Trek Date: March 24, 2015
You never know what you'll find in the Desert Queen Wash. And when you find something there, odds are that you'll wonder "How did this get here? Who built that? What else is there out here that I'm missing?" Such was the case when Murbachi and I found ourselves in an exemplary little valley crossed by the Desert Queen Wash. We'd heard about the ruins of an old stone cabin, and the rumor of a ghost Model-T truck nearby, and that was all that was needed to see if we could find them.
We knew where we needed to go and had mapped out the route, but sometimes events beyond your control conspire against you. Events like giant rock slides that block a canyon you thought was passable.
After we had finished exploring the Gold Hill Mine, we continued northwest up the Desert Queen Wash, as we were certain our quarry was quietly ensconced another half mile or so up the wash. The valley narrowed down, with the hills on both sides squeezing the wash between them as we hiked on.
After hiking less than two hundred yards from the mine workings, we came face-to-face with rocks. Big rocks. Big rocks blocking the wash. Now most of the time when I run into something like this, it's easy to find a way around it. Not so here. Big horn sheep would undoubtedly have no problem and twenty years ago I would have laughed at the boulder's attempts to bar my passage. Now, the rocks laugh at me.
Luckily, Murbachi had an idea. Just a short distance behind us, a small canyon forked to the southwest, away from the main wash. Perhaps if we headed up that canyon, we might find a way to bypass the wall of boulders and make it back into the Desert Queen wash past the blockage. We decided to give it a try before giving up on our search for the old stone cabin.
As we headed up the side canyon, we passed this old adit, which was part of the Gold Hill Mine complex. It was interesting to me, because none of the debris in the tailing pile looked anything like any prospect rock debris I had seen before.
Maybe the miners were following a vein that appeared promising, and carted it all off to be milled. This nearly vertical face of solid rock is pretty impressive; rocks and sand have filled in any tunnel that might have once been there.
A little ways past the mine workings, the tall hill sloped down, creating this easily accessible saddle before sloping up again to the next hill top. This appeared to be an easy route to return to the Desert Queen Wash.
When we crested the small rise, the saddle sloped down in front of us and there was the wash we were looking for. And what a pretty valley. Many of the plants had regained their color with the recent rains and their greens and tans really stood out against the grays and browns of the sand and rocks. We commenced walking towards the wash.
As we hiked along in the wash, I couldn't but help staring at the large pile of rocks northeast of the wash. Eagle Rock, which I've also read as being called Beak Boulder by the rock climbers, towers high above the desert floor and is very impressive. It is also a very good landmark, both in terms of helping us not get lost and as a 'beakon' to help us locate Boulder Cabin.
We were getting close. This wash will continue all the way to the Desert Queen Mine, if one is so inclined to continue all the way along its course.
Right around here, opposite Eagle Rock, I started keeping my eyes focused on the large boulders on the southwest side of the wash. I knew that Boulder Cabin was in this area.
And there it was. Referred to as a "significant mining camp" in one of the trail books, I'm not quite sure I would agree with that description. However, there are a lot of impressive reminders from when this site was active, so I might need to rethink my definition of "significant."
The remains of Boulder Cabin are one of the two main attractions at this site, and on E's scale of cool sites (1-10, with 10 being best), I would rate Boulder Cabin as a solid 8. There is/was a lot of ingenuity put to excellent use around these boulders. There are stairs leading up to the cabin site, and in the rock boulder you can see a hole which was chiseled out by hand to hold a support beam, most likely as part of the cabin roof.
Was this rectangular brick enclosed space used for a stove or fireplace?
Here's a close-up of some kind of support or tether, also in the rock boulder. Did it hold a guide wire? Were those small pieces of wood larger at one time? And if so, what was their purpose? One of the great things about sites like this is finding odd stuff and wondering what it was for.
This small furnace, or kiln, is located downslope of Boulder Cabin. It appears to have been used to refine ore, maybe to take samples. The open portion at its front shows evidence of molten something or other having been spilt or melted right on the spot.
This has the look of a sluicebox, but it's doubtful there was enough water in the area to sluice any paydirt. Maybe during a flashflood....
This little cave is located on the other side of the boulder the cabin is attached to. It must certainly have been used to store wood or equipment over the years.
After poking about Boulder Cabin and examining all the Desert Gold I could uncover, Murbachi and I decided to see if we could find the rumored Model T truck that was supposedly parked nearby. We had an extremely good hunch of where it was (thanks Google Earth images), and so took a short walk away from the cabin and there it was.
I have no idea if it's a Model T or not, but it was a truck, as the remains of the wood bed are behind the cab. There's no engine, no wheels, no tires, not much of anything salvageable left, but it's still one of the highlights of the day. I love finding the remains of old cars in J Tree. This makes number four that I've been able to locate. I'm sure there are more and if anyone knows of any, please feel free to comment or email.
After admiring the old relic, and sitting in the drivers seat for a bit, it was time to call this search a success and begin our trek back to Old Blue. Boulder Cabin and the old truck were actually the third part of a day-long adventure, which also included exploring Johns Camp (another old mining camp) and the Gold Hill Mine. All three sites are located along the Desert Queen Wash and I can't think of a much better way to spend a day in Joshua Tree than in visiting these old sites. Anyone with an interest in mining, finding old ruins, or enjoying a short trip into J Tree's past should put this hike on their trail list.
It's funny, the hike back was just as pretty as the hike in!
As with all my posts, please feel free to use any of my photos in any manner you like. Time's too short to worry about copyrights. I do appreciate credit being given, but even that's not a requirement. I can always be reached through the comments section on this site.