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Spelunking the Pinto Basin Gold and Turquoise Mines of Joshua Tree National Park Near Palm Springs
I was about 12 years old when I first went to the Pinto Pool even though I did not know it w Called at the time. It was the mid-1970s and I was just a kid bringing with me my brother and sister as Mom and Dad explored the desert around Palm Springs on a sunny afternoon in a Toyota Landcruiser with friends. Of them. I know we are very far from home. It feels like we are traveling beyond the moon. The earth has long ceased to be a golf course and a city street. Now it’s just sand, rocks, rocks and occasional grass.
Dad and his friend Lee crossed a low mountain range at one end of a long valley in Joshua Tree National Park. I knew a lot. I also realized by looking up the mountain that the road was harder than my dad had tried on his quad bike. But wanting to see something beyond the mountains is amazing. Instead of risking the car away from the rescue, we decided to walk to the top of the hill and look over its edge. There we saw the dirt that marked a mine being dug. So we went to the other side and found not just one mine, but three.
The first turned out to be the deepest and most interesting. I returned to the carved mountain hundreds of meters away. At one point you have to raise your arms and knees to crawl through the remaining holes from the long cave. You then have to walk through an old board that rests on a bottomless hole about eight feet or more across. There was a dilapidated staircase that stretched all the way down inside. We drop the stone down to try to measure its depth. We could hear the rock hit the corner of the hole a few times as it fell. But below we did not hear anything. The board is old and cracked. This hole can be a mile for what it scares me. But I walked through.
Further into the mine, I encountered something incredible, many of whom I told, reluctant to believe. I am not a geographer. I could not have spotted the gold fiber if it had a neon sign on it – and that’s what the miners had been searching for almost a hundred years ago when they dug it, I know for sure – but the color Dark blue. There is nothing wrong with that. It has a deep blue-green color and is as bright as all out, even in its raw form. And at the wall of the mine was the width of a man, and ran to the ceiling in the cave, and disappeared to the roof. Run underground.
Before we left that day, I went into the mine a second time, ready-made hammers and armed with five gallons of paint. I tore off the claws and tore the object off the mountain until my container was full and took it all home. It worked beautifully in my bedroom, framed against the backdrop of my Star Wars album. The rest of the blue water I gave as a Christmas gift had a handful of boulders and a blue-green color. Like the Pacific in Hawaii.
Other mines are fun, though not great. One went straight down like a hole in the first mine. But there is no horizontal path to cross. Another had an old railroad track still down, and the rusty car at the mouth of the cave was only fifty feet in, and then another staircase down about thirty feet looked like a landing. Ever since I was a kid, my dad chose me to go up the stairs thinking he could hold me back and no one would try it. I reached the bottom, but the landing did not go anywhere, it died.
We drove home that day in the dark with great stories to remember for the rest of our lives.
Fast forward twenty years plus the mid-1990s. I want to find it again, but for the rest of my life I do not know exactly where it is other than the Joshua Tree National Park, and that is the whole Lotta Desert to walk through. However, without a better plan, I divided a map. The first time I rode my Jeep Wrangler with one of my children and my wife. We did not find any. The second time we rented a Jeep Cherokee because I had a lot of kids leaving the airport and looking for another part of the desert. Still not found. But the third trip, while riding a big four-wheeler, renting a full Ford Excursion with the son-in-law and the larger family, we hit gold or orange, you could say.
As we walked along the dusty road that led me into the desert farther than I could swear to go before, I saw many mountains in the distance with a dilapidated road climbing one of them. They. My skin itches. We parked at the bottom of the road, and I grabbed a flashlight, a hammer, and a bucket of water with the children and family behind me. At the top of the hill, I saw the dirt of the first mine, and low, and looking down at the bottom of the nearby hill was an old Toyota pickup truck running and a small cadre dressed in full clothes. Apparently others have discovered the mine for years as well.
Still, this is it again. I went into the mine and crawled through the older cave through the deep holes and planks that stretched over it, being careful not to let my children do stupid things near it. And when I got to the blue vein, I was a little surprised, though not completely, to find that my vein was dug out. There are still some pieces of my memory that I have shattered for the sake of the past. And I found some more pieces of blue-green on the floor to get rid of the dirt. But the blue water has reached other families, the boys who discovered it years ago. We found mine and I will never lose it again, it is embedded in my heart a great destination in the middle of nowhere to go: my own personal of the Southwest landscape completely lost with the story. Tales of buried treasures are only fairy tales.
A few years later a friend of mine, Chris Shurilla, came to see me. He had some tools and we went out to mine. We crawled through the cave and looked into the deep hole and the stairs stretched down forever. There was an old wooden fence built over a hole that I had previously missed, probably because I always looked where I put my feet and close. The hole I violated before. We tied the ropes on the beams, fastened ourselves to the ropes, and dropped the ropes two hundred meters into the holes.
Chris is not afraid. He flew out of the empty space and ZEEEE he tore the rope at a terrible speed. I was cautious as the bride on her wedding night, stepping down the stairs immediately, even though I was tied up and supposed to be safe. An ancient barrier collapsed under my weight and I jumped into the dead space. Chris laughed at me and shouted to hurry up. As I coughed my heart out of my throat, I recovered. When I caught Chris, he was hanging in the air of a large room. The narrow throat opens into the cavity about thirty or forty feet. The staircase still stretches through the middle of the darkness, where it is crossed by an old cat walk, backed by a 2×4, attached to a seemingly distant cave wall. It’s like something out of a Stephen King novel. The walking cat ran into a dark cave on each end that cut into the earth. Chris said faster than I could answer, “I’m going to check it out,” unbuttoned it and walked past the classic board that hung in the dark light like a cat on the windowsill.
“Chris, you idiot,” I shouted. The boards are a hundred years old. He came back under me without any worries. “Oh, they are fine,” he said. And while I will not swear it, maybe it was just my fear of starting to drive excessively, I think I saw him jump on them as a way to test their softness. If he fails, I do not know what he or I will do. He said quickly, his thumb back to the hole he had just investigated, “just a few feet are dead.” He went to the other side and disappeared in the darkness again, “This side too.” He came back to tie the ropes and we went down again.
We are about 75 feet away, where we cool down before we get too close to the end of the rope for comfort. Chris still hangs comfortably on the ropes without the hand holding the endless ladder or corner of the rock hole. I still cling to the stairs, for what it’s worth, because of its old age, it feels better than nothing. But seeing Chris hanging there and the emptiness beneath him, we still knew we could not go on. . We knocked a rock out of the side of the hole and dropped it. Even though we are 200 yards from the starting point, this rock has no final break. We did it again with another rock. We still can not hear it falling to the bottom.
We went back upstairs and saw our wife and children angry with us. We went down into that hole for hours and they said they would yell at us after the first thirty minutes. The only thing they know is that the rope is still stiff and it blows occasionally.
The entire area of the Pinto basin is full of mines. If you go out there, you have a chance to die. I am not saying this is an emergency. But serious: there are holes in the ground large enough to drive in and some without a bottom. There are caves that go into the mountains, hundreds of yards, holes and caves and rotten parts, and you are away from help for hours, even if you have a car problem. And what if the car breaks down?
Do not go there unless you are experienced and prepared. Sometimes I can hardly believe that I did it as a child and then do it again with me and then do it again with ropes, shields and fearless friends.
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