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Big Bear Lake Adventures

Wilderness Safaris, in and around Big Bear Lake

GOLD MOUNTAIN/JACOBY CANYON

BLT
Butchers Block
Nottinghams Tavern
Old Country Inn

About a 30 TO 45 minute drive on dirt roads.

Difficulty Level – 2 or 4 wheel drive vehicle with good ground clearance.

GOLD MOUNTAIN

Looking out over Baldwin Lake from the old Gold Mountain mine. © Rick Keppler

The view of Baldwin Lake from the old Gold Mountain mine. © Rick Keppler

There was a time in the late 1800’s, when the community center of Big Bear Valley was located over at the north/east end of Baldwin Lake. It was called Bairdstown. It sat on the valley slopes just below Gold Mountain, in the area that is now fenced off as an ecological preserve. Bairdstown was a bustling community long before Big Bear Village, Fawnskin, Big Bear City, or even the Big Bear Lake itself existed.

It was back in 1873, about twenty years after Big Bear’s original Gold Rush had fizzled out, when a guy by the name of Elias J. (Lucky) Baldwin arrived in Big Bear, purchased a gold claim, and named it Gold Mountain. Baldwin was already a multimillionaire who had originally made his fortune in the mining business in the Ophir Mine in Nevada. Immediately after purchasing his claim, Baldwin carved out a new road from the high desert up through Cactus Flats into Big Bear, now Highway 18, and began construction a huge 40 stamp mill at the base of Gold Mountain. When word got out about Baldwin’s involvement at Gold Mountain in Big Bear, it sparked a second gold rush. Overnight the community of Bairdstown sprang into existence.

By September of 1874, Bairdstown had a blacksmith shop, a butcher shop, two boarding houses, and two saloons. By spring of 1875, the new community had grown to include three general stores, two livery stables, three restaurants, two hotels, several saloons, a black smith shop, a bakery, a meat market, a Chinese wash house, a tailor, a shoemaker, a barber, and even a cemetery.

Bairdstown was a typical mining community, not a tourist friendly resort town. As with most mining towns, fist fights and shootings were regular events, and the cemetery always had an occasional customer. If you want more information on the story of Gold Mountain click here.

Baldwin’s stamp mill and Bairdstown have long since faded into history, but there are still ruins left over that testify to all the activity that went on back then, and this is what we will be exploring today. So let’s head on out and see what there is to see.

INTO THE WILDERNESS

The Gold Mountain mine at Big Bear as seen from the valley below where Bairdstown once sat.  The stamp mill was located to the left of the cut in the top of the mountain. - Rick Keppler collection.

The Gold Mountain mine at Big Bear as seen from the valley below where Bairdstown once sat. The stamp mill was located to the left of the cut in the top of the mountain. - Rick Keppler collection.

Gold Mountain is one of the easiest wilderness locations to get to and explore. Lets begin by heading east on North Shore Drive, Highway 18, towards Baldwin Lake. Turn north on to the Doble Dump Road. Gold Mountain is visible directly in front of you. The whole top of the mountain has been cut away. The abandoned ore tipple for loading ore cars can be seen at the base of the cut. When you reach the point in the road directly below Gold Mountain as seen in the photo #XX below, pull over and stop. You might want to get out and look around. The left (North/west) side of the road is fenced off as part of the Nature Preserve. This pristine area, that looks like it has never been touched be man, but this is where the mining community of Bairdstown, later known as Doble, was once located. To the right (north/east) side of Doble Dump road is the old Doble cemetery, which still exists today and is maintained by the Big Bear Valley Historical Society. As you gaze out over this wilderness area, keep in mind that Bairdstown wasn’t a camp. This was a busy community, a town where, over the years thousands of people, came and went with dreams of striking it rich. Most went home broke and disappointed, leaving their dreams behind. Some individuals, now residing in the cemetery, never made it home at all.

Continuing north on Doble Dump Road, we reach USFS Road 3N16 which will take us up to the top of the mountain. About one mile up 3N16 we reach the actual Gold Mountain mine and ore tipple that we viewed from the valley below. Looking out over the old ore tipple, the view is impressive. To the north is the Mojave desert that seems to stretch on forever. Baldwin Lake is spread out to the south/east, and directly below the ore tipple is where Bairdstown once sat. On the side of Gold Mountain, about a hundred yards to the right (south side) of the ore tipple is where the Lucky Baldwin Stamp Mill was located. The old stamp mill sat abandoned for many years before it was eventually dismantled. All that remains today are the concrete ruins. The photos below show what it looked like back when it was in operation.

The Lucky Baldwin stamp mill on the side of Gold Mountain as it looked in the 1920's.  Baldwin Lake can be seen in the background. - Rick Keppler collection.

The Lucky Baldwin stamp mill on the side of Gold Mountain. Baldwin Lake can be seen in the background. - Rick Keppler collection.

An interior photo of the Baldwin stamp mill showing of the mills eight stamp batteries.  When operating the noise from these stamps could be heard throughout Big Bear Valley. - Rick Keppler collection..

An interior photo of the Baldwin stamp mill showing of the mills eight stamp batteries. When operating, the noise from these stamps could be heard throughout Big Bear Valley. - Rick Keppler collection.

The next three photos below were taken in October 1936, by a group of hikers exploring the then abandoned Gold Mountain stamp mill at Big Bear Lake.

Inside the abandoned stamp mill in the late 1930's. Note the size of this size of the massive flywheel that these young adventures with their rifles are posing on. - Rick Keppler collection.

Inside the abandoned stamp mill in the mid 1930's. Note the size of this size of the massive flywheel that these young adventures with their rifles are posing on. - Rick Keppler collection.

The Gold Mountain stamp mill boiler room. In later years, the stamp mill operated on electric power. - Rick Keppler collection.

The Gold Mountain stamp mill boiler room. In later years, the stamp mill operated on electric power. - Rick Keppler collection.

If you look at the lower left corner of this photo of Baldwin Lake, you will see a hand full of buildings still left in the old ghost town of Bairdstown. - Rick Keppler collection

If you look at the lower left corner of this photo of Baldwin Lake, you will see a hand full of buildings still standing in the old ghost town of Bairdstown. This photo was taken in 1936 from the Gold Mountain stamp mill at Big Bear. - Rick Keppler collection

JACOBY CANYON

In less than a mile, Jacoby Canyon takes you from rocky mountains terrain to lush green woods. - © Rick Keppler

In less than a mile, Jacoby Canyon takes you from a dry rocky mountains terrain to lush green woods. - © Rick Keppler

When you have finished exploring Gold Mountain, there are several options available to return to Big Bear. The first option is to go back the way we came in on 3N16. This is the quickest. The second option is to continue east on 3N16 which would take you through Holcomb Valley. The third option is a less traveled route through a place called Jacoby Canyon.

We begin the Jacoby Canyon excursion by heading back down 3N16 towards Doble Dump Road. Within a few hundred yards after leaving Gold Mountain is the USFS 3N61 turn off. Note – 3N61 will require a 4 wheel drive vehicle or at least a 2 wheel drive vehicle with good ground clearance. 3N61 starts dropping immediately down through Jacoby Canyon eventually connecting with Highway 18 in the Cactus Flat area.

Jacoby Canyon starts out as rocky terrain near the top. Towards the middle it turns into a thick lush green forest and vegetation with a year round steam meandering through it. Once you pass through the forest section of the canyon, the road climbs back up onto a rocky plateau area that provides some incredible views of the Mojave Desert. What makes Jacoby Canyon so unique is how quickly it goes from rocky mountain terrain to lush green then back to rocky desert in a relatively short distance. Take your time as you drive through Jacoby Canyon to look for evidence of the many mining claims that once operated here. In the 1920’s this canyon was also home for several bootleg stills that operated for years providing liquor to Big Bear Village merchants during the prohibition era. Look closely and you will also see many ancient petro glyphs left by the Serrano Indians when they passed through Jacoby Canyon in their annual journey to and from the Big Bear Valley each year.

At the end of the canyon, 3N61 connects with Highway 18. Turn right (east) onto Hwy 18 and you will be back in Big Bear Valley within about ten or fifteen minutes.

Happy Trails

Strolling through the wilderness in Jacoby Canyon.  During Prohibition illegal stills operated here, supplying Big Bear Lake businesses with moonshine liquor. - © Rick Keppler

Strolling through the wilderness in Jacoby Canyon. During Prohibition illegal stills operated here, supplying Big Bear Lake businesses with moonshine liquor. - © Rick Keppler

Eventually Jacoby Canyon emerges from lush green back up into rocky mountain terrian. Keep an eye out for petrglyphs. - © Rick keppler.

Eventually Jacoby Canyon re-emerges from lush green forest back up into rocky mountain terrain. Be sure to keep an eye out for ancient petro glyphs. - © Rick Keppler.

The late afternoon sun not only provides some good phot opportunities, but lets us know it's time to start heading home. - © Rick Keppler

The late afternoon sun not only provides some good photo opportunities, but it lets us know when it's time to start heading home. - © Rick Keppler

For more information on the history of Big Bear, check out the Big Bear History Site.Com or go to the Channel-6 website program guide.  Here you will find the dates and times for the various historical episodes on Channel-6’s Big Bear History Show.

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If you plan on visiting Big Bear Lake, check out Big Bear Cabins and Coupons .Com

Hoffman Websites
Butchers Block
Nottinghams Tavern
Sonora Cantina

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