Mining operations ceased in 1945 but this high elevation mining camp has remained in remarkable condition thanks to a group of volunteers who maintain the remaining buildings and museum for future generations to enjoy.

After my failed attempt to reach the Champion Sparkplug Mine back in November

After my failed attempt to reach the mine back in November 2015, I decided to try my luck again this past April. This would be a solo attempt without a 4WD vehicle, so I knew I had to get an early start in order to avoid the hottest part of the day, which was expected to reach 84 degrees. I was already beating myself up for not getting out of Mammoth as early as I wanted to but quickly forgot about that after catching a glimpse of Mount Tom as I drove along Hwy 395. The 13,652 foot snow capped peak glowed as the sun began to break over the horizon. The mountain was named after Thomas Clark, who is credited with being the first to ascend the peak in the 1860s.

While the mountain I was about to ascend wasn't quite as high as Mount Tom, I would still be hiking 7,550 feet up to where the brightly colored prominent outcropping is located in the upper right hand corner of the above photo.

While the mountain I was about to ascend wasn’t quite as high as Mount Tom, I would still be hiking 7,550 feet up to where the mining camp is located (the brightly colored outcropping in the upper right).

l

Let’s do this!

As you can see, the road leading up to Jeffrey Mine Canyon isn't in the best of shape after last

As you can see, the road leading up into the canyon isn’t in the best of shape after a massive storm back in October caused major flooding in the area.

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After following the dirt road that climbed up an alluvial fan, I eventually dropped down into a canyon.

eeThe route enters Jeffery Mine Canyon and ends in about 2.8 miles at the former location of Champion Sparkplug Company's transfer station, where ores carried down by mules were offloaded and put onto flatbed trucks.

I had hiked a little over 3 miles…

ed

…across several washouts…

before reaching the former location of Champion Sparkplug Company's transfer station, where ores carried down by mules were offloaded and put onto flatbed trucks.

…before reaching the former transfer station that was once used for the mine.

 re was hauled down by mule trains, offloaded onto flatbed trucks and then driven down to the sorting tables located near the ranch. The ore eventually made its shipment to Detroit, Michigan where it is utilized in the manufacture of porcelain for automobile spark plugs and for other high-tension electric insulators.

Strings of mules were once used to pack the ore down along the steep trails to the transfer station.

The ore eventually made its shipment to Detroit, Michigan where it is utilized in the manufacture of porcelain for automobile spark plugs and for other high-tension electric insulators.

The ore was then hauled down by flatbed trucks to the sorting tables and later trucked to a loading station on the Nevada & California narrow gauge railroad. At Mina, Nevada, the ore was transferred to standard gauge Southern Pacific Railroad trains and shipped to Detroit, where it was processed to manufacture high temperature refractory materials such as automobile spark plugs and chemical laboratory porcelain.

Looking

Electricity for the mining operations was supplied by a hydroelectric plant down by the ranch at the base of the mountain and transmitted five miles up through the canyon to the mining camp. The wire, hardware, and power poles were all packed up the steep mountain trail by mules.

The trail for the rest of my hike would follow along the route of original mule trail.

The trail for the remainder of my hike would follow along the original route used by the pack trains.

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Yeah, it gets pretty steep.

Yeah, it gets pretty steep.

w

eeThe route enters Jeffery Mine Canyon and ends in about 2.8 miles at the former location of Champion Sparkplug Company's transfer station, where ores carried down by mules were offloaded and put onto flatbed trucks.

he upper trail is very narrow, often only the width of one's foot and runs through sections of loose shale on steep hillsides, some approaching 50° in steepness. Though the trail itself is not dangerous, this is not a trail for someone with a fear of heights nor unsteady on their feet. A misstep off balance and the potential is there for injury if one should fall, especially if loaded down with a heavy backpack. In several areas, it is vital that one watches his/her foo

The trail also becomes extremely narrow in certain parts as you get closer to the camp. One false step here could easily send a person tumbling down the steep cliff leading to serious injury. If you have hiking poles, bring them, they were extremely beneficial to me as I traversed this section of the trail.

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I named it, "Sleepy Dog Rock" and that's what everyone should call it now.

I named him Sleepy Dog Rock, feel free to say hello if you’re ever in the area.

The trail was so degraded at one point, that a wooden ladder was required to to get around a particularly steep and dangerous section of it. The ladder remains but is no longer needed after a more stable route was built to bypass it.

In years past, the trail used to be so degraded that a wooden ladder was required to get around a particularly steep and dangerous section of it. The ladder remains but is no longer needed after a more stable route was built to bypass it.

The White Mountains also have small remnant groves of lodgepole pine, Jeffrey pine, ponderosa pine, Sierra juniper and aspen including an unusual dwarf variety. These species are common in the nearby and wetter Sierra Nevada range west of the Owens Valley and must have been more widespread in the White Mountains until Holocene droughts extirpated them in most of this drier range

The

The mining camp is nestled within this canyon surrounded by tall Jeffrey Pines. The camp is hidden so well, that it’s hard to make out the seven structures that still remain…

...until your right next to them.

…until your right next to them.

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The upper mine workings are clearly visible as you enter Black Eagle Camp. To reach them requires another two mile long hike, with a 1,500-foot elevation gain along a deteriorated trail that ascends up to 9,000 feet.

The upper mine workings are clearly visible as you enter the mining camp. To reach them requires another two mile long hike, with a 1,500-foot elevation gain along a deteriorated trail that ascends up to 9,000 feet.

The prominent outcropping with the hole in the middle of it, rises above Black Eagle Camp. "Mono County has the distinction of having the only commercial deposit of Andalusite so far discovered in the United States.

This was about as close as I was going to get to the upper mine on this trip.

Welcome to Black Eagle Mine

Welcome.

 

Since I didn't see another living soul on my way up the mountain, I wasn't expecting

Since I didn’t see another living soul on my way up the mountain, I wasn’t expecting to find anyone at the camp…

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…and I didn’t. It was just me, 7,550 feet high, all alone in a pristine ghost camp.

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Even though I wouldn’t be staying overnight this time, I still wanted to check-in to The Champion Hilton, the #1 cabin in the camp.

Inside The Hilton.

No reservations required.

This small storage magazine, photo here taken in 1991, later was modified into a sauna around 1994. It was later accidentally burned and is now a shallow depression in the slope.

The view out the south facing window of the Champion Hilton looks over one of the old storage magazines, that was once used to store explosives for the mine. It was later modified into a sauna but was accidentally burned in a fire in the 90’s. Fires are a real danger up here, all but one of the original buildings that used to be located in the upper mine area were destroyed by fire back in the eighties.

Believe or not but most (if not all) of the cabins have working wood burning stoves inside of them.

Believe or not, most (if not all) of the cabins have working wood burning stoves inside of them.

The one in the Hilton was ready and stocked with wood.

The one inside the Hilton was even stocked with wood.

Thankfully a fire wasn't

Thankfully a fire wasn’t needed while I was there but it was nice to see some basic fire safety information posted next to the stove.

There's a quite a few books and some cool drawings left by previous guests that have stayed in the camp.

The Hilton had some really cool drawings of some of the cabins and surrounding area that were done by previous guests who have stayed at the camp.

Including this one that was drawn by Christopher Murphy

Including this one, that was drawn by Christopher Murphy back in June of 2012.

Even the clock was accurate, which reminded me that I needed to get out and explore the rest of the camp before it got too late.

Even the clock was accurate, which reminded me that I needed to get out and explore the rest of the camp before it got too late.

So hanged the occupied sign on the Hilton's door and set out

I’ll be back.

My first stop was to the nearest outhouse.

My first stop was to the nearest outhouse.

There are three of them in the camp...

There are three of them in the camp…

There are three of them in the camp and the one nearest the Hilton just happened to the

…but the one closest to the Hilton just happened to be the best one.

ddd

Just make sure to leave it clean and odor free.

My next stop was down the hill towards the Mess Hall.

Next up was a building that was once used as a bathhouse for the miners.

It's definitely seen better days...

It’s definitely seen better days…

...but when you consider how long these buildings have been here along with the fact that the camp sat idle for the most part since 1945

…but when you consider how long these buildings have been here and that the camp has sat idle for the most part since 1945, it’s pretty amazing that most of these are even still standing.

There's even a working shower in side of it, although it wasn't working at the time when I was there. Water is piped into the camp from a nearby spring.

The bathhouse usually has a working shower inside of it, however it wasn’t working during my visit. The water is piped into camp from a nearby spring.

The view from the changing area next to the shower sure was nice but it probably gets a little cold in the winter without a piece of glass in it.

The view from the changing area next to the shower sure was nice but it probably gets a little cold in the winter without a piece of glass in it.

Next door to the bathhouse is the mess hall ...

Next door to the bathhouse is the mess hall…

Next door to the bathhouse is the mess hall.

…where a massive kitchen comes with just about anything a cook would need.

Including a large industrial sink...

Including a large industrial sink…

...

…a commercial size cooking range and a walk-in refrigerator – all hauled up over 3,000 vertical feet on the 5-mile switchback trail. Poor mules.

The

The dining area is also quite spacious.

If you eat too much

And if you eat too much at dinner and can’t make it back to your cabin, you could always spend the night here.

jj

Just make sure to keep the door latched tight.

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Just when I thought the camp couldn’t get any better, I came across the museum.

Don and Margy Fraser began coming to the site during outings when Don was enjoying his hobby in rock collecting. A mineral known as rutile was what brought Don to the Sparkplug Mine. Within a few years, Don began to find the buildings vandalized, so started bringing up tools and supplies to repair and maintain the camp. In time, others joined him in keeping the camp maintained and found it a wonderful place to come and stay a few days.

Don and Margy started coming to the mining camp in the 1960s in search of a mineral known as rutile. Within a few years they began to notice that some of the buildings were starting to get vandalized, so they started bringing up tools and supplies to repair and maintain the site which in turn brought other volunteers up the mountain to help preserve it. If you decide to visit someday, please continue to respect those that came before you and those that will come after you. Follow the unspoken code by respecting the space and leaving no trace.

The museum is filled with photos, business cards, logs, old Champion Sparkplug advertisements, samples of andalucite and the like.

The museum is filled with historical photos, business cards, old log books, samples of rare earth ore specimens and tons of other interesting artifacts.

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Really people? Please don't be an asshole.

Really people? Please don’t be an asshole.

The camp is HUGE, so please forgive me for making this post so long.

The camp is HUGE, so please forgive me for making this post so long.

The workshop.

The workshop. 13226670_10154160117521484_7975794403169699453_n

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One of the original buildings at the Black Eagle Camp and the only one that had wood siding.

This is the only building left at the lower camp that still has wood siding.

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There's more furnished cabins around the camp.

These side-by-side cabins further up the camp each have their own fire pits out front.

Most come with two twin beds.

Most cabins come with two twin beds…

...but this one

…but this one included a full/queen plus a twin. Perfect for a small family.

None are as homey as the Hilton but th

None are as homey as the Champion Hilton but most of them at least come with a little art on the walls and cute curtains.

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And you're never really that far from

No matter what cabin you end up in, you’re never really that far from a shitter…

...although this one may be a problem for those who want or need a little more privacy when they do their business.

…although this one may be a problem for those who want/need a little more privacy when they’re doing their business.

Further exlploration ad

Further exploration behind the lower camp lead to what I thought could be a portal into a mine…

...but it could of also been used for cold storage or perhaps another

…but it was most likely just a storage locker or another explosives magazine.

jjj

After a a few hours of exploring the camp, I did one last check to make sure everything was latched up tight, swept out my cabin, donated a few items that could be used by future guests and checked out of The Hilton.

This place is special, lets keep it that way.

This place is special, lets keep it that way. Locations and directions to some of the places found on this site are not listed, please don’t ask for them. Tread lightly, leave no trace and always respect the wonder that surrounds you.