Reports on trips taken in 2020.
Escape to Little Finland
By Debbie Miller Marschke
Steve and I hit the road in early September on a loosely planned trip that found us spending some time in Mesquite, Nevada. We found our way to the Virgin Valley Museum, enjoying the displays and artifacts; it’s worth a stop because it has a treasure trove of unique items. I also had an ulterior motive, I was hoping to find a source that had specific directions to a place I had heard of, “Little Finland.” Luckily, I hit paydirt when talking to the museum docent. Not only did she know what I was talking about, she photocopied all the hand drawn maps that folks had shared with the museum. This made me extremely happy, because I only had a vague idea of how to find the place.
Armed with the locally sourced materials, we hit the road and headed towards Gold Butte National Monument. We now had our treasure maps, complete with the “x” marking the “spot”!
We had been provided with several maps that had other interesting destinations, so it was tempting to become distracted along the way. All I can say is…we need to come back again when the DE is running trips and the weather is good!
The road into Gold Butte National Monument was unmaintained dirt. For at least 20 miles we endured a hellish washboard that had us worrying that our vehicle’s nuts and bolts would be shaken loose before we arrived. Airing down helped a little bit, but not enough. I really wish folks would just put their vehicles in 4WD right away and stop making more washboard! The washboard was so awful, we actually discussed turning back. But both of us were suffering from extreme cabin fever, we needed a good adventure.
We had a late start to Little Finland after time spent in the Museum. We had to pass many interesting features, like Whitney Pockets, just to make sure we did not run out of time (we did not have our camping gear in the Jeep). Whitney Pockets reminded me of Valley of Fire, with its colorful sandstones and features that yelled out for us to stop. We had to keep going, but we’ll be back sometime to check that out.
We came to a decision point on our maps: there was a short cut that potentially saved us 5 miles. It was not well marked, so it came with a risk of becoming lost in the middle of nowhere. We trusted our navigation skills and took the shortcut. This lead us into an interesting wash lined with gypsum deposits. I relented, we had to stop and investigate. While stopped and eating lunch, we were passed by one other vehicle which was the only one we encountered during this backcountry sortie. Something to consider – it would have been a long walk back to town if something did go wrong with our vehicle.
We were not too far from our destination now. Our maps indicated that we needed to park and hike to Little Finland. Later we found out that this advice was not 100% true. You can park at a corral and hike in, or continue to drive a few more miles and arrive at the flank of the formations. No problem, the whole key to enjoying Little Finland is to climb up into it and around it. You really don’t get much enjoyment just from gazing at it in the front seat.
The formations are red rock sandstone, wind sculpted and contorted. They are similar to what you would see in Valley of Fire or Coyote Buttes AZ. These formations have thin “fins”, fragile plates, hoodoos and unexplainable shapes to tantalize any imagination. It is a bonafide “rock garden”, and every step you take changes what you see. Every twisted and delicate shape is different depending on where you stand. I found myself beckoned to keep exploring and winding my way around the rocks. Thankfully, I did not see evidence of human destruction or vandalism. This place is amazing.
Another pleasant surprise were petroglyphs we found there. We were not looking for them, but there they were. According to the maps, there are several sites in this area. There were also a few palm trees, standing sentinel upon areas which may have been running springs.
It was time for us to suffer the washboard back to Mesquite. It was a day of discovery and wonder, we hope you find the time to make the trip someday. What is that I hear? It’s Nelson Miller on my shoulder, yelling in my ear “I want those maps!.” I scanned them and sent them with this article and I will post them on our website. ~ Deb
Afton Canyon Water Crossing
The deep water crossing in Afton Canyon on the Mojave Road has been mostly ﬁlled in. We drove it on October 28 and the water level is 4”- 5” deep. There is a stockpile of rock near the repair indicating to me that the “ﬁx” may be maintained. ~ John Marnell
Fire at Cerro Gordo
From sierrawave.net: The historic American Hotel, built in 1871, the Crapo House and the Ice House at Cerro Gordo burned down in
what is thought to have been an electrical fire in an early morning fire on Monday, June 15, 2020. No injuries were reported, and the rest of the town is intact. Photo shows Alan and daughter Holiday at the mine site ~ Alan Heller
Feline Visitor at the Stoll’s
Lookie who came to visit just about dusk on our back wall, looking hot and thirsty. Hope it found the water. We wonder if the heat or the fire or both brought it down. ~ Anne Stoll
Mr. Cool, Charlie Dupree
This is Charlie. He is six years old and is a Tonkinese. He does high fives, hands up, and uses a toilet. He knows his name and several other words such as “wanna go for a walk?”,“Wanna fishie snack?” and “Wanna snack?” ~ Jerry & Dolly Dupree
Craig Baker was wandering around
the Death Valley area and came home with some new photos and stories.
You’ll have to chase him down for the stories, but here are his photos.
The Wickers in Joshua Tree
After 7 months without a desert outing, Ding and I recently took a day trip to Joshua Tree National Park. Lots of others had the same idea, but it was still possible to ﬁnd some peace and quiet.
Getting Our Desert Fix
By Lindsay Woods
Growing up in Hesperia, I spent a lot of time out in the Mojave with my father and grandfathers. This taught me to appreciate the many things the desert has to offer. So, it’s that time of year when I enjoy being out in the desert. So, what’s a guy to do? Get a group of friends together and GET OUT THERE!
In early October I invited a few of my friends to join me in getting out and about for an overnight experience. I expected to have about 20 takers but was surprised when 51 people decided to join in. We headed out to an undisclosed facility in the Newberry Springs area on Friday, October 9th, had dinner and hung out with each other. Saturday after breakfast, we packed up and headed out in the general direction of the Alvord Mine for some exploring.
After helping some of our less experienced off-roaders to get unstuck and troubleshooting a few minor vehicle issues, we made it to Alvord Mine. According to mojavedesert.net:
“The Alvord Consolidated Quartz Mining Company, in February, 1881, agreed to issue 75,000 shares of stock to raise money to develop their newly found mine, located about 20 miles east of Calico.
By April, 1885 work had begun. Ore was being hauled daily to Camp Cady where the existing Huntington Centrifugal Mill had recently been augmented with the addition of the Huntington five-stamp mill. Later reports indicate an arrastre was used to mill the ore at the very beginning. Ore was treated at Hawley’s, in addition to Camp Cady in the late 1880s.
In the early 1890s, a mill was built, probably at Alvord Well, at the mouth of the canyon below the mine, which ran until it burned in September, 1891. Alvord Mine figures for July and August, 1891, showed an assay of between $6 and $18 a ton in gold. During the last 10 days before the mill burned, $1,430 in bullion was produced. Total production of gold from the Alvord Mine up to that time was placed at $50,000.
The mine changed owners several times before a group of Pasadena businessmen, incorporated as the Carter Gold Mining Company, gained control of the property and operated it from 1885 until late 1891. This company owned the water rights for Paradise Springs, 9 miles north of the mine, and for Mule Spring 1 mile east. The water at Mule Spring is weakly saline and was used only for camp purposes. In 1895, considerable prospecting was done on the property and in order to test the ore, the Alvord Mining Company of Pasadena erected a five-stamp mill 2 miles from the mine, probably at the site of the burned mill.
From 1906 to 1910, the Alvord Mining Company of San Diego operated the mine and installed as six-stamp Nisson mill near the mine. The Tintic Bonanza Mining Company of Salt Lake City operated the mine from 1916 to 1920. Mr. McCormick, a resident of Yermo, was the owner in 1923 and planned to open the mine. In 1925, the Dell ‘Osso Gold Mining Company acquired the property and 6 claims were patented in 1931. The property was active for several months during 1932 and 1933, and was under lease to Roy Waughtel of Manix from December, 1950, to January, 1952. Since 1952, the property has been idle. The mill has been removed and one of the wooden buildings and a small bridge were burned in the early 1970s. Two stone buildings remained in the early 1970s.”
When we arrived at the mine after a few hours of exploring the surrounding area, we had lunch and the majority of the group headed into the mine for some underground exploration. I am always surprised how many of our local residents do not know much about our local history and the fascinating things do and see in the Mojave. It is always fun to introduce new people to the desert.
We returned to our camp location where we then did a little, well actuallyA LOT, of shooting before ending our day with an AWESOME tri-tip dinner. Following dinner we hit the road and returned home after another great time getting our desert fix. ~ Lindsay
Escaping the Fall Color Crowds
Sue and I thought it would be nice to lead a Fall Colors DE Trip in the Flagstaff area, maybe in 2021 when COVID is behind us? So, we were happy when folks in our “social bubble” including Ron, Mignon and Vicki said they’d like to join us for a pre-run this year. Before Sue and I could go, however, I needed to get the differential of our Skamper camper truck put back together. As last reported, all the required parts had been rounded up and I “just” needed to put it all together. This turned out to be quite a sensitive task. I had read on the internet about all the critical specs required, but not having a dial gauge, a 10 inch/pound torque wrench or electronic digital calipers, I had to use the old “feeler” gauge. When it felt right, I locked it in. Finally, with everything bolted back together and no spare parts left over, it was time to take it off the jacks and go for a test drive. But when I put it in gear to back out of the garage, it didn’t move. The differential seemed to be locked up and the truck wouldn’t move forward or reverse. I was nearing panic mode when I finally realized I had forgotten to remove the safety blocks that were securely placed around the front wheels. Luckily, with the blocks removed everything checked out OK and the truck performed well during the trip.
The Fall colors in the Flagstaff area are spectacular, but so are the hordes of people enjoying the colors. Snowbowl Road has some outstanding color but there are so many people enjoying it that it was really hard to
find a spot to park. Even the 4WD road into Lockett Meadow was jammed with all kinds of cars. When we finally reached Lockett Meadows, it was so crowded that we just turned around and skedaddled. Fortunately, we had several interesting spots to check out that thankfully had not been recently written up in “Arizona Highways.”
North of Flagstaff we found the old Red Butte Airfield. This was the site of the first scenic flights over the Grand Canyon which began in 1927 and eventually made use of Ford Tri-Motor airplanes. In those days there was a “Great House” adjacent to the airfield that rivaled the El Tovar Lodge. At the time of our visit, the old hanger and several out buildings were still standing.
On day two we stopped for a pleasant lunch at Hull Cabin, just a short ways from the Grand Canyon South Rim. The cabin and barn were constructed with hand-hewn logs put together by the William Hull family in the 1880s. The property was acquired by the Forest Service in 1907 and used for a short while as a ranger station.
Our most unique find was the Grandview Lookout Tower built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936. The 80 foot steel tower is still very sturdy and affords quite a view from the top.
After leaving our dispersed camp on day three we warmed up with a hike into Gold Pond and Sycamore Falls in Sycamore Canyon, the second largest canyon in Arizona redrock country. The creek flowing through Sycamore Canyon is a tributary of the Verde River. We found the best Fall color in Sycamore Canyon and no one else was around.
Our kind of place.
There is a very scenic Verde Canyon Railroad trestle just west of Perkinsville.
A wonderful old plaque riveted on it indicated it was constructed in 1898 and refurbished in 1928.
East of Ashfork we found two railroad dams constructed by the Santa Fe to provide water for their non condensing steam engines. One dam was very rare, being only 1 of 3 steel dams constructed and the last one in use. The Ashfork-Bainbridge Steel Dam was built in 1898 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Half a mile away is the Stone Dam constructed in 1911 using huge blocks of pink sandstone. There was significant water behind both dams.
Quite a find for us was the JD Cabin and homestead deep in the Kaibab Forest. The site was purportedly settled by James Douglas in the 1870s. A cabin and barn were still standing.
And of course we drove Old Route 66 both coming and going. It is always a pleasure.
So please plan to join us when
we can finally use what we have learned and do an official trip, hopefully next Fall. ~ Joeso
South to Durango
by Axel Heller
After spending three nights in Yellowstone, we headed south along
US 191 into Colorado. Near I-80, we observed four smoke plumes coming from the Rocky Mountain range. We learned that these fires had been burning for at least two weeks but we were going to bypass the fires to the west.
We passed the east side of Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Utah; the reds were just awesome. Mother Nature just outdid herself with the landscaping that we were driving through. Our goal was to spend the night in Grand Junction, but the smoke from the fires looked denser further south, so we pulled into a Colorado State Park, Highline Lake for the night. About 9:00 p.m. we looked out and saw the red glow of fire. Our thoughts were that it was really close, but our depth perception was poor in the night and it turned out to be about 40 miles away in the mountains. Our decision to camp about five miles out of Grand Junction turned out to be the best choice. Grand Junction had a dense haze/smoke layer, and later they actually closed I-70 due to smoke/visibility. Our real adventure for the day started when we took US-550 from Ouray to Red Mountain pass.
Ouray Named after Chief Ouray of the Ute Nation. Chief Ouray tried to settle peacefully with the settlers and made several treaties with the US and he met with Presidents Lincoln and Grant in those endeavors. Chief Ouray realized that fighting the US was not beneficial for the Ute Nation and gave up
several million acres of prime real estate and not lose his people in battle.
What gets your attention is the Historic Main Street District, US-550. The town was incorporated in 1876 and had over thirty active mines. The Camp Bird Mine was the second largest mine in Colorado and by 1906 produced over one million troy ounces of gold and four million troy ounces of silver. Ouray also has several developed hot springs pools. The town bills itself as the Switzerland of America, due to climate and environment and being surrounded by three walls of the canyon. I do plan sometime in the future to return without COVID and my RV hindering my ability to park.
Million Dollar Highway Leaving Ouray, we took US-550, the Million Dollar Highway. The disputed name comes from legends that it cost $1,000,000 per mile to build in the 1920’s, or that $1,000,000 of gold ore was used as fill. I can also add that it may cost over $1,000,000 to maintain per mile each year.
The road is about twelve miles to the Red Mountain Pass of 11,018 feet, but there is a 10% grade, narrow two lane road with hairpin turns and NO guardrails!! There was construction to repair many areas where the road bed fell down the canyon. Prior to becoming US 550 in the 1920s, there were two toll roads built in 1880s towards Silverton. The road after Red Mountain Pass was smooth to Silverton, total mileage from Ouray to Silverton is 23 miles. We bypassed Silverton and continued onwards to Durango.
Durango I will call Durango a “Modern Historic Town.” Modern because it has all of the conveniences of a city (Walmart & TRAFFIC), but has a section of the 1880’s preserved. This historic section is where the Durango-Silverton Train Depot is located.
I took the Durango-Silverton Railroad in August 1978. I was leading a group of Explorer Scouts on a backpack into the San Juan Mountains. We exited the train at one of two designated spots for backpackers and disappeared into the wilderness. Our tickets were open ended and we could be picked up
anywhere along the line, just need to be sighted by the track inspector to radio back for pick-up. This year, due to COVID, the train only ran about one-third of the track, so Silverton will again be part of a future trip.
The train museum is not just about the train system, but a history of the town. There are two train engines, luxurious train cars (owned by the president of the railroad), and rail maintenance cars, with an operating HO train model of the local area and Diorama displays of the early mines and smaller towns. I enjoyed the recruiting poster for Pancho Villa. Overhead was
a replica of the first airplane that landed in Durango. There was lot of small-town history crammed into a small space.
When the day comes that things finally get back to the “Old Normal”,
I hope to return to this scenic area, take the train on a round trip to Silverton and be a tourist in Ouray. ~ Axel
Mal, Mignon and Joaquin Utah Trip
by Mignon Slentz
Mal Roode, Mignon and Joaquin Slentz made up our small group that journeyed to northeast Utah. We saw rock art, waterways and historic ranches. The weather was perfect, fall colors were showing and we camped under the full moon.
Starvation Reservoir is a sprawling body of water four miles northwest of Duchesne.
We had the place ourselves and enjoyed a beautiful sunset. Unfortunately the area was littered.
The McConkie Ranch, located in Dry Fork Canyon, northwest of Vernal was our next stop. These petroglyphs are world renown and show trapezoidal body shapes. The trails take you up to view nine foot tall ﬁgures. This is on private land and a five dollar group donation is appreciated.
I was really looking forward to showing off the Swett Ranch but the buildings were closed for the season. Mal was still able to capture a cabin’s interior through the window.
Next to an old dugout is a plaque that says Butch Cassidy and his gang used it for a hideout. The next morning we crossed over the Green River on an old suspension bridge and enjoyed the scenery through Crouse Canyon.
Later we entered Nine Mile Road and proceeded into the canyon. Nine Mile Canyon is famous for its well preserved rock art. “The Great Hunt” panel is world famous and includes at least 30 bighorn sheep and eight anthropomorphs that have been interpreted as a communal hunt.
We camped at the ranch on grass under shaded trees and were allowed to have a campﬁre. The three dollar hot showers were wonderful. There are also cabins for rent.
Our last night we camped in the yard of a friend near Panguitch and I made grilled cheese sandwiches
We honestly needed a couple more days to see everything. Mal took most of the photos! ~ Mignon
Rock Art in Kyrgyszstan
Photos by Allan Wicker
Here a few photos I took of rock art in Kyrgyzstan 20 years ago, when Ding and I were teaching there. I was surprised to see that some of the figures look very similar to what we see in our own Southwest. ~ Allan
by Bob Jaussaud
We were in the middle of nowhere in high Nevada last July trying to ﬁnd an old mine. While heading up an especially gnarly canyon road in low-range 4wd with our e-locker engaged, there was a loud bang that came from our rear differential and forward motion ceased. Our faithful old Nissan Nismo with its Skamper camper was broken and we were in the wilds of Nevada without even the advantage of cell service.
Fortunately Sue and I had not come on this trip alone. We were exploring with a few other crazy Desert Explorers (Ron, Glenn, Mignon and Robin). I can’t over-stress how important and comforting it was that they were with us.
Anyway, we still had the use of our front differential so we tried to continue. After much clanking and slipping, our front wheels ﬁnally got traction and we started moving in the desired direction. Thankfully it was only a short way to the Mohawk Mine where we found a better road leading out. Our goal that evening had been to camp along Cottonwood Creek. Our intended route was not possible with front wheel drive only so we had to detour through Silver Peak and follow pavement north to Nevada’s “Loneliest Road” (Highway 6). We reached Cottonwood in time for a very late, but wonderful, happy hour. The next morning Sue and I limped home with just our front wheel drive.
Being inherently thrifty, I decided to try and repair the truck myself. Over two months later (at this writing) our truck is still apart. But, there is hope! Turns out I had stripped the splines on a rear axle when a side gear in the e-locker broke. Ouch! It turns out that one cannot buy just a side gear. The Dana Nissan e-locker is sold as a complete unit only. Double ouch! I thought about welding up the old broken side gear and modifying a Nissan Titan axle to ﬁt, but Steve Marschke and Bill Gossett talked me out of that foolishness. So I shook the moths out of my wallet and now have the required new parts. But there’s a story there too.
I shop the internet a lot and I found a site that had the new e-locker needed for considerably less than the competition. However, when attempting an order the site would not work on my computer. So, I ended up calling C&M Gear in Missouri to try and place the order. The man I spoke to had a very heavy Ozark accent that I could barely comprehend. I thought he said, “Sure, I’ll take the order” so I gave him my name, address and credit card information. He could evidently understand my accent all right as, without repeating anything back to me, he said something like, “OK. It will be in the mail this afternoon” and ended the phone call. I wondered if I had just been scammed. An anxious hour later, another man (with the same accent) called. Our credit card hadn’t gone through. With corrected information, his call abruptly ended. He did, though, call back a short time later to say it had gone through OK. At this point I had the belated presence of mind to ask for a receipt. He said he would send me the tracking number and again ended the call. Sure enough, a few minutes later I got a text with a photo of a USPS (not UPS or FedEx) mailing label, but nothing else, no receipt, no nothing. I was not very assured and told Sue I may have been “had.” To make a long story short, I was extremely relieved when the part arrived quickly, as promised and as represented. So, when you need fourwheeling parts you might consider C&M Gearing. I will use them again. Who needs a receipt?
With the new e-locker in hand I started looking for a new axle. I ﬁnally found the hard-to-ﬁnd, discontinued axle I needed at a Phoenix Nissan dealer but, of course, it was pricey. Triple ouch! However, they shipped USPS (what’s with that?) and we got an email receipt. Now that the new axle has arrived, as promised, I feel the hard part is over.
I just need to quarantine myself in the garage and put it all together. So, letsall get past this Covid thing and go camping. I think we’ll be ready! ~ Joeso
Jeeping in Southeastern Arizona
by Ellen Miller
I’ve been hanging out in Benson Arizona this winter which extended way into summer due to the Covid-19. The RV park I’m at has a Jeep group, with Rubicons and other small 4WD vehicles, which goes out usually once a week in the surrounding areas. Once they learned I know how to drive 4WD roads in my Tacoma, thank you Nelson, I was good to drive most any of the trips. On occasion the leaders have decided my much longer wheel base won’t make it and I have gone with someone in their Jeep. However, they have also determined my Tacoma is good for hauling back saguaro ribs and other items for placement in the park.
We have explored a number of the ghost towns and mines around the Tombstone area. Sometimes easy drives and other times over more challenging and narrow roads.
One day we went to Council Rocks in the Dragoon Mountains which is on the National Register of Historic Places. This may have been the location Cochise finally made peace with the Americans in 1872. This was definitely a meeting place for the Apache as the pictographs and mortar holes indicate. The huge boulders creating several shelter locations were awesome to see and explore.
Another day included a stop at the Dragoon Springs stage station on the Overland Mail route between San Antonio and San Diego, also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This was only one of the 200 stations along the 2700 mile route. This section of the route was frequently referred to as the ‘Jackass Mail’ due to mules being used to pull the coaches and passengers were at times packed on mule back in crossing the deserts. Construction on the station began in 1858. Mail service along this route ended in 1861 due tothe Civil War. A lot of work went into setting up and constructing this route for a rather short time for using the route. There were several Confederate graves at this location as well from a battle between Confederate troops and Apaches in 1862. A fun stop to explore.
Yet another trip was to Aravaipa Canyon from the east. This included a drive into the canyon crossing the creek several times. As this was in the early spring we enjoyed all the new spring green. Lunch and our turnaround point was at Turkey Creek Cliff Dwelling,a nice Salado ruin from the 1300s.
I’ve been fortunate to join up with this fun group while in Benson and look forward to many more trips with them.
by Axel Heller
After leaving Moon Craters NP, we headed eastward towards Jackson, Wyoming. Going up and up toward Teton Pass (8431’) with a grade up to 10% we crossed the top, and just like a rollercoaster headed down on a 10% grade. I had added an aftermarket Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) to my rig for all tires. The TPMS went into alarm and the display was reading “slow leak front tires, Temp 245° & 252°!” Fortunately, there was road work for single lane traffic, so we stopped and everything cooled down a little without having to pull over in the turnouts.
Jackson was billed as the “Last Wild West Town” in the country. The store fronts looked authentic from the old west, and all of the patrons (banditos) being masked, wandering from store to store. It was a challenge traveling through town with a 24’ van and towed car on the narrow road.
The Tetons are the “youngest” mountain range in the Rockies, only six to nine million years old. The Teton Fault shifted the valley floor and mountains to over 7,000’ difference in elevation between them. Glaciers carved the valley floor creating numerous lakes. Jackson Lake was dammed before it became a National Park, and this dam added 40 feet of additional depth to the lake.
In the early 1800s fur trappers were exploring the west for beaver. Lewis and Clark passed well north of the Tetons/Yellowstone. How did the “Tetons” get their name? It may have come from the French Trappers passing by naming them “les trois tetons” or “the three breasts.” They must’ve been missing companionship. Of course it was renamed to the TETON, with the middle peak called “Grand Teton” due its greater size, mmm.
Moran Peak and the town of Moran are named after Thomas “Yellowstone” Moran. Thomas Moran was talented illustrator and exquisite colorist for the publication Scribner’s Monthly, when he was invited to join Hayden Geological Survey of 1871, exploring the Northwest section of the Wyoming Territory. President Grant was so impressed with the survey that Yellowstone National Park was created in 1872 as the nation’s first National Park.
Despite being our first National Park, Congress never gave funding for operation of it. The first Superintendent, Nathanial Langford, worked for five years without pay, staff or funding. Wasn’t until 1886 that the army built a fort, now named Fort Yellowstone, and started to protect the park.
The fort is now park headquarters. We weren’t allowed to visit the fort because of closure due to COVID.
The Yellowstone Caldera is still very active underground, and the magma chamber is moving northeast deep underground. The Park is still releasing geothermal heat into our atmosphere in the form of hot springs & geysers. (There was an advertisement for the early park on the great fishing opportunities: catch your fish in the river, and land it, then place it in the pond behind you and it will be cooked!)
Earthquakes are frequent, but low in intensity. Yellowstone lake is one of the highest elevation & largest fresh water lake in the world. Just recently they sent a ROV into the depths (400’) and found “black smokers” and microbial life within them.
The headwaters of the Yellowstone & Snake Rivers are very close in origin, but they are opposite sides of the Continental Divide. The Snake River eventually enters the Columbia River in Washington. The Yellowstone River enters the Missouri River, then into the Mississippi River. Inside the Park, boating is allowed but limited to self-propelled vessels in the rivers/streams, and on the Lake, minimal powered vessels.
Off course there are the Bison or Buffaloes. They hang out around a nice grassy meadow with gentle hills near the Yellowstone River. Easy to find them as
traffic comes to a stop, as people “shoot” them with cameras. The herd is the “largest public” in the USA. They own the park and the tourists. The deer we came across, was watching over his family. I believe this was a Mule Deer. He decided to get up when too many people closed in with cameras. No other large animals could be found; last year when I passed through a herd of elk crossed the road in front.
Remnants of the 1988 fire were observed. The spring was wet, but a drought settled into the summer. The fire started middle of July and went out of control. It wasn’t until September when an early snow fall came to the firefighters’ rescue. The study that followed, came to the conclusion that fire is a natural phenomenon in the forest to clear dead growth and that proper clearing/management is beneficial. Now I wish they were doing that here in California because in September the state was in flames. The El Dorado fire was a concern to me as that was close to home here in Big Bear. ~ Axel
Glacial Deposits Near Sperry Wash
by Bill Neill
Outside the Shoshone Museum is a geological display with a stratigraphic column showing rock formations of the Amargosa basin. In the lower part of the stratigraphic column, one sedimentary unit labelled the Kingston Peak Formation is described as “mudstone with pebbles and boulders – ancient glacial deposit . . About 740-635 m.y.”
The Kingston Peak Formation is sandwiched in the column between two carbonate units: the Noonday Dolomite above, and the Beck Springs Dolomite below. Because dolomite (magnesium calcium carbonate – MgCa2CO3) is derived from limestone (calcium carbonate - CaCO3) which normally is deposited in warm shallow tropical marine water, this arrangement raises the question – why was glacial sediment deposited in a tropical setting?
Before considering this question further, we’ll examine the Kingston Peak Formation at its most accessible outcrop, located south of Amargosa Canyon along the Sperry Wash Route, which is a legal OHV trail through the Kingston Peak Wilderness. Until 1974, trucks travelled the route carrying talc ore from the Western Talc Mine in the Alexander Hills to Union Pacific tracks at Dunn Siding, near Afton Canyon.
Outcrop of Kingston Peak Formation north of Dumont Dunes, next to Amargosa River flood channel. Note vehicle on left for scale.
About 2/3 mile beyond the Sperry Wash gate, next to the Amargosa River flood channel, the outcrop of glacial deposit is not especially photogenic,
but close inspection shows distinctive features: a variety of mostly angular rock clasts embedded in a mudstone matrix, with the thin layering of mudstone either depressed by or draped over the clasts. Geologists interpret these clasts as carried to an offshore marine basin by melting icebergs and dropped into mud that slowly accumulated from the settling of suspended clay and silt particles in quiet water.
As shown on the Shoshone Museum display, the age of the Kingston Peak Formation is thought to be between 635 million and 740 million years – a time when land plants had not yet evolved, and the most advanced marine animals were soft-bodied like jellyfish. Glacial deposits of similar age and character have been found elsewhere in the world – in Australia, Norway, India, Namibia – that apparently were deposited at tropical latitudes, as inferred from paleomagnetism and the association with carbonates.
A ”Snowball Earth” or “Slushball Earth” model has been developed to explain these features. According to this theory, the Earth was heavily glaciated for 100 million years or more, mostly covered by thick ice extending nearly to the equator, at a time when most continental masses were grouped near the equator. Before and after this prolonged cold period, temperate conditions prevailed and carbonate rocks were deposited below and above the glacial unit.
According to Wikipedia, the period of global cooling “from about 850-630 mya, is believed to have been caused by early photosynthetic organisms, which reduced the concentration of carbon dioxide and increased the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere.” Although photosynthesis by marine algae started about 2 billion years ago, the atmosphere’s oxygen remained low during the first billion years because as oxygen was produced, it was removed by oxidation of dissolved iron in the ocean and iron minerals in exposed rock on the continents.
Eventually, dissolved iron in seawater was removed to form “banded iron formation”, now exposed in places like Michigan and Australia; and by covering much of the continents, the “Snowball Earth” glaciation slowed rock weathering and allowed the atmospheric oxygen content to rise nearly to present levels. The increased oxygen level in the atmosphere, in turn, allowed larger, more complex animal life to evolve, resulting in the “Cambrian explosion” about 541 million years ago.
This is a complex story to derive from rust-colored rocks exposed along the Sperry Wash route south of Amargosa Canyon, but it’s humbling to recognize that the rock history contributes to explaining how complex life evolved, including us. ~ Bill
How I Spent My Summer Vacation
by Axel Heller
My summer excursion started mid-August, but not as planned. Friends bailed out mid-April, and I did the first half as we planned it and modified the last week. This is part one of this two week excursion.
My first stop was the Minidoka Interment camp for the Japanese “citizens” from 1942 to 1945, located in Idaho. This camp was just one of tencamps located in the US. Population was about 10,000 displaced Japanese. There were major differences in construction when compared to Manzanar just south of Lone Pine. The buildings were raised floors, and the outside walls were secured only with black tar paper with no insulation to the outside (brrr).
The visitor center is so new it hasn’t been completed.
They plan for it to open next year.
The guard tower was reconstructed in 2014. The remains of the foundation of the entrance building for visitors and the guard
shack are about the only “true remnants” left of the camp.
Craters of the Moon National Monument is an area of extremely condensed volcanic activity. Being familiar with the volcanic activity in Inyo and San Bernardino Counties, this National Monument is located between the Cascades and Yellowstone.
The Shosone Indians would migrate across the lava fields along with the pronghorn antelope. Settlers going west cut a trail through the lava fields in the north to avoid the Indian attacks along the Oregon Trail. It was not used as often as there just wasn’t any surface water for the wagon trains.
The Devils Orchard is named because a minister going through the area was said to say “only the devil could create such a landscape.” Temperatures have been recorded as high as 150 degrees on the lava beds (enough to melt your shoes?) Many of the areas, mostly the caves, were closed due to instability from earthquakes in the regions since March.
There are several Kipukas (Hawaiian word), Islands of Life throughout the Monument. These areas were bypassed by the flows and showed the scientists what kind of flora existed over 2,000 years ago in this area, from grasses to dwarf buckwheat, limber pine, bitterroot, monkey flower and sagebrush among others. Lichen was one of the first plants growing breaking down the lava into soil.
One particular vent/cone was called the Sno Cone. This cone actually had snow inside despite it being in the middle of August in the desert heat.
Apollo 14 to Apollo 17 Astronauts trained here as they were all to land on the moon in volcanic areas of the moon. They learned what type of rock specimens to choose to best help the scientific community to understand the moon’s formation.
That’s it for now, next month the Tetons and Yellowstone. ~ Axel
The “New Guy” Chimes In
by Ed Jack KM6NTV
Greetings from the new guy. I’m sitting here in my home office in Thousand Oaks reflecting. At the start of the year I was excited about my new membership with the Desert Explorers. There were grand visions of tooling around on old desert tracks and learning as much as I could about this amazing landscape we live in and around. Little did I know the impact a global pandemic could have.
On March 19th, 2020 I found myself camped just west of the Salton Sea with my buddy Pat. He’s also a new member to the club. We were ready to meet another group of explorers on the other side of the lake/sea and explore east along the Bradshaw Trail over to Blythe and the Colorado River. Things were getting complicated as the governor had just shut down the state. After a bit of deliberating we decided to roll on. Where better to social distance?
According to the BLM website: “The first road across Riverside County to the Colorado River was blazed by William Bradshaw in 1862 as an overland stage route. Beginning in San Bernardino, the trail was used extensively between 1862 and 1877 to haul miners and other passengers to the gold fields at La Paz, Arizona (now Ehrenberg). The Bradshaw Trail is a 70-mile dirt road, periodically graded by the Riverside County Transportation Department. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended due to stretches of soft sand. The trail traverses mostly public land, and offers spectacular views of the Chuckwalla Bench and the Orocopia, Chuckwalla and Mule Mountains. The Bradshaw Trail National Backcountry Byway is administered by BLM’s Palm Springs-South Coast Field Office.”
From the Salton Sea side the start of the trail is several miles of washboard. This resulted in a field repair for a lost hanger bolt on one of the Jeeps (repurposed a small piece of round stock). Another Jeep broke a brake line and unfortunately couldn’t be repaired. After a worthy try that vehicle turned around and limped back to Mecca with another vehicle (for safety). We saw several small side-by-sides zooming around the west end of the trail.
Once the washboard ended the desert came alive. It always amazes me to see the life that can spring fourth out of the desert. I gained a new perspective of the tortoise and the hare. An amazing little orchid growing out of a pile of rocks in a dried up wash. There are beautiful vistas if you are willing to climb out of the vehicle and walk a little. A beautiful moth that wanted to hitch a ride.
The trip east of the washboards was fairly smooth with no more mechanical failures. We stopped to check out a couple of old mining operations and spent two nights in the fresh desert air. All in all a nice place to spend a quiet weekend away from the rif-raff. ~ Ed