This exploratory hike will be like finding a needle in a haystack, or in this case, a hole in the ground. More specifically, it is a passage through a mountain ridge, and our destination is not the high point for once. And although it is possible to drive there with high clearance vehicles, we will explore it as a CDH-sanctioned WWW version by starting from a paved highway and walking through dry-washes, ascending/descending ridge-lines and steep use-trails, and strolling jeep roads to get to and from the mountain ridge. Although the sparse vegetation is desert scrub brush, the views should be good with colorful ridge lines towards the northwest as seen from our ridge line. Participants on the Last Chance Canyon hike will attest that those ridge lines are rich in colorful minerals.
Hoping to improve his health, William Henry “Burro” Schmidt came from Rhode Island to the California Desert, and staked a mining claim in the El Paso Mountains. He was faced with a dangerous ridge between his mining claims and the smelter to the south in Mojave. Schmidt said that he would “never haul his ore to the Mojave smelter down that back trail” using his two burros. Thus, he began his “shortcut” tunnel in 1902 through Copper Mountain. The tunnel was about 6 feet tall and 10 feet wide. It was cut through solid granite bedrock and required little shoring. However, Schmidt was trapped many times by falling rock and injured often. He eventually installed a mining cart on rails.
In 1920 a road was completed from Last Chance Canyon to Mojave, eliminating the need for the tunnel, but Schmidt claimed to be obsessed with completion and dug on.
By 1938 he had achieved his “goal”, having dug through nearly 2,100 feet of solid granite using only a pick, a shovel, and a four-pound hammer for the initial section, and carefully placed dynamite with notoriously short fuses for the majority portion. It was estimated that he had moved 5,800 tons of rock to complete his work. Even after he had finished his tunnel, he never transported an ounce of ore through it.
He never really explained why he spent some 33 years of his life digging, single-handedly, through a mountain to reach an isolated ledge. Needless to mention, the other local miners thought he was crazy.
Distance: Between 8 to 11 miles depending on the cross country route.
Elevation Gain: Approximately 2,500 feet.
Difficulty: Moderately difficult.
Pace: Slow to moderate depending on the terrain.
Level: Advanced beginners are welcome.
Bring: Headlamp with spare batteries, minimum 2 liters of water, lunch and snacks and wear adequate footwear for the steep sections to ascend and descend the ridge line. Hiking poles may be helpful if you have them. Since this is the desert, bring layers of clothing to adjust for possible changing weather conditions.
Meeting Place and Time: Jawbone Station at 8:00 am. There are dry restrooms at this meeting place. We will caravan to the start of the hike.
Earlier Meeting Place and Time: Corner of Leonora St and Ponce Av in Woodland Hills at 6:15 am. No host will be there, so participants will have to arrange their carpooling. Please be willing to drive and have a full tank of fuel. Riders please be willing to share in the cost of the fuel.
Directions to Jawbone Station from Woodland Hills: Take the US-101 East/South, I-405 North, I-5 North, then CA-14 North all the way to Mojave. Continue thru Mojave and at the north end, bear right on CA-14. Jawbone Station is 21.2 miles from this junction. Distance is about 110 miles from Woodland Hills and should take about one hour and forty minutes without traffic.
Because of the long driving distance, this is an all-day outing. Please do not have other important engagements planned later in the day if you are coming on the hike. The 4:00 pm ending time is the approximate time we should be finished with the hike.
Do not forget THE HEADLAMP.