Driving south along Pinto Basin Road, the mountains squeeze in on both sides of the road as you drive through Wilson Canyon, a couple miles northwest of the Cholla Garden. The Hexies are on the south and the Pintos are on the north. Just as Wilson Canyon begins to open up and become Pinto Basin, there are a number of mining prospects, shafts, tunnels and drifts on the southern slopes of the Pinto Mountains.
There is a particularly large pile of smashed rock debris, or tailings (waste material removed during mining operations, with no economic value), plainly visible while driving by on the highway. I had noticed it on many trips through the area, but had never stopped to investigate. But this day would be different. This spot was actually on my "to investigate" list and fit into the day's itinerary.
I parked my truck on a convenient, wide dirt shoulder on the east side of the road, grabbed my camera and a bottle of water and set off on the 1/4-mile trek to the site. With such a large pile of debris, I thought for sure I would find a grated shaft or tunnel leading into the hill. But what I did find would change my life forever. Ok, that's not true, but it sounded really dramatic when I wrote it.
The wash at the foot of the mountains is well over 100 yards wide, and filled with these soft and cuddly appearing trees. But they are not soft and cuddly, as I found out when I reached out to touch one as I walked by. I believe I was speared by the Psorothamnus spinosus, commonly known as the Smoke Tree. They apparently wait all their lives for the chance to poke someone.
Rising out of the wash and heading towards the mine is a fairly substantial road, which made sense as the pile of tailings is evidence of a lot of work having taken place up this canyon. I started up the road, keeping my eyes open for any desert gold that might have been left behind.
I was getting closer, but hadn't really seen much of interest to this point. The area is remarkably free of mining leftovers.
I passed by what appears to be a small prospect cut that didn't pay out.
When I reached the end of the road, I walked a little way out onto the pile of waste mine rock, a bit perplexed. There was no grated mine opening to look into. There really wasn't much evidence at all of where all this crushed stuff came from.
I finally came to the conclusion, and my research later tentatively backed up my theory, that the shaft or tunnel is now buried under this pile of dirt and rock. I think the park caved in a bunch of stuff to fill it in so it wouldn't be a hazard to people like me who like to poke around in places like this.
The Goldfields of America mine consisted of twelve claims scattered about on the southern slope of the Pinto Mountains. I'm fairly certain this spot was one of the main claims in the group. Records and information are scant, but mention is made of an inclined shaft about 100 feet deep and several other shafts from 50 to 75 feet in depth. Another report stated, "the mine has two entrances, one at the top of a vertical shaft on the top of a ridge where there is a large slag pile. About thirty feet below the surface the vertical shaft intersects a horizontal one before continuing down for at least 100 more feet." And that's about all I was able to discover about the Goldfields of America.
After looking around a bit more at the top of the tailing pile, and not seeing anything else to investigate, I decided to surf the scree to the bottom of the pile and head back to my truck. See the tiny blue dot up the in upper right hand quarter of this image? At roughly 2:00 o'clock from my truck, up in the Hexie Mountians, you can barely make out some of the remains of the Golden Bee Mine.
Here's a little help from the telephoto lens. The old mine road leading up to the Golden Bee is plainly visible and the dark speck up in the canyon is one of the original ore chutes. There's a lot of interesting stuff up in that canyon (which will be talked about in another post very soon).
While I didn't really find much of anything exciting on this short trip, I enjoyed it nevertheless. That's part of the lure of the desert. Sometimes you strike it rich with desert gold, and sometimes you spend a couple hours simply enjoying the scenery and serenity the wilderness offers. Either one works for me.