“How r u coming?” Shane Casad’s text message read. It was Friday night and I was trying to pack the 4Runner quickly without overlooking the essentials. Tools? Check. Tent? Check. Sleeping bag? Check. Food? Check. Camera, batteries, and spare memory? Check, check, and check. The list was drawing to a close, but not fast enough.
Since progress was being made, I texted “Good” back to Shane. “I am about ready,” came his reply. He was way ahead of me. “Dude you are too fast,” said my next text. “If it makes u feel better,” came the reply “I feel like I am forgetting something.”
After rounding up a few last accessories and securing them inside, it was time to shove off. The plan was to meet in Yucca Valley and proceed from there to the Old Dale Mining District, an area Shane’s been visiting for twenty years. It was completely new to me.
The lust for gold has drawn ordinary people into extraordinary places for centuries, from the Spanish conquistadores to the Mojave miners. In the process, ordinary people develop extraordinary qualities. Gold was discovered in this area in the late 1800s, and mines dot the area. The effort wasn’t in vain. Although much, much harder to extract compared to panning for “free” gold in running water, the hard-rock mining that was done in the Old Dale district yielded gold worth millions. Equipment required for the job included digging tools, dynamite, ore hauling equipment, ore-crushing stamp mills, and cyanide tanks for the final gold-extracting process. It also required water, and several water lines pumped water from nearby wells to the mines in this otherwise-arid neck of the woods.
Even though there’s plenty to be seen, a tight schedule left us with only a single day for exploring. Shane’s experience came heavily into play here, letting us make short work of navigating and zeroing in on preplanned locations instead of wandering around trying to find our way from A to B.
Partway through the trip between the Vail Mine and the Mission Mine, Shane stopped his Bronco, got out ,and walked back to my 4Runner. “I figured out what I forgot to bring,” he stated. “What’s that?” I asked. “Toilet paper!” Shane admitted. Over-preparedness had a couple of rolls along for the ride in the ’Runner. There’s a reason toilet paper is nicknamed “mountain money.”
“I’ve got some. What’s it worth to you?” I queried. “A lot!” Shane came back. “I’m kidding. Here ya go.” With that I handed him the roll. Generosity is a cardinal quality when you’re engaged in backcountry travel. You reap what you sow.
We left many stones unturned, but still counted this as a successful trip. Even if you’ve only got one day, there’s quite a bit to see in Old Dale.
|Entrance to Gold Crown Road||N34 07.324||W115 47.734|
|Mission Mine||N33 59.377||W115 41.447|
|Virginia Dale/Cyanide Vats||N34 04.144||W115 45.182|
|Vail Mine Headframe||N34 02.658||W115 42.313|
|Vail Mine Processing Plant||N34 02.690||W115 42.075|
|New Dale (site)||N34 02.966||W115 43.058|
Fresh from another stay at Southwest Performance. Southwest’s Mark Kiefer built an extended skidplate that starts at the engine crossmember and extends all the way back to the leaf spring hangers, tying into the frame along the way for extra structural rigidity. The Twin Traction Beam housings were upgraded by boxing in the open areas on the back side of the beams, and by swapping out the stock rubber pivot bushings for a pair of smooth, long-lived spherical bearings. An anti-wrap traction bar now runs between the new skidplate structure and the rear axle housing. The new additions bring the Bronco to an even higher performance plane. Shane says it feels like a whole new Bronco.