Couple weeks ago I made mention of wanting to return to the Old Dale Mining District in Joshua Tree. There was something about that dirt road snaking through the valley leading into the mountains that stuck with me. Candace and I are very much into old mining history and exploration, so this are would be perfect for a weekend getaway.
Spent some time since then researching, planning and mapping the area out. While the trail starts off in the Joshua Tree National Park, it eventually dumps into BLM land at the foot of the hills. This is great as there are no more restrictions on campfires, allowable camping areas and best of all, less people. While it might not be a problem for most, the idea of being crammed in a designated campsite next to others or spend a night without a fire isn’t for me, so the public land was welcoming.
Chances of thunderstorms and scattered rain kept us from leaving until Saturday morning. Quickly loaded the truck up and set off to enter the park through Cottonwood Springs.
Little over an hour and a half and we were finally on dirt. The road leading to the mountains was typical National Park style, freshly graded and tame enough for any sedan.
Our first stop was the Mission Mine, just outside the parks boundaries. From what I gathered, this mine was worked as recent as the 1980’s, and not long ago much of the structure and equipment was still operational and intact. The main shaft was vertical and workers used a elevator to access the lower level of 650 ft.
After leaving the Mission Mine, the reason for the “4 Wheel Drive Road” became apparent. The Tacoma made short work of the hilly mountainside, leading us to Sunset Mine. Another vertical shaft, with the entrance right below this structure. Guessing this is where they housed whatever motor/pulley setup to extract the ore.
We continued on towards the northern parts of the mining district. Most of it was slow going 4 wheel drive shelf type roads. The top of the mountain provided a view of the valley that we would end up later in the day.
Our next area to check out was the OK Mine. The road leading there was the first time I had to switch the Tacoma into 4-low and set the rear locker. Although it’s well traveled, there was a few sections that didn’t leave much room for mistakes, but it was nothing compared to what was waiting for us later in the day.
After taking a break, eating lunch and exploring the area and structures, we set off down BLM Open Route #1937. This wouldn’t have been a big deal other then the fact we were alone. The road followed a narrow ravine, that gradually got rougher, washed out and required careful tire placement at multiple points. Only grabbed a couple of pictures when my knuckles weren’t white, and they don’t show the sketchier parts.
Thankfully, the road managed to keep together enough to get us down to the final valley of our trip. It was a nice sight seeing flat, open desert after having my nerves rattled a bit. Once at the bottom, we turned onto wash to check out the Gold Rose and Rose of Peru mines.
Woke in the morning to a buzz. Not the good kind, but bees. Bees everywhere. (Insert Oprah bee gif). We set a personal record packing up camp and somehow managed to avoid getting stung. There must have been a nearby hive as there were hundreds of them and more coming by the minute.
The trail leading back was short and uneventful until noticed a odd shaped, moving rock…
Unable to make breakfast back at our camp, we pulled over near where we started our adventure the day prior. Candace whipped up a egg, potato & cheese concoction.
We hopped back on Pinto Basin Rd and decided to take a quick tour of Joshua Tree before heading home.
The Old Dale Mining District is definitely one to check out. Whether it be for the mines or numerous trails of varying difficulty. There is enough to explore that you could spend days in the back-country. We plan on coming back in the near future to check out the areas we didn’t have time for this trip and to enjoy the quietest and less-known portion of Joshua Tree.
Until next time!