Way up on the side of a mountain, near Bishop, CA, is a former mine and mining camp.
The Champion Spark Plug mine operated from about 1920 to 1942. They mined a rare mineral, known as Andalusite.
Andalusite enabled Champion to make modern spark plugs and have a huge share of worldwide sales.
The mining camp has been lovingly restored by volunteers, starting with the Frasers around 1970, then by Steve McIndoo, amongst many others.
Most camp users know to leave it better than they found it. Due to it’s remote location, vandalism and “stupid people” are quite rare.
First-come, first served for the 5 restored cabins, with wood burning stoves.
I’m not going to tell you how to get there, but it’s not hard to figure out the location, with a little Googling. Choosing the exact route is a bit tricky, after two huge flash floods in recent years, washing out the trail in several places. Also, 4WD vehicles can no longer get as close as they used to.
Also, you may need to bring your own water, late in the year, or during extended dry spells.
Have fun, be safe, carry water, and be sure to let someone know when and where to look for you, should you run into trouble!
It was about 95 degrees as we chugged up Kings Mountain Road, but the relief as we coasted down the other side was great! (I had forgotten how reasonable and consistent the grade up Kings Mountain is…versus Old La Honda Road!)
That’s about it! 25F degrees cooler, and a few wacky antics in camp. Don’t avoid paying the $7 camping fee, or the Camp Host might ask you to leave in the morning! Ask me who didn’t join us for breakfast! (They do have a problem with an occasional homeless visitor and theft. Secure your bike! I laid mine down next to the tent, and put two tent poles thru the frame.)
Michael and I took advantage of the unusually cool weather to do a two night backpacking trip into Henry W. Coe State Park. Arnold Horse Camp was our base camp. The water there was intermittently dripping, but enough to keep the trough mostly full. We did about 30 miles and 6000 feet, in total, including a visit to Bear Mountain Peak, and the obscure Little Long Canyon. Perfect weather!
The end! (Exact route and tracks available on Strava.com. July 1-3, 2022.)
So, yeah, I’ve had a journey up Palo Colorado Road, to Pico Blanco Scout Camp, on my radar for awhile. It’s been closed for about 5 years, due to fire damage, and a washed-out road. It’s now FOR SALE!
I guess I better get going, and see it before it changes, or becomes off-limits!
There’s a gate, 4 miles from Highway 1. From there it’s about 3.5 miles to Bottcher’s Gap and 4 miles further to the Scout Camp…and about 1300 feet of climbing in each direction!
The camp is in great condition, from what I can see. We were told there was an on-site caretaker, but we saw no signs of anyone.
The caretaker at Bottcher’s Gap told us that there’s been quite a bit of vehicle traffic to the camp. He believes the property showing is complete, and the Scout Council is reviewing offers. It will be interesting to see…
We also had an interesting discussion about the endangered Dudley’s Lousewort and the Santa Lucia Fir. I’ve seen Dudley’s at Portola Redwoids State Park, but didn’t spot any here. The beautiful, and very rare, Santa Lucia Fir was visible on the steep hillsides, as well as one in the Bottcher’s Gap parking lot
During my recent visit to Clear Creek, I made a quick side trip, just before sunset, to visit Dick Wright. He was a local hermit, who lived in a crude cabin here. When he didn’t show-up in town for awhile, a local rancher went to check on him. Buried him near the cabin!