2021 Trips (17)

Reports on trips taken in 2021.

Monday, 10 January 2022 17:43

2021 Trip Report - Jeep Safari in Moab

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Jeep Safari in Moab

By Dave Burdick

Three years ago I wrote about the Red Rock 4-Wheelers (RR4W) Jeep Safari in Moab. Well we’re back again, third time. We’ve found that there is so much more to see so we added a couple of more days going on our own lonesome.

Day 1  We arrived sooner than expected in the area and went exploring for an old mining town  called Sego, North of Thompson Springs. Went up a beautiful canyon along an abandoned railroad grade to what’s left of an old hotel, cemetery and mine site.

Next we journeyed east on Interstate 70 and cut off towards the Colorado river and the old Dewey Suspension Bridge to Entrada Bluffs Road to Top of the World trail. Not recommended for stock SUVs. As the road goes upward you encounter steeper and larger ledges as you climb. Almost there, within a mile of the summit and the best view in Moab we stopped. Good judgement won out?

Back on pavement driving along the river to Onion Creek / Fisher Towers we had a very enjoyable and scenic drive up the canyon along the creek which we crossed about thirty times. Two wheel drive high clearance.

Day 2 We started off again on our own to Hurrah Pass and Chicken Corners – a fun, easy trip. Starting at MacDonald’s in town along Kane Creek Road along the Colorado River climbing up to Hurrah Pass looking back down at the river. Down the pass 12 miles through interesting four wheeling to see the river about 450 feet below, straight down. Make a left, (the passenger should not look down), then two miles to the walking trail and view of river and Thelma and Louise Point.

Day 3 With the RR4W Labor Day Safari. After a big breakfast then off to Day Canyon. During the driver’s meeting we learned that the road was closed due to a wash out. Scouts went ahead and reported back that good 4-wheelers could get through. After a long rough scenic climb came a commanding view, lunch and back. An OK trip... but forgettable. Good barbecue.      

Day 4 Red Rock 4-Wheelers. I was able to trade my ticket for a boring trail for a more difficult one with the Big Kids called Tiptoe Behind the Rocks, 33 miles of rock stacking, ledge climbing, and white knuckle descending obstacles. After a short conversation with trail officials about tire size and skills, we were off. The first obstacle was off-camber ruts. One of the drivers who did not pay attention went on his side, easy fix, let’s git going. Next stop for a look at High Dive Canyon,   NO THANK YOU.

After several ledge and rock climbs (Fun!), the best advice came from the old trip leader “Boys, go slow and easy and let the Jeep do what it was designed to do.” The next obstacle to come was a descent – White Knuckles – everyone made it through. A fun trip. No scratches or scrapes. The Best.

Day 5 With the Red Rocks 4-Wheelers on Secret Spire Trail. It was an easy trail with a variety of terrains, a few ledges, some  slick rock, soft sand and interesting drops.

After airing down we started on a well graded road as we headed towards the Green River and Spring Canyon . We spent our lunch break hiking over to the Secret Spire and some other rock formations. It was hard to put its size into perspective. Then on to the  Dellenbaugh Tunnel and a scenic trail down Spring Canyon. Then good 4- wheeling back to Moab and the long trip home.  ~ Dave

(Click Read More to see the photo gallery)

Monday, 10 January 2022 17:31

Aviation and Desert Arrows

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Aviation and Desert Arrows

By Bob Jaussaud

Surviving this last summer on the desert, Sue and I were stuck indoors for much of the time. When the outside temperature climbs above 115 degrees it’s just too bloody hot to do much. So, trapped indoors, we caught up on some of our reading. An article in the Summer 2021 Nevada Magazine titled “High-Flying Wayfinding” tweaked my interest. It was about concrete arrows that guided pilots across Nevada in the 1920’s. They were part of a very early Transcontinental Airway.

When the United States Post Office Department started airmail service in the Spring of 1918, it was Army pilots who flew the mail but, just few months later, the Department hired civilian pilots to relieved the Army. In those days flying was inherently a risky business,especially if there was a designated route and a set schedule. The new hires were required to fly in open cockpits, in unreliable planes and in unpredictable weather. Somehow they still managed to get the mail through and effectively opened the door for private contractors such as Ford Air Transport (Ford Motor Company), Varney Airlines (later part of United Airlines), Boeing and Braniff. By the Fall of 1927 all airmail was carried under contract and a few fledgling U.S. airlines were able to get a foothold and prosper.

Although the weather was what it was, during the 1920’s airplane reliability was rapidly improving. Even so, pilots still had to find their way visually. Flying at night or when visibility was limited was just not conducive to the pilots’ life expectancy. However, the odds of their continued survival were greatly increased when light beacons were installed along the airmail routes. Large directional concrete arrows were added to help define the route in day time. Also, functional intermediate air fields were constructed so pilots could land if necessary, an all too frequent occurrence. One of those fields was Kelly Field in the East Mojave. The Heritage Trail passes the site of Kelly Airfield and Dennis Casebier researched it for his book East Mojave Heritage Trail - Ivanpah to Rocky Ridge. It is an interesting read.

According to Dennis, Kelly Field was operational from 1930 to 1935 during the height of the Great Depression. Kelly Field serviced the Los Angeles to Salt Lake airmail route. The field had a light beacon perhaps 60 feet tall that was lit and rotated all night long. Also there were runway lights lit all night on an adjacent dry lakebed. There were several storage buildings and a nice little house for Ken and Mabel Wilhelm, the caretakers. Mabel was still living when Dennis was researching for his book and thankfully he was able to interview her. She provided him with firsthand information and several historic photos. Without Dennis recording the history of Kelly Field we might have lost that chapter of desert life. Although there isn’t much left to see, on our Inbound for the upcoming DE Rendezvous we plan to locate the beacon foundation and try to find the gravel circle that was around the windsock.

Back to the concrete arrows. Researching on the internet, I found a site that gave coordinates for the known arrows that have survived. I loved being able to locate the arrows on a map, as it brought the 1920’s Los Angeles to Salt Lake airmail route across the Mojave into focus. It seems apparent that the early pilots flying visually used the early wagon and auto routes for direction. Coincidentally, one of these was the Arrowhead Trail Cutoff which we intend to partially travel on the Inbound. For a future trip, after it cools off a bit, I propose to visit as many of the concrete arrows as we are able to access between Barstow, California and Mesquite, Nevada. This will surely involve some hiking and scrambling but it should be rewarding. Let me know if you are interested and I will keep you posted.

~ Joeso

Out and About South of Tucson, Arizona

By Julie Smith

Greetings Everyone! MisterBill and I corralled the old RV down in the Sierra Vista area of Arizona for the month of July 2021. Such a beautiful area of the Southwest (even in July!).

With an elevation of around 4,000 feet, afternoon monsoon rains, and a variety of old west terrain/towns to explore, we found plenty of fun things to do without being in extreme heat which surprised us this time of year. Tombstone, Patagonia, and Bisbee are just a few of the interesting spots to visit. On the National Day of the Cowboy we drove over to nearby Sonoita, Arizona to visit the historic Empire Ranch. It was established in the 1870’s and has been going strong to this day. It’s a huge ranch with interesting history and nice folks to show you around – hope y’all get to visit sometime. For more information check out their great website: empireranchfoundation.org.

~ Julie & Bill

Sunday, 09 January 2022 17:33

Camels on the Mojave Road

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Camels on the Mojave Road

By Alan and Claudia Heller

The Mojave Road, also known as Old Government Road (formerly the Mohave Trail),

 is a historic route and present day dirt road across what is now the Mojave...

Trudging along the Old Mojave Road, it was as though we were going back in time to the day camels occupied the California desert, in an effort to replace the burro. This failed experiment originated in the 1850s on the premise that these beasts of burden were already acclimated to the challenges of desert travel and could carry much more than burros. More than 60 dromedaries (one of the existing species of camel) were imported and took up their duties in aiding the military. After the experiment was deemed a failure (many say it was a political decision), the camels trekked along the Old Mojave Road, headed for San Pedro then Fort Tejon.

Fast forward to present day, overshadowed by Covid, the camel remains a force to contend with as private owners cling to camel history and strive to keep it alive. A re-enactment of a portion of past camel treks across the California desert took place recently as several camel owners transported their beasts in trailers to Goffs on Old Route 66. After a stay among the historic stamp mills, the camels and owners camped on the Old Mojave Road and trekked along a portion of that ancient path, reliving the days when camels were a common sight. Stopped at the famed “penny can,” the group rendezvoused while the camels socialized, some loudly complaining. “They are very vocal, and have lots to say,” says Nance Fite, organizer of the event. Nance is a retired deputy sheriff, best known for her one- time assistant deputy, Bert the camel. She now owns Trouper, her current camel, which was an active force on 

the camel re-enactment along with his trainer Jason.

Bent on keeping camel history alive, Nance belongs to several camel organizations and plans events to promote camel lore. “I’m excited to show others and ride again on part of the Mojave Road. The historical road spans 132.9 miles, starting at the Colorado River, across from Fort Mojave, ending at Camp Cady. Our trek will cover about 30 miles in three days in the Mojave National Preserve.” says Nance.

 Included on the trek was a variety of participants, each with a connection to this historic road. In 2018, Arioch Greene said goodbye to his water polo days at Glendora High School and headed for college at CSU Monterey Bay. He was thriving there, surrounded by water, but his life today is far different. Arioch is the student resident volunteer at Goffs on Old Route 66, home of the Mojave Desert Historical and Cultural Association. Among his variety of projects includes helping maintain guzzlers for Big Horn Sheep. However, the most recent project was participating in the camel trek.

Goffs is open for public tours which start at the remodeled 1914 schoolhouse which was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 11, 2001. After visiting the historic exhibits at the schoolhouse, visitors may leisurely tour the grounds and enjoy the antique cars, the library and stamp mills to name a few. There is also a nature trail and cemetery. A guide explaining all the exhibits is available at the schoolhouse.

For directions and other information, log on to www.mdhca.org, or e-mail Laura Misajet, Executive Director. Goffs is truly a California gem and embodies the Mojave Desert Heritage & Cultural Association which is dedicated to the preservation of the history of the area.

Sunday, 09 January 2022 09:20

2021 - Trip Reports - High Rock Adventure

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High Rock Adventure

by Bob Jaussaud (Joeso)

When we encountered the young people in their extreme Jeeps, it was sort of a perverse pleasure to see the expressions on their faces. They were only beginning to challenge the road through High Rock Canyon that we had just conquered. I’m sure they were wondering how a mature couple like Sue and I had managed it in our stock appearing truck (with a camper on it, no less). Even more impressive were the gals, Vicki and Cindy, following in their Toyota TRD and Mignon in her appropriately rigged 4-Runner. Ron in his 4-Runner and Johnny in his Pathfinder were our capable sweeps as we passed the amazed Jeepsters.

High Rock Canyon is undoubtedly the most scenic and rugged portion of the Applegate Trail that is still passable to vehicles today. It is an area of critical environmental concern located in the Black Rock Desert in the northern Great Basin of Nevada. Euroamericans first traveled through High Rock Canyon in 1843-44 when John C. Fremont led a party searching for the fabled “Buenaventura River” leading to the Pacific Ocean. He was followed in 1846 by Jesse Applegate and Levi Scott, who were searching for a southerly route to Oregon. After the discovery of gold in California, many gold seekers followed the route and it remained a popular emigrant trail through 1860. In 1992, the Applegate Trail became a National Historic Trail. 

High Rock Canyon was the focus of our recent trip with fellow Desert Explorers and relatives, but the journey had many other highlights. Ron led us to a wonderful campsite along Horton Creek high in the Sierras for a perfect start. The next day we hiked to the Crowley Lake Stone Columns. Reminiscent of Moorish temples, these columns evidentially have a volcanic origin. I sure don’t understand it, but scientists from UC Berkley believe that hundreds of thousands of years ago there was a gigantic explosion followed by a snow storm. Their theory is the melted snow seeped into the porous material that was still super-heated and boiled, creating the spaces between the columns.

In Genoa, Nevada we saw the site of the Van Sickle Station and the original 1800’s road up the Kingsbury Grade to LakeTahoe. Then we spent an enjoyable hour or two at the Genoa Bar, self described as “Nevada’s Oldest Thirst Parlor.”

The next two nights, Vicki and Cindy’s brother, Barry, hosted us at his comfortable home in Carson City and we were able to spend a full day exploring around Virginia City. Unfortunately the historic Sutro Tunnel was seriously fenced. Darn! And on the original Ophir Road the Jumbo Grade was just too gnarly, but we did see a herd of wild horses frolicking at a water hole before deciding to turn around.

Leaving Carson City the next day, we visited an amazing private oasis in the Smoke Creek Desert, Planet X Pottery. Then, just above Gerlach we detoured onto Dooby Lane (aka Guru Road) for some unique enlightenment. This is the “Burning Man” area after all.

At the northern extreme of our adventure in the High Rock Desert, we were very fortunate to find the remote Stevens Camp available and “put out the flag” to enjoy a night in the cabin and a beautiful sunset while drinking wine on the veranda. Interestingly, in the 1950’s Stevens Camp was owned by Tennessee Ernie Ford, the singer best know for his rendition of “Sixteen Tons.” He actually built the cabin we were enjoying.

After emerging from High Rock Canyon the next day, we planned to relax at the hot creek in Soldier Meadows but the water was just too bloody hot to enjoy, especially during the heat of the day. So we headed south over a washboard road toward Gabbs Valley to locate the “car frame windmill” and the Poinsettia Mine.

The Poinsettia Mine was truly a highlight. After several miles of remote desert roads, it was breath-taking to pop over the last hill and see it for the first time. Mercury was discovered there in 1929 and a small camp was built. The mine operated until 1944 and Vet Baxter owned it until his death in 1973. Then the Boy Scout Troop of Hawthorne, Nevada took over care of the property and are responsible for its current state of preservation.

Fortunately Johnny located the good road for us and we were able to continue south over Rabbit Pass. It was a step back in time to visit the very original line cabin at Gillis Camp, not far from the road’s summit. Resuming our journey south, we detoured a bit to walk through the Candelaria Cemetery. Our arrival at Dyer,Nevada later that afternoon was in the nick of time, as by then we were only running on fumes. After procuring some much needed gas, we camped for our last night at Cottonwood Creek and took of its cool waters. ~ Joeso

(click Read More to see photos)

Sunday, 09 January 2022 09:08

2021 Trip Report - New View of Fire Lookouts

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New View of Fire Lookouts

By Rebecca Friedman

On June 14, I joined Leonard Friedman, Bob Peltzman, and his son-in-law Robert Ruiz, as we drove 29 miles in Los Padres National Forest, mostly along 8N04 and 8N42. We stopped at the Forest Service Lookout on Frazier Mountain, elevation 8,013 ft. Located about seven miles west of Gorman, near the border of Kern and Ventura counties, the fire lookout was established in 1905. The current wooden tower was built in 1936 in Santa Barbara County and relocated to Frazier Mountain in 1952 after fire destroyed the original structure. The 8-foot-by-8-foot room used to be equipped with a small bunk, TV, stove, Osborne fire finder (to plot fire coordinates), and insulated stool (to stand on for protection during electrical storms). On a clear day, the 360-degree view included the Sierra Nevada foothills, Bakersfield, Palmdale, skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles, and Santa Catalina island. The lookout was decommissioned in the 1990’s. But a sign announcing T-Mobile emergency management meant that I had five bars on my cell phone.

Although some forest lookout sites are still active in California, fire spotting is increasingly dependent on aerial surveillance, hikers or motorists. KCET recommended Five Fire Lookouts With the Best Views of Southern California that were “the last vestiges of a dying breed that are in various stages of restoration and disrepair” (Oct. 13, 2017, https://www.kcet.org/shows/socal-wanderer/five-fire-lookouts-with-the-best-views-of-southern-california). Along with Frazier Mountain, the others were Strawberry Peak Fire Lookout, San Bernardino National Forest; Tahquitz Peak Fire Lookout, San Jacinto Wilderness; Castro Peak Tower, Henninger Flats; and Old Topanga Fire Lookout, Malibu.

Here’s the link to Huell Howser’s interesting 2002 episode on a fire lookout in Sequoia National Forest, “Fire Lookout – California’s Gold (4003)”: (https://blogs.chapman.edu/huell-howser-archives/2002/01/08/fire-tower-californias-gold-4003/).

After leaving the lookout, we enjoyed the tranquil forest scenery. We saw a few mule deer, and pondered the fate of dozens of neatly stacked woodpiles along the road. Before heading home, Leonard and I drove a few miles north on Lebec Road to view Deadman’s Curve of the old Ridge Route. Glad that’s no longer used. ~ Rebecca

Thursday, 06 January 2022 07:11

2021 Trip Report - Shoshone - China Lake Update

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Shoshone - China Lake Update

By Anne Stoll

Determined to escape briefly, we picked the weekend of April 30 - May 2, 2021 for a return to Shoshone. OK, so it was over 100 degrees with a dusty wind blowing as we drove the bone-dry stretch of Highway 127 north from Baker – who cared? We were headed for a swim in the pool and the shade of some rattling palm trees. And so it went, a weekend a bit too hot and windy for major hiking but with many fine sites and cool things to do. First stop, a brief check of current conditions at Death Valley Junction. No chance to speak to anyone but clearly there is, thankfully, an on-site caretaker. Then on to Ash Meadows, well-known to all DEers, of course. We hadn’t been out there in a while and were utterly amazed by the “new” (ca 2017) Visitor Center. A large, glorious, beautifully-designed building, unfortunately not open for inside viewing yet due to Covid, but outdoor exhibits, lots of shady tables for picnics, and clean restrooms were all available. Had to check out the boardwalks at Crystal Spring, Devil’s Hole and Point of Rocks, of course. Next day down to China Ranch to say hello and split a date shake. A bit of news here: Brian Brown has stepped back and his son, Travis Brown, is now General Manager of China Ranch Date Farm (www.ChinaRanch.com ). No doubt Travis has his hands full. As of a few weeks ago, a fast-moving brush fire, started by fireworks (!) near the reservoir roared to life, jumped the road, and headed toward the buildings. Yikes! The photo shows the area where it started. Thanks to fast work by Inyo County firefighters, it was contained to about 32 acres.The guilty party with the fireworks confessed. We’re lucky more was not damaged! Fire is the real enemy in this part of the world. Hope to see you all out there  ~ Anne and George Stoll

Thursday, 06 January 2022 06:56

2021 Mojave River Valley Museum Barbecue

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Photos from the 2021 Mojave River Valley Museum Barbecue!

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

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

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