Running along the south side of Ridgecrest is a set of mountains known as the Rademacher Hills. From the top of the hills a person can gaze into the scenic "view shed" that looks over a large expanse of desert and Ridgecrest. This is an area where the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), recreational users, adjacent landowners, and interest groups are actively working together to protect and enhance the scenic, ecological, and recreational values.
Many of the hills and mountains around Ridgecrest and its surrounding communities have been of considerable interest to prospectors and miners since the 1880s. Hikers, horseback riders, and bicyclists often use trails and routes that were once used by miners. Evidence of the historic prospecting and mining are found throughout the area. “Visitors can often see abandoned mine land (AML) features such as adits, shafts, and trenches,” said Sterling White, Abandoned Mine Land and Hazmat Program Lead from the BLM’s California Desert District Office (CDD).
In 2012, an interdisciplinary team of staff members from the Ridgecrest Field Office analyzed more than 60 AML features and determined that 20 of them along the Rademacher Trail System were dangerous and should be remediated. Team members included Ashley Blythe - Archeologist, Caroline Woods - Wildlife Biologist, Lori Ford - Abandoned Mines and Hazmat Specialist, and Craig Beck - Supervisory Outdoor Recreation Planner.
Said Beck, “The Rademacher Hills Trail system comprises trail segments that pass through a variety of desert terrain.” These segments provide differing degrees of trail difficulty -- ranging from open, flat desert to steep, rocky ridges. The trail system is designed to offer the opportunity for both loop trips and point-to-point trips on BLM-managed public land to the north of Cerro Coso College. The system extends from Gateway Road on the east, to South Downs Avenue on the west, and Javis Avenue on the north with 11 trailheads. Each of the trailheads has a parking area and a kiosk with trail information. Recreation staff members Danny Tyree, archeologist, and Rob Enriquez, heavy equipment operator, periodically monitor and perform maintenance activities on the trail system. Their field knowledge improved planning efficiency by identifying dangerous mine features at the beginning of the project.
The BLM’s primary goal for the AML program is to provide a safe experience to the public when they are visiting public lands, as wells as assuring that mining-related features and facilities abandoned on public land are remediated to minimize damage to the natural environment -- while recognizing and protecting the historical importance of selected features and facilities. The land today is used much differently that it was a hundred or so years ago and that is one of the reasons why it is important to utilize an interdisciplinary team when putting an AML project together, said White.
In the late fall of 2012 the project moved from planning into construction. Fifteen prospects varying in depth from 5 to 60-feet were backfilled with a rubber tired all-wheel-drive backhoe. The contractor carefully maneuvered equipment into each site, taking time not to damage any vegetation.
Material was placed in each feature, to raise the floor of the abandoned mine to within several feet of the surrounding area. Ford, BLM’s on-site inspector, was satisfied with the removal of the dangerous fall hazards, while ensuring that the area maintained visual evidence of prospecting, such as prospects. Desert tortoise, for example, could escape these prospects if venturing in for a look. After removal of equipment, tracks were raked out by crewmembers.
At five locations along the trail system the contractor constructed specialized gates of heavy steel that provide bat, owl, and small critters access to the underground, while preventing falls or entrapments. Once the contractor’s equipment and supplies were removed, vehicle tracks were raked out and trails were rehabilitated, leaving the area much safer for people and animals.
Post-construction monitoring will ensure that remediation actions, including gates, will continue to prevent accidental falls into dangerous adits, shafts, and trenches, while allowing for animal usage, such as bats and owls.
If you are interested in taking a hike in the Rademachers, here’s how to get there: The centrally located Sunland Trailhead is the primary trailhead for accessing the Rademacher Hills Trail system. From China Lake Blvd. turn south on College Heights Blvd. and then left (east) on Belle Vista Road. The other 10 trailheads shown on the map can also be used to access the trail system at other points along its 8.5-mile route.
Ridgecrest’s Maturango Museum makes for a good post-hike stop. Museum exhibits highlight the cultural and natural history of the western Mojave Desert. Visitors also are always welcome to stop by and see the staff at BLM’s Ridgecrest Field Office at 300 S. Richmond Road in Ridgecrest.
Help the BLM maintain this remarkable area by reporting any dumping in the Rademacher Hills, or on any public land, by calling the Field Office at (760) 384-5400 and ask to be put in touch with a BLM Ranger.