I had been mesmerized by one of my older colleague's treasure hunting stories and tales of exploring the plethora of local abandoned mines. So, on the occasion of an open invitation to join his group on such an excursion out to one of them that he had not yet visited, I eagerly signed up to go along. Our group consisted of other gentlemen who were either members of, or connected to our industry in some way; all of them ranging from their early forties to their mid to late-fifties, leaving me as the youngest at a spry, 37 years old. (So, what I am telling you is that this was no Seal Team maneuver, but rather a bunch of middle-aged guys that my very influential colleague had convinced to go on an adventure)!
As it was an open invitation, I asked my friend and neighbor, "Death-Wish Donnie" to join us, as he had spent a fair amount of time in the desert racing motorcycles and quads, never letting a broken bone or two spoil a good day out. This brought our group to six people divided among three vehicles, a Toyota pick-up, a Ford Explorer and Donnie's burly old 1-ton Chevy that he called "Fred". I left my 4X4 Dakota at home, a nod to Donnie's greater experience off-roading and well, he insisted on driving.
Richard our leader, had announced that our destination was the Lucy Grey Mine which was located near the Nevada-California state line near the small town of Nipton. Richard, along with Jay in the Toyota, led the way southbound on the 1-15, Followed by Rick and Lee in the Explorer and Donnie and myself last in line, in "Fred". We followed our party down the freeway, across the state line and then exited on to the Nipton Highway heading east. Upon reaching the tiny town of Nipton. We turned left on to a dirt road which ran back roughly north, parallel to some railroad tracks. After a few miles and upon coming into view of a railroad siding with a residence (on the map, aptly named "Desert California"), Richard turned us on to a rough dirt trail which headed roughly northeast towards the lower end of the McCullough mountains.
After a time of bumping along, we came to a place in the trail where we were beset by a phalanx of options, in the form of multiple trails branching out before us. As we stood outside the vehicles looking about and considering our possible routes ahead; I noticed a tunnel dug into a hill to our right, on an elevation a bit higher-up than the valley floor. Richard instantly declared that we should check it out, and soon we were scrambling up to it!
Upon reaching the tailings pile outside of the portal, one of the guys remarked that they thought they could make-out large cat tracks disappearing into the tunnel. Looking at the evidence, I was dubious; but before I could say anything, Richard exclaimed that "we were going in" and then produced from his shirt pocket a pathetically small .22 revolver! "Death-wish" was right there with him and in they went, soon followed by Jay and still in disbelief, myself!
There I was, following three flashlights ahead of me, knowing that they were carrying a gun so small that it would probably just further piss-off a mountain lion whose den had just been intruded upon. This was also my first mine experience and as I walked along with my light, I pondered my situation. Three guys in adrenaline-junky mode in front of me .... , possibly facing disaster with a .22 and two older, rather portly fellows between me and the ever-receding light back at the portal; "Not smart Russell" I said to myself. Not wishing to "spoil the moment", I slowed to a point where a visibly reluctant Rick and Lee caught up with me, at which point I dropped to a knee and said "go ahead fellas, gotta tie my shoe". There were some comments under their breath, but upon their moving by I figured that my odds had improved greatly as a mountain lion would now have five meals before it would even think about going after the last guy who now had a clear run to the portal!
Happily, the tunnel came to an abrupt end maybe 200 feet in, with only a "ferocious" desert mouse nest at the end to be seen. Once back outside, we decided on one of the center trails and drove onward. Not much further down the trail we came upon a forlorn, old cabin. We again dismounted from our vehicles, anxious inspect it closer. Richard immediately put the fear of God in us concerning "Hanta Virus", which would no doubt be present due to desert rodents. Suitable caution so apportioned, we walked around and then inside the remarkably intact old cabin. You could tell it had be similarly visited over the years, but had not been too disrespected, or appear to be ransacked. There was even a newspaper on an endtable next to the couch dated 1964.
John, who runs the Vegas Underworld site has been to Lucy Grey a number of times since my last visit and has posted some great pictures to see. Unfortunately he also reports that the mine has been sealed and sadly, the mysteries not yet solved by us, never will be. I hope that you enjoy my older photos; who knows, someone out there may have some that are older yet!
By the time we made it back out to the mine site it was November and we again brought three vehicles. This time Donnie brought "Fred" and my daughter Whitney (9) rode with him, while I drove my Dakota accompanied by my oldest daughter Stephanie (13) and my son Derek (7). Our third vehicle was another Toyota pick-up driven by Donnie's work-buddy Mario who had been intrigued by Donnie's description of our first Lucy Grey trip. While we skipped the infamous "cougar tracks and a .22 tunnel", we repeated the previous stop at the cabin and then (just as Donnie predicted) we drove all the way to the Lucy Grey work level!
Upon reaching the plateau, we were met by a scene of carnage; on the left of the plateau was a partially destroyed camp trailer which some surmised, must have served as an office or quarters in the mines later-day activities. Behind and further to its left extending back down the hill, was a debris field covered with the remains of old equipment, wooden staves which probably once formed the perimeter of a holding tank and other items strewn about as though once victims of an explosion. Upon the old trailer was spray painted in big red letters the name "Stan" along with a Nevada area code phone number.
As dismal as that scene was, we were heartened to see that to the right of the old trailer was an intact, and rustic looking miners shack with a tall headframe peaking over top of it from behind. The door proved to be unlocked and we ventured inside to find a very spartan area with the only notable feature being a closet, which upon inspection held an old pair of overalls that appeared to have been left there yesterday.
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We returned to Lucy Grey in early 1999. It was an "El Nino" year and winter rains had devastated the trail up to the main level. Donnie had gotten an old CJ5 by this time and being Donnie, had to try the trail anyway but broke down about half way up. After we repaired his Jeep (now dubbed "Mayday") we parked near the old deuce and a half and hiked up to do a group inspection. Sadly we found the headworks to be down and the site to have been generally disrespected by other visitors since our last trip.
Jay had tired of the cabin experience and had already moved on down the trail ahead of us on foot. We soon too moved along on foot as the condition of the trail had caused Rick to worry about causing trail damage to his factory-stock Explorer. In minutes we got a radio call from Jay that he believed that he thought that he had found the mine site. Richard rushed forward, with us hot on his heels. Indeed, Jay had (by Richard's confirming-proclamation) found the Lucy Grey site.
A few feet above the wash that we had been hiking along, Jay had taken-up position next to an old abandoned military deuce and a half dump truck that had been painted yellow for its new life at the mine some time back. Next to the truck, snaking upward and to our left was a trail with remnants of the former mine operation chaotically scattered on the left (west) side of it. At the top, maybe a quarter mile up, we could make out a plateau which surely must had been the center of the operation. As I hiked upward with Donnie, he was scornful of the others trepidation over driving further and informed me that we could have easily driven this trail all the way to the top.
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The overalls were still there to see hanging in the shacks closet and we more closely checked out the hoist equipment adjacent to the headframe this time. Then we took another look at the foreboding, two-compartment vertical behind the shack. More attempts at soundings with rocks dropped into its depths proved as fruitless as last time, as did a cyalume stick, which just faded from view as it fell into a seemingly endless abyss. Donnie had one last idea which was to drop a smoke bomb down the shaft in an effort to see if it was in some way connected to the inclined shaft on the level above. We dropped it down and waited ...... and waited ....... and waited. We had all but given up when about 20 minutes later we observed colored smoke rising from the inclined shaft!
With some sense of accomplishment, we got back in the trucks and drove back down into the wash to get a better look around the rest of the area. Then working our way into another wash a bit south of the one we had been in, Mario's Toyota became high-centered on a large boulder which was mostly buried in the wash. We extricated him from his predicament and then we climbed a trail to a spot where we had to get out and continue on foot along an old burro trail, making note of some audits to check out on some future visit as by now daylight was becoming an issue. There was to be one more moment of note, as on the way out Mario embarrassingly got high-centered on the same boulder again. It was a brief stuck, but was enough to earn Mario a red face and for the now scarred boulder to be forever known as "The Mario Stone"!
We made one more trip in 1996, this one on December 14th, my sons eighth birthday. We wanted to check out the audits that we had seen in the side canyon on our previous trip and to take some more pictures. We took a couple of pictures of the cabin interior and a nearby inclined shaft before we pressed on, laughing once again as we crossed over the now infamous "Mario Stone" and slowly climbed to the spot where we parked and began hiking the burro trail. We came to an audit that had a 10 foot deep vertical pit in front of the opening which prevented us from entering the tunnel; or so I thought.. .... Before I knew it, Donnie had taken a running jump over the pit and into the opening! He switched on his light and disappeared inside, but only for seconds as he soon reappeared expressing his disappointment about the tunnel only extending back a few feet.
I was already not too happy that "Uncle Donnie" had done something so dangerous in front of the kids, but now it was worse as it soon became apparent that he did not have room to get a run sufficient to jump back out! I was trying to conjugate some statement about his predicament when the kids just let him have it, scolding him thoroughly! We soon decided that we would have to dig some toe-holds around one side, and tossed him one of our hand-shovels. He dug from his side and I dug from our side, soon creating a means for him to return to safety. He heard about that stunt all the way back out of the side canyon.
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Lucy Grey Mine 1996 - 1999.
Our attention soon wandered back outside and immediately behind the shack; there, beneath the headframe and framed in a wooden collar, was a two-compartment vertical shaft. One side of the shaft had a ladder extending downward into the darkness, the other side was clear, presumably for hoisting. The book of Clark County mines published in 1939 indicated that this shaft was 300 feet deep with horizontal workings at the one, two and three hundred foot marks. Richard called for quiet and dropped a few rocks to take a sounding; several tries did not produce a report and we surmised that the mine had been additionally worked in the intervening years and was probably now far in excess of the depth measurements indicated in the 1939 review. We walked about a bit more and discovered another vertical on a higher plateau, this one running a slanted course downward. But soon hungry bellies and the fading February daylight had us packing it back to the vehicles. Donnie and I quietly agreed to soon return on our own.