By L. BURR BELDEN
Thanks primarily to the impetus of Yucca Valley civic leaders, construction is now sufficiently advanced on the Pioneer Pass Road, east of Baldwin Lake to the high desert, so it may be traversed with passenger automobiles, bus opening to the General public some of the most scenic country in the hinterland of San Bernardino National Forest.
This route, we’re drops off a bit sharply beyond the historic Rose Mine, has existed for 30 years or more at has been traversed by hundreds who knew of its existence and were equipped with high center vehicles but prior to the work by Yucca Valley residents this spring, it has been far from a safe road for the low center cars of recent vintage.
1928 TRIP RECALLED
Back around 1928 when the author of this article first traversed the route co. With the late William H. Campbell of Twnetynine Palms, an old road of mining days was yet particularly intact along the canyon sides, but it had been all but obliterated in spots, so the trip in Campbell’s air-cooled Franklin, was a seemingly endless succession of detours from the old trail down into the canyon bed and back to the road. Then, in the 1930s, the U.S. Forestry Service rebuilt bold road and shortened it by a laminating a former summit that wound crazily over a hogback to descend into Pipes Canyon above the former onyx mine.
The road, as improved by the forestry service, descended Rattlesnake Canyon from the Rose Mine, then wound past the Estlow Ranch over to Burns Canyon. That was far more direct than the old route to Pipes Canyon. The realignment past Burns Spring and then turn north to The Windmill. Soon a cut off was made east to the Pipes and on to Yucca Valley passed what later became Pioneertown.
HAD THREE CHOICES
There are three routes to Rose Mine from Big Bear Baldwin lakes. The two better ones start down Cushenbury Grade, then turn either via the quarry road or Horsethief Flats. The Horsethief Flats way is a bit longer but it is a firm road over decomposed granite and offers excellent scenery including that of a lush upland mesa where Junipers and joshua trees grow side by side with pinyon pines.
The shortest route from Big Bear to Rose Mine is south of Baldwin Lake to Erwin Lake and then on to Round Valley. None is paved but all are in passable condition. The Round Valley entry can be a bit on the dusty side, however.
It is between Rose Mine and Pioneertown that are Yucca Valley boosters have done their work. The community sensed the need to improve the route, much of which is not officially a part of the county road system. Funds were raised by the sale of buttons while scores of volunteer workers donated weekends to construction the results is a road wide enough for passing in almost all places it is still a bit soft but is firming rapidly with the increased traffic induced by the improvement.
The Yucca Valley boosters reason that a road, even a partially improved one, from the Rim of the World resort region to the high desert would prove popular. Also it would traverse considerable cement country heretofore known but to few.
The short time the route has been open to travel seems to more than justify the theory. Needless to say it is most popular with the Mountain ranchers and with some of the tucked away resorts such as Rim Rock Motel.
The Rose Mine, incidentally, offers one of the best ghost town areas in the entire country with numerous rustic structures and a wealth of old mine workings. Ghost towns have become a favorite mecca with thousands of Californians in recent years.
Often the mecca proves disappointing because a few foundation stones and old shafts are the only visible remains oh one time roaring camps. Not so at Rose Mine. There are several buildings in fair repair and others sufficiently canted and caved to delight both structure and photographer.
The Pioneer Pass routes also offers numerous side trips for the rugged explorers who want to follow side trails in their jeeps and pickups. The old route up Pipes Canyon is still open to the public camp some 8 or 9 miles above the junction.
Between Rattlesnake and Burns canyons another side road turns north to Mount Spring. It formerly continues via Rattlesnake Creek and Two Hole Springs to Old Woman Springs, but could not be recommended for travel now.
There is, however, plenty to see and enjoy along the main routes without attempting any side trips. It should be noted that no gasoline or supplies can be regularly expected to beyond Yucca Valley and Big Bear. If the trip is made from the desert side it involves a climb from 3,200 to 6,700 feet at a dirt road takes more gasoline.