|Wandering with Matt & Kat
Desert Dave sat at the old table with
his back to the yellow, picture covered
wall. Evidence of the previous night’s
libations could be found everywhere.
Large black trash bags bulging over
with fullness were haphazardly placed
in piles. Outside, near the garage, the
coals were still warm from the spit.
Bottles of “Dads Homebrew” as Rabbit
called it were recovered. These were
the lingerings of what was known as
The peculiar hissing, howling noise was displaced by a swooshing noise as the propane met the burning match,
immediately blue and orange flames leapt through the cast slats of the old stove. In a matter of minutes popping and
sizzling sounds permeated the walls of Russell’s Camp. Through the glass window, wavy from time, the sun reached into
the depths of the cabin. The tenuous rays of April morning intermingled with the steam of eggs, hash browns and bacon
stirring on the stove.
I believe it was 1995 when the first official, well unofficial as far as the Park Service was concerned, April Fest took place.
Even a reporter from the local Ridgecrest paper attended the goings on, although I do not recall her name after these
numbered years. I don’t believe the Panamints witnessed anything like it since Ballarat was a lively boom town with its
many bars. Certainly with today’s numerous restrictions it will never happen again. Close to 100 people filled Butte Valley
that warm April. Clearly Dave and I were both suffering the effects of the Home Brew, or maybe it was Hops Along’s
Homemade Ale, but Stu’s Margaritas could definitely not be counted out, however the smells emanating from the old
stove as it clunked and chattered were reviving.
On the table coffee steamed and swirled upward toward the green corrugated roof of the cooks' shed, intermingling with
the vapors steaming from the stove. As they hit the roof they appeared to counter swirl along the pitch of the old roof.
Some attempted to escape through the now open door. Groggily the conversation switched to last summer’s quest of the
Panamint Treasure Mine. In need of a new quest Dave suggested we search for “The Lost Glass Door Mine.” "What?"
Dave said " ya a number of years ago we found a mine that had a glass door hanging in the portal." Thinking Dave was,
well maybe still a little inebriated or perhaps had a little hair of the dog this morning, I asked for more details.
"Tell me more Dave. I don’t know if I buy this one!" Though Dave had always
been a straight shooter offering advice on numerous other quests, I thought just
maybe there was a little snake oil involved. Dave gave only one clue, " It is in
Panamint Valley between Goler and Ballarat in the Panamint Range." " Well that
does not really narrow it down that much now does it?" Dave went on to say that
there was an old trunk in the shaft with other equipment but there was no
guarantee any of it was still there.
With this information and a number of unvanquished bottles of Prospector Joe’s
Golden Amber Ale, I approached Don Connolly in Ballarat. For those who did not
know Don, he was the Mayor, preacher and caretaker of Ballarat. He was a man
who lived life on his own terms, always with quick wit. I set the bottles on the old
plastic table in front of the general store. Don eyed them carefully, picked one up
and muttered something, not too kind towards the bottle when he discovered he
could not twist the cap off. A number of bangs and bumps rattled Don’s old trailer
before he emerged with a foaming bottle and an opener.
Sitting down at the table Don took a long sip, pulled the bottle back and stared at the label. He said," that’s pretty good
stuff." I asked, " have you ever heard of a mine that has a glass door in the portal?" Don chuckled, found a smoke in a
crumpled generic pack labeled “Cigarette.” He took care to poke holes in the filter with a safety pin before lighting and
taking a long slow drag. He slowly exhaled and talking through his smoke he said, " ya that is old so and so’s mine. " So
the story is true?" Well," Don said," I have never been there but the guy who owned it offered it to me before he moved
out of state." I asked " well what happened,why didn’t you take it?" Don, taking another long slow drag said, " it sounded
too much like work to me."
I asked " do you know where it is?" "Well, no, not exactly, I know he
would show up here and head south towards Goler. I figured it was
really none of my business, why?" " Well it seems interesting and I
would really like to see if it is true I replied." With that the search was
on. Over the course of several trips we searched the Panamints
section by section. Sometimes Maggie would drive and I would look
through the binoculars and other times I would drive and she would
be the spotter. We stopped along the base of the Panamints and
looked for even the slightest evidence of a road and that is when we
found it. The tracks: old faded and faint, but still discernible, and at
the end the fabled Lost Glass Door Mine.
A number of years ago I decided to relocate the Lost Glass Door
Mine. With 15 year old recollections, I set out. I did not recall the
specifics but knew the general area. Within an hour or so, peering
through binoculars it was in sight. I noticed the elements had not
been kind to the road, obliterating almost every trace with the
exception of the steep upper portion near the mine. Although the
hike is not on the strenuous scale of Mt. Whitney, it was a work out
getting there. I stood standing at the flat area peering into the mine
with its half opened glass door wondering if anyone else had been
there since my last visit.
April Fest and the Lost Glass Door Mine