The Search For Redrock Canyon Mine, Legend of Lost Los Padres Mine

Redrock Canyon Mine

North of Castaic Lake, in a valley hidden by a beautiful but unforgiving landscape, is the Redrock Canyon mine. Forgotten for years and rediscovered throughout history, our visit was the third recorded since 1932. It’s a leg-burning 15 miles roundtrip, including 34 river crossings, which swell in the spring.

UPDATED 8/6/12 See Mark Mendenhall’s comment below for more information about the mine’s history.

According to legends retold, this land is brimming with beasts, Chumash burial sites, and wild terrain. Described are tales of men who have come and failed, including King Gillette and his fortune, and of ragged men emerging from the woods with nuggets of gold. This place has the makings of an epic Western film.

Most of what is known about Redrock Canyon was compiled by Hugh Blanchard. I found his website L.A. Gold Mines by searching simple keywords in Google like “Redrock Mountain” and “Liebre Mountains,” derived from names I had seen on a topo map. From what I can gather via the web, Hugh Blanchard was an outstanding man, who passionately sought to preserve history about Southern California mines that were long lost to time. His website still stands as a testament to his legacy; tragically at the age of 79, Hugh Blanchard passed away when he fell while exploring the nearby Castaic mine. I never got to meet Hugh, but I think I would have very much enjoyed his company.

More about the mine after the jump and pictures.

History

Hugh Blanchard made several attempts to find the Redrock Canyon mine, which he also theorized was the Lost Los Padres mine, “Supposedly, a lost mission mine was rediscovered in the area back in the 1870′s and this area is the favored mythological site of the Los Padres Mine.” Where To Find Gold In Southern California by James Klein gives an excellent account that suggests the gold went through Fort Tejon, which still stands to this day. The existence of the Los Padres mine is not debated by historians and the story retold by Virginia Wegis is a popular legend in Angeles National Forest. After making four different attempts, Hugh was defeated by box canyons, fading light, and poison oak. He never made it.

You should read Hugh’s report; but to summarize, in the 1980′s, John Childress and Robert Rice found the Redrock Canyon mine with the help of a 92 year old Castaic life-resident. They spent days backpacking in search of the Los Padres mine… and found it after it had been hidden for five decades. Hugh spoke with these gentlemen to get pictures and their story. It was believed that they were the first known visitors since 1932.

[Edit] Since the writing of this article, I was made aware that there were at least two other visitors to Redrock Canyon mine, what was claimed as the Smokin’ Joker. I confirmed this with BLM. Mark Mendenhall’s father, Bill Mendenhall, held a claim here before Robert Rice. Please see the comments below for more information given by the men themselves.

After Hugh had written his account, a man named Kevin Dixon took on the task and failed three times to find the mine as well. Finally in 2006, Dixon found a way to get to the mines, mapped it, and took pictures. Our visit to the mine is the only other that has been recorded since that date.

Finding Redrock Mine

This land has many unique ecological characteristics. The mouthes of Redrock and Fish Canyons open at the northern end of Castaic Lake, at the end of Templin Highway. There’s a big gate that reflects the Forest Service’s policy on this area: derelict and unmaintained. Forest Service Road 6N32 runs through the narrow bottom of Fish Canyon; it is no longer open for vehicle traffic and is quickly being retaken by the river and nature. The broken and fragmented road leads to the abandoned Cienega Campground. Only the concrete shells of two restrooms eerily remain.

In the past, wildfires have swept through this area and perhaps some rehabilitation is in order. After all, condors were discovered in Redrock Canyon, and they need lots of space. Although I didn’t see any condors, (I believe that they have been relocated) I am thankful to have experienced it in this way-unimproved with no one in sight.

Heading upstream past Cienega Campground, the river strafes the base of Redrock Mountain. It winds its way through shady oak trees that offer a nice canopy to hike beneath. After about a mile, a very large and prominent oak tree marks the Pianobox Prospect. It has a fire circle and the remains of a site exposed in the rock. It was named after an old pianobox that was left by prospectors and it stayed there for many years. At this junction, the trail crosses the river at a rock cairn and begins to climb the slopes of Redrock Mountain. The old trail slowly ascends a divide between Fish and Redrock Canyon, traveling through thick chapparral brush. As Hugh described it, “I found the journey quite sporting.” At the top of this saddle, the trail continues down, but getting to the mine requires climbing up to the summit register of Redrock Mountain. The rest of the journey is off the beaten path.

It took me three tries to finally reach the mine, although the first trip was a less serious reconnaissance mission. On my second attempt, my hiking partner James Hardy and I made it to the Fir Tree Valley, only to turn back at 4:30 PM since we were not supplied for an overnight. It did give me a beautiful glimpse into the notch that the Redrock Canyon mine is reported to be. We hiked 7.5 miles back, 5 of which were with headlamps in complete darkness. Defeated, we experienced freezing temperatures… and had 17 more river crossings to go.

The view that this trip had granted me haunted my every waking moment. For weeks, I fixated on the image of that valley, a rarely touched nook in the side of a mountain, forgotten. The sun was setting, washing the red rocks in golden light… A tranquil oasis that hides a trove of history: the real California gold.

The Last Attempt

Weeks later on the third attempt, we returned with a tent and food, and by sunset had descended into Redrock Canyon from Fir Tree Valley. We faced the same point where we had turned around on our last trip, defeated.

Unbridled, I blistered down the slope, sliding over scree and trying to stay upright. The anticipation had built up inside me for months. James slowly made his way down, a smart move, especially when you’re fatigued. I just couldn’t resist, and took a couple diggers as a result. The golden afternoon light was filtering through douglas fir needles, striking the red rocks in vibrant hues.

At the bottom, I dropped my pack in the sand of the river wash and scrambled toward the opposite edge. The target gully ran up the sides of the canyon and I climbed for about five minutes before I was stunned to see a hole tunneling straight through the rock. I was standing right in front of the mine. In quiet reverence, I stepped in about three feet and saw the wood stove and generator, but quickly realized that I forgot my headlamp back at my pack. It was late in the day and we were losing light fast, so I had to act quickly.

Exploring Redrock Mine

I returned with James and headlamps, and entered the mine. I was impressed by how even the floor was and how I could comfortably stand upright. There was a lot of left over remnants from the last prospectors who mined, including cans, flashlights, sleeping bags and pads. It was interesting to pick through their forgotten wares. I walked about 80 feet in to the end of a drainage pit which was empty and about 25 feet deep. It is also possible that this pit was an exploratory tunnel that was chiseled in an attempt to find gold bearing quartz veins at lower depths. This doesn’t appear to have been fruitful.

The mine also cuts to the right, 90 degrees at this point, and continues for about 30-35 feet before making a left turn and ending approximately 6 feet in. At the end of the mine, I found a modern Dietz lantern ($22) and a bottle of lamp oil with a copyright label of 2009. There was also a “Made in China” sticker on the bottom of the lantern. It is virtually worthless, but the discovery of this lantern was like finding gold. It symbolizes the entire journey, a talisman that now sits on my shelf. If you get to it before me, will someone please put an American made lantern in that mine?! I may pass the lantern on in a new mine, perhaps at a geocache. In fact, I may have one in mind. We’ll see.

I didn’t find any gold at the mine, nor did I look. Crazy, some might say, after so much effort getting there. I may return and try my hand at prospecting, but it wasn’t gold that drew me to this place in the first place. It was the story. It was the realization of discovering a modern day western frontier.

Sleeping in Redrock Canyon

We found a sandy patch level enough for a tent in Redrock Canyon, at the base of the side canyon. We pitched the tent away from poison oak and dosed off. The temperature dropped that night, but we both slept soundly.

Notes

To my knowledge, there is no written account of someone reaching the mine in 2009. I’d like to know who has been there in the recent past, since Dixon in 2006. I’d like to speak to anyone who has been to this mine and may lend me some further information.

To support the claim that this is the Lost Los Padres mine, Hugh Blanchard, John Childress and Robert Rice compiled this information:
1. One of the mines has leached iron stalactites and calcite, which was tested by a college geologist as 200 years old.
2. Mescal cactus found near the mines is not indigenous to the area.
3. Spanish style “X’s” and crosses were carved in the rocks in a small dry canyon just west of the mines.
4. Some very old iron fragments from a wagon axle perhaps dating back to the Spanish Mission Period were found near the mines.
5. There are no mine ore tailings by the entrances to the mines. This might indicate the availability of forced Native American labor to remove and process the tailings.

With the budget crisis in California and amid the closure of state parks, please do your part to tread lightly and practice leave no trace. Leave this wilderness as it belongs.

Important things to consider:
The river crossings are much more difficult in the spring, but are also a great source of drinking water. When we went in April, we resorted to walking straight through each crossing, soaking our boots. At the end of the summer, the river is easily crossed without getting wet, but streams close to the mine are dry, so you’ll have to carry in water. Nights in the winter may be too cold for comfort. There is a massive amount of poison oak everywhere. Sunscreen is essential. I strongly recommend spending the night rather than doing a long day hike. Don’t forget flashlights, or even better, headlamps. Study topographical maps for navigation, since about half of this journey is off trail. There are mountain lions, rattlesnakes, and more. Keep the 10 essentials handy.

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57 Responses to “The Search For Redrock Canyon Mine, Legend of Lost Los Padres Mine”

  1. KtotheC says:

    Daveed- this is stellar. I wish my site looked this good. If you ever find more than just gold dust, I want in. ;)

  2. Bear Johnson says:

    Made a few trips into the area back in 2007, signed the register at the top of Redrock with my son Taylor. I think he wrote something about going to the Rosebowl watching USC play. Not sure if you saw that. We followed Kevin’s route but did not drop down into the canyon after reaching the summit, so we never made it to the mines. Great to see you made it. I also had that feeling that the mine was calling me back and it was haunting. The video was outstanding.
    Mark

    • David says:

      Mark, Sounds like you have a quest to finish! :) I do remember seeing your entry. Hope you find the time to make it there. Thanks for your compliments on the video!

  3. Ross says:

    David, this is incredible. So proud you guys made it to the mine. Thanks for creating the video and sharing the story, it was awesome. If you do return someday, let me know – I’d love to come along!

  4. David Martinusen says:

    Great web site. I am headed to the mine tomorrow 1/2/2012. One friend is starting on foot at 5AM, another is starting on a bike at 6AM. Should be a good day to make it all the way. Tag alongs are welcome, sorry for the short notice.

    • David says:

      Tell me all about your trip when you get back! Doing any prospecting?

      • David Martinusen says:

        Geocaching Adventure at “Redrock Mountain- Not” (CG20WBA) And the Smokin Joker mine in Redrock Canyon

        Jan 1, 2012
        So, I skipped the Rose Parade and the Bowl Games to meet Bernie (Shot70) at 5:15am to try to get this one geocache placed by Richard Nyerges (Mountain Lovers), a friend who just passed away last month. He placed it over 2 years ago, but it is in such a remote location, no geocacher had seriously attempted it yet. We started our venture in the dark. It was the perfect time of year to hike up Fish Canyon. It was more of a road that a stream like it can be in the spring. We skipped all the caches along the way. We either owned them or had already found them. But even if we had not, there was no time for it. The plan was for a 15 mile hike that we figured would take us at least 12 hours. Daylight was precious, so we stayed on task.

        The road to Cienega Campground was easy. The trail to Pianobox Prospect was not much harder. The climb from there to the base of Red Rock Peak was steeper, but was easy in comparison to the final ½ mile climb to the summit, a grueling 900′ climb up a scree covered slope and sometimes dense chaparral. Usually, I am not bad at route finding, but today was not my best. It must have taken us an hour if not an hour and a half to make that final climb to the summit. We reached the top at 10:30am, behind schedule for sure. Unfortunately, Shot70 was unable to continue. I carry a SPOT, so in theory, if something bad happens, I can get help in case the cell phone does not work. Don’t laugh. I actually had a surprisingly good signal part of the time, mostly on peaks and ridges with a clear view of the Old Ridge Route, 3 miles to the west. Certainly, it was nothing that you would count on since most of the day was spent in canyons. Since I was well prepared for a solo hike, I continued on my journey.

        The hardest part was behind me. The next couple miles to the cache were, pretty easy, or at least they should have been. I had spent so many hours studying the topo map and routes of those who had gone before, that I thought I knew what the plan was. Twice, I deviated from the plan. First, I tried following the ridge instead of the canyon below. That got me nowhere quick, so I stopped for lunch and pulled out the map, in a small open spot surrounded by thick chaparral. Being hidden by all the brush, after a few minutes I could hear plenty of birds, but as soon as my PB&J was done, I had to get back on track. Once in the valley, it was fairly easy to follow the waterway to where the top of Fir Tree Valley was visible. Here again, I ignored my plans and followed the waterway to get “closer to the cache” I found myself at the top of a 40′ dry waterfall, in the middle of a mini grand canyon. I pulled out the map again, a little late. Rather than backtrack, I did a little rock climbing to get up on top of the ridge, and then a little more climbing as needed to follow the ridge to the top.

        I was looking forward to “The cache is right on the summit. No need to be looking around, it’s right there.” but it wasn’t. I spent a precious hour looking. I even looked at the GZ, about 30′ from the summit, crawling on my hands and knees to get there. Can you believe a cache out here would get muggled? Who comes here, well, besides Mountain Lovers? I guess it is possible that I just missed it, but with all those Jeep TB’s in it, it would not be too small. On the upside, I didn’t see a single tick, rattlesnake, mountain lion or bear all day.

        On the way back I stopped by the Red Rock Mine, just 1/3 mile to the North. The climb up the Fir Tree Valley on the way out was most tiresome, an even steeper 500′ climb in just 0.2 miles. With daylight slipping away, I picked up the pace in time to make it to Red Rock Mountain in time for sunset. I figured that even if I don’t pick the best way down off the mountain back to the saddle, gravity will propel me through whatever bush gets in my way. I’ll just muscle it. I’ve only got 15 minutes of twilight left to get down. If anyone ever recommends that you just muscle it down, don’t listen to them. I’ll skip the parts about the somersaults that I did on the way down, and the clever way that I used my face to grab hold of the bush to break my fall. Let’s just say, I found a good way to not get down from Red Rock Peak. Once I got back to the trail the rest was easy, only because I had good lights. In the dark, the trail back to Pianobox is not easy to follow. Even with my bright head lamp, I lost the trail several times for a few moments. From Pianobox, it was an easy 3 ½ miles back to the Xterra.

        I had planned on a 12 hour hike, 15 is more like it. I drank 3-4 quarts of water and 2 quarts of Powerade. More importantly, several people knew where I was going and when I was due back. Shot70 even left a topo of the route on my windshield for S&R, thanks Bernie, better safe than sorry.

  5. joe says:

    Awesome site! me and my friend are interested in hiking to the mine. If anyone could help with coordinates and a few questions we have please contact me at jag93454@yahoo.com

  6. VOFSAR says:

    When I try to download the coords, it says that I need to be logged in… I am logged in.???

  7. Charliejr says:

    Excellent. Is the KMZ file still download-able? Made the attempt but it did not work.

  8. chrisu says:

    really a cool video and write up! I want to do this hike so bad, love the area, i wish i could spend sometime out there searching for the other entrances even if there covered up. Maybe its just me, but this really gets me thinking about history, and who dug these mines ? its crazy that i cant find any knowledge of these mines but here, and Hugh Blanchard’s write up’s. i can’t wait to read the next person or person’s store of there trip to this place. good luck to all.

    cool website!

  9. tony says:

    so is this a silver mine or a gold mine? i heard some of the LP mines were silver.

  10. Mark Mendenhall says:

    Wow. You deleted my comments? Why?

    • David says:

      Mark, I’m not sure what comments you are referring to. It’s possible that they were lost during a site restore I did a few months ago, or my spam bot ate it up. Sorry for the inconvenience! Please resubmit it and let me know if you have any further problems.

  11. Mark Mendenhall says:

    Well, LOL….. I will try this again and see if anyone is interested. First, I want to say I haven’t been back to the mine for 20 years. The mine you call Red Rock mine is called the Smokin Joker. My Dad and his friends had a mineral claim on it way back in the late 70′s. When My Dad first found a way to PIne canyon (just north of Red Rock face) he discovered a lot of spanish artifacts. There were probably 50 in tact pieces he brought home and took pictures of before he sold it. He left the pick in the tree, but mostly everything else he removed. Now, he had heard the story of the Los Padres mine from some old timer in Castaic he said, so he really thought he was onto something. There are several mines in that canyon as you know. So, when John and Robert “rediscovered” that area, they were 4 years late. I was a kid when I started going back there. I moved on in life and haven’t gone back since I was in my 20′s. I tried to get in touch with Hugh Blanchard to share with him where my Dad feels he discovered the actual Los Padres mine, only to find out he passed away. My Dad was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident by 1985 so he never went back. The routes that Hugh took, that you took and also Kevin Dixon took were all east and south of where I used to go. (not sure who’s is easier). If anyone had gone further south, as i think one of Hugh’s routes attempted, you might have seen the Condor blinds they set up to view the birds before taking them. The birds used to live and nest in Red Rock. My Dad was drunk one night and started running his mouth about the birds and where they were. I guess he told someone who told someone who knew a guy at the zoo. The next thing you know the birds were gone. He hated himself for being part of that. Inside the Smokin Joker you and Dixon have pictures of a small battery and alternator on a piece of wood. My Dad and I carried that back there with automotive lights to try and light up where he wanted to work. You could hand crank the alternator and charge up the battery. If you noticed in the river bed right below 2 of the mines, there is what we called the cabin site. A square setting of large rocks in the sand. My Dad was going to stack them up and build a one room place to stay, he never finished it. There is an indian burial ground nearby that he wanted untouched, and he dug out a secret cave half way from Templin highway to the mines so he could stash stuff. It is located directly across from the switch back of Piano Box trail. There is a lot more to say and to show. I live in Bakersfield now and I am all of a sudden getting the urge to find the Los Padres mine and dig it out in the canyon. The problem is I am 360 pounds and wouldnt be able to make the trip. One of my sons asked for a map last weekend and with a friend didnt even make it half way. They turned around and came home. My Dad always wanted me to take metal detectors and spend a couple of days probing where he was certain the mine is.

    My Dad and I had a falling out so I didn’t go back. A fire in Lake Isabella area in about 2004/2005 destroyed all of his notes, pictures and maps and he himself died in 2007. But in my head I know where he said it was. I remember the other stories and places about the adjacent canyons and also why he felt a trail from the Joker heading towards Ft. Tejon had things pointing to the validity of the Los Padres mine being in that area.

    At any rate, I started a diet and exercise routine for the sole purpose of going back. I am going to go deep and find the missing mine. I would very much have liked to have shared all this and a lot more with Hugh. I think it would have filled in a lot of missing pieces he was looking for. Since you have been there, I can describe other things you might have found in the canyon that were not in pictures and tell you why they were there. (proof I have been there).

    When I am up to it I will be going back to Sandstone cave and the indian burial ground first. If I can make that trip without killing myself I will set a later date for Pine Canyon. Not interested in going until it cools of a bit. I know the daylight is shorter, but the water/temp is always my biggest concern.

    OK, well there’s my story. I hope this answers more questions than it raises. :) Have a good day.

    • David says:

      Mark,

      Thank you so much for your very detailed account of the Red Rock Canyon mine(s) also known as the “Smokin’ Joker!” It is a difficult hike in the summer time, definitely best around early spring or winter. I would love to see pictures if you have any, and would be glad to have them on the site with your permission. I would love to talk more with you about the mine and more of what you know.

      It’s a beautiful canyon to see, shaded and vibrant with red rocks. I hope you manage to get there again someday.

      Thanks again,
      David

    • Adam says:

      Wow I’ve been captivated with the Los padres story since I’ve read about it on Hugh’s site, but this new twist is really interesting. I was in that area today and it was really hot. I only made it about a quarter of the way up redrock peak, but come spring I would really like to do some more exploring past the joker / redrock mine. I live in saugus and remember going to the cienaga campground as a kid when the road was open. Even then not many people knew about it. Thanks for the info mark. If you remember anything else interesting about the area please email me at electronichypnotism@hotmail.com I would be thrilled to hear it.

      Thanks, adam

    • John says:

      Hi Mark,
      This is John Childress, what was your dad’s first name? William, or Bill? Because he/we called it the Smokin’ Joker too! Although Bill was convinced that it was the Los Padres. Bill found the mine a few years before he fianlly told us how to get there, because he was paralysed and was unable to get there anymore. Bill moved up to Kernville area in the early 80′s and lived in a home behind Kernville High. Bill was paralyzed from the waste down due to a motorcycle wreck coming back from the mine. I haven’t seen him since about 2005, just prior to my getting married. I have about 60 pictures of all 3 tunnels, and got the chance to meet with David last Tuesday. love to hear from you!

      • MM says:

        John, He didn’t think the Joker was the Los Padres, just part of it. He found where he believed it to be. He found 2 spots where he believed the main tunnel is located. (various points made me blieve it also) At any rate, I would love to talk with you more.

        Mark-

  12. Bear Johnson says:

    I used to ride my ATV in from Lake Hughes Road and take 6N32, I could get up within a mile from Piano Box and I would hike from there. That saves so much time and energy. I used to go around a gate at Lake Hughes Road but I heard the FS made the gate harder to get around? I am going to check to see if I can still get around the gate and then if somebody wanted to I could take them close to Piano Box. (I have a two seater ATV). There is no way to get in from the Castaic Lake side, I have tried. I have ridden in from Knapp Ranch to the Benco Mines but have never hiked that route. I can still get in that way. I just don’t think I can make the hike, it is brutal. I made it to the top of Redrock Mtn. and around but I never dropped down. I do a lot of ATV riding and have a couple of videos that show Knapp Ranch and Redrock from that angle on youtube. Here they are:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amXRTputHHw

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3x7mogTP-w

    I now live up in the Pine Mountain Club and ride all over these mountains, there are many old mine sites up here, only one has a entrance. Let me know if I can help.

    Mark

  13. Mark Mendenhall says:

    I have looked at Hugh Blanchards maps posted and also a few other maps from here and others. I don’t think anyone goes the way my Dad finally chose as the quickest route. Wait, let me say, maybe the easiest when carrying things in. I am going to try and copy some pics that are online and draw arrows to show a few key differences that we used. The way we go is a longer gradual climb and it drops you down into the canyon. Which brings me to another question. The canyon where the Smokin Joker is located, the canyon north of the Red Rock Face, was called pine canyon for years and years on forrest service maps. Are you folks now calling it Red Rock Canyon? I just don’t want to get lost in the conversation.

    Also, i pointed out that I was serious about losing weight and going back. I have lost 20 pounds. I am going to go right to where my Dad pointed and said, “That low impression right there.That’s where the Los Padres mine is buried”. He hiked along the very tops of the ridges around that canyon. He drew maps and just sat out there for days on end looking at where he felt it could be. He finally settled on one spot, (and here is why I bring it up), for the same reason I read about someone finding rust coming from out of the hill. He told me when the water tables rises a lot of horizontal caverns fill and begin to spill out slowly and it looks like water seeping right out of the hill side. One he had picked a few spots,and one in particular, he checked every time the water tables were at their highest until he found what he was looking for. He said he found water seeping right out of the side of where he had guessed a mine could be buried, and what he thought was rusted iron (the color and it clung to a magnet)flowing out with it. Before he could dig it out he was paralyzed in a motor cycle accident. He passed away in 2007. But I remember where he pointed………

    My Dad had ideas about the indians around there. He had theories about where the rock trailings went. He had thoughts about why the mine was collapsed, or hidden. My Dad was a great story teller. :) At some point I want to go back and find that spot. I want to bring a metal detector and eventually dig out where he pointed. If nothing else, I want to finish what he/we started years ago.

    • David says:

      Mark, I’m glad you are serious about returning to the mine. When you do, I would love to join you. If you could recall and then record the stories your Dad told with even more detail, it will preserve a historical record of the place which is so important. What you’ve already mentioned answers a lot of questions. Please email me, as we are starting to enter the prime season for visiting the mine! david.a.swift@gmail.com

  14. John says:

    Howdy!
    I have been to the Redrock Canyon mine 3 times, to all three tunnels, and have pictures of all three tunnels. We took ore samples and had them assayed, and were convinced that this is the Lost Padres Gold Mine. The lower tunnel by the tree with the pick ax in it especially. Would love to get together and show you the pictures and discuss our trips to these mines.

  15. John says:

    P.S.
    are you any relation to Bill Mendenhall?

  16. Robert Rice says:

    testing

  17. Robert Rice says:

    I have a letter to send just seeing if this will go through before I do

  18. Robert Rice says:

    Ok here goes: My name is Robert Rice. I was told by John Childress about your site. I have photos, assays, artifact and information on tunnel locations, spanish markings, hyrogliphs and the location of 9 aKlik-Klik indian graves. I spoke with college historians and battled with Federal agents over tho mine. I can tell you how it was discovered (which is an amazing story). I had the last valid mining claim on Smoking Joker 1 and 2. I would love to share my story with you but I must say I have great reservation about doing so not because I doubt you but because I have treasured every moment of this mysterious mine and fused the memories forever in my mind I’ve gone one since the last time I went there I think 1989. Since then I’ve mined gold for a living (been very successful) and own a Jewelry store called “Gold Fever” with my wife Liz. I own a portable mill, jaw crusher, bawl mill, and shaker table and work it part time with my son Paul. I am also a full time Pastor in a local fellowship. If we can communicate and keep this from turning into a free for all for treasure hunters I would love it. The last info I had on Red Rock was that it was still a federal condor preserve and that’s what shut us down, do you know? Sincerely Robert P. Rice

    • Mark says:

      Robert,

      I think the ban has been lifted as far as the Condor area goes. Most of the trails have been washed away. Landmarks and topo maps are the best way for others to get there. Maybe the last mile or so until you hit ‘lava flow’ are still clear. The trail going to the meadow is over grown but still visible. The last time I went it took me 20 minutes to find sandstone cave. (I hate looking for that thing) John said he was topping by next week to go over and piece together what each of us is missing.

    • Dj says:

      Hi Robert Dj here,

      I live in the Antelope Valley I’m also a prospector and I want
      to build a portable plant and I’m looking for ideas, did you
      build yours? if you have any info you would like to share please
      do very interested thanks,
      Dj
      2djtod@gmail.com

  19. Mountain Man says:

    Although I don’t completely agree with your video or your website as it draws more attention to the mines than is needed. I have run into one of your buddies while I was working at Sport Chalet who likes to talk about Red Rock. I do find the information presented by those from the 70s and 80s very intriguing and feel as though it gives this website some validity and can be used in filling in gaps.

    I had heard about the LP sometime in the 90s and slowly tried and piece together primary source info regarding the mine. A few years back I had found Blanchard’s article and Dixon’s account of making the mines and thought there was a better way to access the mine canyon.

    We first tried by following the trail out of Castaic Creek up the ridge dividing Cienega and Red Rock and would continue to follow that ridge until it met with the north ridge of Red Rock Mtn. The bush whack was nasty and stopped us short of gaining the north ridge of the mountain, however on that trip we did come across an abandoned Honda motorcycle unfortunately no Spanish or Native American artifacts.

    Our next attempt took us up the north slope of Red Rock Mountain out of Pine Canyon where it meets Bear Canyon. This proved to be tough but we were able to gain the ridge and drop down into “hell hole” canyon aka fir tree canyon (upper portion of Red Rock Canyon above the falls). We had named it hell hole because it was tough to get into and a bitch to get out of.

    We spent the rest of our daylight that day running up and down slopes trying to find any evidence of collapsed shafts, no success. The following morning was spent exploring what I assumed to be the main shaft, however it proved to be rather short and I was itching to use the climbing equipment I had hauled up the mountain to be used as safety equipment in a long or questionable shaft. We had also brought the rope and harness with anticipation of possibly repelling down the falls within Red Rock Canyon. Finding a good anchor point was tricky but once secured the quick absail saved us considerable time and put us into a part of the canyon I had not been into. This basin was loaded with the same welded ash caves that are found above on the Cienaga ridge and also proved to be loaded with poison oak, my buddy paid the price. Another bush whack ensued but we quickly made our way through the thick chapparal and onto the Castaic Creek trail. Our first successful run!

    About a year later in January of 2010 we decided to take Dixon’s route leaving Piano Box. Carrying 50 lbs of gear over this part of Red Rock proved to be a little easier than our last run since no bush whacking was needed. Once again on this trip we found no collapsed shafts but did spend considerable time searching other canyon walls on Red Rock Mountain. Finding the repel down the falls fun the last time we again on our exit used the falls. The anchor I had left from our previous attempt was no longer there making me believe someone had come across it. If you found my webbing and carabiner, use it wisely =D.

    Before I continue don’t forget the Inland Camino Real Trail established by the Spanish took you up Castaic Creek to Cienaga Creek, up Cienaga to Bear Canyon where it made a right and followed Bear Canyon up and over Liebre to the Antelope Valley then turned northwest thru Gorman and eventually to Tejon and into the San Joaquin Valley.

    You claim there are 5 things that support evidence for the LP in that area.

    1. One of the mines has leached iron stalactites and calcite, which was tested by a college geologist as 200 years old.
    2. Mescal cactus found near the mines is not indigenous to the area.
    3. Spanish style “X’s” and crosses were carved in the rocks in a small dry canyon just west of the mines.
    4. Some very old iron fragments from a wagon axle perhaps dating back to the Spanish Mission Period were found near the mines.
    5. There are no mine ore tailings by the entrances to the mines. This might indicate the availability of forced Native American labor to remove and process the tailings.

    #2 – #4 Can all be explained by the fact a major trail ran through the region.

    Mescal cactus appears in the region possibly due to wagon and foot traffic coming from Mexico and continuing into the San Joaquin. I have never personally seen this in any of the areas around the mines. It would be fun to find though =D

    Spanish marked trails as well as mines, water sources and other important information along the route with symbols carved into stone. I assume these symbols to be carved in Cienaga Canyon probably before the junction with Bear Canyon, possibly indicating a junction or turn coming up along their trail.

    Wagon parts again only proves this route was well traveled and does not specifically indicate a mine.

    However I believe there is stronger evidence supporting the LP and its source. Such as multiple sources giving distances, letters and poems describing local scenery and the understanding of how and where gold forms.

    • Mountain Man says:

      Would like to hear from those who have been there in the 1970s and 1980s. I have no problem sharing information and know the surrounding area rather well. Feel free to email me at ledzeppman83@gmail.com

      • David says:

        Please compare these two statements that you have made:

        “Although I don’t completely agree with your video or your website as it draws more attention to the mines than is needed. ”

        “Would like to hear from those who have been there in the 1970s and 1980s. I have no problem sharing information and know the surrounding area rather well. Feel free to email me at ledzeppman83@gmail.com

        Contradictory. It’s not possible to “have no problem sharing information” if you disagree with the open availability of resources on this website, on Hugh’s website, and the video I made. I thank you for your anecdotal evidence of visiting the mine, and it is helpful.

        Furthermore, I’d like to say to everyone reading, that this mine is not yours or mine or anybody’s property. While you may cherish your memories of the place, it is indeed a shared place. This is an open forum and it is here to help preserve history. If you have a problem with that, take a hike. Thank you!

        • Mountain Man says:

          David you sound upset at the fact I don’t agree with this part of your website. I have no problem sharing info with those who have been there in the 70s and 80s as I would like to hear their accounts and routes used. Understanding the history will get you that much closer to the LP. I don’t see how its contradictory as I stated it draws more attention to the area than is needed. As one of the authors stated above, his dad used to remove many Spanish artifacts out of the area and sell them. The removal and sale of artifacts now is illegal in a National Forest and may or may not have been then. I am a staunch supporter of leave no trace, take only pictures. I don’t believe the mines belong to anyone individual and do not state that anywhere.

          I still would like to hear other evidence that helps support the idea of the LP in this area as the evidence you’ve provided can be shown to support the fact the major trail ran through there, not just a mine.

          Anecdotal evidence? There are several things I’ve referred that no one else has mentioned. I don’t need to prove to you or anyone else that I’ve been there but only offered the idea of other routes used. I have pictures and facts to support my claim, I don’t need the approval of a website moderator.

          Criticism can be constructive. Learn to take it so.

          • David says:

            You would not be able to connect with these miners and others if it were not for this website and the information contained in it. If you disagree with the open availability of this information, then leave. Again, this is about sharing with everyone. This is the worst kept secret in the area. People have been looking for LP in this area for decades. Anybody who actually makes it there, deserves to be there given the physical effort involved.

            We play by my rules on my website. I’m not the moderator. I am the creator. Your comment lives for now but it can be easily taken down. Your evidence to this point is indeed anecdotal. If you have other evidence, like poems and stories you mention, then please, offer them up. If you have benefitted from the information here, including in the comments, than this website has fulfilled its mission.

            Your criticism is unfounded. Further rebuke will result in deletion.

          • Mountain Man says:

            I do not disagree with this part of your website because you talk about a mine that has nothing to do with the Los Padres. For almost 100 years scores of people, with lots of money to blow, have thought it was in that area, and never found anything substantial.

            You only continue to promote illegal activities by evidently dodging what I disagree with. Hugh Blanchard also promoted illegal activities by trespassing on private property and was foolish enough to write about it. The owner of Castac Mines had warned him previously about the dangers in that section of creek and not to be on his property.

            Would hate to see some reader of your website in some sort of litigation because they read a post on here and unknowingly removed an artifact. But you don’t seem concerned by that. FS would love to make an example out of someone removing artifacts.

            Delete or not, doesn’t matter to me. I have no interest in sharing what I know with some snob-nose website “creator”. Those who have wanted the info have emailed me. I spend a lot of time training in that area and was simply offering up different routes I used/tried to use to access the mines.

          • David says:

            Notice to readers: It is completely legal to visit Redrock Canyon as it is an open area of Angeles National Forest. I do not advocate that anyone enter the mine as it is dangerous, but if you were to do so, it is at your own risk. The Mine Safety and Health Administration’s official policy is that “no one, despite experience, should be allowed to enter unventilated areas deeper than 100′, unless they are trained and equipped as part of an emergency mine rescue team.” The only open tunnel is less than 100′ feet long, but again, still dangerous. To be clear, you can go there, take pictures, have a great time and it is perfectly legal.

            I never mentioned the removal of artifacts in the body of this article. Readers have offered up information about artifacts on their own volition in the comments section. There is absolutely no risk for litigation. In one comment involving artifact removal, a man who is deceased is implicated. Such testimony would be considered hearsay in court even if he were living to be prosecuted today. I have not personally identified, much less verified an area of archaeological significance, nor have I seen or removed any artifacts to date. As always, readers are solely responsible for understanding federal, state and local laws.

            I knew someone like Mountain Man would find this website eventually and I know other hiking blogs have dealt with their share of people who wish to keep the “treasures” of the outdoors a secret. These people fail to realize what amazing things can happen when people get together to share their opinions and research for a greater good. Through the process of collaboration, we can piece together a vastly unwritten history.

            I do not condone treasure-hunting in the Redrock area because the real treasure is in the raw, untouched beauty. Often the ones who wish to keep it a secret are the ones wishing to benefit themselves. It is a selfish viewpoint. The author has made it known to Mountain Man that it is unacceptable in this forum yet he persists.

            I’m leaving his comment up, because I think it perfectly illustrates the contradictions plagued by people who share his position. The routes he describes have already been identified by the author and Hugh Blanchard and he does not offer any new information. He uses scare tactics by making false claims that this website encourages illegal activity and that readers are somehow legally at risk for accessing public lands. He is a detriment to the preservation of history.

            Do not be intimidated by these types. The lure of gold and fortune attracts them. I’d say 99% of redtailtrails.com readers are using these resources the right way, and of course, I can’t expect everybody to have a level head.

          • Mountain Man says:

            Smh. David I do not wish to keep such things a secret. As I have stated I have been in correspondence with others on here regarding the mine. I have done overnights on the mountain with friends and am willing to take anyone out there for an overnight, as long as they can keep up.

            I do not intend to scare people off, however I do advocate “Leave no trace” and part of that is “take only pictures”

  20. John says:

    Having been to all 3 mines and by a trail yet to be described, I can’t agree with all of your statements, but then, I don’t need to agree either. I stopped in Bakersfield and spoke with Mark Mendenhall, and he is no doubt the son of the man, Bill, who told me how to find the mines. And the story he tells about it’s rediscovery by Bill coincides with what I had already known. I know of only one person who has ever had a claim on the mines, and that is Robert, and he and I went there together in the late 70′s. It’s a great place, and fun to remember and to talk about, whether I will ever return remains to be seen, but anything is possible… perhaps from Knapp/Kelly ranch direction… cheers!

    • todd t says:

      i want to hang out at a campfire with you and your buddies and listen to the stories of the los padres….who’s in???

  21. Chris again! says:

    You guys are killing me here! I need more pics! Another exploration plz David!

  22. John says:

    David has all of my pics, perhaps they will eventually make it to the website

    • todd t says:

      I too have been infactuated with this story ever since coming across Hughs write ups many years ago. Funny how I thought I was the only one interested in this area. I found a nice granite grind stone out that way once when hunting in the area. I want to go back, I too am being called to the wild…Born and raised locally so I have always been interested in the local history and use to hunt and camp in Cienega camp befoe I was aware of the history in that area. Anybody making the trip in or need a grunt count me in!!!

  23. John says:

    Hi David,

    I stopped by the end of Templin Hwy on my way back to Los Angeles on Monday Feb 10, and it is blocked, but there is nothing indicating that it is illegal to enter this area. It has been years since I was there, but the no trespassing signs are down and the only restriction is parking in front of the gate, making the walk a little longer, but that’s it. Hike in, explore the beauty that was Cienga Campground and the CCC camp, walk up the old concrete creek-bed and explore the beauty that is Fish Canyon. It’s a great hike, and have been blessed with making it many times in the 1970′s. Lets face it, it is a LONG way to the mine area from here, and most people to not have the cahonies to make the trip, so the secrets there are probably pretty safe. It is pretty easy to talk on the internet but this is is a hike that even kicked David’s butt, and he will attest to it, I am sure. Great chatting with you David, keep up the good work!

    • Mountain Man says:

      Some have made it to the mine, while many who have tried were not as successful. That alone is a testament to the rugged terrain of this area. I spend May to September in the Eastern Sierras climbing and hiking and use this remote mountainous terrain to stay conditioned during the winter months.

      I am curious on the “route yet mentioned” as I have done approaches from all sides of the mountain except the East. The quickest being via Fish Canyon and the prettiest probably being from Knapp Ranch via Pine/Bear Canyon. I couldn’t imagine approaching from the east as you only make your hike longer. Without a doubt the BEST part was the exit out and repelling the water fall at the end of the canyon, I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS REPEL UNLESS YOU ARE EXPERIENCED.

      Get out and enjoy it there, this time of year is the best!!

  24. Robert Moriarity says:

    After reading about this area and mine, I am no fully interested in doing an overnight trip there. I have been studying maps old and new and have a good idea of the rout. I was able to secure a very old usgs map and some very old mine maps circa 1940.
    I am interested in talking with anyone whit first hand experience inmakingnthe trip.

    Smile!

  25. Dj says:

    Hey David Dj here, very nice site vary informative, I see the LP saga continues. I would like to add a couple of notes that might help in the search, one needs to really understand this story and find every clue you can and the most important research. This is something I have done for the pass 15 years, I will shear what I have and what I know with anyone
    that is interested I just don’t feel good about posting it on your site
    right now because I am in the early stage of writing a book about the LP
    saga it’s bigger than you think, I will share the info I have through
    my email. 2djtod@gmail.com

    Dj

  26. Mike S says:

    I just found this site and am very intrigued…it would be nice to do this trip, but I would probably need a month or so to condition for such length, since its been a year since I did a 12 mile hike and I’ve put on a few pounds…most of my friends would not be able to do this hike, so if anyone else has a small group that wants to pack in supplies for an overnighter, I would love to tag along, maybe with a friend or two. Drop me a line at tophorse @ gmail . Com
    I would hope to do this towards the end of April, before things heat up too much!

  27. Bear J says:

    I realize I will not attempt another hike up to Redrock, just to damn hard and dangerous. I live up in Pine Mountain and have been finding some old mines up here and made this video. The last mine in video is a straight down shaft with at least another 10 or so mines that have been closed next to it. It must have been a happening place at the time. That area looked like no one has been up there in decades and most all of the old relics were removed.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JIi02zoKrl8

  28. todd t says:

    Hi David
    Any new info? are you still planning on writing another story with all the info and pics you received from some of the early explorers? would really like to learn more about the area.

    DJ,
    Whats the deal with the saga? bigger than you think? can you please explain? when will the book be out?

    Come on guys!!!! I want to know! I will be out that way as soon as the weather starts to cool!!!

  29. john says:

    6 months and no activity… not a good sign

  30. todd says:

    ok what gives??? where is the follow up on this? david, you collected a bunch of info and now left us all hanging here? whats going on???

  31. Whiskers says:

    What happened to the Mountain Man guy? Sounds like he has some of the Anne Rose Briggs Poems. I have copies of the originals. Where did you get yours?

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