|South Entrance to Tunnel (Picture from Wikicommons)|
There is a sign along the highway where we turn in to get to the Club mining claim. The sign says Burro Schmidt’s tunnel and an arrow points the way. The dirt BLM roads split and we go off to the right, while Burro’s road carries straight on. I would like some day to see this bit of history in person. It is about 10 miles in from the highway. I found the following article about Burro Schmidt on Wikipedia. Reading about it is not quite the same as going there but good enough for now.
"Burro" Schmidt, was mining gold in the El Paso Mountains, and was faced with a dangerous ridge between his mining claims and the smelter to the south in Mojave. Schmidt said that he would "never haul his ore to the Mojave smelter down that back trail" using his two burros. Thus, he began his tunnel in 1900. The tunnel was about 6 feet (1.8 m) tall and 10 feet (3.0 m) wide. It was cut through solid granite bedrock and required little shoring. However, Schmidt was trapped many times by falling rock and injured often. He eventually installed a mining cart on rails.
In 1920 a road was completed from Last Chance Canyon to Mojave, eliminating the need for the tunnel, but Schmidt claimed to be obsessed with completion and dug on.
By 1938 he had achieved his "goal", having dug through nearly 2,500 feet (760 m) of solid granite using only a pick, a shovel, and a four-pound hammer for the first initial section, and carefully placed dynamite with notoriously short fuses for the majority portion. It was estimated that he had moved 5,800 tons (5,260 metric tons) of rock to complete his work.
Interestingly Schmidt never used the tunnel to move his mine's ore. Instead, he sold the tunnel to another miner and moved away. A Ripley's Believe It or Not cartoon celebrated the feat, calling him the human mole. Schmidt's cabin, down below in Garlock, has been largely abandoned and stands as it was in the 1930s, preserved by the dry climate.
The Bureau of Land Management states that they own the Schmidt Tunnel and associated surrounding land because it is an unpatented mining claim under the General Mining Act of 1872 and that all rights reverted to the BLM under the Federal Land Policy And Management Act of 1976 upon the death of the grandfathered claimant Evelyn A. (Tonie) Seger who had possessed the claim prior to 1976. From Wikipedia