Patrick was getting sick of looking for Bill Ewasko and not finding him, so he started looking around for something to distract me. Somewhere, in his vast collection of obscure crap, he had a copy of a document done for Joshua Tree National Park in 1983 called, “Historic Resource Study”, by Linda Greene. It listed all sorts of remote and obscure mining operations formerly operating where the park is today. One of those was called the Captain Jinks Mine and located southwest of Pinto Basin and northerly of Monument Mountain. Here is what the document had to say about Jinks Mine:
Hmmm….It wasn’t visited by the writer. That was good. An Internet search turned up no trip reports or any other additional background. That was even better! This could be…entertaining!
So we set about figuring a way into this place. The obvious route, following an old access route, visible on Google Earth, came in from the south and looked like a lot of ups and downs. So we figured an alternative route, up a remote wash that drained into Pinto Basin. There was no down, just up. So we loaded the route into our GPSs and set off on February 13, 2011.
Maybe 20 minutes into the trip, we came upon a radiosonde. This was the second one we had found in Joshua Tree, and the first one had eluded Patrick’s possession. Not this one! I do believe he can now die a happy and fulfilled man with a radiosonde to call his own. We marked the location by GPS and left it to pick up on our return.
As we got closer to the canyon we came upon remnants of a very old road, and it was headed in our direction. Since the ground was very rocky and rough, this made travel easier so we started following it. Eventually it ended at the site of some sort of old camp, with a bed spring, pots, fire ring and 55 gallon drum. That’s the sort of strange stuff you come across out there.
We progressed up the canyon, having to climb up a dry waterfall or two with a bit of Class 3 scrambling. Now this canyon is in the middle of friggin’ nowhere. It doesn’t go anywhere special. So we were more than a little surprised to see a single set of footprints, maybe a week old, heading the same way we were. But there were no tracks out. More desert weirdness.
After three hours of slogging we reached a point up the canyon were our planned GPS route said we had to start climbing up westerly, out of the canyon. We both looked at the slope in front of us and were like, “Really? Here???, No…..!” In fact, the answer was yes. As we climbed up the slope eased a bit and it became good going, but still steep. We continued up until we reached a local peak which gave us a good look around. Looking back the way we came showed the depth and extent of the canyon that was our route in. It looked pretty stupid:
Looking forward showed all of the Jinks Mine area beneath us, as well as a fantastic view. San Jacinto Peak was visible to the west, a little of San Gorgonio, Quail Mountain could be seen to the north, Monument Mountain to the south, and some peaks far off in Nevada were visible to the northeast. Patrick dubbed the high point we were on as Jinks Peak.
What was especially impressive was the old access road in. It cut a very straight line across the far slope, showing evidence of a lot of rockwork. This was the straight line that we saw so clearly in Google Earth. Now we could understand why.
We descended from our viewpoint and did a large circle through the workings. There were segments of the old road and a number of smaller workings. There was one horizontal tunnel that went in about 150 feet, and we poked in with our headlamps. It looked like it was used as a storage area with a few awning poles for shade, a bench and an old homemade stove. In the bowl near the center of all the workings we found what looked to be their camp, which seemed like it would have been a tent cabin sort of affair. Nearby was a pretty good can dump, and that entertained us for a while (We have a low threshold of amusement). Not much to be found in the way of bottles though.
Over near the access road we found a number of slanting shafts, mostly caved in. These areas seemed older than the others, and that was supported by an old nail Patrick found. It was square and thus fairly ancient.
At that point it was getting late and time to leave. We decided not to return over Jinks Peak but to try a slightly different route down a canyon. It was new area and there’s no telling when you might come across another radiosonde. We eventually rejoined the large main canyon and despite it being downhill the entire way, the ankle busting rocks the last couple of miles to the vehicle were tedious. But as usual, we cheated death.
The overall hike covered about 13 miles, all cross country, and around 2,000′ elevation gain. Good times!
Patrick has his own version of the days events, as usual, loosely based in reality.
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