If you haven’t noticed by now, I tend to not shut up about Joshua Tree National Park’s, Coxcomb Mountain Range. It is without a doubt my favorite place in the National Park, and for several reasons. For one, I have never encountered another human on my expeditions. Two, it is by far the most beautiful mountain range in the area, with its cartoon like granite formations that change color depending on the time of day. Third, there is history speckled throughout, most of which was insufficiently recorded, and forgotten in time.
The Longhunt Mine (sometimes called Long Hunt 1 & 2) is a perfect example of a place in the Coxcombs that has been forgotten. Longhunt was located in the 1880’s by an unknown prospector. This prospector in turn sold the claim to a gentleman, who began working the claim, and constructed a stone cabin, and camp. Unfortunately for this gentleman, he was hit by a vehicle, rendering him mentally impaired.
In 1931, “Chuckwalla” Frank Webb and “Granite” Nick Molitor believe that they rediscovered the claim, they found a badly constructed stone hut, and mining tools in a nearby wash. Webb and Molitor filed on the claim, and in December they delivered their first truck of ore from the Longhunt Mine to the Selby Smelter in San Fransisco. The gold was assayed at $65 – $850 per ton.
Unfortunately that is the only small fraction of history that we know about the Longhunt Mine. The two men, “Chuckwalla” and “Granite,” have no further mention in the historical research that I’ve been able find. The Longhunt, lost to time.
I decided that it was time to track down the Longhunt Mine, to see what remained of this long-gone gold mining claim. My trek began along a wilderness boundary on the east side of the range, and took me up a wide wash filled with cholla cactus, cat claw, and creosote. It was only mid-January, and because of the winter rains the creosote had already began to flower with their pretty little yellow flowers. It didn’t take long before I began finding rusty mining equipment, and cans strung through the wash. Like, “Chuckwalla” and “Grante,” following these old relics would hopefully lead me to Longhunt, the same place they had sought out some one hundred years prior.
Just a few short miles, and I was standing in front of the towering, jagged granite peaks. I had intended to shoot straight up the canyon that I suspected the Long Hunt Mine to be hidden in, but before I could do so, I noticed what appeared to be stone ruins on an adjacent hill. Approaching the stone ruins, I could see that the area around it was littered with rusty relics from a by-gone era. The stone cabin ruins were barely recognizable. A stone wall built between some larger boulders, if it wasn’t for the rotting door frame, I would have mistaken it for nothing more than a stone wall. But there it was in front of me, the ruins of the Longhunt Cabin.
On the hillside beside the cabin there was a tram cable, with a short switch back trail leading up. Venturing up the old trail I came across what I believe to have either been a lunch pail or tool box. It was beaten to hell and back, but a cool find. At the top of the hill, the tram cable was tied off on a boulder, and the trail continued above the wash that I had intended to first go up. I followed it around a few bends, then down into the wash, and back up the other side of the wash. I could now see the Longhunt Mine in the distance, with another tram cable leading out from it. Unfortunately the adit was collapsed, the wood support beams crushed under rock that had fallen from a surface cut above. In the wash below was a beaten up metal ore chute. I had found the Longhunt Mine, but it was in shambles.
Wondering how far the tram cable went, I followed it down canyon until I reached a good one-hundred foot dry fall. I could see the end of the tram cable hundreds of feet away on a ledge overlooking the deep gorge. I managed to link back up with the trail that I had previously been on, it wrapped around the gorge over to the end of tram cable. Near the end of the cable, the pulley system was still attached to the cable. I peered down into the gorge below, spotting the tram bucket that at one time had been attached by a hook to the pulley.
I continued down the trail out of the canyon, then went into the gorge to check out the ore bucket. The bucket was not what I had expected, but way cooler! It was a total D.I.Y. poor man’s version of an ore bucket, a metal barrel rigged with a swinging hook system. A little further up the gorge I found a fully intact wheelbarrow with a metal wheel. The wheelbarrow I’ve been able to date to having been made in/around 1910.
While the ruins of the Longhunt Mine are not extensive, they are unique. The history of the site, a puzzle, missing most of the pieces. But nevertheless may the Longhunt Mine live on through this story, and photographs.