Thursday, October 22, 2015

Finding a Thesis: Farther into the Palmetto Mountains

Magruder Mountain from Lida Summit.
The sun went down on that 1976 campsite perched somewhere on the south side of the Palmetto Mountains, and I eventually fell asleep, curled up in my barely adequate sleeping bag on the ground near my '76 Opel. Fortunately, by this time on my thesis hunt the evenings were almost balmy, so I didn't freeze the way I had during that earlier, colder stop a few miles north of Belmont. Was this trip later in the spring?—or was it really that much warmer at the same elevation but 75 miles to the south?

I arose the next morning and dinked around a few nearby workings (possibly near the Blue Dick Mine) while I grabbed a quick bite. Then I once again got out my paper topo sheets—this time it would be the Goldfield 2° sheet and the Magruder Mountain and Lida Wash 15' maps—and determined my course for the day. I would at least plan to get up to some of the prospects and workings near Excelsior Spring, and I'd try to hit a few prospects to the northwest near the Palmetto Mine.
A portion of the Magruder Mtn 15' quad courtesy of the USGS
via their Map Locator & Downloader.
I relaxed a bit as I drove down the alluvial fan road, feeling not nearly as tense as I had the day before, and then I made my way up and over Lida Summit, which sits at an elevation of 7460 feet (although it apparently was at 7400 feet as recently as 2004!).
Lida Summit looking west.
The view looks about 55 miles across the relatively low hills of the Sylvania Mountains, across intervening Eureka Valley, across a low northern part of the Inyo Mountains, and across Owens Valley south of Big Pine, at the distant peaks of the Sierra Nevada. The highest peaks in the view, toward the right approaching a dark hill beyond and below the sign, are Mount Pinchot at 13,494 feet (4113 m) and Striped Mountain at 13,179 feet (4017 m).

When I had planned my stops early in the morning, I didn't know I'd be passing by the old site of Palmetto, formerly a silver-mining community, now a complete ghost town.
The Palmetto historical marker (also read it here), in front of an old millsite.
The rock work of the millsite.
Abandoned stone building.
Looking through the old ruin up toward the highest point of the Palmetto Mountains, 9285 feet (often called the "Blue Dick Benchmark").
Both Peakbagger and SummitPost list the elevation of the Blue Dick Benchmark as 9289 feet (2831 m). SummitPost has a good story about oldtimer Blue Dick Hartman, for whom the nearby Blue Dick Mine was named. A somewhat more detailed version of him faking his own death can be read awkwardly in this view of the 1954 Tucson Daily Citizen.
Another view from the ruin (Google Maps location).
And so, on that long-ago day, I pulled myself away from the site of Palmetto and drove up a good, bladed road into the main part of the Palmetto mining district. The sun was warm as it shone through the windows of my non–air-conditioned, little blue car. I wound my way upward into the piƱon-juniper zone, which to this day often feels hotter to me than the lowlands of the same area. Maybe the air is stagnant in the trees, maybe it's something about expecting more coolth from the shade than could possibly be created by these desert trees, maybe it's the sun reflecting off the dirt of the road and the dirt between the trees. I'm not sure, but I still don't look forward to hikes in the trees, especially those of the juniper persuasion, preferring the sagebrush zone below or the alpine zone above.

I stopped at a place, maybe at the end of one of the roads, where there was an old shack (or two? or three?), a wooden framed adit or two, many rusty tin cans, a couple shot-up 55 gallon drums, old and new shards of glass, garbage and rubbish, jumbles and scrap—in sum, the usual stuff and old junk often found in old mining areas, always variable from place, always worth looking through or at least taking pictures of. I ate lunch and then wandered around, looking at the old workings and mine dumps, finding a boat load of orange shaly chips, probably float from the Ordovician Palmetto Formation.

As for the broad geology of the area, I'll try to get into that next time...

Previous Posts in this Series:
Thesis: Finding an Area
Finding a Thesis: Battle Mountain to Austin to Gabbs
Finding a Thesis: Pole Line Road
Finding a Thesis: Pole Line to Belmont
Finding a Thesis: Klondyke District
Finding a Thesis: A Joshua Tree Aside
Finding a Thesis: Into the Palmetto Mountains

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