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Death Valley Trails to Chloride City, by Del Albright (continued from Page 1)

Monarch Canyon
Del Albright
Monarch Canyon

"Cousin Jack"
Del Albright
Checking out a "Cousin Jack"

Del Albright
The remains of a "Cousin Jack"

On our recent trip, we could see plenty of mining evidence as we made our way up to Chloride City. I recommend starting your journey from Daylight Pass. We turned off of Nevada Hwy 374 about three miles down from the summit going towards Death Valley proper. The National Park Service put a Jeep-type sign indicating "4x4 high-clearance vehicles only" right where we left the pavement. The road turned to dirt here, and we pulled over to air down.

Desert flowers, creosote and a few cacti graced our travel as we continued on about three miles to our first turn to the right on a good dirt road. This is the Monarch Canyon Road, and it is worth the less-than-one-mile detour to an awesome view of a beautiful, rocky, deep canyon. It's a dead-end road, so after a few pictures of the view, we turned around and headed back to the Chloride Road.

There were a couple places where the Jeep bounced over a few rocks in the road, but nothing serious. A few of the drivers in my group put their rigs in four-wheel drive just to eliminate tire spin and make the road a little smoother. I'd say this road is more about airing down than worrying about four-wheel drive. We chose 20 pounds tire pressure to soften our ride and reduce our impact on the road.

A half-mile short of Chloride City, we made our only other turn, to the right, and headed up the final hill to town. Dust was a bit thick in the air now, as a desert breeze had picked up. But it was all worth it. As we crested the hill and could see the remains of Chloride City high on the cliffs above Death Valley, a feeling of old time west came over us. It was almost eerie. I stood there thinking that in this place, it must not be uncommon to share a breath of desert air with ghosts of times gone by.

The hillsides around Chloride were scattered with the remains of mining gear, Cousin Jacks, (a term used to describe a dwelling with three walls and a portion of it being either underground or with a cave/mine tunnel at the rear), old cars and foundations. Tin cans were abundant and a few buildings were still standing. We could tell it had been a rough-and-tumble place in its day.

On top of one of the surrounding ridgelines, we parked and walked to what I nicknamed the crystal caves -- interlinking caves mined out for the Chloride crystals that line the cave walls. It reminded me of something out of a Disneyland ride -- nearly artificial in appearance and real to the touch. Below the caves we could see a stamp mill and old time pipe, along with mining debris from the turn of the century.

The wind picked up pretty good towards midday, so we convoyed down to where the main part of town once stood and had lunch near the only remaining gravesite of one James McKay. You can still find it.

After lunch, my group got the four-wheel drive bug, so we negotiated a few good rocks down a gully into a side canyon that lead to more buildings and mining relics. The cabin here was fairly intact. Yet it was still hard to imagine being stuck up on this mountain in the late 1800s. For that matter, I didn't want to get stuck up there at all! So we reversed our route and headed home after a great road trip to the "Rim of Hell" where the "City of Gold" never really came to be.

Del Albright

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