Joshua Tree: Mud, Rocks, & Hi Speed Pre-Running! | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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Joshua Tree: Mud, Rocks, & Hi Speed Pre-Running!

Ken Cooke

Explorer Addict
April 18, 2000
Reaction score
City, State
Riverside, California
Year, Model & Trim Level
'03 Rubicon - Tomb Raider

The Just Runs gang had a wonderful time at the Old Dale Mining District - located in the BLM land just outside of Joshua Tree National Park. Nine vehicles and twelve participants traveled the numerous mining trails that crisscross the hills that led to so many dreams and so much misery.

In attendance on this run were:

Morris - in his Mercedez Benz Unimog
Mike and Vicki - in their clean Suzuki Samauri
Ken Rice - in his Wrangler Sahara
Mike Hendrick - in his '94 Wrangler YJ
Chris Glass - in his '01 Ford Explorer
Ken Cooke - in my '03 Wrangler Rubicon (Tomb Raider edition)
Dana and Raffi - in Dana's Diesel Toyota Land Cruiser
Charlie and Carmen - in daughters Wrangler Rubicon
Kay - in her turbo Toyota 4 Runner

Our group met at the I-10 reststop in Whitewater, CA - just a few miles beyond the towering Morongo Casino and Hotel. After looking over Morris' Unimog, and talking trails and mines with mining buff Charlie, we all loaded into our vehicles and headed for Twentynine Palms. Approximately 45 minutes later, we arrived at the rendezvous point of Adobe Rd. and Hwy 62 where we met up with Mike and Vicki, Dana and his friend Raffi, and Morris - who left early...With a top speed of 45 m.p.h., could you blame him for leaving early?

After noticing that Kay's Toyota was seriously low on motor oil due to a leaky gasket, we filled the engine and departed for Gold Crown Road. After passing Gold Crown Road, we backtracked, and once we reached the turnoff, we all aired down and disconnected.

The Run:

Arriving at the Gold Crown Rd. trailhead was much more difficult than ever thanks to the theft of the street signs which marked this well-known desert avenue on north as well as south on Hwy 62. Could it have been Eco-Environmentalists, angry neighbors, or desert pranksters we'll never know. We simply observed the U.S. Park Service bulletin board tossed in the dirt with no metal street signs anywhere to be found. After departing from the trailhead, we enjoyed an easy cruise on recently graded dirt trail. We were able to quickly make our way to 'The Bump' where many of us tested our vehicles traction capabilities on a seemingly innocent mogul hill. The longer-wheelbase vehicles had no problem walking up the 6 foot face, while the SWB bobtails lifted tires and scrambled for traction. I took several photographs of our vehicles on this obstacle, and I hope you enjoy viewing them as much as I had clicking the digital shutter in the 95 degree weather.

Duplex Mine Trail:

Several of our us decided to travel the trail up past the abandonded Studebakers to Duplex Mine. Once atop this narrow mining trail, unparalleled vistas of the Pinto Basin and the nearby Chocolate Mountains made us forget all of the steep sections of trail we had to traverse.

"Sand Pit":

Due to recent rains, the "Sand Pit" was packed with oozing, smelly mud. To travel into the pit of mud would certainly invite possible disaster with tires that would pack up and muddy shoes and socks. I drove into the pit in 2WD and stopped in the middle. With Interco's TrXus MT, I had very little to worry about...after some crafty maneuvering in 4Lo, I gained enough traction to get out under my vehicle's own power. If I had been in 4Hi, maybe the Rubicon's torquey 4.0l could have flung the crud, but instead, the Jeep exited the muddy quagmire with mud caked past the tires' lugs. Michael, Chris and Dana took a few passes through the muddy pit before stopping for a brief lunch break.

"German Shade Tree":

Thankfully, we invited a Unimog along on this trail run. Morris parked it just right, shielding us from the bright sun, and giving us all room to stretch out in our camp chairs. Charlie and Kay were telling stories of their travels to Mallarimo down in Baja while Dana and Raffi idled in the tranquil comforts of their mighty straight-axled, diesel Land Cruiser.

"Old Dale Road":

The day was becoming shorter when we decided to pack up and connect with the Brooklyn Mine Jeep Trail. We abled past several abandoned structures and concrete foundations used for gold mining in the late 1800s through early 1900s before finally reaching the intersection of Brooklyn Mine Jeep Trail and Old Dale Road. This location is just north of the Mission Well, and can easily be found on most topographic maps. Upon stopping, Kay indicated that her steering wheel was about to fall off - Charlie to the rescue. After fixing Kay's Turbo Toy, we all posed for a nice photograph framed by the majestic Pinto Basin as our backdrop.

"Brooklyn Mine Jeep Trail":

After taking our group photo, we all headed towards the park's premiere 4WD trail. First, we stopped at the "Hall of Fame" mining claim, and Charlie explained the procedures many of the miners took in finding the ever illusive gold veins that rippled through the interior of the many hills in this area. White paint spots provided claim boundaries, while many structures bore mute testimony to the boom and bust cycle that tore through these otherwise barren hills. After this informative discussion on the local mining history provided by Charlie, we decided to head towards the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Mining structures on the famous loop trail that gets so much regular traffic...or so we though.

"Sharp-rock Sluice":

Decending into the rocky wash, I was simply amazed at the condition of what lie before our group - an endless array of television-sized rocks that appeared to have not been traveled on, and simply no visible trail to speak of. Assorted creosote bushes and rusting metal artifacts appeared intertwined with these rocks. Like the Gods stirred a mighty potion of gravel, prompting these rocks to grow as if by magic, we were presented with a canyon with virtually no access route to Brooklyn Mine Jeep Trail, and the very real possibility of impassible conditions.

After some faint trail-hunting, up went the 4" lifted Wrangler Rubicon. Following closely was Dana's 2" lifted Land Cruiser. With a massive winch bumper, Hi-Lift jacking points, recovery hooks, 33" Bridgestone Desert Dueler Mudders, and a skillful driver behind the wheel, I was in good company. Chris Glass drove his heavily modified and locked Ford Explorer up this trail along with Ken Rice's mildly-prepped Sahara. Mike and Vicki brought up the rear with their clean and capable Sammi.

Recent storms turned the steady climb into a v-notched 3++ trail that promptly stopped the armored and locked Explorer. The culprit? A sharp rock which protruded an aired-down 33" Pro-Comp X-Terrain tire. The sidewall did not appear much thicker than a BFG AT/MT, and with only 5,000 mi. on this new(er) set of tires, Chris was understandably disappointed. After some fast work, we were able to tend to more pressing issues - getting our team off of this dangerous mountain.

40 or so yards up the trail from where the Rubicon completely lost traction in a v-notch was a sizeable washout. With careful spotting, we all made it through, and down the other side of the mountain into the quaint mining valley just beyond.

By the time we reached the bottom of the rocky canyon floor, our only thought was of getting back to the 'Hall of Fame' claim where Michael Hendrick waited patiently and Charlie, Carmen, Kay, and Morris departed from. With sunlight beginning to dip below the distant San Bernardinos, we knew it was time to get out - with sunlight on our side.

"Rock 'Crawlin' ":

Yard by yard, our route looked like a worst possible scenario. Rocks, sharp sticks, steep canyon walls, and diminshing sunlight demanded our constant attention while we maneuvered the rocks with careful agility. Washouts and the absence of any real trail turned our 30 minute loop trail into a 2+ hour trail for the 33"+ tire crowd. Swaybar disconnects, lockers, skidplating, winches, and lots of spotting got us through just as the sun set and the sky changed into brilliant opaques of oranges then purples.

"Dust To Glory":

All of the group except for myself decided to take the high access route past Rose of Peru mine back to the 'Hall of Fame' claim. Mike Hendrick continued to monitor CB CH 4 as our group staggered back to our meeting place. Mike jumped out of his Sammi and announced his plan to fire up his Hella 500s while Mike H. pulled the covers from his overhead 6X9" KCs. With a steady flow of horsepower and alternator juice, we lit up the darkening trail all of the way to the pavement within the Joshua Tree National Park.

The Old Dale Mine Road Run was as exciting as you can imagine. With great people, built rigs, and a spirit for adventure, we have plenty of digital images to share with the scores of Just Runs members in the Just Runs gallery. Please stop by, and visit the gallery and view all about the fun times you are reading about. In late December, I am planning an equally fun 4 day event in the desert canyonlands of Northern Baja, CA. If hot tubs, Class 3 trails, and hiking sounds like your cup of tea, be sure to mark your calendars.

"Old Dale Mining Trails Photo Gallery":


-Ken "The Desert Outlaw" Cooke

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After a summer of working on the rig & missing one run after the other, I was happy to finally get out there! Last year at Truckhaven, Felix on this board told me about the 29 Palms area & I’ve wanted to check it out since. Next time I’m gonna bring a metal detector & find a bunch of gold. When I was a kid, I used to make fun of the fat old guys searching for change at the beach & finding mostly bottle caps. Now that I’m a fat old guy, I want to get a metal detector & dig up a few bottle caps of my own. :)

I jinxed myself with the Xterrains, in the morning at the truck stop; I was telling everyone how much I liked the tires but wanted something with a stronger sidewall. Sure enough, three hours later, I ripped a hole in one. Here are a few pics I took & I grabbed some off your picture site as well.


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The run up to Duplex mine was rough, but nothing compaired to the Brooklyn Mine to come :eek:


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Finding a big mud bowl in the desert was wild. Full of stinky mud & flies, nothing to do but throw her in there! :D


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Cool write up and pics!!!

The Brooklyn Mine was a Killer! I Liked how a 30min. loop around a hill, turned into a 3 hour slam fest ;) The theme song from Gilligan's Island kept running through my head :eek:

Changing the tire on a steep slate road was fun :rolleyes:


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I kept telling myself "anywhere that Land Cruiser goes, I can go!" It was wild to see what a difference the solid front axle he had made. He would put his tire on a rock & the whole front of the truck would lift up & over everything. When I would put my tire on the same rock on the same line, the IFS would flex & smash the middle of the truck down on the rocks. I'm glad I put so much into the skid plates because I sure used them all this trip.


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Its funny how both the XTerrains and the TrXus MTs packed in the mud. It was funny how I told the guys on the CB that I ordered the 2WD Jeep Rubicon...and they believed me! Hahaha! :confused:

Coool! Sounds like you guys had a really good time.

TheFox88 said:
Coool! Sounds like you guys had a really good time.

Yep, it was fun in the sun. IMO, Everyone who has a 4WD vehicle needs to visit the Dale Mining District at least once in their lives...


Here's a pic of Chris' rear suspension...

Great pictures. I need to get out in that area at some point. It looks like Truckhaven with boulders.

I'm thinking about going back around the end of October. What do you think, Chris??? Maybe, the last Saturday in October??? Give me a shout-out, man!

Sure, I'd love to go again! I'd like to make it a 2 day run if possible??? That way we can do the cool wheeling (Brooklyn Mine again! :D ) on Saturday & then Sunday check out some of the old mines.

I'm sure some people will go home Saturday, but maybe some will stay for Sunday too.

My daughter's birthday is Oct. 25th. & I'm not sure if we are having her party the Sat. before or after... I'll let you know this Sunday night..

I'm just going to pick up a new Xterrain for now, then get some new tires before Moab next year. I hope your offer of one of your old tires as a spare is still open, cause I'll need it. :)

I'd also enjoy camping out under the stars. Okay, lets go for a 2 day run.
How does November 5th sound??? There's plenty of 'wheelers who want to get out that weekend, and I'll hopefully have a spare TrXus MT mounted to your chrome wheel by then...

Here's some of the rocky ledges we can "tinker" with! :thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:


Looks like a lot of fun. Great pics. :thumbsup: