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2020 Trips (27)

Reports on trips taken in 2020.

 Oops, Oh-oh, Oh no & OMG 

~ or ~

A Day with Emmett and Ruth Harder on FR1N09

By Marian Johns

Those of you who know Emmett Harder have undoubtedly heard some of his marvelous stories. Perhaps this tale can be added to his list of his life’s adventures. 

Back in 2013, Ted Kalil led a Desert Explorer trip over FR1N09 in the San Bernardino National Forest. I had never been on it – never heard of it. Ted explained that it had been closed for many years because of washouts, but that it had recently been repaired and re-opened. The trail starts by the infant Santa Ana River just west of Seven Oaks (off of Hwy. 38 that goes from Mentone to Big Bear) and ends at Highway 330 which connects Highland to Running Springs.

The scenery along 1N09 is spectacular - with the San Bernardino Mts. looming high overhead and little streams to cross along the way. It is amazing how rugged these mountains are and they’re practically right in my own backyard. On a clear day there are some beautiful views of Mt. San Gorgonio and Mt. San Jacinto.

So now, fast forward to April, 2020. Ruth and Emmett Harder have kindly been checking up on me every week or so because they know I’m alone now in the midst of this virus business. Yes, I do get lonely and I get cabin fever being cooped up here at home. So when Ruth called recently, I told her about Ted’s trip and asked if they might be up for a day trip in the San Bernardino Mts. She and Emmett agreed, so a couple of days later – April, 22, we met at their house and headed for Mentone and Hwy. 38 which we took up into the mountains.

We turned off for Seven Oaks about 11:00 a.m. and headed west on a paved road alongside the river. However, after two or three miles, the pavement ended and we began our 1N09 adventure. At first, we generally followed the Santa Ana River, but it was not accessible since it was far below us in a deep narrow canyon. Most of the way, I used 4 low because there were many steep up and down sections 

About 12:15 we came to an awesome view down into the Bear Creek wash – a wide, boulder-strewn canyon with a pretty spot for lunch beside the creek. Unfortunately, someone else beat us to it so we continued on across the bridge and had lunch on the other side of the creek which isn’t so nice because you can’t see the creek from that spot. The bridge here is the only one from one end of 1N09 to the other, although there were many stream crossings.

During lunch, Emmett entertained me with some of his stories – one about falling seven stories when the scaffolding he was on collapsed during the construction of the San Dimas Dam - and a couple of others stories about the problems they had when he worked on the nearby Seven Oaks Dam. 

After lunch we continued on and eventually reached Keller Cliff, a high, naked escarpment. It looks like this formation is made of similar material to that of Mormon Rocks.

Somewhere beyond Keller Cliff, Ruth let me know via the CB that they needed a bush break. So, I drove on down the trail about 1/10th of a mile and waited. Pretty soon Ruth came back on the CB and said they had a problem – a BIG PROBLEM that involved a tree that they had hit. 

I quickly returned to them and found their truck over the bank at a 45° tilt with its grill smashed up against a tree. Evidently, when Emmett got out of the truck to find a bush, he thought he put it in park, but actually left it in drive. The truck then idled itself on over to the bank and took a nose dive; down it went – not far though – maybe 25 ft. before it hit the tree. Emmett saw what was happening and yelled at Ruth to step on the brake, but there was no way she could have done that because she was in the passenger seat. If it hadn’t been for that tree though, I believe they could have continued on down for hundreds of feet - ass over teakettle - and may not have survived. 

Next, Emmett had to rescue poor Ruth and help her get out of the truck and back up to the top. That was no easy feat because of the steep slope and low overhanging branches. Once they were both back on terra firma Emmett used his “snatch strap” to connect my truck to his. We were both pleasantly surprised how easy it was to pull his truck back up. 

The next obstacle was getting their truck to Hwy. 330 where they could call AAA. Much of the way, Emmett was able to coast downhill. On the uphill sections we strapped him on to my truck. We traveled slowly in this manner for what seemed like miles. Ruth rode with me and we amused ourselves by counting the creeks we crossed; we lost count about number 12 or 13. However, I’m fairly certain that many of these are just seasonal, but it was nice to see so much water this spring.

It must have been almost 5:00 by the time we reached the end of 1N09 at Hwy. 330. By then we were all worn out – especially Emmett who did most of the work; he was exhausted.  When Ruth called AAA she was told a tow truck would be there in about half an hour.  She was also warned that she and Emmett would not be allowed to ride in the tow truck because of Covid 19. Luckily, they had me and luckily, I had recently (Sept. 2019) bought my four door/five seat, 4x4 Tacoma. While their truck was being towed to a repair shop, I drove them on home. Then I drove myself home, fed two dogs, had leftover lunch for dinner and went to bed. What a day it had been! ~ Marian

Tuesday, 23 June 2020 23:33

2020- Trip Report - Castle Mountains

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Castle Mountains

By Dave Burdick

On December 1907 Christmas came early for James Hart and brothers Hitt when they discovered a rich vein of gold. Claims were filed, a town laid out and by mid February the boom town boosted 700 people. The town had one first class hotel – Norton House, four boardinghouses and six saloons. The larger mines were the Oro Belle, Jumbo, and Big Chief. After the first year the population started to decline, however mining continued through 1917. In the 1920’s fine clay was mined near the Big Chief until the 1950’s.

The next gold rush did not take place until the price of gold deregulated in the 1980s. It was then when Canadian Viceroy Gold came in and spent nine years in exploration, raising money, mine design, and getting permits. They completed EIS/ESR and BLM permits in 1990. The mine was constructed, and the first gold poured in 1992. The mine ran until about 2000 when the gold value dropped below production cost.

When I first saw the legendary town, cemetery and mine, it looked about as it does today. The processing mill and electrical lines had been removed. The only signs of mining were two large pits, the Oro Belle, and Jumbo, and the scars on the mountain. The pits were blocked off and four wheelers had the run of the area. There was a BLM road which went from Lanfair Valley through the center of the mine to the Piute Mountains which was the first thing to be blocked off.

In the late 20-teens gold prices set a new record high and there signs of new activity, first one drill rig, then ten. In October 2019 the new mine operator started Phase 1 of new mining activity, expecting gold to be poured by the end of the year. Last Fall a chainlink fence about five miles long went up with big gates and a guard. It was bound to happen.

This Spring I decided to take a ride over to the Hart site to have a look and the road was blocked. I made a couple of inquiries, and learned that the mine and town site is not in the Mojave Preserve, not their jurisdiction. It is in the Castle Mountain National Monument (BLM jurisdiction). Also, most of the mine and town is on patented or private land. There are four different jurisdictions in this area.

Phase 2 of the mine plan will cover the town site, the Clampus Vitus Monument, and the fireplace (which may have been from the Norton House Hotel) with a mountain of “overburden” dirt. I returned and took photos while I could.

The BLM archaeologist informed me that the cemetery is not allowed to be disturbed, with a 300 foot buffer around it.

I believe that this area is one of the most beautiful around. This is my Disneyland and my favorite attraction is Castle Mountain Adventure. ~ Dave

Re-establishing the
East Mojave Heritage Trail

By John Marnell

The East Mojave Heritage Trail in four segments was created by Dennis G. Casebier in the late 1980s and into the early ‘90s. Each part of about 160 miles was featured in a guide book that contained historic, flora, and geologic information along with a detailed road log and mileages. With the implementation of the 1994 Desert Protection Act the trail was cut in 13 places by newly created wildernesses thus making the guide books useless as strictly navigational instructions. The experienced navigator, with good research, could still make use of many portions of the EMHT as Nelson Miller and others have shown. Today, however, a new and comprehensive set of trail route guidelines are being created to once again make most of the original aspects of the EMHT readily available with detailed instructions, maps, and a GPS track dedicated to keeping the user on a legal route utilizing wilderness bypasses.

Mr. Billy Creech, from Riverside, became interested in the EMHT a couple of years ago and has spent countless hours researching wilderness maps and communicating with many knowledgeable people to keep this project moving forward. Some months ago, Billy maneuvered around the East Mojave on the newly modified EMHT to assess its viability and equally importantly to determine if the roads and trails used previously were passable for the average four-wheeler. He found a few sections certainly more challenging than anticipated, with many parts showing little evidence of being driven on in years. He also, infrequently, came upon some of the original rock cairns used to mark turns that are still in place these 30 years later - all in all it was a great remote desert off-highway 

experience. Billy wrote up his “adventure” a few months back and you can find it here: https://expeditionportal.com/the-east-mojave-heritage-trail/

Today, May 28th, work is continuing as refinements continue to both the maps and routing detail. It is anticipated that the first two segments “Needles to Ivanpah” and “Ivanpah to Rocky Ridge” will be completed before the end of June. Those of you that are fortunate to own a set of the four guide books will be able to coordinate the bypass, alternate routes, and maps with your individual books. Those who do not have the books, they will soon be available on the Mojave Desert Heritage & Cultural Association website under “store.” MDHCA.org. Additionally, the Mojave River Valley Museum has the books and you can call them to place an order (760) 256-5452. Use of the appropriate EMHT guidebook is essential to finding and staying on the correct route

Here is, perhaps, the most important part – to follow these newly identified and coordinated legal routes you must have the supplemental written directions and maps for each EMHT segment. The maps may need to be printed in color to be able to differentiate between the original and modified tracks. However, we are trying to develop a “work-around” on the route display so that a color printer may not be necessary. Also, a GPS track will be available and is a great help with route identification. It is anticipated that both the supplemental directions and GPS routing (as a Google Earth .kml file) will be available for download on the Goffs, MDHCA.org website soon. If you have questions or feedback, please email Billy Creech at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 ~ John

Tuesday, 23 June 2020 23:22

2020 - Trip Report - The Old Woman Arrives

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The Old Woman Arrives

by Claudia Heller

She arrived in a blinding light and then remained hidden until she was discovered by three prospectors. If you meet her she will be the oldest woman you ever meet. She is the Old Woman Meteorite, the second largest meteorite found in the United States and after several moves she now resides at the Discovery Center of the Bureau of Land Management in Barstow, California.

 It was late in 1975 when the meteorite was found in the Old Woman Mountains of San Bernardino County. She weighs 6,070 pounds and measures 38 inches long, 30 inches wide and 34 inches high. She is mostly composed of iron, about 6% nickel and small amounts of cobalt, phosphorus, chromium and sulphur.

The Old Woman is not stunning like a shiny precious stone, however she piques 

the imagination and begs the question: where did she come from and what is her age? Scientists say she came from the Asteroid Belt located in an elliptical orbit around the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. She was born as a fragment from a collision of asteroids. She refuses to tell her age.

When a meteoroid tumbling through space enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it becomes a meteor as it heats to incandescence due to friction caused by the pull of gravity. If it reaches the ground before it vaporizes, it becomes a meteorite. That is what happened to the Old Woman.

Moving the Old Woman was a problem, one that was solved by the Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363. She was later trucked to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. and in 1980 the Smithsonian returned her to the California desert where she remains on display.

Two full-size Old Woman replicas are displayed at other museums in Southern California, but Barstow’s meteorite is the original.

Located at 831 Barstow Road in Barstow, the Discovery Center is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free. The Center also features hands on exhibits for children, a native plant and animal habitat, a secret garden and a pond. There is also a gift shop, art work and docents on hand to lead tours and answer questions. For more information, call (760) 252-6000. ~ Claudia

 

Tuesday, 23 June 2020 23:19

2020 - Trip Report - Wildflowers

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Suffering from Cabin Fever,
on Mother’s Day, Rebecca, Hannah
and I went in search of wildflowers.
We saw a few off Gorman Post Road,
but there was no sign of them in the Antelope Valley as the peak was a couple weeks earlier. However, we could see some color high on the surrounding mountains. So, we ventured to Sandberg on the Old Ridge Route, had the place
all to ourselves (important in the
age of Covid), and found the last of
this season’s poppies.

Leonard Friedman

Tuesday, 23 June 2020 23:11

2020 - Trip Report - Pandemic Break

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Pandemic Break

By Bob Jaussaud

Recently a small group of Desert Explorers decided to take a pandemic break. We observed the Covid-19 guidelines and kept our participant number low. We headed into Gold Butte National Monument and worked our way south to what remains of the Lakeside Mine:
four cabins, an outhouse and some rusting mining equipment. This copper mine worked from about 1937 until the last ore shipment sometime in the mid-1950s. It’s at the end of a rough road with spectacular views of Lake Mead.

We camped our first night at what remains of the town, Gold Butte. Gold was discovered in Gold Butte in 1905 and a tent city quickly sprang up. Supplies were hauled by wagon from St. Thomas on the Virgin River. At its peak, Gold Butte had about 2,000 residents, a post office, a store, a saloon and a brothel, but by 1910 the boom was over and the town almost disappeared.Only a miner (Art Coleman) and a cowboy (Bill Garrett) remained. They stayed for 40 years and their graves are still there along with a few remnants from the past.

The next morning we headed down Grand Wash. Off the road to our left we saw the sad ruins of Seven Springs Ranch. It was evidently occupied until 2019 and has been the site of recent BLM burro roundups.

Our lunch stop was at Tassi Ranch. It was and still is an oasis in the desert. Ed Yates built his home there in the 1930s and stayed until 1947. What remains of his ranch house still reflects his artistry and love. On the hillside above we found a flowing stream. What a beautiful spot! Even so, it was hard to imagine living there in solitude for over 18 years.

From Tassi Ranch we worked our way to the top of the plateau via the Nutter Twist Road. This shelf road was a challenge, even for our well equipped vehicles, but we managed to make it.Then we inched our way through a cattle roundup in Hidden Valley and ended our day camped high amid the pines and unexpected frost that night.

The morning sun was very welcome as we broke camp and headed for Mt. Dellenbaugh. Our goal was to hike to the peak and find the inscription left by William Dunn, one of the three men who left the Powell Expedition to climb out of the Grand Canyon and disappear. We made it to the top, but became separated. Attempting to regroup, most everyone missed seeing Dunn’s inscription. The view from the peak is well worth the climb, though.

For our last night we descended through Coyote Canyon to camp lower and warmer at the Grand Gulch Mine in the Parashant National Monument. NPS claimed on their interpretive sign that this mine had the “richest copper ore ever produced in the Arizona Territory.” Even so, it was not very profitable because of transportation costs. Ore was hauled by horse and wagon to Salt Lake City during World War I but the mine was shut down at the end of the war. It was reopened to supply copper for World War II and they used heavy gasoline powered Euclid trucks to haul the ore out. Mining continued until 1955 when the main buildings burned down.

On this adventure there were some challenging roads and scary situations but we prevailed without incident and were rewarded with delicious camp meals thanks to Ron, Mignon and Sue.

~ Bob

Tuesday, 23 June 2020 22:53

2020 - Trip Report -Anza Borrego and More

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Anza Borrego and More

By Marian Johns

A few weeks ago I went camping with son, David and his two kids despite the stay at home advisory. We didn’t socialize with anyone so we felt safe enough. We spent four days having a fine time.

We took my “new” Tacoma and David’s 4Runner and headed down to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park where we first checked out Seventeen Palms. The kids had great fun playing in the mud along the shore of Clark Dry Lake; it obviously wasn’t dry at all. They also had fun throwing rocks in Coyote Creek and even tried playing baseball with rocks and a stick. They also marveled at the Pumpkin Patch and Giant Scorpion and Giant Cricket and the Giant Sand Dragon near Borrego Springs. Didn’t see many wildflowers but the ocotillo were in their prime.

Next we went to see the mud pots near the southern end of the Salton Sea. I had recently gone on Bob Jacoby and Bill Neill’s DE trip there and I thought the kids would like to see them too.

When we tried to take the Box Canyon road up to I-10 and the Joshua Tree National Park southern entrance it was blocked with multiple closed signs. So instead we drove up Berdoo Canyon. There used to be a paved road there, but it’s mostly gone now and the drive up the canyon is pretty rough, but we did find a nice spot to camp that night on a short section of the old paved road.

The next morning we tried to continue on up the canyon but soon came to a locked gate at the park boundary. Turns out Joshua Tree National Park was totally closed, so we spent an hour poking around the remains of an old mine and then headed for home.     ~ Marian

Tuesday, 23 June 2020 22:50

2020 - Trip Report - My Personal Dust Devil

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`My Personal Dust Devil

By Claudia Heller

There I was sitting on a soggy stream bank spying on three killdeer and feeling the dampness of the ground seeping through my jeans. The Death Valley sun was high over Salt Creek and black storm clouds hovered threateningly over the mountains in the distance.

Before I saw it, I felt its presence. A strange and eerie feeling came over me, as if something were about to happen.
As I looked over the small cliff some 500 feet away, I saw it – my own personal dust devil swirling frantically toward me. It slid neatly down the cliff, soft sand forming a perfect funnel, thick and brown at the base, tapering to beige and then disappearing into the brilliant blue desert sky. It travelled some 100 feet to the river, and as it passed over the shallow waters I could see the ripples in its wake swirl then die down as it passed.

My dust devil passed within a few feet of me and despite its furious appearance it lightly kissed my cheek as it spun by. I watched it skid across the desert floor behind me and then off into the distance, disappearing behind a rocky hill.

My first thought was to tell someone, but then I thought “who would care?” 
A close encounter with a dust devil is a personal experience one must live, for the thrill is difficult to explain.   ~ Claudia

Backroad Discovery Route Update

By Bob Jacoby

In the past we have talked briefly about the Backroad Discovery Route (BDR) program. BDR is actually a non-profit volunteer organization whose primary purpose is to create off highway routes and networks. The primary focus is on motorcycle travel, but 4x4 folks are welcome also. Indeed, most of the trails and routes they have researched are suitable and appropriate for 4x4 activities.

At this time ten routes have been developed and documented. These routes are not only in the West but in other parts of the country as well. Most of the routes are several hundred miles in length and incorporate existing roads and trails. These routes include the following: Northeast U.S (New England), Mid-Atlantic, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado, Washington, and Southern California. In addition, trails covering Wyoming, Northern California, Montana, and the Southeast are currently under development.

The BDR works with government agencies and local officials to keep these roads open. In many cases, the existence of 

these trails has generated significant visitation and has provided a boost for small towns along the routes.

The Southern California Route which was just recently established is a good example of what to expect on all the BDR Trails. The 817 mile route has been divided into eight sections as follows:

  • Section 1 – Yuma to Blythe (120 miles). This section heads north out of the Yuma area and passes through Picacho State Park. It then follows Indian Pass Road followed by a portion of the Bradshaw Trail, ending up in Blyth. Most of this route is pretty easy although Indian Pass Road has its moments. This stretch gets the route off to a good start.
  • Section 2 – Blythe to Cadiz Area (127 miles). This route is pretty familiar to us and ends up on Route 66 no less. Based on what I can remember in this area, the trip should be reasonably easy with perhaps a bit of sand to deal with.
  • Section 3 – Cadiz to Primm, Nevada (94 miles) This is a pretty familiar area to everyone and provides an opportunity to stop at Goffs.
  • Section 4 – Primm to Furnace Creek-Death Valley (168 miles). Once again, the roads chosen are pretty familiar to most of us and include visits to the Ivanpah site and the Colosseum Mine area. The route also includes the Excelsior Mine Road thru the Kingston Range and a visit to Tecopa and Shoshone before it follows the Henry Wade Road into Death Valley and Furnace Creek.

            •           Section 5 – Furnace Creek to Racetrack (111 miles). This section is entirely within Death Valley and includes a stop at Ubahebe Crater and the 

Racetrack. This makes for a reasonably short and easy fun day.

  • Section 6 – Racetrack to Lone Pine (66 miles). There are two ways to do this section. You can either backtrack to Highway 190 and proceed to Lone Pine OR you can take the legendary Lippincott Mine Road. Only the most courageous and adventurous should attempt the Lippincott Mine Road. It changes from time to time, but can be extremely challenging.
  • Section 7- Lone Pine to Bishop (91 miles). This can either be done mainly on 395 or via a challenging excursion into the Inyo Mountains. The latter route can be difficult and even impassable so careful planning needs to happen regarding road conditions. Nevertheless the Inyo Mountains are beautiful and you can come down Silver Pass. That is always a blast going downhill!
  • Section 8 – Bishop to Benton (40 miles). This is a pretty easy section but it includes access to some fantastic petroglyphs. Anyone who is into glyphs can spend awhile at the Fish Slough Site.

If you really enjoy extended trips, as I do, and are into a wide variety of scenery and road conditions, this is an enticing tour which could take as long as a week to make all the stops. You can download GPS coordinates and much other useful information from the BDR website (ridebdr.com). As for me, I want to do all 10 of the trips they have put together. Driving dirt road in New England really sounds unique!  ~ Bob

Tuesday, 23 June 2020 22:38

2020 - Trip Report - Spring Break

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Spring Break

by Dave Burdick

 

During the first part of March the Lake Mead National Park had just been closed to “Pleasure  Seeking Adventures,” which included enjoying wild flowers on federal land. However some believe that wildflowers are Essential in our “Pursuit of Happiness.” About this time I received a call about a desert run, destination unknown.

As we left town we wound around over to the gas line road, then over to the powerline road, through the back yard to the sandy wash, to the narrow canyon. We were not being trailed. 

“Do you know where we are?” “Yes – but I have no idea how we got here.”

Among the yellow and white flowers were petroglyphs. As we continued toward the lake the flowers’ colors were changing at different elevations. The cholla cactus needles looked soft and the beaver tail were loaded with bright pink flowers.

We had lunch up the lake on a beach and headed back. All protocol was followed so we could come back again soon. Thankful for a great day.   ~ Dave

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