February 15, 2008

Burro Schmidt

I learned a bit of local history today. Back in the days when the major industry out here was gold mining, some guy with a claim out in Last Chance Canyon near Ridgecrest decided it was too much work and too dangerous to take his ore to the smelter in Mojave over the ridge on his two burros. So he spent thirty-eight years hand-carving a tunnel with a four-pound jackhammer through the mountain instead. Even after the railroad and a highway were built, he kept on making the tunnel.

This is an astonishing amount of work to even contmeplate. The guy levelled the floor of the tunnel (so you can run an ore cart on the tracks) using a bowl of water and his only light was a two-cent candle. In the process of building the tunnel, he removed sixty tons of granite, gold, iron, quartz, and other metallic ores, and because he used only the natural rock (mostly granite), he would not allow himself to try to pull out any of the gold or other ores from the veins he came across.

The Google Earth coordinates are 35° 24' 37.55" north, 117° 52' 26.80" west. I don't know if the idea of walking through a half-mile long tunnel is anyone's idea of a good time, but it's there and apparently quite safe to walk through.

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