Off the Beaten Path to Inspiration Mountain (5,575')
Inspiration Mountain and Keys View are visible across the Coachella Valley at my parents' Rancho Mirage home to the south. So I wondered about the route from this side.
Here, the Colorado River Aqueduct skirts the southern boundary of Joshua Tree National Park. Maps show an old jeep track leading to the abandoned Hidden Gold Mine (how aptly named!), still thousands of feet below the crest of the ridge.
Before dawn, I drove north from I-10 on Ramon, then left onto Thousand Palms Canyon Rd after five miles. This road leads past the Coachella Valley Preserve in two miles, a nice stop to see palm oases and the elusive desert pupfish up close. But not today. Beyond at the junction with the Dillon Road, two tracks continue. The first ends directly ahead. I took the one to the right that angles to the northeast, the still paved aqueduct access road.
This road is fine for passenger cars. It passes several illegal trash dumpings, turns to dirt and bears east-southeast behind the named local promontory of Fan Hill. At its end in five miles is a large concrete water structure, about which are strewn thousands of shotgun shells. And the obligatory shot-up home appliance targets. This is where the CV boys like to play with their toys. Half a mile before the deadend is a faint track leading north towards the wilderness boundary. Within a hundred yards, further progress on the track is barred by an NPS fence.
I hiked the jeep track beyond the fence. It eventually traces a wash along the eastern edge of the broad draw. At three miles, it passes through a narrows, turning northwest past a steel cable meant to block vehicle access (old NPS boundary). At four miles, I turned north into a prominent canyon on a subsidiary track. Faint OHV tracks were evident, probably about two years old. Two miles from the turn off, I passed a 7.5 min topo BM 3585 ft, then a right fork to the end of track in the wash at 3880 ft. Few signs of mining are evident, but for a small graded flat. A stone arrow in the wash points in the direction of the diggings in a small side canyon.
I scrambled up a loose and sketchy slope to the true site of the mine at 4300 ft elevation (the mine is higher and east of where designated on the topo map). First, scattered beams appear, then a shallow adit, and finally two deep horizontal shafts. A cable anchor is overhead. Both openings were small with questionable shoring. I declined to enter. Shortly above is the ridge north to Keys View. I ascended and found a pleasant faint miners' trail leading along the ridge top to the overlook. Keys View was grand, but with the frigid windchill no visitors were about.
I then hiked west to Inspiration Mtn to sign the old summit register. My last visit had been in 1991. Afterwards, I descended the ridge from nearby Point 5559. This went well. As the steep slope nears the wash above the mine track, I dropped to the north side on better footing for the last hundred feet. I settled in the wash at 4200 ft, just below an obvious but passable dry waterfall. Once again on the track, I retraced my earlier approach.
Roundtrip stats: 14 miles, 4200 feet gain.
Mine turnoff at 3880 feet, 33deg 55.268min N, 116deg 11.700min W (WGS-84)
Mine shafts at 4300 feet, 33deg 55.302min N, 116deg 11.549min W (WGS-84)