Monday, August 31, 2020

Mohave County Exploring - Calamity Jane breaks in her skid plates!

Calamity Jane at the Rainbow Mine over Chloride, AZ
Well, we did it.  We scratched up the new skid plates on Calamity Jane.  We aired down her tires and scraped and skidded up and down a few mountains to some awesome mines...but I'm getting ahead of myself...

We had been planning a trip to Mohave Lake to go diving for over week.  Mohave Lake has a dive park (Cabinsite Cove) and I was really looking forward to taking Paul diving somewhere where he could actually see something.  Lake Pleasant being what it is this time of year, the visibility is generally less than 2 feet - and with new divers, it tends to get down to closer to 6 inches. 

So we planned to get up and meet some of my dive buddies at 5:15 a.m. to take off to Mohave on Saturday morning.  Then on Thursday and Friday everyone slowly backed out - and then it was just me and Paul.  So we didn't get up super early - instead we left the house around 7 a.m. and started the long trek towards Mohave Lake/Laughlin.  We had decided to stay over night in Chloride - an old mining town that I love, and do a little exploring as up near Kingman is absolutely COVERED with old mines, chutes, towns, etc.  Everything Paul and I like to go explore!  And we decided to take Calamity Jane this time.  Paul grabbed the compressor, we moved the fridge to Calamity Jane, we packed her all up with scuba tanks, gear, food and an overnight bag, and off we went!

The drive to Mohave Lake was uneventful - we cruised up through Wickenburg, circled around Kingman, and drove down towards the Colorado River and Bullhead City/Laughlin.  We talked about all the places we had visited up in that area - we reminisced about my suggesting that Paul take Duner (Mike) and Connie to the Hualapai Mansion years ago (more commonly known as the Gold King) and the difficulties he had on that trip - and how cool Paul thought it was.  I showed Paul photos of the Hualapai Mansion in 2009 and 2011.  I told him of my visits to Chloride and how much I adored the little mining town, and he told me of his visits to other mine sites in the Hualapai Mountains. 

It was starting out to be a fun day - and then we got to Mohave Lake.  We actually had to wait in line to get in to the Lake - some kind soul on their way out gave us their receipt (good for 7 days) so we didn't end up paying the $25.00 entrance fee - which turned out to be a good thing.  As I drove us up to Cabinsite Cove, I never expected there to be hundreds of people parked all willie-nillie there, nor did I expect to see all those people swimming in the cove. 

It was 120 degrees out, and I was unwilling to hoof several hundred pounds of gear more than 1/4 of a mile to the water's edge, nor was I willing to leave anything (ie - extra tanks, etc) lying out where anybody could grab it.  The park ranger said we could drive down to unload gear, but then had to go park the car in the upper parking lots outside the regular parking area.  Too much work, worry and heat. 

Hardyville Pioneer Cemetery
So we abandoned the idea of diving, and drove in to Bullhead City to check out an old Pioneer cemetery in Hardyville.  It wasn't really worth looking at, and again, it was 120 degrees along the Colorado River.  We envied the folks who had their jet skis and were flying up and down the river - and we laughed at a pontoon boat that was FLYING!  We decided to head in to old town Kingman to check out the historic district and look for antique stores!

Historic Kingman is tiny - and there weren't many people out (they were apparently ALL at the Lake!).  There were some old cars out, and we stopped to walk through a number of antique stores. 

Our Nautical Starboard Light
As we walked through them, we discovered a cool old nautical starboard beacon - it was so cool with the blue/green glass and the old brass frame!  We snatched that thing up, bought it, wrapped it up good, and took it with us!!!  Paul wanted to make a light out of it - and check out how awesome that turned out!  We found a red port light on ebay, so we have a matching set! 

We then went to a cute little 50's Diner where Paul had his first malted milkshake.  We had a good and heavy lunch, then decided to go up the road to Chloride where we were just in time to check in to Shep's Miners Inn - a cute little hotel (the ONLY hotel) connected to a bar and restaurant in downtown Chloride. 

Shep's Miners Inn - Chloride, AZ
We checked in to our room - which didn't have any A/C on, so we turned that down, and decided to go out exploring - there were mines close to Chloride we wanted to explore so we headed East up towards the Tennessee Mine (the big one at the base of the Cerbat Mountains) and looped around to the Murals and then started heading up.  We decided to air down poor Calamity Jane, because she was bouncing around like crazy - we had a bunch of scuba tanks tied down in the back which made her back end heavy, and airing down took away much of the bounce
Chloride Murals
factor.  Calamity Jane and I did awesome - until we came up to an area that had some rock crawls and "sloloms" for lack of a better term.  Very rutted out, and up the hill - I got out, hiked to the top, and I thought I was taking a video.  As it turned out, I didn't. But I did get to hear Calamity Jane's skid plates hit the rocks  But that was okay - even better stuff was to come!  After that little bit, the road, while rocky and at times a bit rutted, wasn't terrible.  We passed an old ore chute with a huge tailings pile, but we were specifically heading to the Rainbow Mine. 

The Saturn and Pickup Truck in the Cerbat Mountains
As we passed around one of the mountains - I said to Paul "hey babe - look at that car on the side of the mountain!"   Paul glanced over and said "it's not a car, it's a truck."  I looked at him and where he was looking and realized we were looking in two different directions.  There was an old truck AND a car both down the side of the mountain (stolen?) not 200 feet from each other.  As we finished coming around the bend, the Rainbow Mine came in to site - and what a site!  An old building, lots of foundations, ore chutes, mine holes, you name it!  Paul and I explored for more than 30 minutes.  There was a beautiful breeze, the sun was high up in the afternoon sky, and we were in the kind of place we both love!  Mining country!!!

Rainbow Mine Panorama
As we decided to take off, Paul asked me to watch for the car and truck down the side of the mountain.  As soon as I saw it, in true Paul form, he scampered down the side of the mountain and hollered back up to me that the car was a Saturn.  Paul knows that I used to have a Saturn.  He knows I loved it.  I loved it almost as much as Calamity Jane - but not quite.  I waited to see if he was going to head down to the pickup truck, but he didn't.  He came back up, and we headed back down to Chloride to poke around some more. 

Cerbat, AZ
Off to Mineral Park - the huge mine South of Chloride.  Mineral Park has been around for ages and while I'm not sure they are mining there any longer, it is still secured off.  We tried to get to the Mineral Park Cemetery, but it was fenced off with a guard.  So we abandoned that idea.  Off to Cerbat we went, and while we found Cerbat, we clearly didn't find all of it, and there are a TON more mines we want to go visit up on the East side of Mineral Park. 

Santa Klaus, AZ
At this time we realized that the restaurant in Chloride was closed, and we decided to head back to Chloride by way of the minimart.  With a quick stop at Santa Klaus.  Santa Klaus is a very depressing little stop on the main road to Vegas that has been abandoned for quite some time.  We somehow came in from the back side, and got some beautiful photos of Santa's workshop and house.  Then we went to the minimart - which was closed. 

No dinner for us. 

Back to the room we went - now the room temperature was 89 degrees at 3 pm when we checked in.  By 8 pm that night, it was 86 degrees.  Ugh - it was a long night.  The room didn't even get below 80 until about 3 am - and Paul and I both prefer it cold for it made for a rough night. 

Old Truck in Chloride that reminded me of Lizzie from the Cars Movie
We got up the next morning, read the news on the spottiest wi-fi ever, and then went over to the restaurant for breakfast.  And breakfast was worth waiting for!  Excellent bacon and eggs, Paul's steak was flavorful and cooked just right!  Endless coffee (for Paul) and hot tea (for me) - and AC.  We enjoyed breakfast and discussed the remainder of our day, which would be heading home via a couple of long dirt roads, including Alamo Crossing road and Signal road. 

We gathered up all of our things and headed out.  We found a Starbucks in Kingman (yay me!), gassed up (yay Calamity Jane) and Paul decided to drive while I navigate.  First stop - Yucca, AZ!

Antler Mine Headframe
Yucca AZ isn't much.  It has some weird UFO museum there - which we did NOT stop at, although it looked pretty busy.  We headed in off the main road towards the Hualapai Mountains so we could head up to the Antler Mine, our first mining stop of the day. Some cool old ranches along the way with old cars, including old Jeeps and an old Kharmann Ghia which looked to be in relatively good shape.  It was an easy road - nothing technical - well graded - and we got up there relatively quickly.  We found several old buildings and the headframe - explored for a few minutes before discovering that they were actively drilling on the mountain above us, and were watching us.  We decided to leave the area, although nothing was posted no trespassing, there's something awkward about being watched out in the middle of nowhere like that. 

Next stop up the Boriana Mine Road was a trail to the East that led to the Copper World Mine. 

Now Paul has been along this road, and has even been up to
Copper World Mine in the Hualapai Mountains
this mine, however, we discovered on Google Earth a building up there that he said he hadn't seen.  He mentioned he had no time to explore the Copper World Mine last time he was up there because people were waiting for him to get back on the Boriana Mine trail.  So we aired down Calamity Jane, and did some of the toughest climbing Calamity Jane has seen - yet (the day ain't over!).  As we bounced along the short spur up to the Copper World Mine the scenery was beautiful and even though we were on some small shelf roads, not one bit of panic set in!  We had to cross numerous wooden "bridges" that went over some small gullies - at first I was nervous, but then realized that the truck could cross the gullies even if the wood wasn't there, so I didn't care if the wood didn't hold...

As we turned the last little bend, the massive structure at the Copper World Mine flotation mill loomed before us.  The Copper World Mine was established in 1916 and changed hands many times throughout the years.  The mine closed the first time in 1968, then was reopened in 1974 for a very short time, but was closed again shortly after.  It is claimed that the Copper World Mine (also known as the Bobcat Mine) has a sizable amount of copper ore still in the ground - enough to make it worth mining.  The mine also supposedly has sizable potential for platinum, silver and gold as well!  But the road up there is rough and while not long, it is narrow and slow going.  

Paul and I were a bit confused about where the building was that we saw on Google Earth, until we were up underneath the flotation mill site - then we saw the little chimney peeking up.  While I busied myself picking up sizable hunks of mica (I love mica!!!), Paul scampered up and around to take a look at the explosives building, then up over the tailing pile to the building.  As I was surveying the mountain side that the Copper World Mine is built in to, I noted tramway foundations and frames going up the mountain to a higher mine site.  What a beautiful site for a mine!  And so many goodies to look at - numerous collapsed buildings, contents strewn about the valley, lots of creaking old metal to make it a bit spooky and then the dreaded bees everywhere...we spent quite a bit of time up here just checking it all out.  By far my favorite location of the weekend!!  The research I did when I got home showed several pictures of the Copper World Mine in its heyday - love finding photos that show how it was and comparing to the photos I'm taking now.  This is why I love exploring the old West.  

Boriana Mill Ruins
But we still had another mine to go visit - the Boriana - the mine that was supposed to be the highlight of the trip.  As we bounced our way back down to the nice and easy Boriana Mine road and turned on to the road, we saw the requisite cows (aka, Ninja Cows).  And as we came around a bend, I happened to look up and exclaimed "what's that?"  Paul laughed and said "that's the Boriana."  It was HUGE!  I don't know what I was expecting, but I wasn't expecting that!  The site was massive and just hanging out right there on a road that a 2wd high clearance vehicle could make it up to!  There were more mill site foundations than I had expected - for once, what I was expecting wasn't anything near what I saw!  

Wide view of the Boriana Mine
The Boriana Mine was known prior to 1908, but became a really big deal during World War II as a Tungsten mine.  It was, in fact, the largest Tungsten mine in Arizona, but it was closed in 1957 due to a fire.  The mine is very extensive and has many, many levels.  Most of the mine was flooded in the 1950's, and in 1987, an investigation of the potential of the Boriana concluded that most of the mine had caved in on itself and the rest was filled with hydrogen sulfide gas (note, don't go in it!).  

Goldfish at the Boriana Mine
We poked around a bit - then went up to see the highlight of the Boriana - the goldfish pond.  Yes, you heard me right - goldfish.  They've been up there for years and years - and they are still there!  We got out to feed them some goldfish crackers (yeah, we know...cannibals).  And we caught sight of a little snake in the water - just hanging out.  Then, he caught a fish!!!  Amazed by the snake and the goldfish, we stayed at the little pond for probably 30 minutes, then decided to head back down and out of the Hualapai Mountains - we still had to get home and it was getting hot...and we had two more stops to make!

The ride out of the Hualapai Mountains was uneventful.  We found Alamo Crossing Road and headed down towards Signal - but had decided to stop at the McCracken Mine.  Paul hadn't made it there last time, and I had never been - most of my exploring being on the South side of Alamo Lake and the Bill Williams River.  

Rock Cabin at the McCracken Mine Mill Site
Still aired down, the road to Signal was a breeze and super comfortable - barely even felt any washboard at all.  We passed the turn off to Signal, and headed down to the turn off for the McCracken.  Making jokes about it being the Irish "Release the McCracken" - we bounced our way in towards what the internet refers to as the "Rock Cabin."  The McCracken mine was discovered around 1874 and was a silver and lead mine.  Mining continued until the 1960's, when the economic viability of the mine played out.  

Not knowing what to expect, and thinking that the worst of the four wheeling was done up at the Copper World Mine, we bumped along a little jeep trail until we could see the cabin in the distance.  Then the road got a little ominous...Ominous enough that I questioned if we should be going up it in my truck - which is also my daily driver.  But Paul's confidence in Calamity Jane overroad any misgivings I had, and up we went.  It was by far the worst off-roading Calamity Jane has seen, and we seriously banged up the skid plates - but it was worth it!  The "Rock Cabin" had bats, booze, a fireplace, a table, and a mine adit on the outside!  It was well worth the trip up, and while I was nervous about going back down (and rightly so - we slid several times), we decided that we had found a cool place to camp someday.  

Below the Rock Cabin is the old mill site - best seen from above by the cabin - the McCracken mine itself has adits all over McCracken peak, and there isn't much left at the actual main mine site itself.  As we head back out, slipping and sliding along the nasty eroded area and we get back to the "main" road (heavily graded dirt), we head over towards Signal.  

Signal Ruins
Now I've always wanted to go to Signal - and was very upset when I heard that the old Bar/Saloon had burned down or was torn down some decades ago.  Signal was a large mining center from the 1870’s until the 1930's - by 1932, Signal was quickly turning into a ghosttown...

There are a lot of foundations left in Signal - as well as a substantial cemetery.  But a storm was blowing in, and we had to cross a fairly major wash - so we didn't spend a great deal of time here - Signal turned out to be somewhat disappointing for me.  But it was getting late - the sun was going down, and we were tired and we departed Signal and took the long dirt road back to the 93, and cruised back home through Wickenburg.  

A long weekend with some amazing mine finds, and we broke in Calamity Jane good and proper!!  Big thanks to Paul for his amazing driving abilities - even in my manual shift!  Gotta love a guy who can drive like he does.   

Signal, AZ Cemetery

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