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Tropico to Calico
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Tropico to Calico


Original Article and Photographs by Kenneth A. Larson © 2004 - 2017
Written June 2004



I had seen Tropico Mine a week earlier, but on a bus tour and couldn't stop. I was intrigued and wanted a closer look. I had been promising to take my wife to Calico Ghost Town for some time, so I combined the two trips, along with a trip to Calico Early Man site, into a desert day trip.
It was early spring, a good time to visit the high desert, Mojave Desert. We set out early, traveling north on Highway 14 from Los Angeles. It's only about an hour to the Kern County line and Rosamond Boulevard. Exit Rosamond Boulevard west about four miles and turn right on Tropico-Mojave Road. You will see the ruins of Tropico Mine ahead just where the road curves to the right. Tropico Mine is long closed and access to Tropico Mine
the sight is prohibited. Still, you can get a good look at the mine constructions and the buildings that were brought to the site years ago in an effort to bring tourists.
Continue north on Tropico-Mojave Road as the name changes to Silver Queen Road and returns you to Highway 14 north through the town of Mojave. Turn right on Highway 58 east about an hour to Barstow in San Bernardino County. Along the way, we passed Borax Visitor Center and Boron, both containing exhibits to the mineral boron and the mining of this mineral. These we saved for another day. There is also a highway rest stop near Boron so take advantage to stretch your legs or use the facilities.
Stop at Barstow or take the highway around and continue east on Interstate 15 about ten miles. Our first stop was the Calico Early Man Archaeological Site. Archaeologists have been studying this oldest known American Archaeological site since November 1, 1964. Trails lead visitors past the various excavations, periodic tours are given by researchers, and a small museum displays some of the finds. The site includes three master pits and numerous smaller pits. Some are control pits dug to compare materials found in the master pit which are believed to be stone tool artifacts made by people thousands of years ago with unaltered native rock. The master pit artifacts differ from the native rocks only a few feet way, indicating that these stones have been worked by man.
We then ventured back a few miles to the famed Calico Ghost Town. Calico is a real place, unfortunately, many of the buildings are recreations, some from the days when Walter Knott owned the property. Walter both moved some of the buildings to his famed Knott's Berry Farm and Ghost Town in Buena Park and built some of the buildings still at Calico. Calico has been criticized as a "Tourist Trap," but if you are careful, you can learn a lot of history while shopping and enjoying the entertainment. I had visited Calico Ghost Town several times but my wife had never visited before. The first thing you might notice is the twisted and folded rock across the canyon from the parking lot. Calico Ghost Town is here because of the Calico Silver Mines and the mines are here because of the active fault structures in this part of California which concentrated the silver oar. Calico consists of one Main Street lines with shops and restaurants. Also on Main Street is the Haunted Shack, a recent structure in the spirit of a Ghost Town.
Make sure that you walk all the way to the end of the street and cross the bridge to the left. The school across the bridge is real and quite old. Back across the bridge and on the east side of Main Street, are the ruins of stone buildings built into the cliff and the Maggie Mine, one of the mines that made Calico a profitable town. Also on the east side of town is the Bottle House that is of recent construction, but "might have existed." I have never ridden the train ride, but children seem to enjoy it. As we returned to our car, my wife asked, "Can we come back some day?"
A friend had recently moved to Lucern Valley. We had promised to stop by about 5:30 on the way home. I misjudged the hour drive and we arrived about 6:00. Highway 247 from Barstow to Lucern Valley is a lonely road but allowed uncluttered views of the Mojave Desert. Lucern Valley is a small desert town a half hour east of Victorville We promised to return soon to see the sights of Lucern Valley. It was getting dark when we said goodbye to my friend and headed west into the post sunset on Highway 18.
Highway 18/138, the Palmdale/Pearblossom Highway, takes the modern day pioneer through Joshua Trees and what my father called, "woopy bumps." My friend had recommended stopping at Charlie Brown Farms, but it closed at 8:00 and it was now 8:30. I had to promise my wife that we would return soon. It was long past sunset and we were quite tired when we glimpsed the lights of the San Fernando Valley and we were almost home.

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This page last updated: Saturday, 06-Jul-2013 05:49:47 EDT

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