EL PASO MOUNTAINS CALIFORNIA
STAGING FROM RED ROCK CANYON STATE PARK
After a winter of inactivity we all found ourselves itching to get back to the desert and our explorations. None of us had been out since our trip to the Elbow seven months earlier in September. For a couple of us preparation included extended service to our quads which had remained idle through the winter. Dry batteries and clogged carburetor jets from stale fuel was evident. Even worse was the condition of a couple of the groups tow rigs. We planned the trip in only three weeks, jockeying birthday parties and other obligations we finally settled on the April 5th weekend. Unfortunately we lost two of our riders to illness only 3 days before departure. Remaining home to nurse their selves back to health, we would later learn that their absence would hinder our fuel capabilities.
Departing four hours later than expected, I found myself fixated on the five hour drive to the Mojave Desert. Traveling alone, I pulled three of our quads on my brother’s 16 foot trailer loaded with much of his camping equipment. His Suburban remained at home with suspension issues, I offered to tow for him so he could travel by car later that night. All five hours mostly uneventful, the only remembrance was eating while I drove to save time and the long haul over the Tehachapi Mountains just before the Mojave Desert. I pulled in to the Ricardo Campground at Red Rock State Park at 9:30pm Thursday night where I found Vic (a regular attendee of our group rides) already settled in to his comfortable toy hauler in a pull through camp site. Saving the site adjacent his, I pulled in and began unloading my brothers items from my van thinking that he might require them when he arrived. I surely was not going to be disturbed from my sleep at five in the morning. Shortly after I drifted off to sleep in the comfort of a full size bed in the back of my warm van, only to be awaken by the knock at my door four hours later by my arriving brother.
Waking at 8:00 the following morning, I opened my van doors and slowly poked my head out at the beauty before me. Darkness lifted for the first time since my arrival, I finally got a good look at my surroundings and could not help but think of those who had traveled through here over 150 years ago while on their way to the promised lands of the west. Many of those who crossed through this spectacular sight before me had recorded these sights in their memoirs which have since been published and attract many of tourists here. Now even more excited, quickly I dressed, made myself breakfast and proceeded to prepare my quad for the first ride of the year. Shortly after I was greeted by Vic who also prepared for the days adventures. My brother and Alesia decided to remain in camp to rest from the long drive and retired to my borrowed tent. Meanwhile Vic and I rode out of camp and in to Dove Springs Riding area towards the highway 14 crossing. Once across hwy-14 we proceeded in to Red Rock Canyon State Park via Opal Canyon. wiggled our way east towards the Cudahy Dutch Cleanser Mine. Not long after entering a side canyon we found some cabins hidden behind a cluster of outcroppings that sealed off the trail in to the neighboring canyon. Curious to know their exact location and explore their presence, we back tracked our way out of the canyon and proceeded towards this unknown camp. As we bounced along two canyons to the West, we finally discovered that the camps were probably not of historic nature and heeded the No Trespassing signs. We took a few photos from a ledge above the property before proceeding back down our original path in the canyon. It was not long before we discovered that the Canyon which we traveled would force us to turn back. But not before we had crossed over several sections on the trail that had been washed out requiring a bit of technical skills. After rock crawling our machines over the imbedded obstacles. We came to a point in the trail that forced us to turn back or spend the next two hours winching our quads through.
Once turned around we found our way a little to the East and in to Nightmare Gulch. Neat name? Still headed for Cudahy Dutch Cleanser Mine, we found our way on to another undocumented trail. It wound along side of a cliff and we soon found ourselves riding the sides of our quads to keep from rolling off the ledge. Then down a slick sand stone mountain at an unbelievable grade! Yikes…. Watching Vic ride down behind me, I was almost certain that the quads would have tossed us over the handle bars. Thank god for the ability to shift our weight to the rear of our machines. Creeping down the sandstone ledge, we finally landed in the wash next to Cudahy Camp; An early 1900’s mining camp situated in Last Chance Canyon. Only cement foundations remained along with several prospectors holes and small mines. After a bit of a rest we headed on North through the canyon to the Cudahy Dutch Cleanser Mine. Not an easy locate. We never did find the trail up the back of the steep mountain side to the mine shaft, but we did locate the mill ruins and tailings below. It was about this point that we decided that we better head back to camp. The side trips and dead end trails took their toll on our time. It was the ride back that we located the correct documented and proper trail. The trail we entered on along the ledge was not even documented. In fact it wasn’t even on the map! The trail we should have came in on was the same trail that we ended up exiting the canyon on. A much more friendly ride.
We got back to camp about 40 minutes before sun down. I noticed the shade canopy had been mangled… Marc and Alesia explained that there were some really strong bursts of wind while we were away. So strong that the shade canopy frame had been bent and ruined. Coal from their BBQ blew on to my loaned tent and burnt a hole in the side. I spent a little time with Vic looking over the maps and trails for the following days journeys. Afterwards I indulged in a nice piece of Rib eye steak, and then hit the hay for some much needed rest.
We all decided to wake as early at 6:30 in the morning to make breakfast and get on the trails by 8:30. We were hoping we would have enough time to ride in to Randsburg for a sarsaparilla, but not one of us was awake earlier than 8am. As all four of us slowly rode out of camp at 11am, it was apparent that we would not be visiting Randsburg – the living ghost town, or any of the sites located over the El Paso Mtns. To the far East. Of further concern was the fact that one of our quads was lacking a storage source for any extra fuel. Had the Rhino riders joined us we simply would have tied down one of our large fuel cans to their machine, So we planned on Bickel Camp and Burro Schmidts place as our main destinations other than scenic riding. The ride back in to the Canyon was much more picturesque this time around. Maybe because It was easier to navigate this second time around. We took in the sights as we negotiated Last Chance Canyon through Red Rock Canyon State park. The cliffs were full of pink rock formations and natural outcroppings. Slowly we climbed our way out through Pleasant Valley, up over the ridge and out of the park boundaries. As we stopped on a ridge to overlook our previous path we noticed an old miner’s cabin on the side of a ridge. As the others ate their lunch I decided to explore the cabin. When I approached I noticed that there was also a mine located directly behind the cabin. I snapped off a few photos before dropping down in to Last Chance Canyon and entering Bickel camp. Here the others took a tour of the site provided by the caretakers. I spent my time with their dog eating lunch and shareing some crackers, he even drinks Gatorade.. One canyon to the north was a few adopt-a-cabins. Open to first come first serve. We checked out a couple of them but found their condition a bit too primitive for us. I think we all decided that we would be much better off sleeping in a tent if we headed back this way. Back on the trail South we rode a couple miles to Burro Schmidts Camp. Schmidt was known for spending 30 years of his life digging a tunnel through a mountain. His turn of the century camp is now protected by a makeshift wire fence. A lot of his possessions still liter bouts, but the main attraction is the long dark tunnel through the mountain.
Once we explored the tunnel and talked Marc out of riding solo all the way to Randsburg, we headed North in to the Last Chance Canyon. The trail was a quick one made up mostly of a dry wash. The only real tricky part of our return was riding down the “Dry Falls”. We arrived back at camp near dusk. The wind was just mild enough to cook. The following morning was consumed with packing up and loading the machines back on to the trailer for an uneventful 5 hour drive back to the bay area.
This trip offered some of the most beautiful terrain and picturesque sights. Some of the trails we negotiated before locating the proper and well traveled ones we were looking for, were technical enough to offer some unexpected adrenaline and fun. The main trails were in good condition for the most part and provided some simple fun. A well balanced weekend of riding.
1992 - 2008
Before departing on this trip we were forced to put our companion of 16 years to rest. In the last two months Tasha’s physical condition had become worse. Getting her to eat and keep on weight became an issue of concern. This trip is dedicated to her memory… Thank you Tasha for all your
unconditional love and companionship over all these years, you were a true blessing to our family…….