Feb 21

Day 6: Tucki Mine

Category: Death Valley

Once upon a time a man bored a hole into the multicolored stone of Tucki Mountain, looking for the gold thought to be hidden within. He found it. For years, he ran this business and made a modest living from it, until Death Valley was turned into a national park and industrial activity was suspended. Mr. Journigan lost his mine, and now it’s part of park history.

It’s hard to resist the call of an actual old west abandoned gold mine (well, maybe not so old, he was working in in the 1970s). The road to the tucki mine is hard to find, but lies near the junction of 190 and Emigrant Canyon road. You need a 4WD to drive here. The road – invisible near its start – goes through telephone canyon and takes you about 9 miles into the mountains. It would make a great hike on foot, or on horseback too. We 4-wheeled it, because I was sick and also short on time. This is another place where you could spend all day. The initial part of the road ius not for the faint of heart. Having read all of the park material about how dangerous it is to break down, how you can starve to death before anyone finds your dessicated corpse, I was wryly amused to pass this carcass.

Tucki mine

Don’t worry, we had a week’s worth of food and water! We ended up leaving most of it for fellow travelers when our trip was over.

The famous rock overhang in telephone canyon, with our rented Toyota 4runner under it. Don’t try this with regular rental insurance folks! Nobody wants to rent you a 4WD if you intend to use it. The 4runner was awesome. It was large enough to hold the two of us, all our stuff, enough food and water for a week, and it was still comfortable. Yes, it was a gas hog, driving it as a daily commuter would be stupid… but this is what it was made for. We made sure to take it through some rough spots… I was a little worried that the amount of dirt and scratches would tip off the rental agency that we were doing something with it, but Death Valley’s average annual rainfall of 1.9 inches seemed to occur entirely during our stay there, and the vehicle was washed clean. They never complained about all of the red mud smashed into the carpet.

telephone canyon

Holly standing at the entrance of the tucki mine. Every guidebook tells you not to go in to mine shafts. These warnings are wise. I followed them, mostly.The tucki mine

About 15 feet into the shaft, you can see the beautiful colors of the rock where the tunnel branches.

inside the tucki mine

Why do tunnels call so powerfully? However, the urge not to get stuck on a difficult, unfamiliar dirt road after dark proved stronger. We sped out of there, racing the sun and making it to paved road just as the sun disappeared behind the mountains. We sped on to Beatty, where we stayed the night.

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