Grand Canyon of the Tecopa
Friday, April 1, 2016 • By Bob Jaussaud
Photos: Bob Jaussaud & Coop Cooper
There are relatively few people that have seen the Grand Canyon of the Tecopa. There are fewer yet who have hiked to the bottom of the canyon. Unfortunately, our trip only added 2 to the list of those that have done so. Aw well...
The hike is written up in Bill Mann’s book, Volumn 2. Bill said that the hike was not for the faint hearted, and he was right. We found the trail head as Bill described and 10 of us started down. As the trail grew steeper and more exposed, most deemed it prudent to turn around and return to the top. Glenn Shaw and I were the only ones left when we arrived at the bottom. My hat is off to Glenn. It had only been about 6 weeks since he had had open heart surgery.
Our goal was the abandoned ranch site at the bottom of the canyon. Lois Clark, co-editor of the Baker Valley News, had been raised at this ranch. Her father was Harry “Two Gun” Adams. He came to the East Mojave in the mid 1920’s and worked at China Ranch. It must have been in the late 1920’s or early 1930’s when he built his ranch in the Grand Canyon of the Tecopa. Originally, there was a road that connected China Ranch with Harry’s ranch, but these days the area is preserved and the road is long gone. At Harry’s ranch site, we found a brand-like inscription in the cement, “HMA.”
The hike back to the top of the canyon was steep, but going up seemed easier than the decent. Ron Ross met us half way up thinking we might need help and/or encouragement. Reaching the top, we discovered we were late for lunch, but not too late to head for China Ranch and a date shake. Our group of rim watchers included Danny and Norma Siles, Nancy Maclean, Graham Cooper (Coop), George Gilster, Sue and Mignon. Thanks to all for being good sports and making the day fun.
O (click Read More for photos)
The Desert Explorers go desert exploring
DE Rendezvous, April 2nd
Trip Report & Photos by Debbie Miller Marschke
‘Tis Rendezvous season, and Steve and I decided not to sign up for any field trips intentionally. We had already visited those locations, and we did not want to take a spot from someone who had not been there. Actually, we had contemplated offering to lead a trip, but we simply did not have time to prepare one. No biggie, let’s just go find some fun. If I have my facts straight, I think Neal Johns ran into Steve and it was decided that the four of us would go exploring. Within five minutes of Neal and Marian rolling into our campsite that morning, we had a seven vehicle field trip lined up and ready to go! (Have you ever felt like you were being watched? Ha ha!) So I guess we were destined to lead a Rondy trip.
Originally I had wanted to check out a remote mining cabin, but access was questionable due to the closure of Jubilee Pass Road. Steve wanted to check out “Buckwheat Wash” because he had not been there for more than 10 years and wanted to find another old cabin he saw on Google Earth. The route to Buckwheat Wash ran right past Ibex Springs, so we decided to stop and poke around there for a little bit. The structures at Ibex Springs seem to be in worse shape every time I go there, sad. We traveled past Ibex and many miles on a road that did not seem to have had much use at all. If our group had not decided to visit, it would not have been long before the trackway of the road was reclaimed by seasonal flooding and then the BLM would have an excuse to close the road due to “damage.” We found the cabin which was a box-like building of corrugated metal. There was an old bunk bed, barrel stove, and a guest book. It had been more than a year since someone had signed in. Actually, not too much evidence of packrats in this cabin. Someone had written a note on the inside of the cabinet doors “PLEASE CLOSE so the mouse won’t chew holes in the water jugs. He eats National Geographics, too.”
Heading back to Ibex Springs, we decided to follow the road to the mine. There was a narrow spot that probably stops most visitors from continuing. We were rewarded by the remains of an impressive ore chute, ore bins, an adit, and trestle work with some rails. What a cool find! Thank you to all who jumped on and came with us: Marian and Neal Johns, Coop Cooper, Joe Priess, Vicki Hill & Dave McFarland, Glenn Shaw, Nelson & Ellen Miller.
(click Read More for photos)
Ibex and Saratoga Spring Flings
DE Rendezvous, April 2nd
By Ted Kalil
After Nelson Miller and I failed to locate the trail to Denning Spring on a pre-run, this trip’s destination was changed. So, at 9:00 a.m. Peter and Janet Austin, Ted and Joan Berger, Jerry and Dolly Dupree, Terry and Eileen Ogden, Bill and Julie Smith, George Gilster, Fredric Raab, and my wife Sue and I met opposite the Crow Bar Café in Shoshone. The attendees either hadn’t heard of my reputation or had chosen to risk it anyhow.
Our first destination was Ibex Spring, a site that had at first been a silver mine, later a gold mine, and finally a talc mine that was operated up until the 1950s. There are the remains of what were once buildings that supported these various efforts; the buildings are in serious disrepair. The Bureau of Land Management had once planned to raze those buildings, but after an agreement was made with the Mojave River Valley Museum to monitor, not improve the site, they agreed to let the site go into benign decline. Only pictures of the buildings were to be provided to the BLM to record this effort. We saw for ourselves the poor condition of the buildings and many pictures were taken.
From there we proceeded to the junction with the Saratoga Springs Road, where we held a brief meeting at about noon. A warning sign is posted there to alert travelers to soft sand on the road one and a half miles in. George Gilster and Ted and Joan Berger decided to take the relatively short trip back to the entrance highway and head back to Shoshone. The rest of us went on down the trail. There was soft sand beginning exactly where the sign had said, but the sand wasn’t that soft and all of our vehicles were easily capable of driving over this section; no one had any difficulty. A little further on we found a wide spot where we could put our vehicles in a circle and have lunch.
A short distance after that we came to the staging area for Saratoga Springs. You have to park there; it is a dead end, but a foot path takes you a very short distance to a view of the Springs area, largely covered with water and reed grass, an unusual sight in this dry desert.
Backtracking our steps to the entrance junctions, we later got on the well-maintained, but washboardy Henry Wade Road, and from there on out to the highway and the Henry Wade Plaque. Most of us got back to Shoshone by 3:00 p.m., in plenty of time to clean up and go to the Happy Hour and Dinner.
In summary, we came back with 75% of our original participants – a C grade, but passing. However, everyone did make it back, there were no mechanical problems and, despite its name, no one died in Death Valley. Maybe I’m doing better, maybe just got lucky.
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3 Days in the Boonies - Rondy Inbound
March 29-31, 2016
Leader: Bob Jaussaud
It is hard to imagine now, but a couple of months ago it was cold in the desert! The temperature for our inbound was predicted to drop 20 degrees with Mach I winds, so at the last minute we abandoned our planned high country agenda and opted for camping lower and warmer, preferably in a nice cabin with a stove. Actually we were lucky to find at least six cabins during our inbound noodle. There were nine hardy Desert Explorers in six vehicles who braved the elements and assembled at the Valley Wells Shell station, which is noted for a beef jerky wall and a classic soda pop collection, not to mention its water fall urinal in the mens’ room. Starting out in the vehicles, Vicki Hill pointed out that our group must be setting some kind of record, as we had more women drivers than men. There was Vicki driving Dave McFarland and Marian driving Neal Johns, while Mignon Slentz and Nan Healy drove their own vehicles. Glenn Shaw and I were the only male drivers. Sue Jaussaud was our navigator. Ron Lipari joined Mignon, Sue and I for the pre run earlier in the month.
Our first destination was the old townsite of Valley Wells (also known as Rosalie) where we explored the many dugout cabins and the historic cemetery, where “Boots” and Bessie Yates (owners of the Yates Ranch) are buried. Sidney Yates got the nickname “Boots” because growing up, he wore hand-me-down boots that were always too big. Although he was 6’ 2” as an adult, he only wore a size 8 boot.
Valley Wells is noted for at least 3 things: (1) It was the headquarters for the historic Yates Ranch (1894 - 1952), (2) It had a copper smelter for ore from the Copper World Mine and the Shadow Mountain Mine, and (3) Kelly Field, a 1930’s airfield, serving the postal route from Salt Lake to Los Angeles, was nearby.
From Valley Wells, we started across the valley to an old Yates corral and tank, then turned west to locate a mysterious UFO site. This site needs to be seen to be believed. After lunch at the UFO, we headed into the hills to locate the Huber mine and cabin. Turning north, we visited the townsite of Shadow Mountain and our second cabin, a beautiful old rock house. There were a lot of ruins at Shadow Mountain including the remains of a 5 stamp mill. Daylight was growing short and the wind was picking up, so we made tracks for lower elevations and camp. Our first happy hour was spent pleasantly in Kingston Wash. We enjoyed an evening stroll to the site of Coyote Holes and signed in at the Heritage Trail #3 Mailbox.
After a short stop at Kingston Spring the next morning, we continued on to the Eastern Star Mine and our third desert cabin. Nearby, Mignon located a horizontal mine shaft that had also served as a dwelling. At Valjean, we turned south for a short ways along the old Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad berm. The T&T operated from the early 1900’s until it was ruined by floods in 1938. It ran from Ludlow to near Beatty and served all the folks living along the track. During our trip, we visited several sidings that serviced the local mines.
After maneuvering around some wash outs, we finally reached the road to the Alta Mine and followed it to our fourth cabin. The Alta was one of the early silver finds in the Silurian Hills. From Alta, we continued onto Riggs Siding. Along the way, we were lucky to find a few Desert Lilies blooming. Our second happy hour was spent on the cobblestone deck of the Riggs cabin, our fifth cabin thus far. Mignon actually added a sizable area to the cobblestone deck with rocks she instructed us collect before we were allowed to imbibe.
Our last day started with a rock crawl to the “silver cabin.” Most of us took a short hike up the wash by the cabin to the big ore loader. This was probably the actual area of the main Riggs’ Mine. Frank and Sarah Riggs came to the area in the early 1900’s and stayed for many years. They were unusual in that they did not sell their claims and enjoyed the benefits from them for many years. They were able to live quite well and traveled internationally in style. Of interest is that in 1910 they had a black boarder named Thomas Cunningham. There were not very many black miners in the area and Thomas evidently had a sense of humor, as he recorded some of his claims as the “Uncle Tom Mining Company.”
The last mine we visited on the inbound was a remote talc mine about 10 miles northeast of Silver Lake. The claims in this area date from before 1911 and there was a lot to see, but the road in was a bit rugged. The wildflowers were off their peak, but still very abundant. After returning to the T&T berm near the Talc Siding, we detoured a short ways to an interesting and modern day “bug out” camp where we relaxed for lunch. Afternoon found us on the road to Shoshone for a much needed shower and swim. Thanks to all who joined us. It was a fun group and our women drivers are to be commended. Ladies, you rock!
(click Read More for photos)
It Was Excellent!
April 2-4, 2016
Another terrific Desert Explorers Rendezvous is in the books and a good time was had by all. Special thanks go out to our hostess, Susan Sorrells, for welcoming us again to her hometown, Shoshone. She was everywhere, all the time, gave our after dinner keynote speech, led talks and walks, managed catering and logistics and was an all-around delight. Susan, you are a superstar and it was a pleasure to spend the weekend exploring Shoshone and the surrounding territory.
Also deserving special note is our chairman, Bob Jacoby, who took it upon himself to make the location arrangements for our event, lead the charge and keep things buttoned up around the edges. Attaboy Bob!
Others in the stew who need thanking were our trip leaders Bob and Sue Jaussaud, Nelson Miller, Ted Kalil, Ron Lipari, Mike Vollmert, Emmett Harder and Bill Neill. Silent auctioneers Bob Jaussaud and Steve Marschke once again turned old treasures into operating funds and lived to tell the tale.
We had over 60 folks at the dinner, inbound trips starting days before the event from Las Vegas, Baker and Barstow, outbound trips to Amargosa Springs, Barstow via Impassable Pass, as well as the south end of Death Valley. In town Susan led a hike to the Dublin Gulch cave homes and a birding walk on Sunday. There certainly was no shortage of things to see and do, along with first rate company.
Thanks to all who attended and contributed to the event. Every time we have an event like this it reminds us what a pleasure it is to spend some time in the desert with friends and family.
(See the photos taken by Allan Wicker, click Read More)