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Mountain Man

There’s more to the Maynard Mine Trail in Andreas Canyon than meets the eye.

June Allan Corrigan Current Digital, Hiking

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A view from inside the tungsten mine dug by visionary Jim Maynard, a friend of the Agua Caliente Indians, in the 1940s.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY TOM BREWSTER

Exploring the Indian Canyons is one of Palm Springs’ greatest pleasures. Three distinct canyons — Palm, Andreas, and Murray — lie within, and each boasts a diverse array of hiking and equestrian trails.

The Maynard Mine Trail in Andreas Canyon attracts those who are eager for a challenge; its narrow, rugged, and rapidly ascending 6-mile round-trip route stretches even the most experienced hiker’s limits, with rocky terrain and several switchbacks. Many come away from the trail, out of breath and legs sore, scratching their heads: Who would dream of building a tungsten mine at the peak of such a steep site?

Indeed, it has always been a remote location, but Jim Maynard thought nothing of it. Born in Coos Bay, Oregon, he was 6 years old when his family moved to Palm Springs in 1924. Approximately 250 residents populated the town then, a mix of Indians and non-Native settlers.

As a boy, Maynard was drawn to the canyons and spent countless hours exploring them, befriending many Agua Caliente Indians along the way. His gentle nature encouraged Tribal members to trust him and share their knowledge of the canyons, their ancestral home. Maynard was one of few non-Tribal members who became fluent in the Cahuilla language, and quite possibly the only.

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A portion of the Maynard Mine Trail, which traverses 3 strenuous miles through the San Jacinto Mountains; the entrance to the mine can be seen at far left.

Maynard grew to be a mountain of a man, topping out at 6-foot-6-inches and weighing more than 250 pounds. In 1936, his familiarity with and love of the Indian Canyons led him to found the first search-and-rescue group in the area. Thirteen years later, the group morphed into the Palm Springs Mounted Police Search and Rescue team, now 70 years strong. Hikers who travel the Maynard Mine Trail will find a memorial plaque placed there by the search and rescue team a year after Maynard’s death in 1981.

When he wasn’t leading rescue efforts through the canyons, Maynard pursued a number of professions. In the early 1940s, he enlisted in the Navy and served in San Diego, although he was never shipped overseas. Later, he was a surveyor in Chino Canyon for the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and also ran his own contracting company. However, it was the period following his naval service when he hit upon the idea to dig for tungsten, a rare metal known for its hardness and high melting point, in Andreas Canyon. World War II was still raging upon his return to Palm Springs, and tungsten’s desirable properties were strategic to the war effort.

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PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY PALM SPRINGS HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Jim Maynard, who, in addition to digging for tungsten in the mountains, served on the first Palm Springs Mounted Police Search and Rescue team.

“He had a mule and a wheelbarrow-type thing that he attached to the mule. It had two handles on it, and Jim would walk behind the mule all the way up the hill and all the way down once it was filled with rock that had traces of tungsten in it,” says Greg Hough, whose family lived near Maynard. Hough wasn’t around to witness the mule hauling, as he was born in 1949, but he recounts stories his own father told him and that Maynard himself later shared with him about his pickaxe days. Hough speculates that Maynard traveled to Banning to sell whatever tungsten he unearthed to dealers there. Palm Springs was still a small community in the 1940s, and more business was conducted in Banning in those days.

What prompted 24-year-old Maynard to dig a mine in the Indian Canyons is lost to the ages. It was apparently an interest he liked to pursue. In later years, he also did some mining during summers spent in Montana, where he went to escape the desert heat. “When Jim came back here, he was thinking, ‘Ah, there’s got to be something up in the mountains somewhere,’” Hough says. “I think from his many days of exploring, he found or remembered an outcropping of some sorts and started to dig in there.” Thus, Maynard Mine came to exist. Today, when hikers reach the end of the trail sign, they must continue on for another half mile to locate the mine entrance just over the north edge of the ridge. Remnants of an old generator and other small pieces of equipment dot the landscape.

Tribal Canyons Coordinator Robert Bradbury has observed that people who enjoy hiking the Maynard Mine Trail fall into one of two categories. “They’re either looking for a strenuous challenge, or it’s their favorite trail because it’s less traveled and offers some of the best views in the area,” he says.

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A plaque honoring Jim Maynard at the peak of the Maynard Mine Trail reads: “Large in body — huge in heart, his love of these mountains and the strength of his spirit built the trail and mine. This tungsten so vital to America’s World War II defense was one of his efforts to make this world a little better for all mankind.”

Those who brave it are treated to beautiful vistas of Palm Springs and the entire valley, as well as a glimpse of the backcountry that few get to see, such as blankets of wildflowers in full bloom, cacti, jagged rock formations, and the occasional lizard or rabbit.

Clearly, the trail’s namesake struck pay dirt in more ways than one.

Learn More

To hike the Maynard Mine Trail and see remnants of the original tungsten mine, as well as a plaque dedicated to Jim Maynard and his service to the Palm Springs Mounted Police Force, visit Andreas Canyon in the Indian Canyons, open daily Oct. 1–July 4, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. and Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays only July 5–Sept. 30, 8 a.m.–5 p.m.

indian-canyons.com

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This story originally appeared in MeYah Whae, The Magazine of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, Fall/Winter2018-19. To read the current digital edition, click HERE.