2015: Las Vegas

Amargosa Mine

March 26


When Mike was a small child in the early 1950s, his father was a partner in an old homestead in the desert south of Death Valley. This particular site was worked as a gold mine in the 1850s by Mormon pioneers who built a simple three-room rock house on the land. A hundred years later, the house was still there and Mike's family would stay in it on visits. Around 1960, when Mike was five or six years old, the homestead grant was lost and BLM reclaimed the land.

Mike has fond memories of playing around "the cabin" as a child and exploring the many old mine shafts. For many years he has wanted to return for a nostalgia visit, and we had planned to start our trip in Death Valley for that purpose. However, extremely hot weather hit early and we changed our plans. But then we noticed on the map that the old site was only about a 90-minute drive from Las Vegas, so we could still make a visit while we were there.

Mike remembered the approximate location of the old cabin, so using Google Earth he scouted landmarks to find it. We were cruising along on a rural-but-decent asphalt two-lane when Mike suddenly veered into a gravel turnout with an outhouse.

There was a sign identifying this as the Salt Creek "wetlands", which I thought was optimistic. Mike informed me that he had scouted this location in Google Earth as a possible RV site near the cabin. After I stopped laughing, he took his hurt feelings back into the car and we were off on the highway again.

Pit stop. Seriously?!? RV resort? NOT! A whole lotta nuttin'.
Gold fever. The wrong one. The right trail.

A mile or two later, Mike turned off the highway again, through a break in the fence onto a rutted and sandy dirt track. Mike was clearly determined to test the limits of the low-slung C-max. A sliding and bone-jarring mile later, we found another sign describing the gold-mining history of this region, where we prepared to hike.

I took off up a slight hill on a well-marked trail. Mike followed, but then steered me off the high road into a lower sandy wash. "We'll come back that way, let's go this way now." Unh-huh. Why do I never learn?

Oh, I suppose it wasn't all that bad. Just climbing through a gate and picking our way over minor boulders. No biggee. Along the way we encountered some interesting stuff -- a few mine shafts, some of them covered with grates by BLM, and an old stamping mill, a machine which crushes ore.

Old stamp mill. Covered shaft. Not the easy road.
Brave flowers. Old mine shaft. Looking for bats.
Rock cabin ruins.

After hiking about a hundred miles -- would I exaggerate? -- we could see the ruins of the old cabin at the top of a final hill. It looked just like this photo that Mike found on the web, where I had learned this site was called the Amargosa or Salt Spring mine.

Massacres? Eep!

A sign near the cabin even described some possible historical massacres of miners that took place nearby in the 1800s.

Mike told me all about where the rooms used to be, the furniture, where he remembered playing. Then while I snapped pictures, he explored every square inch of the cabin and its surroundings, reliving his childhood of over fifty years ago. It was fun to watch.

Solar farm.

It was getting very hot, so finally Mike took a last look around and we turned back. And yes, the high road back was a much easier walk. Even Mike admitted it.

On the drive back, we got a good look at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System sprawled in the desert alongside I-15. This is a crazy setup of thousands of mirrors focused on three "receiver" towers, generating heat that turns water in the towers into steam and thus energy.

Before we left home, my laptop fan had been getting a bit noisy and I was worried about it. In the time we spent in Vegas, it got progressively worse and I FINALLY convinced Mike it needed to be replaced. Of course, it was not the kind of item you could just buy off the shelf somewhere. After quite a bit of research, it was clear it would take ten days to two weeks just to get the right parts. We weren't going to stay in Vegas that long, so... what to do?

In two more weeks, we would be headed for a resort RV park in Moab, Utah. We checked with them and found out they are used to getting packages for guests, so Mike tracked down the parts we needed, ordered them, and had them shipped to Portal RV Resort in Moab. So now we hope that (a) the parts get to the right place at the right time, and (b) my fan doesn't give up the ghost before we get there!