November 26, 2009

Insomnia and the Tin Mine

Blame it on insomnia, but I spent the better part of Wednesday night researching the history of Tin Mine Canyon. It seems it was all a wonderful con game, and while it has nothing to do with camping, it does cover our new favorite day hike destination.

It starts in September of 1891. Colonel E. N. Robinson, the General Manager of the mines was called to London to answer to the investors over the productivity of the mines. He told the investors that the rumors they had been hearing were most assuredly untrue. The mines were not employing 250 men, but only 80, and the claims of daily yields of $2,000 or more were ridiculous. I'm sure the investors must have thought they were being swindled because they had yet to recover anything from the venture.

Despite his claims to the contrary, the source of the rumors was in fact, Robinson, who three months earlier took a load of tin pigs (ingots) to the South Riverside (Corona) train depot so that President Benjamin Harrison could pose with it and endorse the endeavor in the local papers. After the President's photo, the pigs were hauled around to other locations for publicity photos to fuel the rumors of productivity.

When the scam began to unravel, Robinson and his conspirator James Crossman, blamed the controversy on the investors not wanting to work with anyone but "Cornishmen." The investors had sent their own managers to the site to see what was going on. Robinson and Crossman were accused of building illusions with shoddy mills without any possibility of enough water to run them. They said they were being shut down by "English capitalists who would rather waste the sweetness in the profound depths..." than to have anyone but an Englishman make a profit. Like a good con-man, they blamed the victim and then said that while they were harvesting tin, they had found some gold and were looking for local, American investors for their next venture.

I don't know if they ever got a pound of tin from the area, but the new managers recovered their money by selling the water rights to the "agriculturists in the vicinity." The most notable of these was Frank Miller, a Civil Engineer in Riverside who built an Inland Empire which included the Mission Inn.

In my late night research, I was looking for active claims in the area, and finding none, annotated the photo of the canyon. Only three of Robinson's 28 shafts are in this canyon. Blue is the creek, red is the main trail, and pink is the side trails. It is a half-mile walk on the dirt road to the trailhead, and another half-mile to trail's end. Now maybe I can get some sleep.

November 22, 2009

Doheney Weekend

We finally got out for more than a day trip. We spent two nights at Doheny State Beach for what we thought was going to be a surfing trip, but a shore break and two-foot surf kept Andy in the sleeping bag texting the weekend away.

Our buddy Mike came out on Saturday for barbecue and some cold ones. Mike was Andy's surfing teacher and we thought they'd get out again, but the conditions were much better for tri-tip, roasted vegetables, escalloped potatoes and adult beverages.

The weather was pretty cold for Southern California standards. It was in the 40's overnight and never got above the mid-sixties during the day. While Andy tended to stay within a car-charger's length of his cellphone, Sherry and I had wonderful walks along the beach, coffee on the jetty and cozy campfires. This was a great trip, even without the surfing, and we're looking forward to a return trip in December.

November 15, 2009

Tin Mine Canyon

The family has been sick since Halloween, so it was great to get out for an early morning hike up Tin Mine Canyon. Andrew spent the night at a buddy's house, so it was just Sherry and I stretching our legs before breakfast.

This canyon is so representative of the Southern California Natural History. We climbed through three distinct habitats. The only downside of the early morning walk was that we really needed a small towel for the morning dew at the rest stops. It is going to be really pretty back there when we finally get some rains and we'll have four or five creek crossings along the hike.

We spent much more time exploring this trip. The first tin mine we encountered had been sealed shut with rocks. The second shaft was a deep horizontal shaft with a sharp right turn after about fifty feet. You can walk up to the portal, but the Forest Service has sealed it shut with heavy iron. The third shaft was way up on the side of a cliff, and like a fool, I risked life and limb climbing up the mine tailings and hugging the side of the cliff so I could get to the portal. Once I got out there, it was another deep horizontal tunnel protected by iron.

I'm hoping we won't tire of hiking in this canyon. It is only ten minutes from home, yet it feels like a million miles from work and the city.

November 11, 2009

Out of Service

Today we closed down the Black Mountain Fire Lookout for the season. It was quite the chore to bring everything down and secure the structure with metal shutters, but the real work is yet to come.

Sometime on the long, bumpy ride down the mountain, a ten-pound ABC fire extinguisher emptied inside my five-foot camper shell. What looks like a carton of eggs is actually a case of water. The inset photo is of my mostly-black drill. The gray upholstery of the shell interior has taken on a jaundiced look, but I'm happy to report that all of the Lookout stuff is cleaning off fairly well.

This is going to take a lot of time to clean up, which makes me wonder if a dry chemical extinguisher for the RV is really the best choice.

November 2, 2009

Death Valley Rendezvous

Andrew and I spent the weekend hanging out with the usual suspects out at Death Valley. This has turned into a twice-a-year rendezvous that is a lot of fun. We're sworn to secrecy on the exact location, but lets just say it is a stone's throw south and east of the park boundary. I forgot to bring a camera, so this old promotional shot and a photo from last Spring's trip will have to do until some of the other campers share their photos.

The natural history of the area is quite stark. Usually the only living things we see are ravens and black flies, but game cameras around our boondock have spotted foxes too so I have to assume there are rodents around. I haven't seen any burrows so they must use the rubble of the  cliffs for shelter. These canyons are remarkable formations of volcanic ash which was inundated by sea water eons ago. Opals can be found in some of the strata. On the top, is desert pavement with lots of volcanic rock and desert rose crystals.

As always, we had a terrific time, and the hospitality of our hosts was remarkable. Thanks guys! And thanks to Jake for sending on this photo of our campsite. We're the little RV on the right.