The day dawned bright and clear. I was going on a ride with my grandson, Michael. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky – well just a little wisp of one toward the south. Little did we know what that wisp of a cloud was going to do.
The Mayor of Eureka, Nick Castleton, invited me to ride some trails he knew I had not been on before. That kind of invitation is hard to pass up.
I invited members of the NUATV club to join us. We had 18 machines lined up behind Mayor Nick.
Leaving the city park where we had staged for this ride, we worked our way west through the streets of Eureka. With the mouth of Cole Canyon on our right, we crossed over Highway 6 on Ajax Avenue and climbed up to an old railway bed.
Mayor Nick pointed out cinders by the trail. He explained that they were thrown from the smoke stacks of the old steam engines that serviced the area back in the day.
This track took us around the base of Quartzite Ridge and to the town of Mammoth, still home to about 60 people. We also went by the Silver City Cemetery, which is all that is left of that once bustling town.
This is the heart of the Tintic Mining District. I love the stories of these old mines and seek the ones untold. While there is romance in names of these hopeful holes-in-the-ground, I know that mining was no picnic. Still, names like Silver Bow, Black Dragon, Yankee Girl, Herkimer, Tennessee Rebel, Red Rose, and Iron Blossom spark my imagination.
Riding the tail gunner position, the day was growing warmer. It was difficult to ride slow and stay cool. I found myself parking in the shade of one of the many juniper trees the trail was threading through and then enjoying a cool breeze as I hurried to catchup.
Passing Dragon Canyon and Horseshoe Hill, we were riding at an elevation of about 6,000 feet. Our views were of Highway 6 in the valley to the west 400 feet below and of Maple Peak on the other side. There lies the Prospector Trail I had ridden earlier in the year.
We turned east on Dennis Road as we skirted the base of Volcano Ridge passing Rattlesnake Peak on our right. In the meantime, the little cloud we had seen earlier had grown to provide the welcome relief of cool shade.
Crossing Copperopolis Creek, we started to climb. We left the junipers below and we were now riding through green grassy fields dotted with sage brush with its pungent aroma. The air was getting cooler.
A fire had come through this area leaving the dead trees standing with boney grey fingers reaching for the sky. They stood out against the lush green grass and sage brush.
Reaching a rock outcropping at about 7,200 feet between Volcano Ridge and Buckhorn Mountain, we stopped. Mayor Nick climbed up on a rocky perch and told the story of Airplane Canyon.
He remembers back in the 1950s when commercial flying was new and private planes were a novelty. A family of four had a private plane and was coming up the canyon. Miscalculating the altitude needed to clear the ridge, they crashed just below.
It was here that one of our more astute meteorologists looked to the sky and said, “Well, it might rain and it might not.” I began to watch the sky more closely. I had just recently written an article about important things to take on a ride and rain gear was one of them, which I had not brought.
We topped out at about 7,400 feet and began our descent. The valley was lush with a blanket of green bursting with blue and yellow wildflowers. That is about when the rain hit, reminding me of why everything was green and beautiful.
I had developed a bit of insulation over the years, but my grandson was lean and mean. While I was cold, he was frozen.
Things warmed up a little as we made it back to the city par, finishing a ride of about 31 miles. We loaded up and turned on the heater trying to thaw Michael out. When you go, keep the rubber side down, enjoy the East Tintic Mountains, and don’t forget your rain gear.