#13 Mines, Mountains & the Desert

When we last left off I had just finished an adventure on Presidents day weekend exploring an abandoned mine. Since then I have been all over the place and I’m going to try and squeeze all the travel into one post! After finishing up the Presidents Day adventure I made my way back to San Diego to link up with my buddy Bradley again. The plan was to spend the week with him and then head to Parker AZ for his birthday weekend. With some downtime on my hands I felt like I needed to get some stuff done with my truck and the first thing I needed to do was downsize. The irony of needing to downsize when all your possessions are in a truck is pretty funny but it was totally necessary. Even after eliminating almost everything I own I still had excess crap in my truck and I decided it was time to lighten my load and get rid of it all. For some reason it is hard for my brain to relax when there is “shit” everywhere, personal possessions, random items etc. It was relieving to get some stuff out of the truck because it cleared more room in my under bed storage and provided me the space to fit my inflatable kayak in my Thule storage. I finally felt like I had gotten everything situated and my rig was ready for America! After a great weekend in Parker Arizona I said “see ya later” to my buddy Bradley and began my journey back to Northern California for my last week in CA. My goal was to drive up through the Eastern Sierra pass which had always been high on my list of places to visit. The area off old Highway 395 is littered with old mining encampments, abandoned towns and endless beautiful landscapes so it was desirable to say the least.

On my drive from Arizona to the 395 I stopped in a small almost abandoned town of the old historic Route 66. I was snapping some pictures of some small abandoned buildings when I heard a a dirt bike in the distance…. It sounded like a 450 to me and the throaty roar got closer and closer. Next thing I know theres a kid flying through the desert coming towards the buildings I’m taking pictures of. He starts hitting DIY jumps that I hadn’t even noticed so naturally I started taking pictures. After he ripped for a bit he shut the bike off and we started chopping it up. His name was Jessy and he lived and grew up in this town his whole life which immediately made me want to ask him a million questions. I have always been fascinated by people, their lives, how they live, where they live, what their passions are etc. Jessy told me he was the only kid in town and also the only person who really rode dirt bikes so he was a lone soldier in the desert. I asked him if he had a GoPro to film his stunts with and he said he had a Hero 3 but no memory card. I figured I could help him out so we walked over to my truck and I got a nice little bundle of GoPro goodies for him. There is no better feeling then giving to others and “paying it forward”….! The amount of genuine happiness that I brought the kid and myself was worth it alone! Not only that but I now have a buddy who lives in the middle of the desert that I can go visit and stay with and hopefully make a short story piece about when I come back to CA! After hanging with Jessy for a little I told him id be in touch and continued on my way!

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I made my way to the 395 and started the final leg of my journey to an abandoned mine about 3 hours north. The 395 as a whole had a bout a million places I wanted to pull over… sometimes I feel like I’m cheating myself by not stopping  because technically I have unlimited time. At the end of the day though I’ve come to realize that I will most likely live in California and id like to save some explorations and adventures for when that time comes. I could easily go crazy and try and explore every place on my map in California but then I would end up spending 3+ months just in this state alone! Three hours later I reached the dirt road to the mine. It became very apparent that I wasn’t in the desert anymore…. the Eastern Sierra’s were towering over the valley like giants in the distance and the temperature was a good 30 degrees colder. When I finally made it to the mine it was pitch black out but I could still make out the outline of the titanic juggernaut like structure. My goal was to shoot star trails for at least a few hours before calling it a night but the winds were howling aggressively and the temperature was dropping taunting me to succumb to the safety of my sleeper. I knew I had to at least get a few shots so I got my gear out and trudged into the dark to find the best vantage point to shoot the structure and stars. While I was setting up my second camera to take a star trail I noticed a set of eyes reflecting from my headlamps light about 50 meters away… I have a pretty good “fear tolerance” but the fact that I had no idea what my surroundings looked like combined with the fact that I was alone altered the circumstances. My guess was that it was just a coyote but I didn’t really want to risk finding out so I grabbed my camera and trudged back to the safety of my truck. I crawled in, got cozy under my covers and then fell asleep to the howling sound of the wind beating against the windows of my camper shell.

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When I woke in the morning I was relieved to finally see my surroundings. The mine was exposed in all its glory by the piercing morning sun. As much as I was disappointed in my failure to shoot the structure under the stars… I was ready to redeem myself and crush it under the morning light! The structure was something out of a movie or a video game. Ive always loved pirate ship / treehouse-esque places with catwalks, ramps and towers…. this was exactly that! I will let the pictures do the talking.

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After finishing shooting the mine I was ready to make my way back to the Bay Area. Unfortunately I didn’t do my research before hand so I realized that I would need chains to drive around Lake Tahoe back to the Bay. Of course I don’t have chains for my truck (we don’t get down like that in Vermont) so I had to drive three hours south back down to Bakersfield and then all the way back up the I5. On my way to the I5 I stopped at another location which was a military radio station dating back to WW2. The building was still extremely secured but I managed to find a way in with my ninja skills. When I got inside I was a little freaked out as the electricity was still on… the “EXIT” signs as well as the servers in the building were alive and glowing which made me more than uncomfortable. I spent no more than 30-45 minutes inside, got a few photos and left as it didn’t appeal to me visually. The photos I captured if anything were more for historical documentation, just to have but nothing I would print or sell.

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By the end of the day I made it to Sonoma county after more then 12 hours of driving. The rest of the week was filled with numerous adventures around the North Bay which I will write about in my next entry! As always, thanks for reading!

 

-J.J

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