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Desert Explorers Go Nuclear!

Nevada National Security Site Tour

by Bob Jaussaud

Last January 30, four Desert Explorers were lucky enough to be included in a group visiting the Nevada Test Site (NTS), currently known as the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS), America’s nuclear proving ground. Several times a year, the National Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas hosts a tour to the site. These tours are filled almost as soon as they are announced and each person on a tour is security checked. People had come from as far away as Michigan and Florida just to be on our tour. 

Unfortunately, you won’t see any personal pictures of this trip, as cameras (including those on cell phones) are strictly forbidden.

The NTS is a 1350 square mile restricted area in Southern Nevada and was the location for nuclear weapons testing for the United States and the United Kingdom. It was established in 1950 by President Truman. Close to 1100 nuclear tests were preformed there until the Limited Test Ban Treaty took effect in 1962. The site has been used recently as a nuclear waste repository but, because of the North Korean threat, President Trump has instructed the NTS to be ready for a new nuclear test within 6 months of notification.

Our group, including Mignon Slentz, Ron Lipari and the Jaussauds arrived at the Atomic Testing Museum at 7 a.m., still sleepy but very excited. After a check of IDs, we were issued a security pass and allowed to board the bus to Mercury, the NTS townsite. Mercury at one time included a large  cafeteria (still in operation),  a steak house,  a movie theater, a 6 lane bowling alley, a liquor store and a Nye County Sheriff substation. The town is owned by the federal government and managed by the Department of Energy.

From Mercury, we were taken to Frenchman Flat, where the first tests took place. The Priscilla Test was a 37 kiloton bomb suspended from a balloon and detonated 700 feet above ground. A man- made forest of pine trees, buildings of numerous different construction techniques and even pigs dressed in various garments were in line with the blast as part of the test. Pigs were used because their skin is similar to humans. Railroad bridges constructed 

for the test were made of massive I-beams which had been contorted as if they were butter. Even bank vaults were constructed for the test. I should note here that it is my hope and understanding that the pigs were far enough away and dressed well enough that they survived with only emotional damage from being forced to wear clothes.

Tests at Yucca Lake included completely furnished homes constructed to test the effects of the blast from the 1955 Apple II nuclear bomb test. We were taken to the foreboding remains of one of the homes.

Sedan Crater is at the northeast end of the NTS and is very close to the infamous Area 51. Sedan Crater is the result of a shallow blast to test the feasibility of using nuclear bombs for peacetime excavation. It was part of the Plowshare Program.

The most interesting site, in my opinion, was Icecap. This is an underground test that was scheduled for the spring of 1993. Because of the 1992 moratorium on testing, Icecap remains intact. We were able to enter the massive 210 foot, 12 story tower that was needed to lower the bomb into its hole. On the 4th floor, we were able to see the rack that held the bomb that was to be lowered 1200 feet into the earth. This was a massive operation. The rack is 160 feet tall and has an 8 foot diameter. The 1200 foot deep hole it was to be lowered into was required to be drilled perfectly straight so the rack would not get stuck or twisted. There were 245 large cables attached to the canister and dressed out on the desert floor ready to be lowered, with the rack. 

Before returning to Mercury, we were taken to a radioactive waste management site. This is the current use for a portion of the NTS. We were extremely lucky to see a transport coffin being opened so its contents could be buried.

We were given a final break at the Mercury cafeteria before being bussed back to Las Vegas. It had been a very fun and informative day. Highly recommended!   ~ Bob

East Mojave Heritage Trail – Second Segment Ivanpah to Rocky Ridge

February 23-25, 2018

Trip Report  By: Nelson Miller

We had an adventure, following Dennis Casebier’s book. Neal was the “pathfinder” and developed the road log for all four of the Heritage Trail Books, so we had his recollections along the way. We met Friday at Yates Well Road, just south of Primm. There were Neal 

and Marian Johns, Nelson Miller, Bob and Sue Jaussaud, Dave Burdick, Dean Linder, Tracy Wood, Lindsay Wood, Dave Rehper, B.J. and Jerrod Keeling, Glenn Shaw, Ron Lipari, Bruce Barnett, Mignon Slentz, and Randy Peterson.

We headed off through the Solar Plant up to Old and New Ivanpah. I kept trying to picture and imagine the large mills they had at these sites in the early 1880’s. There are only a few rock foundations and flat spots left, so this is difficult to imagine. From Ivanpah, we headed up the mountain toward the huge Colosseum Mine and tailings. This funny white stuff began to float around us and we were soon caught in a brief snow flurry. Yes, it was cold. We stopped and had lunch at what Bob said was the Frank Curtis Cabin.

After crossing Excelsior Mine Road, we briefly stopped at Kelly Field a 1930’s era airfield along the Los Angeles to Salt Lake airmail route. We did not drive out the site of the wind sock, which is now a quarter mile inside the Wilderness boundary. Casebier relates that Ken Wilhelm, who with his wife Mabel operated Kelly Field, was one the first “off-roaders” in his modified Dodge, which he called “Leaping Lena.” Earle Stanley Gardner highlighted the Wilhelm brothers in his book, The Desert is Yours. I remember a Plymouth we had when I was growing up, which my Mom called Leapin’ Lena. Now I know where that came from!

Since the upper part of Kingston Wash is now in the Wilderness Area, we followed Excelsior Mine Road up to where it met the “Kingston Cut-off” along the old Salt Lake to Los Angeles Trail. The Kingston Cut-off is an 1850’s era road used by emigrants and freighters, which was a shortcut along the route of 

the Old Spanish Trail. We followed the Kingston Cut-off southwestward until we intersected Kingston Wash. This is a “cherry-stem” between two Wilderness Areas. We stopped at the “Mailbox” and Coyote Holes, which Neal was able to locate for us since these are no longer adjacent to the trail. At Kingston Spring, Neal related how he had followed a mule trail which leads directly from Coyote Holes to Kingston Spring.

Friday night camping, it got down to 23 degrees! It was chilly, but Glenn stayed toasty in his new pop-up camper, as did Neal and Marian in their new camper. The rest of us were a bit cold. Neal and Marian now have an old camper they want to get rid of.

Saturday, we drove along the old Tonopah and Tidewater (T&T) Railroad grade for over 5 miles, from Valjean to Riggs, two sidings along the T&T. It is a wonder to me how the T&T operated for over 30 years (1907-1940), with as many washouts as it must have had. We explored three cabins, the nicest of which is just east of Riggs. It has been fully cleaned up and restored and is a beautiful little cabin, complete with some really nice rock walkways and patio. In the interest of time, we bypassed the Silver Lake  Talc Mine.

At this point, we departed the Heritage Trail route to take a short cut around the north side of the Hollow Hills Wilderness Area. This saved thirty miles by avoiding driving into Baker along the powerline roads. However, it also began our misadventures, as Nelson repeatedly missed turns and took wrong turns. Dave, Bruce, Randy and Bob all tried to keep us on track. Bob lead us up to the microwave relay station on Turquoise Mountain. This has an awesome view in all directions, but was freezing cold, with 

the wind chill. After the microwave relay station, Nelson continued leading us astray, but Bob eventually was able to lead us to a nice campsite at an old inn/way station along one of the early auto roads near Halloran Springs. These misadventures means we missed what some have called the “UFO Site”, see photo, which is a short distance off the Heritage Trail. Dave and Dean had enough of the cold, so went off to stay at Dave’s place in Cottonwood Springs, but rejoined us Sunday morning.

Sunday, we took the freeway from Halloran Springs to Cima, where those that needed to, got gas. We rejoined the Heritage Trail at Valley Wells. From Valley Wells, we basically paralleled the powerline road, which comes from Hoover Dam, to Mountain Pass. We crossed the freeway at Mountain Pass and headed south. Our misadventures continued as Nelson made a couple more wrong turns. We stopped at the Riley Bembry grave site and then had lunch at Riley’s Camp, which has several nicely restored cabins.

Heading east from Riley’s Camp we reached Cima Road, where a number of people headed for home to beat Sunday traffic. A few had left earlier at Mountain Pass. We had to detour south around another Wilderness Area, but headed toward the Lava Tube. To end the day, Dave, Dean, Randy and I drove out to Kelbaker Road and went over to the Dry Falls. Once again, Randy had to get us there as we had taken another shortcut from the Heritage Trail. In my defense, I must have already been getting sick, as Monday through Wednesday, I was sicker than a dog.

Thus ended, our trip along Book 2 of the East Mojave Heritage Trail.               ~ Nelson

Thank you,  Nelson Miller!

I would like to give Nelson a big thank you for taking on the leadership of the Second Segment of the East Mojave Heritage trip, (Feb. 23-25). Since Neal and Dennis Casebier laid this route out some 30 years ago things have changed. Neal’s memory of all the turn lefts and turn rights is fuzzy after all these years. We have done some of this route since then, but not all of it. Then too some of the landmarks and other physical things on the ground have changed. Anyway, Nelson did an honorable job of guiding the group of 12 vehicles over the parts that Neal didn’t remember too well.

Thanks also to all the participants who came on this trip for their patience. It was nice to see some new (to me)  faces - and some old familiar faces too.

                                    Marian Johns

Thursday, 24 May 2018 22:12

2018 - Trip Report - Rainbow Basin Natural Area

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Rainbow Basin Natural Area

By Danny Siler

I enjoyed my day hiking and exploring Rainbow Basin in the Mojave Desert.

This fantastic area was chris.tened in 1966 as a National Nat.ural Landmark by the National Park Service. It is managed by the Bureau of Land Manage.ment (BLM) and has been designated as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). It is set aside for its colorful geological features and its wealth of fossil resources that do not exist anywhere else.

It is located in the Mud Hills about 8 miles north of Barstow by taking Irwin Road (not Fort Irwin Road). It should be easily found on any map. I’ve been seeing it on the AAA San Bernardino County map for most of my adult life - and finally I went out there for a play day.

It is best described as a mish/mash     landscape of multi-colored hills, canyons and washes. Badlands and sculpted formations of fantastic shapes and eroded into spires and narrow ravines. Huge slabs of red, orange, white, and green stone are tilted at crazy angles like ships about to capsize.

There is a one-way narrow dirt road that loops through Rainbow Basin. To go hiking and exploring was merely to pull the car over to the side of the road at a wide spot and get out and take off on foot. Some pullouts have been carved out of the road for this.

In the midst of it is a small parking lot and viewing deck. And once again, here, I got out of the car and wandered on foot for another two hours.

All in all I spent five hours on foot at Rainbow Basin. I climbed to the top and across the formations shown in all the photos. Thankfully I never slipped or fell. My favorite areas were the syncline and the tilted uplift layers of rock formations. I enjoyed being out of the car and traveling on foot - close to nature, the dirt, the rocks, the lizards, all the sizes and shapes around me, and the sound of the crunch underfoot. I went mid-week and I saw only one other vehicle pass through.

Nearby is the newly refurbished Owl Canyon Campground which any Desert Explorer would enjoy; conveniently it has the nearest toilet.

 I want to return here soon because I recently read that the nearby Owl Canyon is a great hike that narrows to a slot canyon and has cave-like side canyons. I’ve seen photos of fossil animal footprints in the county online archives. Also a place nearby I want to return to visit is the adjacent Fossil Canyon. I read you can drive your vehicle as far as possible up the wash, then get out on foot and continue up the interesting canyon.  ~ Danny

Tuesday, 20 February 2018 22:53

2018 - Trip Reports - Desert TOADS

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Desert TOADS

by Bob and Sue Jaussaud

The adventure began with a call from Marian Johns: “I know this is last minute, but can you meet us in Baker tomorrow? We are going with the Harders to try and find a cabin we have never seen in theMojave.” Sue and I couldn’t pass up an invitation like that.

A friend of a friend had told Neal and Marian about this wonderful cabin near the Old Dad Mountains and they wanted to find it. We didn’t know that such a thing existed, namely a cabin in the Mojave that Neal and Marian had never seen. We hadn’t heard of it either. Turns out that it does exist and is in fine shape due to the efforts of a jeep club that has adopted it.

The cabin is located near the Brannigan Mine, where gold was discovered in 1905. The mine wasn’t a big producer, but it seems the Herrod family occupied the cabin until the 1970s. Recently the cabin has been adopted by the Desert TOADS, “The Old As Dirt & Sand” jeep club. Many thanks to theTOADS for preserving this unique piece of Mojave history and to Marian for including us in this adventure.      ~ Bob & Sue

 

 

Tuesday, 20 February 2018 22:44

2018 - Trip Report - Quartzfest!

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Quartzfest!

No story but click read more to see the photos

Tuesday, 20 February 2018 22:40

2018 - Trip Report - Kofa Exploration

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KOFA Exploration

By Bill Smith

Two DE members, Bill Powell and Bill Smith, took an off-road trip through the KOFA National Wildlife Refuge in the KOFA Mountain range south of Quartzite on January 21, 2018. They were part of a group of roughly 65 people in 32 vehicles - Ham radio operators and their families - who were attending the annual Quartzfest ham radio event in Quartzite, Arizona. One special highlight of the trip was the discovery of a maintained well that appears to be in the refuge to provide a water source for larger wildlife. Though not a DE activity, one could scarcely tell the difference. This may become a trip offered to DE members in the cool air of winter 2018/2019.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018 22:32

2018 - Trip Report - Black Mountain Area

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Black Mountain Area Trip

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Leader: Nelson Miller Photos from Ken Hemkin, Nelson Miller and Bill & Julie Smith

Sunday after the Museum Work Party, we took off from the Barstow Museum with 5 vehicles and 11 people (Nelson, Ellen, Julia, Ken, Peter & Janet, Bill & Julie, Ron & Barbara, and Jacque). Julia is a grad student working on her doctorate regarding historic and cultural preservation in the Mojave. Jacque is a friend of Barbara’s that we hope will join us on future trips. Thanks to Bill Smith for running tail all day!

This is another trip for which a Giant Thanks is owed to Bill Mann. We visited most of the sites he mentions around Black Canyon in his first book, “Guide to 50 Interesting and Mysterious Sites in the Mojave.” Our first stop was Murphy’s Well, where we explored the petroglyphs and a few historic signatures.

We proceeded on to Inscription Canyon, where we met Sam Hunter, a Museum member dedicated to protecting Black Canyon. He shared his unique views of the meaning behind all the petroglyphs and pointed out some interesting petroglyphs in Inscription Canyon. We had lunch and spent about an hour and a half exploring Inscription Canyon and talking to Sam.

After lunch, we stopped at the Birdman Petroglyph, which Ken had always wanted to see and which Bill Mann indicates was at one time the logo of the American Institute of Archaeology. Below it are three bedrock grinding stones and one the historic “Tillman Signatures” from the 1870’s.

We continued on around Black Mountain to our next stop at Scout’s Cove, where we explored a miner’s dwelling carved into the tufa dome and scouted for opal. Bill Mann reports that the Tiffany Jewelry Company financed mining of fire opal here.

Next stop was Black Canyon Well and a short distance further Black Canyon Stage Stop. Where was the water for the Stage Stop? Another Bill Mann mystery! We saw another Tillman signature here. Both the 20-Mule Teams and a stage line followed this route through Black Canyon. Who was Tillman? More Bill Mann mysteries.

We progressed along our route and found the Spiderman Petrogylph among hundreds of others in the boulder field along the edge of another Black Mountain. A bit further down the road we stopped in the Canyon also filled with petroglyphs, including a stick figure with an atlatl and scrawled modern graffiti, even “E=MC2”. At the end of the day with the sun beginning to set, we headed for home.

Museum Work Party & Black Mountain Visit

Saturday, January 13, 2018

A great big “THANK YOU” to Bob Jaussaud, who first suggested this work party and to all the rest that participated in helping out with the work party at the Mojave River Valley Museum!

Some of the significant contributions from Desert Explorers included:

Bob Jaussaud - worked on replacing light fixtures and installing mule rider

Bill Smith - Worked on replacing light       fixtures, replaced a fan switch in the     library, and installed locks on cases with Germain Moon dolls

Julie Smith - Cleaned and put out Germain Moon dolls

Ellen Miller - Cleaned up yard  debris and helped put out the  Germain Moon dolls

Barbara Midlikoski - helped everywhere all day long

Ken Hemkin - helped with lights, assembled mule train pieces, and helped install the lead mule rider

Nelson Miller - organized tasks and helped with lights, Germain Moon doll cases, mule train assembly and installation, and clean up.

There were also eight volunteers from the Museum that contributed throughout the day, including: Jesse and Peggy Byrd who worked in the yard cleaning and sprucing it up, Cliff Walker and Marjorie planted plants in our Pollinator Garden, Dave Mott was there to help, Dian Hare helped wherever she could and did the Sandwich Run for lunch, and Katie Boyd and Pat Schoffstall worked at organizing donated items.

Pat Schoffstall, from the Museum, reports that so many things got done!  Germain Moon’s Kachina Doll Collection and the dolls Germain researched and made representing numerous Native American tribes are a big hit - people have been oohing and aahing over them since they have been put on display. They are beautiful and Julie and Ellen did a fantastic job of putting them on display after Bill made sure the cases could be locked and secure. All of us at the Museum and Germain’s two sons, Dennis and Bert, are pleased beyond words.  These were crowded into a free-standing case, but the Museum is going to move them into one of the large window cases.

The Germain Moon Dolls are really an amazing collection and everyone should stop by the Museum and check them out when you have a chance.

 Hello all you Wonderful People -

Words cannot express our appreciation for what you did for us last Saturday, but I’ll try.

Nelson told me the original idea for a workday came from Bob Jaussaud.

OK Bob, that makes you my hero - it was a terrific idea and it was carried out with style and grace and good humor and lots of elbow grease.

Things were taken care of that we hadn’t been able to take care of and now we have lights and circulating air and a cleaner yard and new displays both inside and outside.

Germain Moon’s dolls are a big hit - people have been oohing and aahing over them all week. They are beautiful and Julie and Ellen did a fantastic job of putting them on display after Bill made sure the cases could be locked and secure. All of us and Germain’s two sons Dennis and Bert are pleased beyond words.

So many things got done and I won’t list them all because I fear I would forget something and embarrass myself.

Some of the biggies are:

Bob worked on lights and helped install the first mule rider in the yard

Bill worked on lights and a fan switch and installed locks on the

display cases for Germain’s dolls

Julie cleaned up in the yard and worked on Germain’s dolls

Ellen worked in the yard and on Germain’s dolls

Barbara helped everywhere all day long

Ken helped with the lights, helped with assembling the rest of the mule train, and helped install the first mule rider

Nelson - what can I say about Nelson? He is here almost every week helping us anywhere and everywhere

Jesse and Peggy Byrd worked in the yard cleaning and sprucing it up

Cliff Walker and Marjorie planted plants in our Pollinator Garden

Dave Mott was here to help

Dian Hare helped wherever she could and did the Sandwich Run for lunch

Katie Boyd was here like she is almost every day of every week. This place would fall apart without her.

I’m a little old-school and writing a “Thank You” via email goes against my grain, but Nelson assures me that no one, with the exception of myself, thinks negative thoughts about it.

I hope he is right.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart -

                                    Pat

Monday, 12 February 2018 21:46

2017 - Trip Report - Salton Sea Whimsy

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Salton Sea Whimsy

by Sue Jaussaud

“Whimsy…a fanciful device or creation, especially in art.” Well, that pretty much describes the places Bob and I recently visited in the Salton Sea area. Our first stop was at the International Banana Museum (“The Most A-Peeling Place on Earth”) near tiny North Shore. The museum is just one large room, but it’s delightful… and delicious. There is a nominal admission charge, which is waived if you buy something, and you really, really want to enjoy one of their chocolate banana shakes. While whipping them up, the owner told us the story of the museum’s origin. And when his wife saw me taking Bob’s photo, she popped up from behind the counter wearing, what else, a banana costume. Display cases line the walls, full of more banana related items than you ever knew existed. Take a look on line, and call first to be sure they’re open. Then go bananas!

Our second stop was “East Jesus”, near Slab City, east of Niland. Amazing folk art lives here, created from the flotsam and jetsam of a trash pile. And it’s wonderful! Enter through a metal arch decorated with bicycles and propane bottles, and move on to the bottle wall, giant lizard, decorated cars, and TV wall. The creations go on and on, and you are free to walk around and take pictures. Nice folks here, too. I do love the desert, and finding this stuff is just the best!  ~ Sue

(Click Read More to see the photo album)

Monday, 12 February 2018 21:16

2017 -Trip Report- Report of an unofficial" DE trip

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Report of an unofficial DE trip

By Anonymous.

The Jaussauds invited two couples to join them at their Colorado River shore home for a fun three day holiday. It was at the end of September and the weather could not have been more perfect. However, as you read my report of this most peculiar trip you will see why I do not name the invited couples, so as to save them embarrassment.

The DE members know me and know that I am a staid quiet and less than talkative, serious person, but I need to reveal some information about our guests to DE. I was designated to write the trip report; I suspect so, as usual, the DE members would pick on me.

My wife, Ruth, and I arrived at their gated private river road on the east side of the river across from Needles, California about midday and was I surprised. As I toured their property, I found that it was a large lot with four modern garage buildings. DE members know that Bob is retired from the entertainment industry and this was obvious as I saw what he and Sue have done with their place. They have saved a variety of desert treasures, including two trucks that had run down a bit but had been resurrected.

Before the other couple arrived, Bob and Sue took us on an old desert road north to a dilapidated and very old town where Bob was shopping for more desert treasures. There were a lot of cars and people, as well as a large local population of burros who seemed to have the right of way. As we tried to walk they kept getting in my way and trying to intimidate me into feeding them. Further on, we were shown some old mines. One was the Gold Roads Mine where my grandfather lost his right arm. Also, we were shown some of the old Historic Beale Road and many other old interesting sites.

(Click "Read More" for the rest of the story, and lots of photos)

 

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