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.
(click Read More for photos)
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)
Grand Canyon Skywalk
by Debbie Miller Marschke
Steve and I were headed home after spending Christmas in Colorado with family, and we decided to check out the Grand Canyon Skywalk. It’s really not “on the way” to anything, so we had to budget an entire day for the experience. It is accessible from either Las Vegas or Kingman; we came in from the Kingman side and drove around 90 minutes northeast until we reached the area of the Grand Canyon West Airport, were the attraction is located. It was built in 2007 and is owned and operated by the Hualapai Indian tribe.
Upon our arrival, we found that there is more than one attraction feature to the area. With the price of admission, there is a shuttle bus that circulates around to other points of interest. But first, ah yes, the souvenir shop. The line for tickets conveniently funnels you through the gift shop which is packed with all-things-Skywalk, and a plethora of mass produced Native American gifts we can all do without.
Our first shuttle stop was at the Hualapai Village. This place resembles Calico Ghost town and offers things like hay rides and mechanical bull riding. It was advertised to display Native Americans in typical costume, but we didn’t see any. It was a “slow” day - we were visiting on January 1, they only had 600 visitors this day ( the slowest days have around 400 visitors and the busiest days- 6,000 !) We nosed around the shops and storefronts briefly and decided to move on. Back on the shuttle!
Second stop – the Skywalk. After pouring out of the shuttle, the first thing I noticed was the complete lack of improvements. There was the Skywalk building, perched on the side of the canyon, with the walkway protruding out 70 feet from the edge. On each side of the building, there is bare unimproved ground and a sheer dropoff. No railing, no wall, nothing to stop some dimwitted selfie taker from slipping over the edge and falling 800 feet. I appreciated the fact that you have the opportunity here to take some awesome photos (which I did). But, being a claims adjuster by profession, this place surrounding the Skywalk is a claim waiting to happen. I was horrified watching all the folks leaping around on rocks, standing with their backs to the edge, milling around. But, hey! If you fall off the edge, you only have yourself to blame. Once you enter the Skywalk building, you must place paper booties over your shoes to protect the glass surface you will be walking on. Also, loose items like cell phones, cameras, and purses are not allowed on the Skywalk. Lockers are provided for those items. No photos are allowed on the Skywalk unless you purchase them from the Skywalk photographers afterward, at a price of $15.00 per photo. When I stepped out onto the glass walkway, my brain played tricks on me. I put each foot forward, and with each step (while staring down through the floor at the canyon below) my brain was screaming No! No! No! You are not supposed to be doing this! It really did seem like I was walking in the air, my stomach got that weird rollercoaster feeling. I was not afraid and I had no problem standing on the walkway, it’s just that my head was wired to tell me that this was not the place to be. The view of the canyon spans below, wondrous and majestic. It really was spectacular. We were allowed to remain on the Skywalk as long as we liked. I did feel safe, but there was a never ending stream of people filing on, making things crowded , which made the luster wear off fast.
Third shuttle stop – Guano Point. This area provided another view of the canyon. Actually we really enjoyed this shuttle stop. There is an opportunity to take a walk on a trail, check out the ruins of an old mining tramway, and get a good view of the River. There is one point you can stand upon and get a 360 degree view of the canyon. We probably spent the most time at this location.
Since it was dinnertime, we took the shuttle back to the Hualapai Village and went to the cafeteria. We enjoyed a nice full plated dinner of BBQ pork ribs, mashed potatoes, gravy, bread, beans, and a cookie. The food was really good. We were serenaded by a cowboy with a guitar that played popular oldie but goody Country tunes. It was a nice way to end our day.
The Grand Canyon Skywalk was not cheap. Our day cost $65 per person. Steve and I had been gifted some cash for Christmas, so we opted to buy an experience rather than a material object. This turned out to be a really neat gift that we will never forget. We did enjoy the day, so our recommendation for the DE is this: be aware of the cost, and treat it as a “one time life experience”.
(CLICK READ MORE FOR PHOTOS)