Mojave Expedition was the first tour we offered for Ecological
4-wheeling Adventures way back in 1989, if memory serves me
correctly. We are proud to bring to you the Mojave Expedition-2005
on November 12 under our Explore Historic California name. To whet
your appetite for this ever popular tour chalk
full of living
Western Mojave legend and lore, we re-print this write-up from the
spring of 2000. There have been a few changes in the trip since
then, thanks or no-thanks to nature and to mankind. We have done a
little re-routing here and there, and sadly watched the state of
Burro Schmidt’s Tunnel change since Tonie Seger’s passing,
but the spirit of the trip and even the tunnel still live on.
Sit back and relax in your computer armchair as we go on a
March 18, marked our first Mojave Expedition of the year
2000. Winds were predicted but didn’t show up. We were left with
beautiful warm weather and clear blue, calm skies. This was our
first outing since Thanksgiving weekend.
Early Saturday morning our longtime friend, Marty Cole, met
us at our house and drove with us to Mojave. After filling our gas
tanks, and emptying our wallets and bladders in Mojave, we ventured
to Jawbone Station. Ruby had snacks and coffee waiting for us.
We were excited to see good friends and regulars Steve and
Anita Spangler and Dave Legters among the many new faces joining us
for the day. The Spanglers and their black “Spanglermobile”
Blazer volunteered to sweep on this day. Steve also came equipped
with his video camera to record the more interesting parts of our
From Jawbone Station we headed out to Highway 14 into Red
Canyon State Park, and on to Opal Canyon Road, our official
dirt road start. Once the start of the dirt road lecture was over,
we got a few moments to stretch and perhaps make a quick visit to a
mesquite or creosote bush.
Traveling through Opal
Canyon, we passed the
signs for the Nowalk and Barnett mines. We were saddened to see a
new sign announcing that Dick and Shirley Barnett had passed away.
We explained for the tour how, for a couple of dollars, the
Barnett’s would let visitors picnic and pick and keep all of the
opals they found in a day. If one was really lucky, Dick would bring
out the “Mojave Flame” ring that he made from a large fire opal.
We hope the ring is on display at the Smithsonian, as Dick had
written in his will.
From the opal mines, it’s a bit of a climb then down a
rocky steep hill, to a flat area overlooking Last
Canyon. We paused there
for a lecture stop and a chance to walk the dogs. Roger explained
more local geology and geography and what lay ahead.
Harry Lewellyn, who led an expedition three weeks before, had
warned us that there were several potential tough spots in the
streambed around Cudahy Camp. We safely maneuvered the first spot
over the wet, slippery rocks and around the huge square boulder that
sits as a sentinel in Last
Canyon. Dave Legters
avoided the streambed altogether and took the soft, sandy and deeply
rutted uphill branch in his new Toyota
lockers, he made it look easy, but we suggested the rest of the tour
follow Roger’s lead through the streambed to the parking area
Recent winter rains had rutted the streambed just north of Cudahy, too. Orange
fencing now marks the areas you cannot get through and keeps you on
the proper dirt trail. One by one, we followed directly to and up
the steep, hard packed, bypass road. At the top of the hill I
pointed out the washout from a few summers ago where we
used to have to tow the vehicles one by one. The new bypass saves a
lot of time and trouble, and is an adventure of its own to climb.
Our next stop was the Holly Ash mine - famous for Holly
Cleaner of yesteryear. The area surrounding the mines is littered
with old cars, cans, appliances and pieces of large mining
equipment. We were pleased to see that State Parks had finally
posted “no shooting” signs.
The dogs pulled us through the metal litter and up to the
mines. Some of the mine tunnels are so large that campers sometimes
put their tents in them for protection from the heat and wind. Often
when we explore these mines, we startle big white owls. This day
there were no owls, but a pair of swallows flitted about - perhaps
they got lost on their return to San Juan Capistrano
Leaving Holly Ash mine, we pointed out rock outcroppings in
the distance, which are Indian caves and a chert deposit. We
continued on to the edge of the wilderness (we know we are at the
edge of the wilderness because signs mark it for us) and into
Bonanza Gulch. The old cabin that has stood for so many, many years
is now marked with a BLM sign saying “Bonanza Gulch Post Office
Cabin.” We didn’t know if that meant it was actually a post
office or not. We will have to inquire next time we are at Jawbone
Bonanza Gulch leads uphill to Burro Schmidt’s tunnel. We
took the long route around and over the tunnel so everyone could
experience the long down-hill and see how 4WD low range really
Tonie Seger owns the tunnel and graciously allows visitors to
explore it and the “museum” with artifacts from Schmidt’s
time. Rumor had it that Tonie was sick and dying. We’re glad to
report rumors of her impending demise are false and as of March
2000, she was very much alive, but had been ill.
After our lunch stop and visit to the tunnel, we continued
with our expedition. As we approached Gerbracht Camp we started to
tell of Della, who used to be very protective of the area and was
known to shoot at anyone whom she thought was trespassing. Much to
our astonishment, the buildings and vehicles of Gerbracht Camp have
been eradicated. There was no evidence of Della ever having lived
It was on to Frenchy’s Colorado Camp, and fortunately
it’s still there and has been cleaned up some. From Colorado Camp,
we eventually wound our way into Rainbow
Basin, up Red Jack
Hill and down to Mormon Flat. At Mormon Flat we stopped for a rest
and to let the dogs have one last run in the desert.
On our way out to the highway, we journeyed through Iron Canyon. roger talks of
the “Secrets of the Mojave” and stories of magnetic anomalies,
secret underground tunnels and robots that live underground.
Canyon, paved road led
us to the living ghost town of Randsburg, where we stopped at the
White Saloon for liquid refreshment. We swapped stories of the day,
then regretfully said goodbye to each other until the next trip.
Arthur H. Clark Company
(out of print)