Monday, January 20, 2014

Old Dutch Cleanser Mine - El Paso Mountains

I have a ton of backed up things that I want and need to post. I was going to start on that today, but this weekend I had such a great time cavorting around the El Paso Mountains (in the Mojave Desert), that I decided I need to work in the new stuff with the old.

The trip was organized by Death Valley Jim. Yep, first name Death, middle name Valley and last name Jim. Geez, and people used to tell me that I gave my son an odd name! No, that isn't his real name. You are so gullible! This trip didn't cost us anything, it was more like a "I'm going to go four-wheeling in the mountains this weekend and look at some cool stuff, come along if you want to." 

The name was earned, not given. Jim knows as much, or more about our SoCal deserts than anyone I know. Yes, that includes Death Valley. Get it? Not only is he an expert, he's an author and he's willing to be your guide in these places. If you are interested in that, or just interested in the subject matter. Please take a look at his webpage. I like him (for one reason) because we are interested in a lot of the same things. 
Let me start off by saying, I don't know jack about cleanser (I don't even like soap).  However, in a effort to appear somewhat intelligent and well informed, I did a little research. At first, I was just going act like I already knew the stuff I'm about to say, but my wife said nobody would believe it. 

You might be more familiar with Comet, or Bon Ami, but Old Dutch Cleanser has also been around for along time. All of these products have one thing in common. They are made of "pumicite" (it is also put into cement as an additive)Old Dutch Cleanser started this pumicite mine in 1923. The operation here closed in 1947 because people discovered pumicite at ground level in other locations. So even though there is miles of this stuff still here, when compared to surface deposits elsewhere, it is too expensive to mine. By now you are probably like me and don't ever want to hear the word "pumicite" again. I agree, the subject of cleanser pretty much sucks, but the MINE is awesome! Dusty, a little scary (to me) and awesome...

I promise you, this was probably the best surface we drove on the whole day (and we went to 6 places). 

I believe there were fifteen vehicles. Some were pretty hard core off road vehicles and some stock, but all had to be FWD. I have a jeep and it worked just fine on this trip, but it is  stock and I now openly admit that I have jeep envy...

 That looks a mine entrance.

Yep, it's a mine. I'm not going in there first. Jim drew the short straw and had to go in first as the "canary." If you don't get that reference, feel free to ask!

Very well lit around the openings, but as you can see, it gets pitch black in hurry. Is that a freaking ghost?

The mountain appeared to be honeycombed with shafts and has several entrances. I'll shut up for a bit while you look at the photos. Then I'll tell you about the mine. No wait! Do any of you remember my earlier post (like FOUR years ago) about my phobias?  Deep water, clowns and hallways. This place falls under the hallway heading. Jim asked me if I wanted to go down one of the long shafts with him. I said no and made up some excuse, but it was really because of my phobia. What if I did that and there was clown a down there?  If you don't remember that post. Here's a link to it. So get to steppin' so you can check it out when you are done with this. Or go now and come back. (is that too pushy?)

 Pretty cool, right? It really was an amazing place and I'm glad I got to see it.



  1. The mine was cool! And well lit.
    I actually knew that about Old Dutch Cleaner!! Score one for the Ninja.

  2. Gulp- I wouldn't have gotten very far in there... but it does look like a great trip. What rugged country!

  3. that is REALLY cool! and i had never really considered what was in cleanser or how it was collected aka mined!

  4. Oh, cool indeed!! And great pics as always, Pat! And, oh, yes -- damnit, I do remember Old Dutch cleanser!! Hope you have a terrific week!! Enjoy!

  5. Alex - It actually was cool! In both meanings of the word. I had heard of it, but I'm a soft scrub sort of guy.

    Shelly - I seriously didn't go in too far. Some of our group did though. It was a lot of fun.

    TexWisGirl - I never thought about it either. Well, now we know!

    Sylvia - Thanks Sylvia! Don't feel bad, they still make it! You have a great week yourself.

  6. Pat, good thing you never had to live underground or in a mine, like in the old, old, old days. It does look neat in there. Wish I was adventurous & had a different vehicle. Never break a leg out there. Take care.

  7. Those are such terrific photos! We know about the canary thing, my Dad's Grandpa was a miner when way back in the bird days!

  8. Looked like you had a fun trip and that cave is so beautiful. Amazing with so many arches and opening too!

  9. That's awesome! In Colorado you don't go in the mines because they can collapse, but that looks pretty solid.

  10. I don't exactly have a phobia, but that cave looks scary , like all that pumcite (did I remember the word right?) might fall down on your head at any minute. I had no idea that mine was out there.

    A great trip and fabulous to have an expert who is also a nice guy guiding you.

    And my MOM used Old Dutch Cleanser when I was a child, so it is really really an old product!

  11. Sandy McMor - Yep, that is a real good thing. If you were adventurous, you sure live in the right area for it. We have been going in to JT a lot lately. Maybe you, Judy, Paula and I can get together on our way in or out sometime soon.

    Brian - Thanks Brian! I'm glad somebody commented on the canary. I'm sure that wasn't an easy job for your GG grandfather.

    Icy BC -It was a great trip the guy (Death Valley Jim) who invited me really had it set up well.

    Al - It did look pretty solid, but there was plenty of stuff on the ground that had fallen from the roof.

    Sallie - I don't exactly have a phobia either. I have three! There are a lot of mines in that area. You are so right, he REALLY knows back country and is also a nice guy.

  12. What a cool place to spend time photographing! I bet is was awesome in person.

    I laughed about the Jeep envy. A co-worker of my asked why I bought my Liberty without four-wheel drive...told me it wasn't really a Jeep without it.

    Hey that first shot through your windshield...looks like two helicopters were tailing you...probably just dead bugs, huh.

    Great visual post and cool story!
    Happy New Year

  13. Wonderful photos. I love the old Comet tin. Hope all is going great for you. I would not go in the mine but looks interesting.

  14. Hope for your that your car can brave these roads:) I wouldn't think that many people would go there!
    Question: did you ever do a series about the gold rush and/or highway 49? If so, please give me the reference to when you posted them? Thanks!

  15. Definitely cool! I like the fact that these caves aren't roped off and or overrun with tourists.

    Regarding your question. Newtown was founded in 1684 but I think the oldest remaining buildings date from the 1700s. At the moment I live in the neighboring town of Langhorne and it's about the same age. Coming from Orange County I'm continually amazed by the age of the towns and buildings around here.

  16. Chuck - It was really awesome! I was really happy with our stock jeep. It did some things I didn't know it could do. One of them amazed me. I wish I had a video of it. Oh yeah Chuck, there was all kind of gunk all over it. It took me half a day to clean it. Thanks Chuck!

    Nora - Thanks Nora! It was interesting, but I wasn't going in too deep. For one reason, when people are walking in that power, the air gets thick with it. Thinks are indeed going great for me. I hope the same is true for you.

    jeannettestgermain - Our jeep did more than I thought it could. Now, I have a lot more confidence in it. I've never done a post on Hwy 49, or any of the gold rush towns up north. I haven't been there in decades. It's on my list though. Sorry!

  17. I never thought a mine would look so gorgeous. And it's so inconspicuous. Glad you saw it, and brought us there safely (through photos). Thanks, Pat.

    Be well.

  18. Well, I just learned something new.: cleanser is made of pumicite. I'm not sure how seep into the mine I would feel comfortable about going...but I do like your photos.

  19. Death Valley Jim has an excellent site Pat, what an exciting life he leads. The mine looks clean and airy but there is no way I could even go in there :) claustrophobia is a curse :)

  20. Those are REMARKABLE pictures! I really hope to get out that way before I die.

  21. wow impressive and beautiful caves. I'm not sure if I would be inside there, I have some problems to breath in places like that, but it's really wonderful! I also love the vintage logo, it's beautiful!
    Thanks for sharing your adventures, your pictures are wonderful!

  22. I'm sure that's a very nice mine. I don't do caves. Kind of like how you don't do hallways. Pretty pictures though.

  23. I love the shot with your shadow -- it's like a cave drawing. Who would have thought they once risked life and limb to bring us cleanser. Why Dutch, I wonder.

  24. I've learned several things on this journey including our similar phobias; not hallways so much, but now that I think about it.....I was once in a Chicago high rise (windows sealed shut) when the fire alarm went off. And I remember going out the door and looking at that long hallway, artificially lit, each door looking the same as the next and thinking "we're going to die" between Navaho White walls.

    Which is the same color as the interior of that cave. Beautiful. You are finding the best places.

  25. Looks very cool and a little scary. But that jeep caravan, man, that looks like fun.

  26. Looking at the outside of the mine, I might not have ventured inside. However, I am so pleasantly surprised. It is actually so light, airy and cool looking. However, I wouldn't go lose sight of the opening to the outside. Speaking of which, those particular photos are really amazing. I could easily camp in there, watch the sunset, observe the stars encrusting the darkening sky, build a little fire, and sleep so peacefully. One can wish...

  27. Robyn - I've seen photos of it before and thought it was pretty cool looking. I was very surprised at how awesome it was in person.

    EG CameraGirl - I've never heard of pumicite before either. Thanks so much!

    PerthDailyPhoto - Yes he does (on both counts)! The mine was almost pretty big and didn't feel claustrophobic at all, but it still seemed unworldly.

    Al - Thanks so much Al! I hope you do!

    Cezar and Leia - There was also a lot of that white powder in the air, so breathing might be a problem! Thanks for the nice words Leia!

  28. Baby Sister - It was nice! I don't like mines very much (because they are man made), but caves are alright. That's a good thing because I seem to spend quite a bit of time crawling around in them.

    altadenahiker - A moment of silence for those who made those risks, so we could scour our sinks...

    Pasadena Adjacent - I would not have liked being in that high rise when the alarm went off. When I'm walking down a hall like that, it feels almost like I'm falling down the hall. Weird, right? It doesn't freak me out and I still do it, but I don't really like it. Thanks!

    The Geezers - I'd say "very clear and a little scary" is a good description of it. It was a great time.

    Stickup Artist - I felt totally comfortable inside the first part. It was airy and well lit. But that light goes away in a hurry if you go in further. Thanks so much for the nice words. It would be a nice place to camp. I love places like that because it's so quiet.

  29. Cool pictures from the mine.

  30. That´s such an amazing place. Thanks for the info. Greetings.

  31. Pat
    Nice pictures, I got claustrophobic just looking at the mine.
    I read your comment on the Geezer's blog; you wrote using Viet Nam as an example. I was there too, a corpsman with the 3rd Marines, 66-68. My (later) father-in-law was an admiral in the navy, and was ComNavPhil in 67-69. Earlier he had been assistant to the SecNav in the early 60's.
    He once told me that he thought the reason we stayed in VN past 1969 was pressure from the Joint Chiefs, they wanted to develop a cadre of combat experienced middle grade officers and NCO's. He thought it was dismal reasoning. I did a post about him on Veteran's day a year ago.

  32. that place looks like something from STAR WARS :)

  33. I love these beautiful photos, wonderful especially the mining tunnels, very good!

  34. ladyfi - Thanks! it was a cool place.

    Japy - Greetings right back at you Japy! My pleasure...

    Should fish More - Thanks for saying that and for commenting. Wow! That is very interesting! I don't doubt it and if it's true, it sure is a dismal reason. It seems that life really is cheap to some people.
    Cheers to you also. Thanks again!

    DEZMOND - I hadn't thought about that, but I think you are right.

    Leovi - Thanks so much Leovi!

  35. Great pictures - looks like a wonderful place to explore.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

    PS; thanks for the many comments.

  36. Stewart - Thanks so much! It is a great place. You don't have to thank me for the comments, they were my pleasure.

  37. Pretty and iterating from the outside, but no way in **** would I have ventured in there or into a cave. They are NOT for this old gal. Enjoyed the story about the Dutch Cleanser...those cans did look familiar but I am a bit old.

  38. genie - Thanks Genie! This one didn't bother me as much as the next one did!

  39. oh my, this is so cool!
    gorgeous photos as usual.

    that cave is amazing- i never thought a mine would look so beautiful! looks like an amazing trip, pat. thanks for taking us along with you:)

  40. you keep finding these places that i want to just move into.

  41. Betty M - Thanks so much Betty! It's my pleasure to have you tag along.

    Lovkyne - In that case, I am doing my job. I take that as a major compliment. Thanks so much!

  42. That's what I like about you, Pat. YOu are always working to educate your readers. I had no idea about Dutch Cleanser being mined. Yup, I with you on the scary tunnel thing.

  43. Rosemary - That was nice of you to say Rosemary. I find it interesting and just pass it on. Somebody showed me the mine and I thought it was pretty cool.

  44. Interesting!!! I thought it was Borax? I also thought they were still mining out this near Trona???

  45. TheChieftess - Borax and Calcite are two totally different things. There still are some mines out there. A lot of them.


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