For Mother’s Day The NotARubicon and a small group of Jeeps took a ride from Goler Gulch all the way through to Last Chance Canyon. The ride through the mountains was about 25 miles and took the better part of the day and provided several interesting things to see.
We started the day by airing down our tires just off Garlock Road in Goler Heights. From there we proceeded up the dirt road and started into Goler Gulch, passing an old mining cabin along the way. The road quickly turned into nothing more than a wash, and as we passed the remains of the old school-house, washed away by a flood in the 1940’s, we entered into “The Narrows”. At this point the trail got a little rocky and there were a few tight squeezes to get through that might be difficult for a full-sized truck. The two Wrangler 2-door Jeeps made it through with no problem and even though it was tight for the 4-door Jeeps we made it through with no scratches.
Not far past The Narrows we veered left into Mormon Gulch, following the road through Mormon Flat where we came up on Holland Camp at GPS coordinates 35.46292, -117.79501. All that remains of Holland Camp is a large multi-room cabin with some missing walls and no roof and some mining equipment on the hill near the old mine. Not in bad shape considering it’s age.
We left Holland Camp and circled around behind it through a large canyon heading toward Colorado Camp, passing the Apache Mine along the way. A few areas along this road were quite steep, rutted and off-camber, keeping things exciting. Nothing most stock 4×4 vehicles could not handle, but just enough to keep your attention.
Approximately 3.5 miles (via our route) from Holland Camp we reached Colorado Camp at GPS coordinates 35.44804, -117.82732. All that remains of Colorado Camp is an old chimney and some foundations, but since it’s right along the road it’s a good place to stop and stretch the legs.
Continuing on, we headed toward Burro Schmidt Tunnel, approximately 5 miles away. We knew we were headed in the right direction as we started seeing signs pointing to the tunnel, and the camp appeared in the hills in front of us. One nice thing about this entire area, all the way from Goler Gulch, through to Last Chance Canyon is that the roads are very well-marked. If you are mapping out a route through this area, just make note of the route numbers (ie; EP100, EP15). At virtually every intersection there are multiple signs indicating the routes. I’m not used to roads marked this well and didnt bother to note the route-numbers and instead relied on a squiggly line on my GPS to follow. This resulted in a few wrong turns along the way – it all adds to the adventure!
After Burro Schmidt Tunnel we headed down the hill toward Bickel Camp. Instead of stopping at Bickel Camp (been there already) we went around the mountain behind it, heading toward Bonanza Gulch and came across an old mining cabin complete with a working out-house. The outhouse would have been almost usable were it not for the critter standing guard inside.
Continuing through Bonanza Gulch we stopped at Jon-Jac cabin and “buzzard roost” at GPS coordinates 35.44288,-117.88361 and stopped to check out the Bonanza Gulch Post Office at (roughly) GPS coordinates 35.4510596,-117.880825 passing a couple of other old cabins along the way.
Heading out from Bonanza Gulch we could see the cleanser mines coming into view. The two mines, Holy Ash and The Old Dutch Cleanser mines are giant pumicite deposits mined for their use in cleaning products. Both of these mines have been closed for years, but I have read that The Old Dutch Cleanser mine may be re-opening, meaning that it will soon be off-limits. Both of these mines have multiple entrances, 15-25 feet high and 20-30 feet wide that burro deep into the mountain. The Holly Ash Mine is the smaller of the two and because of the steep drop-offs at the entrance and shallow adits, it’s not much to explore.
The Old Dutch Cleanser Mine is much larger than the Holly Ash and because of the shallow slope and depth of the adits, exploring this mine is much more interesting.
We followed one adit all the way to the bottom of the Dutch Cleanser Mine where we found giant timbers holding up the ceiling and lots of ore-cart cabling laying around. The Old Dutch Cleanser Mine (called “Cudahys Mine” on some maps) is at GPS coordinates 35.43332,-117.92736 and is a few miles around/behind Holly Ash which is right off the road.
Finally we headed out on EP15 to Last Chance Canyon, which would be the most difficult section to drive. Although I have read online-accounts by some bloggers that claim “you don’t even need 4-Wheel drive” to get through Last Chance Canyon, I’m pretty sure they have probably never been all the way through the canyon. Although not an extreme trail, there are many rocky areas that require high clearance, 4WD, and careful wheel placement and/or spotting to get over the rocks. “Graduation Hill”, about half-way through the canyon is a steep, intimidating hill that will get your attention going up or coming down. Because we were coming out of the canyon we came down Graduation Hill. Low gear and slow is the key. Of course we came down the harder side. There is a slightly easier side to come down/go up, but even the easy side is not ‘easy’.
We finally emerged from the canyon and came to Redrock Randsburg Road 7 hours later, exactly 10 miles west of where we started the day in Goler Heights. After airing the tires back up we headed back through Randsburg. Driving through town on Butte Avenue was like driving back in time to Mayberry USA. The last time I visited Randsburg it was crowded with tourists. On this Mother’s Day, Randsburg was deserted. We saw not a single human being or vehicle on the road as we headed toward Johannesberg and highway 395. A true ghost town.