Reports on trips taken in 2019.
A Tidbit on Getting Away
I have often wondered why I have such a huge urge to get away, I think it has much to do with simplicity. A life on the road is simple when traveling with my small camper. I bring only a few possessions along – but each one is important to me. The clutter of my life is left behind and out of mind. My life back home is too filled with “stuff” - clothes I don’t need, shoes I never wear, junk drawers filled with things I don’t need, gadgets I don’t use, books and magazines I’ll never read. In my camper are just the things I really need; a few changes of clothes, food, a bed and gasoline to get me someplace. I have no mail no phone and no surprise company. I have no cable TV with 200 channels I don’t watch. There is one wastebasket to empty and everything has its place. On the road my life feels very uncomplicated, simple and manageable.
~ snipped and saved by Glen Shaw
Bob and Sue's New RV
The last time we were in Oxnard we went to the Murphy Auto Museum. They were selling off some of their stuff as they lost their lease and are moving to a smaller building, so... I ended up with a 1924 Chevy RV-camper-motorhome.
Its something right out of “Grapes of Wrath.” It seems that the folks in charge of the El Garces in Needles are interested in displaying it there. Our hope is that this might be the start of a visitor canter and travel museum for Route 66. I’m sure they will need photo displays and information boards to complement everything. Your ideas and/ or suggestions as to how to move ahead would be appreciated. We’re not obligated yet, but do hope to get very involved if we feel the project is worthwhile.
~ Bob & Sue Jaussaud
What the Peppers Did on Their Spring Vacation
We started in Mobile, Alabama and auto-toured along the Gulf Coast including New Orleans and Lake Charles, Louisiana and Houston, Texas. Then on to San Antonio to explore the Alamo and River Walk. On to Big Bend National Park for hiking and bird watching to add to our personal “Big Year” along the Rio Grande. On to border towns El Paso and old mining town Douglas, Arizona. A highlight was visiting Camelback in Phoenix for a few days and exploring the Sonoran Desert around Lake Havesu City.
From Lake Havesu City we headed to Oatman, Arizona and Barstow along as much of the old U.S. Route 66 alignment as possible. Barstow was a great stopover for a rail fan but the highlight was visiting the Mojave River Valley Museum on Virginia Way where we are, of course, members. We explored some back roads into the Mojave then on to Morro Bay, a real seaside gem. More hiking and more birds.
We drove the Pacific Coast Highway with its one of a kind breathtaking vistas to Carmel where we had a romantic lunch (see, we aren’t too old yet!) at a little café, then on to San Francisco. Our daughter is there and we reacquainted ourselves with the City. It is desperately in need of major cleaning up, but it will always be a favorite. The three of us went to Sonoma for a long weekend tasting, walking, exploring and just enjoying.
From San Francisco, Sue had to fly home but I drove the Central Valley with its endless orchards and fields, across the Tehachapi and back into the Mojave. I visited Red Rock Canyon State Park, Inyokern and Searles Valley, and got buzzed by what looked like a bomber from China Lake. Then through the Panamint Valley into Death Valley NP. I saw the highlights at Stovepipe Wells, Furnace Creek and Bad Water Basin. I hiked some and, believe it or not, more birds! Could not visit Scotty’s Castle because of a road closure.
I went through Pahrump and up through Tonopah to little Warm Springs admiring the solitude of the Great Basin Desert. I picked up Nevada SR 375 (Extraterrestrial Highway) and stopped in Rachel at the A’Le’Inn for an Alien Burger, which was actually pretty good. No aircraft of any type from Area 51 were visible. But the desert was so vast and captivating.
I then chanced the West Salt Lake Desert along an original alignment of the Lincoln Highway through Callao, Fish Springs, past Dugway Proving Ground and Toelle and into Ogden. That is one of my favorite stretches of desert.
I was in Ogden for the Union Pacific Annual Conference and the 150th Anniversary of the Golden Spike. I did go to the site but on May 9. The May 10 celebration would have been nice but it was a zoo. I did get to see 4014, the refurbished Big Boy, in Ogden. I had seen it two years earlier in the UP Steam Shop in Cheyenne with the hinged front of the boiler still open. But they got
the restoration completed, new paint job and all, and it ran under its own power to Ogden.
Just drove home from there, but I am really anxious to get back to the desert; still am looking forward to my first Desert Explorer’s trip!!! ~ Jerry Peppers
TRIP NOTES – FISH FORK HIKE – August 7-8, 2019
by Jean Hansen
Wednesday, August 7: Sunny & I left home at 2:30 p.m. and drove out to Blue Ridge road and then on down to Lupine campground in the Angeles National Forest. On the way down to Lupine campground, we saw two deer. Sunny got a very good picture of one of them. We camped at Lupine in a beautiful shaded spot. Of all the campgrounds we have stayed at through the years, this one ranks right up there with the most beautiful of them all. This campground is in a deep valley with very tall pine trees and spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. The temperature was perfect – about 80 degrees and in fact, we didn’t bring a heavy enough blanket and got a little cold in the camper that night. At happy hour we did have to spray with insect repellent, though.
Thursday, August 8: We hiked from camp at 8:30 a.m. and started up the hill for the Fish Fork falls hike. We did this hike about 30 years ago when we first moved to the high desert and at that time, did the whole hike in about 6 hours, including both upper and lower Fish Fork falls. Also, at that time, the trail was excellent and well used. This time, the trail was woefully degraded and overgrown, the signs were pretty much non-existent and there was buckthorn growing over the trail,which made for very difficult hiking.
I believe that this is due to that area being made the Sheep Mountain wilderness. However, we did manage to follow the trail up to Pine Mountain Ridge and then around and over to the feeder ridge for Fish Fork. At this point, the trail virtually disappeared. We debated turning around at this point, but decided to go ahead and descend into the canyon, hoping to pick up the (remembered from 30 years ago) trail to lower Fish Fork Falls. We struggled down the slope, taking much time to try to locate the “trail” and eventually, did get to the bottom of the canyon, where we encountered upper Fish Fork falls. We then walked a bit further and found the old campground for upper Fish Fork and the old sign. We stopped there to have lunch. After lunch, we had to decide if we wanted to try to go further to reach lower Fish Fork falls, but after some reconnaissance, realized the old trail was gone and further, the whole canyon bottom was now very overgrown and for us, impassable. We just didn’t have time to even try to reach the lower falls, so regretfully, we turned around and retraced our steps. The total hike we did today was 8.5 miles round-trip. We made it back to camp at 5:00p.m. and since I hadn’t packed a second dinner, we decided to go back home that evening. The drive up and out on Blue Ridge was spectacular, as always.
Deborah Nakamoto had some photos of bugs she identified that she wanted to share. Most people don’t notice these little guys. “These 17 bugs are some of the more interesting ones I’ve seen so far this year on different camping trips and hikes. I’m trying to learn their names, not just “beetle” or “spider,” with much help from the experts in the Insect Identification group on Facebook”
A: Wolf Spider (Lycosidae family),
Kofa NWR, Arizona
B: Desert Spider Beetle (Cysteodemus armatus), Joshua Tree NP. This is a type of blister beetle that can secrete a caustic, blistering chemical from its joints to defend itself.
C: Velvet Ant (Mutillidae family), San Gabriel Mountains, This is not an ant, but a wingless wasp with a very powerful sting. It’s funny how a little fuzz can make anything look cute!
D: Caterpillar Hunter (Calosoma sp.),
Anza Borrego Desert SP. I have video of one attacking a white-lined sphinx caterpillar.
E: Wooly Darkling Beetle (Eleodes osculans), Santa Monica Mountains. More fuzz equals more cuteness for this little stinker.
F: False Blister Beetle (Asclera excavata), Santa Monica Mountains
G: Pacific Coast Ticks (Dermacentor occidentalis), Santa Monica Mountains. These two ticks, one on top of the other, are “questing” for a host to snag onto. These commonly seen parasites are a type of “hard” tick with pear-shaped bodies, a hard plate (scutellum) on the back, and mouth parts visible from the top. Hard ticks will feed on more than one host, so they go questing like these are doing.
H: Diabolical Ironclad Beetle
(Phloeodes diabolicus), Santa Monica Mountains. Beetles in this genus have extremely hard shells, hence the name. I don’t know about “diabolical”: it’s harmless and plays dead when handled.
Two Week Alaskan Cruise
by Mignon Slentz
In July my friend Robin and I were lucky enough to be the recipients of a free Holland- America cruise on the Amsterdam from Seattle, north to Alaska. We were originally supposed to accompany my elderly parents on the trip but my dad fell and broke his hip the month before. They cancelled but we didn’t!
First stop in Ketchikan where my friends met us and promptly took us to their daughter’s work place, The 49er Bar where I discovered I really like Bloody Marys.
We walked laps around the ship every morning to get in our 2 miles. Food was plentiful and good. We mainly walked around the different towns we docked at, sightseeing, shopping and always trying to have a beer in each “famous bar.”
It was my first time to visit Sitka and enjoyed the churches and Russian architecture. In Kodiak I got to meet for the first time a 2nd cousin of mine, Dake who is a fishing guide, photographer and tour guide. He actually took the photo of a cub eating a salmon that is on Kodiak’s visitor’s guide. ~ Mignon
Santa Clara River Valley and “The Nard”
By Bob Jaussaud
Sue and I love our life on the desert, but the summertime heat wears us down. So a couple of years ago we started looking for a summer get-away in cooler climes. Before Neal Johns met Marian (when he still had suspiciously brown hair and enjoyed his life-sized doll named “Hope”) he lived in Oxnard, a place he called “the western we don’t edge of the always travel East Mojave.” on Sunday He seemed to anyway, that like it there. didn’t work. Ron Lipari We tried all and Mike the other Vollmert also various route told us of the combinations wonders of to get through Oxnard. So, LA including Sue and I the Antelope the early days. Also, it’s where Rudolph Valentino had his beach cottage. Now we never once thought we would end up in a “senior park,” but the place was affordable, looked pretty good, and we were over the minimum age of 55 (if only just barely). Ha!
To make a long story short, we bought our beach hide-away and really enjoy being there, especially when the desert is inhospitable. What a great life! We alternate between the beach and the desert, so there are a lot of trips back and forth. It became imperative that we figure out the best route between “the Nard” and Needles. The shortest way involved the 101, the 210, I-15 and I-40 but we quickly learned that the only time that route might not be jammed with traffic (especially the 101/405 junction) was early Sunday morning. Since I like to sleep in and made the trek to check out “The Nard,” as locals call it.
Of all things, we found a manufactured home in a senior park close to the ocean in a place called Hollywood Beach, so named because many motion picture companies filmed their beach (and desert) scenes there in Valley Freeway and the Pearblossom Highway, but they all had various issues. We dreaded the trip until one casual day we started east from “The Nard” on Highway 126 leading through the Santa Clara River Valley. Now this is our favorite connecting route with the desert.
Highway 126 intersects with the I-5 near Santa Clarita and it is only a short way north from there to Gorman. From Gorman we follow Highway 138 through the Poppy Reserve to Highway 14 near Rosamond. After following 14 north to the town of Mojave, we head east on Highway 58 to Barstow and pick up the I-40 to Needles. It is a dream
route that avoids LA completely. It does make the trip about 20 minutes longer, but that is time well spent in our view. The only possible bottleneck is at Kramer Junction and that won’t be the case for long as the new 58 freeway is almost completed. Happy Day!
If you try to Google our route please be aware that we go through the Santa Clara River Valley, not the Santa Clara Valley. The Santa Clara Valley runs southeast from San Francisco Bay and is part of the “South Bay”, a
The valley was originally inhabited by Native Americans, the Tataviam on the east and the Chumash on the west. In 1769 the Spanish Portola Expedition camped in the valley while traveling through it. Franciscan missionary Fray Juan Crespi, a member of the expedition, named the valley Canada de Santa Clara. This valley route is part of El Camino Real (the King’s Highway) and early valley today. They even survived March 12, 1928 when the Santa Clara River carried the collapsed St. Francis Dam flood waters to the ocean.
On our commutes through the Santa Clara River Valley we have discovered many wonderful things including the Fillmore & Western Railway Company, the Santa Clara “Little Red Schoolhouse” (built in 1896 and still in use today for K-6th grade), and the historic old towns of Piru, Fillmore and Santa Paula. One Saturday we stopped at Rancho Camulos, a National Historic Landmark and the setting for Helen Hunt Jackson’s novel, “Ramona.” Rancho Camulos is currently a working ranch and still belongs to the second owner’s family, the Rubels. The original owners were the Del Valles. As prominent Californios, they were deeded the 48,000 acre Mexican . land grant in 1839. August Rubel purchased Rancho Camulos from the Del Valles in 1924 and today the ranch remains a good representation of Souther California agricultural life from 1853 to 1943.
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When doing our Nard/Needles commute, we always stop at the Vista Del Lago Visitor Center off I-5 overlooking Pyramid Lake. The center is owned by the California Department of Water Resources and they have some wonderful displays there. On the east side of their parking lot there is a memorial to the Old Ridge Route which was the winding road connecting Los Angeles and Bakersfield over Tejon Pass from 1915 to 1933. It is possibly the reason California didn’t split into two states… but that is another story. ~ Bob
Death Valley In July
By Jean Hansen
Trip Notes – Death Valley – July 2019
Tuesday, July 23: Sunny and I left home at about noon and drove out to Death Valley. On the way up Wildrose Canyon, we saw several burros. The tourists must feed them because they never moved – even when we pulled up next to them. We got lots of pictures. Then we continued on to:
• The Wildrose Charcoal Kilns: I never tire of seeing these. They are so unique and beautiful.
Then we drove on up to Mahogany Flat to camp. We had the campground all to ourselves at ﬁrst. We had a nice happy hour with a great view looking out over Badwater. Then later, another car came in to camp. The temperature was perfect – about 83 degrees, but it was very buggy and we had to spray ourselves with insect repellent.
Wednesday, July 24: We left camp about 8:30 a.m. and drove back down the hill to the cutoff for:
• Flagstone foundation site: This was a very nice old site with beautifully done flagstone chimney, staircases and patio – all made of flagstones. Very nice. Then we crossed the canyon to see:
• Wildrose Canyon pictograph shelter: This is a small alcove about 100 feet above the road with about 10-12 small red pictographs in it, including several anthropomorphs. It was a nice little site. Then we drove further up the canyon and saw:
• Water tank: This was an old rock water tank built by the CCC in 1933. I got a picture of the inscription. Sunny and I walked about . mile further up the canyon to see if we could ﬁnd the mine, but found nothing. It was very humid and although not hot, it was wet and buggy. Once we got back to the truck, it started to rain a little. Then we drove out to:
• Emigrant Pass petroglyphs: On the way out we saw more burros. We stopped to check out the petroglyphs, which are quite nice and while we were there, it literally poured on us! What a treat, getting rained on in Death Valley.
Then we drove on out and down to Stovepipe Wells, where we went into the café and had lunch. After that we drove out of Death Valley via Highway 190. On the way to Ridgecrest, It rained a little. Then, we discovered that Caltrans had closed Highway 395 and we had to detour around on dirt roads to reach Ridgecrest, where we visited with Bill & Barbara Gossett. We left there about 8:30 and drove home, arriving around 10:30 pm. It was a great trip! ~ Jean
Arrowhead Trails Highway
By Bob Jaussaud
Over 50 years ago, when Sue and I were ﬁrst getting acquainted with water skiing on the Colorado River, we frequently traveled Old Route 66 between Needles and Los Angeles. East of Goffs, in the vicinity of Ibis, Route 66 junctions with the road to Las Vegas (US 95 in California) at a railroad crossing that is known as Arrowhead Junction. In the 1960’s there was still a man living there who, we were told, had a relationship going with a woman who lived in Goffs. Now there are only foundations at the crossing, but we still wondered where the name Arrowhead Junction came from. So, doing a bit of research, we came upon the Arrowhead Trails Highway story.
In 1914 the Auto Club of Southern California began their road signing project and erected approximately 4000 signs to designate National Old Trails between Los Angeles and Kansas City. It is human nature that the businessmen of newly incorporated Las Vegas wanted a highway through their town too. Enter Charles H. Bigelow, a famed race car driver, travel writer and “desert pilot” who promoted a faster route between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City going through Las Vegas. Starting in 1915, Bigelow drove the entire route at least 3 times. His efforts gained the support of Salt Lake City and California businessmen including some representing the Studebaker Corporation, Goodrich Rubber Company and the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake City Railroad. Bigelow was thus able to form the Arrowhead Trails Association sometime around 1915. So why Arrowhead Trails? Historian Leo Lyman claims the name came from the giant natural Arrowhead visible on the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains, not far from where Bigelow lived in Redlands. The Arrowhead was (and still is) one of the most famous landmarks in the Inland Empire.
At the urging of Fritz Fisher, president of the Redlands Chamber of Commerce, a group of Californians embarked on an auto trip over the Arrowhead Trails Highway route in 1916. Members of the group included Charles Bigelow, Los Angeles Times reporter F. V. Owens, railroad representative Douglas White, and Nevada State Senator Levi Syphus. The southern half of their journey required two days to cross the Mojave Desert before reaching Las Vegas. Continuing north they traveled through the Valley of Fire to arrive at the town of Saint Thomas,a Mormon farming community founded in 1865 as part of the then Arizona Territory. For a while it was actually the county seat of Pah-Ute County. But, a 1871 land survey placed Saint Thomas in Nevada instead of Arizona and when the state of Nevada tried to collect back taxes the Mormons moved rather than pay. Pah-Ute County also ceased to exist, being absorbed mostly by Nevada’s Clark County. Saint Thomas was eventually resettled only to be abandoned again for good when the Colorado River waters backed up behind the newly constructed Hoover Dam and completely submerged it in 1938.
In 1916, though, the members of Fritz’s California group were able to cross the Muddy and Virgin Rivers at Saint Thomas and continue on to Bunkerville, where the group halted to rest and to feast on locally grown melons. Bunkerville was settled in 1877 and there’s not much of a town there today. Maybe that’s because in the 1950’s it was downwind of the fallout from nuclear tests which residents recalled playing in as if it were snow. This evidentially caused a spike in cancers, especially childhood leukemia, so folks there developed a real distrust of the government. In fact, in 2014 Bunkerville was the scene of the “Bundy Standoff”, an armed confrontation between local ranchers and the government over grazing fees.
From Bunkerville, the Arrowhead Trails Highway paralleled the Virgin River (on the south side) to Mesquite Flat a small Mormon farming community settled in 1880. The name was shortened and Mesquite has gone on to become one of the fastest growing towns in the United States, perhaps due to the proliferation of casinos and golf courses. From Mesquite and remaining on the south side of the river, the Arrowhead Trails Highway moved into what is still Arizona and arrived at Littleﬁeld, another small Mormon farming community established in 1865. Littleﬁeld is at the mouth of the Virgin River Gorge and is where the Arrowhead Trails Highway ﬁnally crossed to the north side of the river. The Virgin River was given the name Virgen River by Jedediah Smith in honor of one of his men, Thomas Virgen, who was killed by Indians. It’s the Virgin River today, so somehow the “e” became an “i.” Littleﬁeld is on the south side of the river and the town of Beaver Dam is on the north side. Beaver Dam was originally known as Cottonwood Creek recognizing the creek nearby used to irrigate crops. Beavers caused problems building dams in the irrigation ditches so the place naturally became known as Beaver Dam. Although they touched in Las Vegas, The Arrowhead Trails Highway essentially joins the Old Spanish Trail and the Mormon Road in Beaver Dam. To continue north, the most popular route was over the Beaver Dam Mountains via Utah Hill,essentially following what was to become US Highway 466/91. US Highway 466/91 was not bypassed by Interstate 15 (which goes through the Virgin River Gorge) until 1973. After ﬁnally reaching Saint George, Fritz’s 1916 Arrowhead Trails Association group enjoyed relatively good roads on into Salt Lake City.
So, how does Arrowhead Junction near Needles, California ﬁgure into all junction for the auto route between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. It was certainly much easier and faster to travel on the improved, signed and all-weather Old National Trails across the desert to Arrowhead Junction and north through Searchlight to Las Vegas, than it was to follow the unimproved route of the Old Spanish Trail. In 1916, Searchlight was a viable town with supplies and help if needed. From Searchlight there were So, until the Silver Lake Cutoff, an oiled road basically following the Old Spanish Trail was completed in 1925 (along what is roughly now the Interstate 15 corridor), Arrowhead Junction was the best way to go and a very important junction indeed. Sue and I plan to lead a trip exploring what remains of the Arrowhead Trails Highway, probably next Fall, or maybe Spring. If you are interested in joining .