Monday, December 6, 2010

The El Pasos - Day 2

I woke up early. I was too cold to sleep well and the light was just beginning show through the tent. I dressed in the semi-darkness and stepped out into the faint light. I glanced over at my buddy's tent, no sound or sign of life was coming from it.

As I didn't want to wake him up, I decided to wait and make coffee after shooting the sunrise,

As desert sunrises tend to be, it was truly beautiful. As most photographs tend to do, this didn't do it justice.

A short drive from our campsite brought us to a place called Bickel Camp. Bickel Camp is an old mining camp that was run by a man named Walt Bickel.

He, like Burro Schmidt, lived and mined in the area for years. After Bickel passed, his son lived at the camp for a number of years before moving on. Some time later, a non-profit corporation was formed by some locals who obtained the mining claim. They hired a caretaker and, as a result, the camp is pretty much as Walt Bickel left it.

The current caretaker is a man named Mark. Mark greeted us as we pulled up and told us his story. He has been mining in the area on a part-time basis since he was a young boy.

Mark was a most gracious host. He knew Walt Bickel and has spent a lot of time maintaining and cleaning up Bickel Camp. Mark answered a ton of questions, Ben and I are inquisitive by nature. Mark also let me take pictures of him and of everything in the camp.

Mark also took the time to show Ben how to pan. Mark, like every other miner I've ever met, made it look easy. Ben struggled, but may someday get the hang of it.

The two larger flecks seen in the center of the picture are gold. This was panned from sand taken somewhere on the Bickel claim. When gold was $250 an ounce, there wasn't much interest in mining this area. Now that spot is right at $1300 an ounce, new claims are popping up throughout the El Pasos.

Most of the equipment Walt used to work this claim is still here. Some of it he made, some was bought. An early miner had to know a lot about many things. Geology and heavy equipment maintenance were just a few.

It would appear that miners liked canned food. It had a long shelf life and required no refrigeration. It could also be cooked and eaten from the can, cutting back on the number of dishes that needed to be washed. Water had to be brought in, the only well on the site was heavily laden with arsenic and was to alkali to even wash with.

Mark showed us this vial of gold as we left. As is the miner's norm, he wouldn't say where exactly it was mined from or how long it took to amass this amount. I have found that miners tend to be elusive about the details of their work.

After leaving Bickel Camp, we came across an abandoned talc mine. It was run by a cleanser company, one that I had never heard of.

There isn't much left, just some massive holes in the earth.

After leaving the Talc mine, we took a trail called the Bonanza and worked our way out to the highway. I had driven past the trail-head dozens of times over the years and had always wondered what was back in those mountains. Now I know.

The beautiful sunrise was surpassed only by the sunset. I snapped this as I was airing up.

What a great trip.

Thanks for reading,


  1. Wow fantastic trip :D!!! Looks like you had an amazing time!


  2. It was an amazing time. As much as I enjoy it though, I know that I wouldn't want to live as mark does. Just a little too remote for me.

    Thanks for commenting Jax.

  3. Great trip. Thanks for taking us along.

    Would you like a question to make a blog entry around? I've got one:

    I'm sure you've read (or even been involved with) stories that start out, "They went out for a short drive with one bottle of water between them and nothing else. They didn't tell anyone where they were going or when they would be back. After their jeep got stuck miles away from the highway..." How does your knowledge of how people get in trouble affect your preparedness for a trip?

  4. Thanks for sharing Capt. Schmoe! Always a pleasure to read your posts. The photo with all the cans of food is just fantastic. The rusty cans blend quite well with the background.