Sierra Nevada Adventures Multi Day Rides

Jawbone Mojave

JAWBONE MOJAVE ADVENTURE

Here’s your opportunity to explore historic mining routes, ghost towns and abandoned mining camps in the historic Jawbone Canyon and remote corners of the Mojave Desert.

Jawbone Mojave Adventure ride explores the historic Jawbone Canyon and remote areas of the Mojave Desert to historic ghost towns such as Darwin, Ballarat and Randsburg including the abandoned mining camp known as Bickel Camp. Your off-road adventure continues to explore through the Mojave Desert to the historic Burro Schmidt Tunnel located in the remote El Paso Mountains where you will have the opportunity to explore on foot through the historic gold mine “dug entirely by hand” by the eccentric miner known as “Burro Schmidt”. You will also explore the spectacular rock formations of Red Rock Canyon to the unique Trona Pinnacles which is one of the most unusual geological features in the Mojave Desert.

Europeans first settled in Jawbone Canyon around 1860—naming it Jawbone Canyon because its shape resembled a mandible (lower Jawbone) and the trail was used as a trade route from Keyesville into the Piute Mountains. During the Kern River gold rush, several gold mines operated in the canyon; the most successful of these, the St. John mine, yielded nearly $700,000 worth of gold between 1860 and 1875. The Gwynn mine, on the Geringer Grade, ran six claims yielding a total of $770,000 worth of gold and quartz before ceasing operations in 1942. Several mining operations were reactivated throughout the Great Depression and since World War II, there has been minor prospecting in the Mojave Desert.

Your off-road adventure explores mining routes to the historic Bickel Camp, which is dedicated to the memory of Walter Bickel, and to sharing the enterprising spirit of a true "old-timer" prospector. Bickel Camp is a historic 1930's era mining camp located in Last Chance Canyon of the El Paso Mountains in the Mojave Desert of California. The El Paso Mountains are a picturesque, colorful, and mineralized mountain range at just over 5000 feet elevation. Early miners were attracted by gold-bearing ancient river channels that lie exposed in this desert mountain range. Walter Bickel prospected, and came to stay in the early 1930s, at what is now known as Bickel Camp. His mining camp is covered with unique tools and equipment testify to the inventiveness and capability of a man living with the land and nature. Like the thousands of people before him, Walter Bickel came to the El Paso Mountains in the 1930s in search of gold. His diggings became known as Bickel Camp. While he didn’t make much money mining gold, he did scratch out a living and called the place home until 1987 when the BLM came to evict the elderly Bickel considering him a squatter. Hours before their arrival, Walter suffered a stroke and was taken to an area hospital. Outraged friends and family rallied to save Walt’s home of over 50 years, plus his impressive accumulation of equipment. A settlement was reached allowing the camp to remain as a museum for the benefit of the public. Today the camp is cared for by the Friends of Last Chance Canyon. The cabin and grounds have been left pretty much the same way Bickel left them in 1987 and are considered to be a true representation of a depression-era mining camp. Items at the site include antique tractors, mining equipment, vintage travel trailers, antique appliances, rock samples, and Rube Goldberg contraptions that only Walt himself knew what they were designed to do.

Beyond Bickel Camp you will have the opportunity to explore off-road to one of the most unique and historic gold mines in the Mojave Desert. High atop the El Paso Mountains, above Last Chance Canyon, exists today a monument to one man's determination and perseverance to create what is known as Burro Schmidt Tunnel. William Henry Schmidt, better known as "Burro" Schmidt, spent 38 years digging a half-mile long tunnel “dug entirely by hand” through the El Paso Mountains. Burro Schmidt, who was mining gold, was faced with a dangerous ridge between his mining area and the smelter at Mojave, California. Burro Schmidt said that he would "never haul his ore to the smelter in Mojave down that back trail" using his two burros. Thus, he began his tunnel in 1906 and continued digging for the next 38 years. During the years he worked on his tunnel, Burro Schmidt ran into many dangerous circumstances where he was trapped by falling rock and nearly died many times while digging his tunnel and injured often but continued on. In 1920 a road was completed from Last Chance Canyon to Mojave, eliminating the need for the tunnel, but Burro Schmidt claimed to be obsessed with completing his tunnel, and dug on.

Your off-road adventure continues to explore to one of the most unique geological features in the California desert. This eerie, fantastic landscape known as the Trona Pinnacles consists of more than 500 tufa spires (porous rock) that formed as a deposit when underground hot springs welled up through fault line fractures on the lake bottom, some as high as 140 feet rising from the ancient Searles Lake dry basin. The pinnacles vary in size and shape from short and squat to tall and thin and are composed primarily of calcium carbonate known as tufa pinnacles. These strange shapes formed underwater in the ancient lake 10,000 to 100,000 years ago. This portion of Searles Dry Lakebed is the bottom of a long-ago glacial lake that was only one of many huge lakes that once inhabited the Death Valley region. During the Pleistocene Ice Ages, massive runoff spilled from the Sierra Nevada into a chain of "inland seas." This system of interconnected lakes stretched from Mono Lake to Death Valley and included Searles Lake, which at that time reached a depth of 640 feet. This unusual land formation now sits isolated in the middle of nowhere slowly crumbling away near the south end of the valley, surrounded by many square miles of flat, dried mud and with stark mountain ranges at either side.

Beyond the Trona Pinnacles your adventure will take you back in time to the historic ghost town of Ballarat. Located at the base of the Panamint Mountain Range, Ballarat sprang to life in 1897 as a supply town for the nearby mines in the canyons of the Panamint Range. The main mine supporting the town was the Radcliff gold mine in Pleasant Canyon just east of town. Between the years of 1898 and 1903, the Radcliff produced 15,000 tons of ore. Ballarat was named after an Australian gold camp by one of its first residents, an Australian immigrant named George Riggins. It was in the original Australian town of Ballarat that the first gold was discovered in that country in 1851. In its heyday from 1897 to 1905 Ballarat had 400 to 500 residents. It hosted seven saloons, three hotels, a Wells Fargo station, post office (that opened in 1897) school, a jail and morgue, but no churches. Today, Ballarat has only one full-time resident known as Rocky who lives in this remote ghost town. Rocky runs the general store on afternoons and weekends to supply cold drinks to visitors passing through town. The town still has a few historic adobe buildings, foundations, jail house, morgue and mining equipment scatter about including Charles Manson's forgotten army surplus Power Wagon Truck.

After exploring some of the most dramatic desert landscape imaginable, your adventure ride ventures to the lonely ghost town of Darwin. Located on the western outskirts of Death Valley in Inyo County, tiny Darwin, a semi-ghost town today, was once the largest city in the county. The settlement got its start in early 1860 when a prospecting expedition led by Darwin French set out from Visalia, California in search of the Lost Gunsight Mine and a place that had long been referred to as “Silver Mountain.” While exploring the rocky, dry landscape southeast of Owens Lake, French’s party never found the Lost Gunsight Mine or Silver Mountain, but they did discover rich silver outcroppings and staked several claims before heading back to Visalia. When they returned, they were followed by hundreds of others and soon mines developed and the rugged mining town of Coso Junction was born. Around 1870 more gold, silver, and lead deposits were again discovered in the Coso Range, resulting in formation of the New Coso Mining District in 1874. The settlement of Darwin was soon established and named for early explorer and prospector, Darwin French. The town quickly developed into the main commercial center in the area, by the end of 1875, Darwin boasted two smelters, some 20 operating mines, a post office, graded streets, a drug store, hotel, three restaurants, the ever-present saloons, a newspaper, 200 frame houses and more than 700 residents. The Defiance Mine was the principal producer in the district, but, other profitable mines included the Argus-Sterling, Christmas Gift, Lucky Jim, Custer, Independence, Keystone, Thompson, and the Wonder Mine. The next year, the town continued to grow, supporting over 1,000 people, at which time, it was the largest town in Inyo County. It’s Centennial Celebration on July 4, 1876 was the second largest in the county. Though the settlement had taken on an air of permanence, it was also gaining another reputation, that of a rowdy and violent town. Because of its isolation, and distance from the county seat of Independence, gunplay, assaults, and stage robberies were common. Still, the town continued to grow, peaking at a population of about 3,500 in 1877. However, it would not continue. The following year a smallpox epidemic swept the community and a national economic slowdown hit Darwin hard. Production slowed, and mine owners scaled back wages, creating more violence in the community. In September 1878, the newspaper office closed its doors and the publisher, T. S. Harris, packed up the presses and headed north toward the boomtown of Bodie. He was followed by many of the miners. However, the following month, it was reported in the Independence newspaper that the town still had 200-300 people, four stores, three restaurants, five saloons, and a drug store. Six months later, on April 30, 1879, a suspected arson fire began in the Darwin Hotel, which resulted in the loss of 14 businesses, including several stores, offices, the hotel, saloons, and the post office. Today, the semi-ghost town of Darwin has a population at about 40 people that live amongst the ruins of the past. Northwest of the abandon downtown on the side of Mt. Ophir, the remains of the once booming mining camp can still be seen, including decaying rows of mining shacks and the old mill buildings. Its downtown area still contains several buildings, once housing businesses but, now closed. Back in its heyday, Darwin was a rowdy and violent town home to hundreds of miners that dreamed of striking it rich but now days all that is left are, scattered and rusted mining machinery, rusted out vehicles and abandon buildings that make up the last remains of this lonely ghost town.

RIDE DETAILS:

Multi-Day Adventure Ride: (20 rider max) 

This dual sport adventure ride is perfect for medium (650cc+) to large (1200cc+) adventure bikes
Off-road terrain is rated "mild to moderate" with some "challenging" and lots of adventure

Ride distance 450+ miles (100+ miles dirt roads)
Gas stops (150-mile range required)

 

MEETING TIME: 8:45am (ride starts at 9:00am)

MEETING LOCATION: Denny’s Ridgecrest CA

Denny’s 104 N China Lake Blvd, Ridgecrest, CA 93555

Ride returns to Ridgecrest CA (approx. 4pm)

 

MEALS: (meals Not included)

Breakfast Lunch & Dinner at restaurants

Bring water & snacks 

 

HOTEL RECOMMENDATIONS: (hotels Not included) 

*Riders are responsible to book their Hotel reservations 

SATURDAY NIGHT: Ridgecrest CA 

-Best Western, 400 S. China Lake Blvd. Ridgecrest CA 93555

-Quality Inn, 507 S. China Lake Blvd. Ridgecrest, CA 93555

-Super 8, 426 S. China Lake Blvd. Ridgecrest CA 93555

-Travel Inn & Suites, 416 S China Lake Blvd. Ridgecrest, CA 93555

Note: additional Hotels available in Ridgecrest CA

 

OPTIONAL FRIDAY NIGHT: Recommend staying in Ridgecrest CA 

Note: additional Hotels available in Ridgecrest CA

*If you plan on trailering your bike, please make arrangements with your Hotel

 

More details listed under "Book this Ride"

Questions email: mark@SierraNevadaAdventures.com

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