2020 Trips (83)

Reports on trips taken in 2020.

Piute Mountain Trip

by the Numbers

By Marian Johns

Photos by Ed Jack and Allan Wicker

So, let’s start off with a high number and work our way down to zero.

8,000 – feet; the approximate elevation on Piute Mountain where we camped Saturday night.

38 – degrees temperature at our camp site Sunday morning. Wow, was it cold!

11 – participants – who were: leader, Marian Johns; co-leader, Doc (Dave) Hess; Dave Burdick; Nelson Miller; Allan Wicker; Dave Nichols; Devi Farmer; Danny & Norma Siler; Pat Nelson; Ed Jack.

9 vehicles

9 frozen Saturday night campers – It was so cold we all tottered off to bed at 7:00 p.m. and didn’t get up until 7:00 a.m. That’s way too long to be in bed. Danny and Norma wisely had motel reservations down in Kernville.

4 potluck potato salads – we all had a good laugh when it was discovered that four people had brought potato salads. The only other potluck dish was baked beans. (There were also several snack-type contributions.)

4 Toyotas – belonging to Nelson Miller, Doc Hess & Dave Nichols & Marian Johns

3 Daves – Dave Hess; Dave Burdick; Dave Nichols

3 well-behaved dogs – belonging to Dave N., Devi, and Ed Jack

3 Ladies – Norma Siler, Devi Farmer & Marian Johns

3 Jeeps – belonging to Ed Jack, Dave Burdick & Danny and Norma Siler

2 Nelsons – Nelson Miller & Pat Nelson

2 miscellaneous vehicles belonging to Pat Nelson (Ram), Allan Wicker (Nissan)

2 photographers – Allan Wicker & Ed Jack

2 steep roads – one up Piute Mt. and one down; the one down has the best views which are spectacular.

1 Englishman – Pat Nelson hails from London.

1 archaeologist – Dave Nichols, archaeologist, works for the Mojave National Preserve.

1 doctor (retired) Dave Hess

1 professor (retired) – Allan Wicker

1 neat old abandoned rock cabin

1 old abandoned mine mill with cement walls that are covered with graffiti – some of it rather artistic

1 beautiful canyon – Caliente Canyon has a running creek that supports lush cottonwoods and lots of watercress.

0 trains on the Tehachapi Loop. We waited an hour and then gave up when no trains were in sight or hearing distance.

0 campfires - Not only was it miserably cold Saturday night, it was so breezy we couldn’t have a campfire to warm us up. ~ Marian

Monday, 02 August 2021 00:40

Death at Danby

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Death at Danby

By Steve Reyes

Driving east past the “ROAD CLOSED TO THRU” traffic signs on Route 66 casual visitors pass places forgotten by time. Chambless, Cadiz Summit, and then Danby. In Danby, a few buildings and residents remain. The town was situated in three places during its history based on the needs of the railroad, mining and the Mother Road (Route 66). Sitting in the midst of one of 

these locations are the remains of three distinct graves. History tells us there are others buried nearby which have been reclaimed by the desert. For now, three homemade wood crosses hold vigil over forgotten souls. Yet, the question remains as to who is buried in the desert? A handful of articles from the Daily-Times Index newspaper published in San Bernardino from 1898 and 1998 paint a snapshot of life and death in Danby, California.

On December 28, 1898, a story buried on page five of eight of the Daily-Times Index and Evening Transcript reads “That Smallpox Scare – Hackberry, Ariz., Bagdad and Danby the Afflicted Points.” A Doctor Mackechnie was sent to Danby by County Health Officer Rene to investigate the matter.1” In 1898, smallpox was still a deadly disease and according to the Center for Disease Control Website three out of every ten people died after being infected. Smallpox was not eradicated from North America until 1952.2 It appeared the Sante Fe Railroad was so concerned it sent orders to San Bernardino asking doctors be sent to the camps to care for the sick men. The author went on to quote the below article from the Los Angeles Times.

The initial reports published by the Daily-Times Index painted a stark picture opposed to what was printed three days later. The page one article reads “Only One Man has Smallpox-At Danby Station and He is 

Isolated and Is Recovering Now.” Evidently, J. H. West of Needles went to “Smallpox Country” and returned overland to report “the scare was greatly overrated.” Although overrated it was clear that smallpox was a feared ailment.3

The later edition printed on December 31st paints a humorous and most likely realistic timeline of events. The article leads with “Was Frightened Out – Dr. Mackechnie Was Afraid of the Smallpox.” Evidently, County Health Officer Rene received word of a potential smallpox outbreak and was allegedly tending to a fatally ill patient. As a result, Rene “deputized”

Dr. Machechnie and ordered him to travel to Danby and determine if there was in fact an infected patient. If the patient was infected he was to be quarantined. The following is an excerpt as described:

Soon after Supervisor West arrived at Danby and found the doctor had fled the scene. Supervisor West telegraphed Barstow and asked for Health Officer Renshaw to come to Danby. Renshaw determined only one person was sick and had a mild case of smallpox. Supervisor West and Health Officer Renshaw then sequestered the patient and paid a local to enforce the quarantine.4

By January 14, 1899 the public health emergency and panic at Danby subsided. The last story written about Danby and smallpox is a short paragraph on page 

seven. There is no mention of the patient’s name, age or ethnicity. Did he have a wife, child or family? The author only writes the patient died at Danby and his effects and the tent where he “staid” was burned.5 Most likely he didn’t own the tent and his effects did not amount to much. He was probably one of the “professional tramps” or perhaps a “wandering Mexican.” All that mattered was the threat of smallpox was over. It is impossible to argue without a doubt the remains beneath one of the wooden crosses at Danby is smallpox infected patient who died in the desert. It is plausible to believe a death by an incurable infectious disease would necessitate immediate burial close to ones death bed.

      1          The Daily Times-Index and Evening Transcript, San Bernardino, That Smallpox Scare, December 28, 1989, page 5.

      2          Author Unknown, History of Smallpox, Center for Disease Control, www.cdc.gov/smallpox/history/history.html, Accessed March 30, 2020

      3          Unknown Author, The Daily Times-Index and Evening Transcript, That Smallpox Scare, December 31, 1898, page 1.

      4          Ibid, page 8

            5          Unknown Author, The Daily Times-Index and Evening Transcript, The 

Small Pox Patient at Danby Died Yesterday, January 9, 1899, page 1.

Liebre Gulch Instead of Liebre Mountain

By Leonard Friedman

Photos by Leonard and Rebecca Friedman and Bob Peltzman

Mid-morning on April 9, Rebecca and I met Bob Peltzman at Denny’s in Castaic, with the intention of driving Liebre Sawmill Rd (7N23) over Liebre Mountain. The two vehicle caravan first stopped at Sandberg Lodge, once the site of an upscale hotel on the Old Ridge Route. These days there is very little to see of the old hotel, but behind it we experienced some fantastic views down Liebre Gulch all the way to Pyramid Lake, and even saw some wild poppies. Bald Mountain, home to the Sandberg weather station and antennas, rose to the north.

We continued south on the Old Ridge Route, turning off to an abandoned Forest Service campground, requiring a bit of 4-wheel drive. After stopping there for lunch and conversation in the shade of a tree, we arrived at the beginning of Liebre Sawmill Rd, complete with a sign warning of a gate ahead. Sure enough, the gate was locked, though in past years it had been open. This time it was closed due to the Lake Fire of August and September 2020, which burned over 31,000 acres in the Angeles National Forest near Lake Hughes. So, we took out our Forest Passes, locked our vehicles, and went for a hike instead. (Only later did I 

realize that that probably wasn’t allowed either.) The closed road was in perfect condition and the views over the forest amazing. We came across plenty of wildflowers, especially on the steep hills, and what looked like a series of giant “ant hills” running up the mountainside which we concluded must have been a fire break. Rebecca almost lost her sunglasses while photographing the wildflowers, but we figured that would have been an allowable 10% trip loss.

Two hours later, we returned to our cars, and continued south on the Old Ridge Route to the end of the road at Tumble Inn with its famous stone arch remaining. The gate on the Old Ridge Route was actually open, but we decided to heed the signs telling us not to continue. Well, we did walk in a bit, spotting lots of manzanita along the road, but left our cars at Tumble Inn. But then we noticed another dirt road heading back north and down into the canyon, Liebre Gulch. The road did not appear on the Auto Club map, but was hinted at in De Lorme, so with no gate or warning signs, we decided to give it a try. The road marker said 8N05, but checking various sources later, it is also known as Tumble Inn Road and Edison Spring Road.

At the bottom of the hill in Liebre Gulch, we came to a T-intersection. Bob quickly determined that there had been a major washout to the right that we might have had difficulty getting through, so we went left 

instead, this time on 8N01 or Edison Spring Rd. Heading southwest through the gulch, we started climbing the ridge on the opposite side, next to a very steep drop-off. Once topping the ridge, the road curved back to the North providing spectacular views, and giving access to high tension power line towers for several miles and a buried crude oil pipeline. At the bottom of the next canyon, a sign was posted on a small fenced area proclaiming “West Fork Liebre Gulch North.” Who knew?

There were lots of forks in the road for eleven miles, but each time we took the one that looked more travelled, and we usually had the Bald Mountain antennas in sight. Eventually, at 5:45 p.m. we ended up at the aqueduct near Quail Lake Road, where I-5 and SR 138 meet. We started the trip seeking a mountain, but instead explored an impressive gulch. ~ Leonard

Saturday, 31 July 2021 00:51

2021 - The Boondock Report

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The Boondock Report

by Julie Smith

Happy Spring Everyone! We have been boondocking in our RV since January in Quartzsite, Arizona and exploring the area. We took an enjoyable day trip to the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge on March 29, 2021. It was a nice day in the high 80s, yet not uncomfortable. The 30 mile drive south on Highway 95 from our Quartzsite campsite went quickly and we soon made the left turn onto the King Road which is dirt and well graded. The King Road meanders through the Refuge offering stunning desert vistas, jagged mountains ranges, saguaros galore, ocotillo, cholla, and many varieties of desert plants and animals. We didn’t see any big horn sheep this time but we have on other visits to the area. Several other dirt roads connect to the King Road – we decided to take McPherson Pass which traverses through the Castle Dome Mountains and Mining District. It is a beautiful little pass about ten miles long through more gorgeous terrain. Lots of mining history in these mountains; silver, gold, and other minerals. McPherson Pass ends on the other side of the mountain and connects to Castle Dome Mine Road. We took this dirt road for about seven miles and found the Castle Dome Mine Museum - - a little gem of history preserved out in the Willy wags. Dedicated folks were able to put together the remnants/mining equipment of this small mining town which were abandoned over the years; the result is a historic ghost town you can explore.

They did a great job of putting it together and we took about two hours walking through the buildings and grounds. After the museum we continued back down Castle Dome Mine Road where we saw connecting roads to other gold mines nearby. Castle Dome Mine Road takes you through the Yuma Military Proving Grounds until you reach Highway 95 which gave us an easy 50 mile trip back to Quartzsite. This would be a good Desert Explorers trip sometime – only a few spots to navigate slowly without much difficulty.

http://castledomemuseum.org

      Julie Smith

      Flagstaff, AZ USA

Saturday, 31 July 2021 00:37

Images of the Sahara Desert, Libya

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Images of the Sahara Desert, Libya

By Joe de Kehoe

I have been spending these winter months watching it snow and waiting for the high passes to be clear of snowdrifts so I can get back out exploring some of the back roads, ghost towns and abandoned mining 

camps sprinkled around Colorado – all the while being envious of the 75° temps you all have been enjoying in California. I decided to spend this down time getting all of my photographs properly organized using Adobe Lightroom software. In the process I came across photos I had taken in Libya in the late 1970s and wanted to share these.

I was concerned that the Sahara was getting a little too far afield, but after all we are the Desert Explorers, and Jay assured me that it was ok – so blame Jay! My goal was to illustrate as best I could, the wide variation in topography in the Libyan Desert. I have always thought that deserts have a beauty all their own, and certainly the Libyan Desert rates pretty high on my list. The hard part in doing this presentation was in picking just a few photos as representative illustrations, but I think (hope) you’ll get the idea.

I was a geologist for Mobil Oil in Libya in the 1970s, and while I was there, I was busy working on several oil drilling rigs and therefore had only limited time to explore. My job required me to drive to the oil fields and drilling rigs at remote sites in the Sahara, and so I was able to see a lot of the desert that few Westerners get to see. My area covered Libya, southern Tunisia, Algeria and southern Morocco, but was mostly centered on Libya.

I would love to go back and explore some of these areas now in more detail, but of course, given the current political chaos in Libya, that would be nonsense. It is a shame too, because there are magnificent Roman ruins in several areas along the Mediterranean coast of Libya that look like the Romans left yesterday. With 1,000+ miles of beaches along the Mediterranean coastline I feel that Libya could make as much money on tourism as they do on oil revenue,but unfortunately Libya’s Islamic restrictions do not lend themselves to developing a viable tourist industry.

The captions for the photos include geographic coordinates, formatted so that they can be copied and pasted into Google Earth for the location of where the photos were taken. These photos were originally taken as 35mm slides, and they sat in a cardboard box for 40+ years and have specks of dust here and there. Unfortunately, too, the color on some of the slides faded over time. My apologies. Because visiting the area is out of the question, my goal here is just to provide a glimpse of the Libyan part of the Sahara Desert. If the political situation there ever stabilizes however, I’d be happy to lead a field trip.

It was good looking at these pictures during the cold months in Colorado because even now I can recall how blazing hot it was out there, and my Chevy truck did not have A/C. ~ Joe

Saturday, 31 July 2021 00:24

2021 - Trip Reports- Spring on the Mojave Road

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Spring on the Mojave Road

By Steve Mersman

I left my house in Pinon Hills early on Thursday. Since I was doing the Mojave Road, I thought I would check out some other points of interest along the Mojave River. My first stop was to find the location of “Lanes Crossing.”

I drove into the river bed off of Turner Road in Victorville and parked along the river. Since Owl Rock products in Oro Grande has all entrances blocked from the east side of the river, it was my only option without asking permission.

My next stop was for a delicious sandwich at the Cross Eyed Cow Restaurant in Oro Grande.

My favorite sandwich is the Peterbilt (but the pizza is great too). My next stop was to find “Point of Rocks” near Helendale, which I’ve only seen in pictures. I didn’t realize the railroad pretty much cut right through it.

My next stops were to be Cottonwood, Fish Ponds and Forks in the Road, but time was getting short. I’ll save that for another trip. I still wanted to stop and check out Goffs Schoolhouse in remembrance of Dennis Casebier. But since our “certain circumstances,” it was closed.

I arrived at the Avi Resort not too late, and just my luck, no rooms were available. I checked availability the day before, and plenty were available. So called a friend which recently moved to Bullhead City and he allowed me to crash at his house.

 I woke up pretty early since my friend had to go to work. I met with the three other vehicles I was leading across back at the Avi for breakfast but it was also not open for business, due to our “certain circumstances”. I found a little restaurant—The Bonanza Café— in Fort Mojave which is right across the bridge from the Avi. After breakfast we topped off our gas tanks, along with another group doing the Mojave Road. In fact, there were quite a few groups doing the trip. Looks like this trip is going to be crowded and camping spots may be an issue. Especially when one of the groups were 13 strong.

We finally started our trip and the weather was perfect, the wash coming from Picture Canyon had a weird undulation to the road; it would throw you back and forth, you really had to watch your speed. The only reason I could come up with, is they had an off-road race through here recently and the cars’ suspension and all that horsepower created these annoying road conditions. I still like to blame the UTVs though.

We made it to the highway crossing and could see the road to Piute Springs.

We took our time because I knew it was going to be busy up that single road. We met a few groups coming up and passing was a bit of an issue. People forget that uphill has the right of way. Anyway, we moved over the best place we could without running over vegetation. That’s another story. With that many people I was pleased that all were respectful and no trash was left behind. When we arrived at Piute Springs, I took a short hike and showed off the Petroglyphs and Fort Piute.

The creek was barely running. The driest I’ve seen it. The hope was to see some wildflowers this trip, but I think we were too early or just not enough precipitation this year. We loaded back up and headed down the road and made the right turn and began our climb over to Lanfair Valley.

I showed everyone the wagon tracks coming over from Piute Springs.

I forget how beautiful Lanfair Valley is. It is very thick with vegetation. I can see the temptation to raise cattle out there.

We continued on to check out Rock Springs, and figure out where we were going to camp. Everyone doing Mojave Road likes to camp near Caruthers Canyon and with that many groups it is going to be busy.

After driving around until dark, trying to find a site without neighbors, we settled near the windmill and corral near Maruba Road. After setting up camp and standing around the campfire the clouds rolled in and the wind picked up. Not too bad, but it was pretty cold, but what a beautiful sunrise with the low clouds still around.

After finishing breakfast and loading up we headed for the Rock House, Government Holes and lunch would be had at Marl Springs. It’s probably the most important stop for travelers along the Mojave Road for surviving such a journey in the late 1800’s. That is a long desolate way east from Afton Canyon, and west of Government Holes. I hiked along the mountain to find more petroglyphs and match the photo from Jeff Lapides book “The Mojave Road in 1863.” I’m always on the lookout for Tillman’s signature anytime I stop at a watering hole. Could this be one? Maybe he couldn’t stay long enough to finish it.

After finishing lunch, we headed to the lava tubes. When we made our right turn at Tank 6, the traffic kept getting worse.

Getting passed by a Toyota Camry at 50 mph – this was going to be interesting. Sure thing, there were people everywhere in the parking area and parking right next to the lava tubes. After getting through the crowd we headed to our next campsite along the lava walls beside the wash. When we arrived, it was going to be too busy and the wind was too strong. We decided to camp on the east facing mountain near 17 mile point We set up camp, cooked some delicious food, and hung around the campfire discussing what we saw, what we forgot and got a phone call out.

The next morning I woke up to utter silence. It was so quiet, just the sound of a jostling sleeping bag, or a zipper opening a tent flap. We said our goodbyes since one group left the night before, and the other had to take Kelbaker Road back to the 40 since he came from Arizona. My friend Joe and I were the last of the group, we were going to finish the trip. We continued on and over Soda dry lake. It was very dry – no problems at all crossing.

We stopped at travelers monument after a large group was leaving, I couldn’t find the rock I had left 10 years ago, that pile is getting pretty big. We kept on and stopping a couple times to fix the rock cairns, some were hit so hard the rocks were scattered everywhere. Keeping those telephone poles and rock cairns in sight we made it to the mouth of Afton Canyon, another favorite site of mine. It still amazes me to see that water running. Lucky for us the railroad is doing work on the tracks so the crossing was filled with railroad ballast just tires deep through the water.

We continued up the road and I showed Joe the old Indian path that still can be seen cutting across the desert.

We made it to the freeway, aired up our tires and discussed the next trip out in the desert. ~ Steve

Friday, 30 July 2021 23:54

2021 - Trip Reports - Sheephole Mountains

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Sheephole Mountains

by Steve Reyes

 My wife and I grew up loving the desert and wide open spaces. After a year visiting Wonder Valley we bought a five acre parcel with a little cabin. Like generations of people before us we worked on our little place and started building a relationship with Wonder Valley. Often times we would sit outside our cabin and look east and watch the mountains change colors as the sun started to drop. The Sheephole Mountains drew most of our attention. The lowering sun created copper, light purple and golden brown hues. The changing light allowed us to see deep canyons cutting into the mountains. As we spent more time in the area we were gifted with the ability to explore the base of the mountains. Bit by bit and hike after hike we were able to piece together a tiny piece of the mountains history. Tin cans, animal detritus and evidence of early man.

According to wikipedia The Sheep Hole Mountains are a mountain range in the Mojave Desert, to the north of Joshua Tree 

National Park, in San Bernardino County. The mountains were once Chemehuevi hunting grounds. Hunting grounds for the Chemehuevi indians? Now it would make sense! During one of my hikes in the mountains I discovered petroglyphs. The petroglyphs were surrounding an area that could be used as a hunting blind. The hunting blind was a large rock that faced up into a canyon that overlooked a wash. That wash led to some seasonal water which we also discovered.

The mountain range lies between the Bullion Mountains to the west, and the Coxcomb Mountains to the east. The mountains reach an elevation of 4,613 feet (1,406 meters) above sea level just east of Amboy Road, which the range crosses. As we continued to hike the mountains we also discovered the existence of a vast array of wildlife. Coyotes, bobcats, hawks and kit foxes call the Sheephole Mountains home.

During one of our hikes we discovered the remnants of several mining operations. These operations have long since been combed over and abandoned but according to diggings.com the mines had such names as the Sheep Hole Mine, Wagner Gold Mine, and the Boney Gold Occurrence. It is hard to imagine how hard the labor must have been. There was no Desert Hardware Store or Home Depot to retreat to for mining supplies.

While hiking within earshot of Amboy Road my wife and I discovered a medium 

scale mining operation with abandoned mines and homemade above ground water cisterns. What was most amazing was the discovery of an arrastra. According to goldrushnuggets.com: “an arrastra, also known as a Mexican Rastra, was a primitive method used by early miners to process gold and silver ores. It was introduced to the new world by the Spanish in the 1500’s. They were used throughout the world, often at remote locations where other processing methods were not feasible.”

These gold mining operations created their own wild stories of lost mines and miners. In 1941, Desert Magazine printed an article about an old miner by the name of “Hermit John” who emerged from the dry lake bed northest of the Sante Fe Station at Amboy. The story goes “Hermit John” approached a small group of men at the train depot and wanted to ship six sacks of ore. One of the bags was damaged and the men discovered it contained ore that was a light gray iron and plastered with bright yellow gold.

The men were amazed at the haul and asked him where he found the ore. The old miner was secretive and refused to tell anyone the whereabouts of his mine. Another local would later say the miner told him he had found a century old Spanish mine. This mysterious miner disappeared into the desert and the legend of the Lost Ledge of the Sheep Hole Mountains was born. 

The Sheep Hole Mountains look down on Wonder Valley and are the valleys keeper of its history, natural wonders and hidden secrets. In the later afternoon it shows itself to Wonder Valley. Often my wife and I comment how the mountain peaks look razor sharp as they cut into the sky. The Sheephole Mountains welcome visitors to the valley below and wish them well as they travel on. The best part is travelers overlook this pristine wilderness area on their way to Joshua Tree National Park or Las Vegas. The Sheephole Mountains are my backyard.   ~ Steve

Hamfest & Winter Camping in Quartzsite, Arizona

from Bill and Julie Smith

Greetings Desert Explorers!

We have been attending a weeklong ham radio event held at the Roadrunner camping area on BLM land in Quartzsite, Arizona annually for four years now. It is held the third week of January and called Quartzfest. This year it was called Quartz-Pause in order to still have a get-together and keep it going somewhat through the pandemic; albeit ‘unofficial’. Most everyone kept to their own campsites – working amateur radios from their rigs/tents, folks visited within social 

distance, visited on the radio, worked radio traffic and contests, and they were able to test several individuals for amateur radio licenses. They had a small swap meet of equipment and other items, an Off-Road Trip one day up and over the local mountains to the Colorado River near Blythe, plenty of time to go into the town of Quartzsite to check out the ongoing flea markets, and many opportunities to explore the local area. We meet Desert Explorer Extraordinaire Bill Powell at this event every year and it was fun also meeting his wife and niece this time when they came down from Oregon. Our daughter and her husband also come down and stay with us a few days during this event. Usually there are around 1,000 in attendance at Quartzfest. This year there were under 200 Hams, but the spirit of the event prevailed and everyone had a great time! Kuddos to the dedicated organizers and attendees who kept the ‘Quartzfest wheels turning’ despite the challenges of 2020 & 2021! We are certain more folks will attend again in the coming years.

Quartzsite explodes with a Snowbird population every winter – this year not so much. Not as many folks made the usual ‘Winter Pilgrimage’ this year. Less people in general and with the Canadian Border closure, the absence of the usual multitides of Canadians was especially evident. There seemed to be enough campers to keep the town of Quartzsite limping along – but many businesses were closed or gone. We hope they continue to perservere – we think they will.

We ended up staying through February this year and enjoyed boondocking around Quartzsite. We started gold prospecting last year around the Prescott/Dewey areas of Arizona when we ‘hunkered down’ in Camp Verde, AZ during the quarantine period. Last spring we were able to work a claim in Dewey, AZ that is owned by the Gold Prospector’s Association of America since we are members of this organization. We are ‘No Threat’ to Ruth & Emmett Harder for sure and are enjoying learning-as-we-go searching hills and washes to dig, dry sluice, and pan. Our daughter and son-in-law started prospecting also a few years ago. They share part of a claim at a small mining operation in Quartzsite and we help them on that claim sometimes. This January we joined the local Quartzsite Metal Detecting Club which is associated with the Miner’s Depot shop in town and are able to dig on their claims nearby. Great scenery, super weather, plenty of exercise digging, and finding a little bit of gold here and there keep things interesting. We are enjoying prospecting immensely ! Our daughter and her husband haul water to their claim area and do wet sluicing for gold. We go out in the desert hills and washes and dig, ‘vacuum’, classify, put the material through our dry sluice, and pan the material later at our campsite. After a few weeks in So. Cal to visit family in March, we will be back in Quartzsite chasing nuggets until April. We look forward to Desert Explorers Trips as they begin to happen this year!

 Bill & Julie Smith

‘On The Road To Somewhere’

Friday, 30 July 2021 23:24

Huell Howser's Video Legacy

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Huell Howsers Video Legacy Thats Amazing”

by Rebecca Friedman

It’s been eight years since Huell Howser, the likeable public television host with a genuine sense of wonder and Tennessee twang, died in January 2013 at age 67. I decided to update the article that I wrote for the DE Newsletter back then. Since we’re mostly relegated to being “armchair travelers” these days, I encourage you to view some of his video archives at the website shown below.

For 30 years, Huell traveled the state to share the history, natural wonders, and amazing people of California. I used to join my parents in watching him on TV, starting with his Videolog programs. Later I introduced his California’s Gold, Road Trip, California Golden Parks, and other series to my own family (Leonard and Hannah). We were big fans. Years ago, I caught a glimpse of him in person at a café in Los Angeles. And we got to meet Luis Fuerte, his longtime cameraman from 1990-2001, when we went to the 2014 opening of the California’s Gold Exhibit and Huell Howser Archives at Chapman University. I remember Huell often proclaiming, “Louie, take a look at this!” Luis autographed a special edition AAA map for the Desert Explorers, which Craig Baker purchased at our silent auction that year. I saw that eBay is offering that guide map (unsigned) for $25.

Hundreds of episodes of Huell’s California’s Gold and other series have been digitized and made available for free viewing online on the Chapman University website (http://www.HuellHowserArchive.com). Huell even featured Bill “Short Fuse” Mann and sites in the Lucerne Valley on episode #1402 of his Visiting series. Below is a partial list of episodes where Huell visited places that Desert Explorers have also been. To view one, just type the title in the “Search” box on the website. There is also an interactive California’s Gold Map that makes it easy to find episode numbers. Or, you can browse the episode index at https://blogs.chapman.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/25/2017/03/Episode-List-1.pdf. Any of Huell’s episodes are worthy of your viewing.

All these episodes are California’s Gold unless noted:

  • Big Things in the Desert: #909 (Goldstone Deep Space Network and Boron)
  • Dry Lake Bed: #708 (Rogers/Muroc Dry Lake)
  • Mono Lake Today: #138
  • Mono Lake: #311
  • Places I’ve Always Wanted to Go: #11002 (Mono Basin)
  • Bodie: #310
  • Joshua Tree: #404
  • Amboy: #410
  • California State Parks: #505 (Providence Mtn State Rec Area)
  • Life in Death Valley: #606
  • Scotty’s Castle: #607
  • Mudpots: #2005 (Imperial Valley)
  • Desert Tower: #5007
  • Under California: #509(Burro Schmidt Tunnel)
  • Trestle: #1006 (Goat Canyon)
  • Hard to Get to: #411 (White Mtns)
  • Kelso Depot: CA’s Golden Parks #144
  • Anza Borrego: Road Trip #148
Friday, 30 July 2021 23:17

2021 - Trip Reports - Graffiti Trip

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Graffiti Trip

By Lindsay Woods

No, we weren’t going to drive around town looking for graffiti nor were we heading out to graffiti local landmarks but rather to check out some graffiti from years past in the Black Mountains area outside Hinkley, California. We headed North on 1-15 to Highway 58 and exited Hinkley Road and the adventure began when our tires left the pavement and hit the dirt. There is more than one location in this area where petroglyphs can be viewed.

At our first stop we were able to locate one marking on the outcropping of rocks. Soon we were driving through a wash with the dark, volcanic looking rock walls on each side of us. When we stopped, we were able to explore the area and find a number of petroglyphs and graffiti from 1938 to as recent as 2020. While I hated to see some of the newer carvings, I began to contemplate what these newer carvings would communicate to future explorers. Don’t get me wrong I am in no way condoning these actions, but found it worth pondering. There was even a couple of carvings related to COVID-19.

On the way to our final destination Inscription Canyon, we stopped at a number of other sites of interest. While driving we saw a rock stack structure that was about 3 feet tall, 8 feet wide, and 20 feet long which we surmised was some type of holding pen for animals. Next, we came across the old stage coach stop site where the watering trough and well can still be seen.

A short distance further we came across what I would presume to be a dugout miners’ cabin which was cut into a small mound. The dugout appeared to have a thin concrete floor and plaster skimmed walls and ceiling. I would estimate the room to be around 200 square feet. I read somewhere online that miners were in the area in the early 1900’s. They were mining high end opals, one of the operations was actually funded by the Tiffany company. This dugout cabin would have provided a much-needed shelter for its occupants from the weather extremes in the Mojave Desert.

The whole day I had been hearing about the eagle petroglyph which we continued to scan all of the rock hillsides for. Not finding the eagle we pressed on to Inscription Canyon. What an impressive sight, I could have spent the whole day combing this area but after about an hour it was time to get moving. We returned to our hunt for the eagle and after about 20 minutes we were able to finally locate it. With that success we decided to begin heading for home.

We decided to go over the Black Mountain and drop in at the base of Opal Mountain and make our way back to Hinkley Road. On our way out we ran across Sherriff’s personnel on a Polaris Ranger with a litter on the back. We stopped and spoke with them and learned they were doing a body recovery in the area. After a brief visit we started our way back toward Highway 58. Shortly before we hit the pavement, we came across a Coroner unit that was having difficulty locating the recovery team. We were able to assist them with direction to the recovery team’s location.

Our day ended nine hours and 160 miles later. Another great day exploring the desert.   ~ Lindsay

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