William ‘Burro’ Schmidt and his tunnel to Nowhere.
It’s actually more like 9 miles on a very ruddy dirt road. Low profile vehicles should just say no.
That Schmidt was so creative with his directionals.
“Burro” Schmidt, mining gold in the El Paso Mountains, was faced with a dangerous ridge between his mining claims and the smelter to the south in Mojave. Schmidt said that he would “never haul his ore to the Mojave smelter down that back trail” using his two burros. Thus, he began his tunnel in 1900. The tunnel was about 6 feet tall and 10 feet wide. It was cut through solid granite bedrock and required little shoring. However, Schmidt was trapped many times by falling rock and injured often. He eventually installed a mining cart on rails.
In 1920 a road was completed from Last Chance Canyon to Mojave, eliminating the need for the tunnel, but Schmidt claimed to be obsessed with completion and dug on. By 1938 he had achieved his “goal”, having dug through nearly 2,500 feet of solid granite using only a pick, a shovel, and a four-pound hammer for the first initial section, and carefully placed dynamite with notoriously short fuses for the majority portion. It was estimated that he had moved 5,800 tons of rock to complete his work. Interestingly Schmidt never used the tunnel to move his mine’s ore. Instead, he sold the tunnel to another miner and moved away. A Ripley’s Believe It or Not cartoon celebrated the feat, calling him the human mole. Schmidt’s cabin, down below in Garlock, has been largely abandoned and stands as it was in the 1930s, preserved by the dry climate.
Don’t forget your flashlight. It’s 1/2 mile in total darkness without one. This is one of the off shoots that I wasn’t able to explore on my solo trip…thank god. This section is way longer than expected and feels a lot more claustrophobic and spookier. Numerous small droppings and the smell of some kind of creature added to the fun. It wasn’t until the end after finding a small crevice within the vein and what appeared to be urine running down it that we came to the conclusion that a shit load of mice, rats or some other creature lived in this section of the tunnel. Fortunately, these creatures didn’t start running out of the opening while we were there.
We also finally got to see what was hiding behind the metal door…not much. This section ends rather quickly and while I was standing at the end of it, I heard a rather strange faint high pitched noise. Thinking it was bats or some other small animal, I decided to send my friend in to see if he was able to hear the same thing. He did and then flashed his light on the ground to discover a mama mouse spending time with her new batch of babies underneath a lovely cotton nest she had built for them. Such a good mother.
The intestines of the Burro Schmidt Tunnel…all 0.5 miles of it which was dug entirely by hand over a 38-year period by William “Burro” H. Schmidt (1871–1954).
The back door.
The tunnel is below the summit of a 4,400 feet mountain. Its southern adit (portal) overlooks the Fremont Valley, Koehn Dry Lake, and the ghost towns of Garlock and Saltdale.
Back door Pani.
Enjoy! Don’t Destroy!
I was only able to view Burro Schmidt’s camp and cabins [located around the corner from his tunnel on Copper Mountain] from the outside on my last trip…
…this time I decided to take a closer look. This was the caretaker’s cabin after Schmidt died in 1947.
Burro Schmidt’s old workshop insulated with newspapers and magazines from his time period.
Two holes for the price of one. Believe it or not these two-holers were quite popular. Contrary to perhaps modern thinking, the Two Holer was not designed so that two people could use it at the same time. It was designed so that the human waste would be evenly distributed within the wooden box underneath the holes.
Meow! Magazines not only provided entertainment/enjoyment while shitting, they were also used as toilet paper back in the day. Ouch, scratchy cat!
After Schmidt and his ‘partner’ died, a feisty and fiercely independent women, Evelyn Tonie Seger and her husband bought the property and moved in. This was most likely one of the bedrooms or possible LR.
She obviously upgraded the bathroom at some point. The Bureau of Land Management states that they own the Schmidt Tunnel and associated surrounding land because it is an unpatented mining claim under the General Mining Act of 1872 (i.e., ownership of the underlying land always remained with the U.S. government under the management of the Bureau of Land Management with only mining rights transferred to the mining claim owner) where no mining operations are underway, meaning that all rights revert to the BLM under the Federal Land Policy And Management Act of 1976 upon the death of the grandfathered claimant Evelyn A. (Tonie) Seger who had possessed the claim prior to 1976. This is in dispute as Seger is claimed by heirs to have maintained the claim legally under the terms of the Mining Act and properly transferred the mining claim upon her death to Dave Ayers, her caretaker for the last years of her life. As of 2003 David Ayers and Mr. F. Schmidt claimed to be legal owners of the mining claim containing the Schmidt Tunnel. The historic buildings on the mining claim site were transferred by Tonie Seger’s will to her granddaughter Cheryl Kelly. The BLM assumed ownership of the historic buildings via publication of an abandonment notice after multiple attempts to contact the former legal owner, Cheryl Kelly, by both BLM personnel and private parties in order to preserve the site failed. According to the BLM, long-time caretaker David Ayers was offered the opportunity to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the BLM to be the full-time caretaker of the site, but refused to sign unless he was paid to be the caretaker and instead chose to leave to work elsewhere after being informed he had no legal right to remain at the site without that MOU.
Protecting and preserving historic, sacred, and sensitive sites should be practiced by all. Locations, directions, and names 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.