we air'd down the tires until we reached the main highway afterwards, we didn't see one single person or vehicle!  

As we drove through the beautiful Wickenburg Mountain desert, we laughed at all the quail, little bunnies, and jackrabbits.  We passed through several washes full of thick green growth, and the trail became slightly more eroded and rough.  We came upon a well maintained corral with a fully working windmill pumping really cold water into a tank - one of the very few windmills I've seen that is actually working and has all the blades in place.  It was a very peaceful and beautiful location.  

Hole in the ground
We continued down the road, and as we passed a corner, I shouted "I see things!" - Paul laughed at me - "things" was a hoist brace above a big hole in the ground.  HUGE timbers and a framework supporting them was over this hole - we couldn't see to the bottom - but it was the first sign of mining we had seen since we turned off the familiar trail.  I wouldn't get close enough to look down the hole - but Paul did...and took the picture!  This mine isn't on my GAIA app, nor is it listed in the USGS Mine overlays on my Google Earth.  I have no information about this hole, nor the mine we ultimately ended up at (which is a pit mine).  

We left the "hole in the ground" and continued on - the road getting rougher and rougher - thankfully Paul was driving - I was so exhausted that I wasn't sure I could even attempt a mild obstacle.  But as we neared our destination - I got excited about what we might see when we got there.  

Frog in the stream
We finally stopped and decided to hike the rest of the way in - we were about 1/4 of a mile away according to GAIA - but we didn't see a clear trail (this is important - because there was one...which I will explain later).

We parked the FJ and looked around - there was a big herd of cattle hanging around the area that we parked in.  As soon as we opened the doors, the cattle all went running over to one side and just stood there looking at us.  Tons of little babies and their mommas (with horns) staring at us, and occasionally making some noise...

Caterpillar Tractor
We hiked up the river bed, which was flowing (yay for our Merrell Moab hiking boots, which are waterproof, but light weight and super-comfortable!) We didn't even get our feet wet crossing in the low stream of water - and as we were walking up the North side of the stream, we started to see bits of yellow - meaning we were nearing all the equipment!  Paul spotted a little frog that looked just like a rock (see the picture above), he jumped once, then sat there for pictures.  

We crossed the stream again and there we were.  In the midst of a ton of old Caterpillar equipment just sitting there rotting.

**This particular open pit mine has equipment at it that has been moved from another mine much further away, which has led to some speculation online about the name - but the mine "name" that is marked on some old equipment throughout this mining site is NOT the actual name of this site - we have seen pictures of what is likely the same equipment at the other site South of this site.**

Fully stocked cupboard in the cabin
There is SO much old equipment up at this site - an old cabin, several old trailers, and spread out over almost 1/4 of a mile up and down the stream.  

I don't think the site is very old, and according to Google Earth, equipment was still being moved around as late as 2010 or so - but it all appears to be abandoned now.  Probably cheaper to leave all the old equipment and take a loss than to try and get it out of here.

As Paul and I walked around looking at all the stuff strewn about the site, we talked about how they got the equipment back here, and why they didn't take it all with them.  This is all professional mining equipment - none of it is homemade stuff - and they clearly spent a substantial amount of money on earth movers, tractors, an other equipment - Caterpillar and John Deere equipment - not cheap stuff!

Trommel and conveyor
As we are walking around, we noticed a road heading "out" of the area.  We decide to take the road and see where it leads us...well, it led us straight to the FJ.  But we didn't see the road because when we scared the cows and they all ran to one side, they were standing on the road.  We laughed about our trek up the stream bed when there was a perfectly serviceable road - but hey - it was nice to get out and walk around, and it was absolutely beautiful out!

As we walked towards the truck, the cows spooked and went running in two directions - one group towards the stream bed, the other up the road we had driven down.  There was a ton of loud commotion as they ran about - but we got in the truck and started heading back.  We wanted to get back to the familiar trail before dark.  

As we head out, the group of four cows and their babies that separated from the rest of the herd just kept running up the road.  We slowly followed them, hoping they would move off to the side and just let us pass - but they stayed on the road.  We followed them for what had to be a mile or so before they finally moved off to the side.  There was one little black cow that was sassy as could be, and would stop, and look the FJ square in the grill and bawl at us.  He was so cute - he's in the video above where he stops and looks at us!  We felt like we were on a cattle drive following these beasts.

The drive out was easy, relaxing and fun.  It was a great way to end a hectic and busy weekend - I slept like a baby on Sunday night after all my weekend activities!  And I look forward to more of these little Sunday afternoon jaunts in the future!  Big thanks to Paul for driving, and as always, keeping me calm on those shelf roads!

Breaker boxes at the pit mine

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