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Part One: My History
"Dude! This is too awesome. I can't believe this place." I don't know how many times we said that, but we said it many times that day. Sitting with our cold wet feet up next to the warmest fire I could ever imagine, I spent the next hour reading past entries in a journal I found laying on the table. The cabin was ours for the taking. Life was good.
Life was looking pretty dismal a few hours earlier while on the trail. We had begun our hike shortly after Sunrise. 10 miles was the expected distance but when all was said and done, we hiked just shy of seven miles. Those were some of the longest miles I had ever seen. My pack felt way to heavy and making it up the waterfalls was quite a task. I made it and pushed on to the next check-point.
Limekiln Spring is a lush oasis flowing out of the mountainside. If you follow the hidden path back into the spring, you may think you've been transported to a Hawaiian rain-forest. I wasn't sure if I could make it any further, so I decided to jettison my tent and a few bottles of water.
Brewery Spring was our next check-point. We knew we were near when we had half flowing and half frozen water once again on the trail. I knew we were more than half way to Panamint City.
Panamint City was considered one of the roughest mining towns in California. The Panamint Mining District was started in 1873 by a united group of prospectors who scoured the Panamint Mountains for the riches of the earth. Not that they were all outlaws as some say, but many of her early inhabitants were shady characters who were none too interested in the rest of civilization and it's laws.
It was this history and the many old photographs I had seen that fired a burning desire to find that old mining camp. Today, along with my Brother-in-Law, Shawn, we would make it to Panamint City.
I had made many hikes in Anza Borrego Desert State Park and in the eastern Sierras and Shawn had mentioned how he would like to come along on my next trip. I knew just where we would go. After many years of a trip to that little ghost-camp being put to the back burner of my mind, it's time had just come to a boil.
We continued our up-hill push and sometimes we would catch a glimpse of snow on the mountain peaks ahead of us. It was the Winter of 1998 and it was El-Nino season. We soon began to see more snow and
as the canyon opened out before us, the whole canyon was covered in what a Southern Californian would consider, a whole lot of snow.
I remember seeing little stone foundations here and there as we continued our assent up the trail. I stopped to rest on a old metal barrel and contemplated the fact that this trail never once leveled off. In the distance I saw what looked like chimney of some sort. It was silhouetted by the snow covered mountain, I knew we had to be close.
We started on the trail again but found ourselves moving very slow. The snow was 12-14 inches deep and there were drifts that had to be over two feet deep.. Every step took great amounts of effort, and that chimney never seemed to get any closer.
The day was cool and Sunny with not a cloud in the sky. I was so busy watching my next step that I hardly noticed that we had almost made it to the chimney and I could now also see a modern day mill site on the hillside behind it. I was more concerned with the next big rise of the trail. All I could think was it looked like a mini Mt. Everest. Sure it only rose about twenty feet , but in the condition I was in, it might as well be twenty thousand feet.
As I crested the top. I froze in my tracks. "Shawn, there are houses up here. I hope we don't get shot as trespassers." I could make out a good sized garage along with a nice looking house across the road from it and a few more cabins on the surrounding hillside.
We tip toed up to the front door and stood for a while and just listened for any movement from inside. After a moment I knocked on the door. No answer, I tried the door, it was unlocked. Taking a deep breath, I opened the door and went inside.
What we saw, appeared to be a lived in home, but upon further examination, we found that it was in-fact, a back country cabin that was maintained for the use of whoever wanted to use it. The cabin had a fully stocked kitchen and bathroom with, of all things, running water! Even the shower worked. The instructions for lighting the water heater were nearby. The bedroom had a full size bed and there were a few small bunks in the main room. The wood burning stove had a full complement of dry wood.
Well, we lit some of that wood and pulled some chairs up to the fire and found our cold, wet bodies, slowly drying out.
As night slowly approached, we made dinner, got our beds in order and spent the rest of the night reading journal entries. I'm sure the last thing I said before falling into much needed sleep was "Dude! This is too awesome. I can't believe this place."
PART 2 COMING SOON