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Joshua Tree/29 Palms Run Report

Ken Cooke

Explorer Addict
April 18, 2000
Reaction score
City, State
Riverside, California
Year, Model & Trim Level
'03 Rubicon - Tomb Raider
Trip #2 to the Old Dale Mining District for Just Runs was just as much fun as the first. There were lots of nice people with well-equipped vehicles out for a day of fun. While just a few people decided to camp over night, it was still a great time on the trail in the Twentynine Palms/Joshua Tree area.

The Vehicles and their owners were:

Chris Glass - '01 Ford Explorer (a.k.a. "Tijuana Taxi") driving in from Tijuana, Mex.
Ken Cooke - '03 Jeep Wrangler (a.k.a. "Tomb Leader") from Riverside, CA w/friend Marie-Caroline visiting from Chamonix, France.
Jim Brigham - '05 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited of Hemet, CA.
Richard May & Shannon - '04 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon from Irvine, CA.
Michael Hendrick - '94 Jeep Wrangler of Riverside, CA

After meeting up at the Cottonwood Visitors Center at 9 a.m. in the Joshua Tree National Park, and not seeing anyone else from the Just Runs posse, we headed out for the rocky, dusty trail. Once we traveled north to the Old Dale/Black Eagle Mine access road about 5 mi., we were greeted by a BLM-volunteer acquaintance who patrols the backcountry closest to Twentynine Palms, CA. This gave me the opportunity to report on the illegal and illegitimate trail closure of the Black Eagle Mine trail where a large boulder was moved in by bulldozer to block the trail, along with a huge berm of fill dirt. I was told that the BLM would look into this tip since this roadblock was erected on BLM land, and this trail should go through up to the Black Eagle Mine operation.

New Shoes:

Earlier in the week on Nov. 1st., I paid to outfit my Rubicon with some brand-new 33" BFG AT/KOs. Traveling down Dale Road at speeds ranging from 35 m.p.h. and above, I was able to test the lateral traction of these tires against the Interco TrXus MTs I ran for close to two years. Unfortunately, the performance of the BFG AT on the trail lacked substantially behind the Intero TrXus MT. When sliding into a turn at 40 m.p.h., I could feel the rear end let loose much faster than with the TrXus MT. Steering at 45 m.p.h. was quite vague since these meats did not have the large voids between alternating/staggered center-section lugs like the TrXus has. Although I was aired down to 15 p.s.i., the BFGs felt as if they floated across the uneven terrain - an attribute which crosses over to the pavement as well. But, what really struck me was the lack of traction that stunted my progress across the rockier sections of the Brooklyn Mine Jeep Trail which raised my eyebrows and brought on some feelings of buyers remorse.

Brooklyn Mine Jeep Trail:

After our party gathered to go inside of the bat cave near the "Class of '73" Mining Claim, we set foot (or treads) into the rocky wash which used to serve as the sandy path leading to the Brooklyn Mine Jeep Trail. Gravel-coated paths which served the 2WD crowd just fine has recently been replaced with a pile of rocky trails which caused our party to bang our differentials and transfer case skid plates as we got stuck and had to finesse our way through. Although the tallest in our group only ran meager 33" tires with 4" suspension lifts, our progress was slow and steady - similar to a desert tortoise. Mike Hendrick laid his transfer case atop a pesky boulder which halted his progress. When Chris Glass tried to retrieve Mike in the Tijuana Taxi, his route was blocked by tall rocks which would not permit a safe turn-around for the long-wheelbase Explorer. After running up ahead to retrieve my Rubicon, I positioned my rig to pull Mike out. But, thanks to the expertise of Shannon, her rock-stacking, and spotting, Mike was out of there by the time I set the Jeep in 'park.'

Turning around in this boulder-field was a job unto itself. Once my vehicle was pointed in the opposite direction, a group of Land Rover's has moved past me. Two built 'Rovers led a tiny LR4 model up to the Brooklyn Mine Trail. As they attempted to progress to the steep and badly-eroded hillclimb that doubles as a trail for the double-locked crowd, the LR4's wheels spun just as often as this expensive sport 'ute's wheels lifted - with every 1 to 2 feet of progress. It appeared that the torque-sensing differentials were not meant for this terrain, proving that the Brooklyn Mine Jeep Trail is no longer an easy trail for the novice driver. Upon returning to regroup at this same location hours later, there was no sign of our Land Rover group.

The steep hillclimb which takes the visitor past the Los Angeles Mine has been reduced to a hardcore challenge. Uneven sections of trail combined with off-camber, loose dirt and rocks, and a healthy cliff on the driver's side make for a route best left for the expert driver. Combine that with a new washout, threatening to toss vehicle and driver down about 120 feet, and you'll see why we decided to travel along the backside of the Brooklyn Mine Jeep Trail in the lower canyon. Here, sand has been replaced with endless piles of rocks which appear to have been placed at all of the wrong location. Where drivers used to smile and drive easily down the trail, now concentration and proper wheel placement are the rule. Our group required over 1 hour to travel a section of trail which previously took about 15 minutes. But, once we made it to the end of the canyon, it was lunch time at the ruins which served as living quarters for miners who toiled under the hot, desert sun.

After lunch, we loaded up, and returned in the same direction from which we came in. After exiting the mess which used to be a smooth gravel and sand path, we drove high up to view the massive Rose of Peru horizontal mine. With the Pinto Basin framing this magnificent vista, we dropped once again into the wash which previously led our party to Brooklyn Mine, but instead - to the O.K. Mine.

Not O.K.:

Heavy erosion followed our group up from the wash at the start of this breathtaking canyon trail. Leading to superstructures which have been vandalized and burned down in recent years, there is still plenty to see as one imagines this place in the mid 1970s when O.K. used to be in full operation. That was when a safe dirt road provided passage for the full-sized water trucks, trucks pulling travel trailers for the miners to sleep in, and the mining equipment which was used to search for gold. At the end of this trail (we were traveling in backwards from Brooklyn), one must traverse a steep dip which required a small amount of one's attention. That was then. Now, in order to travel past this dip, one must have adequate approach and departure angles on their vehicle, a locking differential for traction on the return out, and perhaps a spotter to make sure you don't flop on your side if you don't make it through correctly. Thankfully, we had Shannon on-board, and her spotting techniques which were firmed up at the Johnson Valley Hammers just a week prior to this run, gave her the confidence to get our party through without incident. Our longest vehicle in the group was Chris' Tijuana Taxi.

Built for the dusty backroads of Baja, Mexico with family in tow, Chris has made extensive modifications to his Ford Explorer. Though it retains the Independent Front Suspension, Chris disconnects the sway bar to provide an additional measure of wheel travel. His custom-built winch bumper provides a stout location for his Milemarker 9,000# winch, while his Perry's Fab & Fiber-built rocker guards and one-off swing-out tire system locates his Jerry can and QuickAir CO2 in an easy to reach location.

Chris provided our group with a spectacle as he maneuvered his Maroon beast through this dip, causing his front license plate to pop off of its' fairlead mount. Nervously, Chris made it through like a champ.

After crossing this obstacle, the day was beginning to wear thin. It was 3 p.m., and we had approximately 1 hour to cross the O.K. Mine Trail before reaching Gold Crown Road. Unfortunately, our train was stopped cold by a good-sized washout preventing further travel. Tons of loose sand and sharp rocks had slid down the hill from one of the tight locations high above the canyon. Figuring that any mistake would spell disaster for our party, we sucked it up, and turned it around. Now, our party would have to ascend the the opposite side of the "dip" which a majority of our vehicles simply slid down. Would the locked rigs have to strap out the open Jeeps? Would my mild All-Terrains leave me high and dry without a reason why? Would Marie-Caroline have the words in French to describe the walk back to the Ranger station? Good question.

Easing up to the "dip", and with both lockers selected, it was a steep climb, but the "Tomb Leader" made it out. Next up was the "Tijuana Taxi". Chris slowly drove into this open-earth ditch, and like a wild-man, powered his way out with all available horses under the hood. Next were Mike, Jim, and then, Richard. Our team made it out - and with plenty of raw thunder in our ears and dust in our eyes! This section of trail capped off a great day of four wheeling in the Old Dale Mining District.

The Campout:

After returning to Old Dale Road and climbing into the mountainous mining district, we said our goodbye's as Chris followed my silver Rubi down the precipitous path on our way to the Golden Egg Mine. Set above the San Bernardino Wash, and far below the lurking eyes of anyone on the prowl, we were in our very own world with a view of the Pinto Basin to the South. A faint foot path across the canyon lead burro and man to the Mission Well for water and supplies, while a series of horizontal and verticle shafts provides hours of splunking entertainment! Chris brought along his new mineral-finding apparatus while I supplied the hard, desert Trance music that we listened to late into the evening. It was a great time, and I truly cannot wait to return for another run into the Old Dale Mining District. And our friend from the French Alps? "Magnifique!" was the word Marie used to described this authentic backcountry experience before shipping off to Las Vegas.

Look for pictures to be posted along with a link...

-Ken Cooke

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Thanks again for leading a great trip! I really love that area & can't wait to go again.

Here we are lined up & ready to hit the trail, then a shot of Ken's cool Rubicon with those new girly-man tires :D & one of my new CO2 tank mounted on the swing out tire carrier bumper.

The tank worked great & aired up Ken's & my tires in record time. I'm used to my little TruckAir compressor & waiting 7-8 minutes per tire, so to do both trucks in the time it used to take to just do one tire was great.


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These next ones show the jeep that got it's diff caught on a rock & highlifting it up to stack rocks which let him back off, and Marie from France having fun in the desert.


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Here is the deep washout we crossed. From my window it looked like it just dropped straight off :eek:

Coming up the other side it looks like I scooped up a bunch of rocks, but the only thing to hit was my front license plate; which I keep forgeting to take off when wheeling. It's getting pretty bent up now :)

I sure am happy with the new bumper, if i had hit that with the stock one, it would have been ugly!


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One thing I did different this time was only airing down to 22 lbs. Last time, I went down to 14/15 & it exposed too much sidewall & I cut one.

The Xterrains did a great job this time & even at 22lbs. they gripped great & pulled my heavy rig up over everything we came to. Here you can see how the big lugs grab & pull over rocks.

This is the shack where we stopped for lunch & I got to play with my WalMart Rock Crawler :D


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We camped for the night next to this cool old mine. The next morning, I tried out my new metal detector but I only found nails & pipes & old car parts.

I guess I'll have to wait till next time to strike it rich :D


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The next day, we went to all the cool Joshua Tree tourist stops & took it easy. If you get the chance, you should check out this area. The trails are not crowded & the wheeling is a blast!

I hope Ken gets some of his pictures posted as he took beter ones than I did.


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CG said:
Here we are lined up & ready to hit the trail, then a shot of Ken's cool Rubicon with those new girly-man tires :D

Girly-man is right. Those tires suck compared to the TrXus MT on rocks. Its too bad I have to drive 85 mi. roundtrip to work and back each day, or I'd still be running the TrXus MT. :thumbdwn: :thumbdwn: :thumbdwn:

I've been too busy to post all of my pictures, but here are a few. More will come soon...I promise!

Here's the steep ditch we had to dip into and climb out of. It was so steep! Good thing there wasn't snow, or we'd still be there!

They just don't make dust like this in France, and Marie LOVED it! If she moved out west, she'd drive a rockcrawler for sure!!!

Chris playing with his Scorpion rock crawler at Brooklyn Mine shack:

Here we are playing around inside of an actual bat cave! That's Chris way in the back wearing the GrOoVy ****tail-hour shirt, Marie (from the French Alps) is wearing the baseball cap, Shannon has on the hoodie and she can spot real good! Mike H. has his arms crossed, and can you find Jim???

Here we are 'Checking Our Maps' LOL!:

Here's a nice 'Before' picture of Chris' rig. His son Noeh is in the center, and you can see the stock CHROME trucker bumpers are still intact. That junk wouldn't have survived the short drive TO the trailhead of Brooklyn Mine! Remember those Land Rovers??? HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! :roll:


Cool write up Ken! Thanks for sharing and the pics!


Thanks for the nice words. It was a great event and I can't wait to return again...

Here's a pic of Chris Glass (on the right) and my friend Mike:


Getting ready for breakfast at Farmer Boys in Riverside:


Chris' long wheelbase made all the difference:


Thats it... East Coast is boring....someone find me an Investment Firm out there, im gonna move there when i graduate ;)

slravene said:
Thats it... East Coast is boring....someone find me an Investment Firm out there, im gonna move there when i graduate ;)

My favorite part about the East Coast was partying in Miami Beach. But, you guys don't have MEXICO for 'wheeling, etc. That's why I live here and not in Miami...

Baja, Mexico:

dont get me wrong...i LOVE north and south carolina, but the scenery out west is just amazing compared to over here.

slravene said:
dont get me wrong...i LOVE north and south carolina, but the scenery out west is just amazing compared to over here.
youve got that right, unbeatable. looked like an amazing trip