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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)

Saturday, 16 July 2016 23:14

2016 - Trip Report - Ghosts of Dublin Gulch

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(photos by Allan Wicker, click Read more)

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)

 

Saturday, 16 July 2016 23:01

2016 - Rendezvous - Shoshone

Written by

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)

Like Minds in Te Anau, New Zealand
By Anne Stoll
 
So if this world blows up someday soon, one could do much worse than escape to New Zealand. The landscape is a lot like California – rolling golden hills, cattle ranches bordered by eucalyptus, distant snowy peaks, crashing surf along a rocky coast, cities (Wellington and Dunedin, for example) that look for all the world like San Francisco. They even have earthquakes now and then, just like at home. Of course, there are waterfalls and 20-foot fern trees here and there to remind you that you’re a long way from California. But when we reached the town of Te Anau on the South Island and visited the Fiordland Vintage Machinery Museum, we knew we’d found kindred souls that all DE-ers would recognize. Shades of the Laws Railroad Museum near Bishop, here was a cool toy collection! The FVMM is a social club where members get together to restore old machines. 
 
We were so taken with the place we thought maybe our own Fearless Leader Neal should be entitled to name his own Machine of the Month?
 
 (click Read More)
Friday, 15 July 2016 22:07

2016 - The Ore Cart Caper

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The Ore Cart Caper 
by Bob Jaussaud
 
Ore carts have fascinated me since I was a little kid (Yes, that was a long time ago). I was introduced to ore carts at Knotts Berry Farm and again at Calico during early day family outings. I loved climbing around and in them. We rode in ore carts at Disneyland on the Mine Train in Frontierland. They have always been popular on TV and in movies. Indiana Jones even used an ore cart on one of his escapes. I was thrilled when I discovered an old photo of a very young, pre-Bob Sue and her sister at Calico with a mining train and a long string of ore carts in the background. My kind of women.
Ore carts have been around a lot longer than I have. Wikipedia has a drawing of one from 1556. An ore cart can go by many names including mine cart or mine trolley in the United States, cocopan in South Africa, and tubs or drams in Great Britain.
 
Traditional ore carts were made to roll on metal tracks. They were able to move large loads relatively easily. Originally, most ore carts were moved by men or animals. Steam, gas, diesel or electric locomotives were used at larger operations in later years.
 
Ore carts were obviously used all over the desert we explore and we often find mines with sections of track still intact. Unfortunately, ore carts themselves have become very scarce, as they were replaced with more efficient conveyor belts and almost all abandoned ore carts have been collected to serve as display pieces or yard art. The ore cart is still very much with us today, though, as they have evolved into the modern railroad car.
 
So, imagine my surprise when a good friend called last week and asked if I would like to have an old ore cart. Would I? A high school friend’s father had passed away and to settle his estate the family home was to be sold and demolished. The ore cart was going to be scrapped unless we came and collected it before the house went on the block. We did not hesitate. Through the generosity of Jenny, Joe and Jeff Jahraus and with the help of Greg Stewart, Mignon Slentz, Ron Lipari, Alan Schoenherr, and Suzy J., there is now an historic ore cart at its new home in our desert yard display.
(click Read more for photos)
 
Rambling in the El Pasos
March 19-20, 2016
by Jay Lawrence
 
Spring in the desert is always a special time and a visit to the El Paso Mountains was long past due for me after twenty-five years. A trip plan was hatched. A crew of Desert Explorers signed on. Nan Healy, Bob Jaussaud, Stan Sholik, Ken Sears, Mignon Slentz, Ding and Allan Wicker and I met at the Redrocks picnic area east of Highway 14 at the south end of Redrocks Canyon State Park. It was a beautiful Saturday morning, the first day of Spring, a perfect day for a quick turn around the neighborhood. 
 
This area a few miles to the east of the official park campground is a stark, rugged landscape with medium-sized mountains and a maze of roads, box canyons, wild geology plus loads of history. It was heavily prospected and mined in the 1890s and 1920s, with several areas actively mined right up through the end of the last century. Though the BLM and Park Service have done their level best to eliminate many historic old dwellings and structures, several notable exceptions remain. 
 
(click Read more for story and photos)
Friday, 15 July 2016 21:48

2016 February Meeting at Don & Betty's

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No story, but please enjoy the photos

(NO STORY, BUT PLEASE CLICK READ MORE TO SEE THE PHOTO GALLERY)

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