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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)

Friday, 15 July 2016 21:44

2016 - Rodman Mountains Exploration

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Rodman Mountains Exploration
Saturday, February 20, 2016
By: Nelson Miller
 
This Saturday was overcrowded with trips and activities, with a Museum trip, another DE trip by Bill Gossett, and construction of another water guzzler at 29 Palms by the Sheep Society with Steve Marschke.  So only six people: Jerry and Dolly Dupree, Bob Jacoby, Nan Savage Healy, Barbara Midlikowski, and Nelson Miller set out to explore the Rodman Mountains.  Before we left the Museum we had a nice visit with the folks going on the Museum trip lead by Richard Shappell. Cliff Walker provided us some refreshments.
 
As we started into the Rodman Mountains we crossed over a lava flow that originated from the volcano on the other side of the mountains, by the Rodman Mountain petroglyphs. This lava flow stretches 8.5 miles and is about 20,000 years old.  We crossed the lava flow and turned up into a box canyon formed by the lava flow, which is a branch of the Grand Canyon of the Rodmans. You can see where the lava flowed over the underlying rock formations.  After the box canyon we continued on to Kane Springs, which still flows into two troughs.  However, we did not see any sign of big horn sheep.  Just north of Kane Springs is a little mill site with the remains of a double arrastre.  However, this probably dates from the early 1900’s as it was apparently driven by a motor.
From Kane Springs we crossed the pipeline road and headed up a pretty canyon that lead us to a mine with about a 200-foot long tunnel and a small rock house and with considerable rock walls built in the area.  Continuing up the canyon we topped out at a saddle that gave us a nice view of the snow–capped San Bernardino Mountains.
 
We drove along Camp Rock Road and around the corner to approach the still active cinder mine at the volcano where the lava flow originated.  Driving on, past the mine we came to the Rodman Mountain petroglyphs, but since we had all visited them before, we focused on the cliff face along the road before entering the canyon and found a number of nice petroglyphs, mostly of geometric design. 
The route then took us out to the powerline road and around to the east end of Rodman Mountains where we followed the last canyon to the north to explore the Silver Cliffs and Silver Bell Mine.  On the way we passed a rock shelter built on the side of the canyon.  The Museum has an ore bucket from the Silver Cliffs mine, where there are a couple of 200-foot deep, vertical shafts right next to a rather large mill site.   Unfortunately, all that is left are foundations and the open shafts, as well as some foundations of a couple of buildings which may have been a bunkhouse and mine office.  Pat Schoffstall reports in the Mojave Desert Dictionary, that this mine was owned by a Mr. Legg in 1908. The ruins appear to be consistent with that time period.  The Silver Bell Mine is about two miles west of the Silver Cliffs Mine and appears to be a similar, although perhaps more recent and a somewhat smaller operation, also with a small mill site, some rock foundations, and a rusted car.
 
We headed back toward the freeway, where we had exited, at Fort Cady Road.  The weather had cooperated wonderfully and we had a beautiful trip through an interesting, but often overlooked area.
Nelson Miller
 
Panamint Valley Stage Road
February 20-21, 2016
Leader: Bill Gossett
 
Mignon Slentz, Ron Lipari, Charles and Mary Hughes, and myself met Bill and Barbara Friday at the Trails Drive In at Trona and proceeded to the camping spot. 
 
       Saturday morning we took 2 vehicles to the drop off point at about 1100 ft. elevation, then all of us piled into the back of Bill’s truck. We then took a sometimes hair-raising and cold ride up to the top (over 2200 feet) of the old Panamint Stage road. Bill said the road was not used past the 1950s and today it is broken up by a wash and several places where you have to scramble over rocks. It is in a wilderness area so you have to walk it now. We saw lots of cool old trash (artifacts now) by the side of the road, things we had never seen before! We took pictures and left them there. After we finished the 6 mile downhill hike at about 4 p.m. we headed back to camp. Potluck consisted of turkey, dressing, gravy, potato soup and salad.
 
 On Sunday we started on the trail early and headed to Panamint Valley. The first thing we saw were quite a few Geoglyphs on the desert pavement. From there we headed to explore what we think was an old CCC camp. It was interesting seeing all the trash they left behind, cone top beer cans, broken glass, head gaskets. This must have been a bustling place long ago! Next we climbed to the top of a hill over 4000 feet where we had lunch looking down at Homewood Canyon 1000 feet below us. We were on top of the world near the Orondo and Davenport mines. After lunch we went to the Gold Bottom Mine where I learned what Rock Nettle is and we saw very old inscriptions from the 1800s. As usual Bill showed us some really great stuff!
THANKS BILL AND BARBARA for a GREAT trip!
 — Mal Roode
 
Society for the Conservation of Bighorn Sheep
 
SCBS is an all volunteer, non-profit corporation founded in 1962 to help conserve desert bighorn sheep within California. We are associated with the Department of Fish and Wildlife. We do a lot of various things to help DFW but primarily we construct, inspect, maintain and repair wildlife water sources throughout the California deserts. Perhaps you have come across a ‘guzzler’, if so you probably saw a small concrete pad with an underground tank. These are sometimes referred to as small game guzzlers or quail guzzlers. Our organization constructs larger systems and they are typically located farther into the rugged parts of the mountain, hence, it is less likely that you have accidentally come across one but they perform the same function. 
We feel a special duty to properly maintain these systems as bighorn sheep have come to depend on them for survival. In addition to the man-made sources, there are many natural seeps and springs that require periodic maintenance, from removing sediment to trimming vegetation to keep the water accessible. We can use help performing these inspections. The inspection tasks are a bit like combining map reading and navigation, off-road driving skill, exploration, hiking and scientific field work into one project. Since we have limited volunteers and many sites to visit, these inspections are performed by only a few people per trip and many even go solo. Many of these systems are miles from paved highways and often within what was later designated as wilderness. Because of our volunteer status as agents of DFW we have special agreement with BLM that allows us to drive into wilderness areas (on existing trails) to perform our work. This was specifically allowed under the desert protection act of 1994 but something that is little known and not advertised for fear of attracting the “wrong” people. If these events are what you like to do (and I think so or you wouldn’t be in DE), please contact me either through email or through our website for more details.
 
We have an upcoming project on Feb 18-21, where we will be constructing a brand new water development system inside the 29 Palms Marine Corps base. This will be our 7th system inside the base and our third one this season (we’ve been busy this year.) The newest systems have been designed by SCBS members; they collect rainwater using a rubber like mat and channel it into underground low profile tanks. The water is available on the surface of the ground for all wildlife. We designed the entire system to have essentially zero maintenance (other than inspections) and little visual impact on the overall desert scene. Glenn Shaw, Joe Preiss and Mignon and Joaquin Slentz helped on previous events and they all had a great time. The construction projects require a bit less of the navigation and exploration skills and much more manual labor but I guarantee that you will get a great workout helping us. We’ll take any volunteer, we can find something for you to do. There is a fantastic sense of accomplishment and it’s pretty exciting to be part of a team that can construct an entire system in one weekend that will survive and serve wildlife for years and years to come. 
 
— Steve Marschke
310-543-1862
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
www.desertbighorn.org

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)

Wednesday, 02 March 2016 22:15

MVRM Members Honored with Artwork

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MRVM Members Honored with Artwork

By Debbie Miller Marschke

On October 17, 2015, a mural was unveiled which pays homage to Bill “Shortfuse” Mann and Dottie “Dynamite” Mann for their contributions to the Barstow community. The mural is located on the eastern facing wall of the Union Bank, 239 E. Main Street in Barstow. Here is the inscription:

“Brubaker Mann Inc. started production in 1950 when two cousins, Ronald Brubaker and William Mann conceived a new project – naturally colored rock to be used for roofing and landscaping. Growing up in Pomona, the two men developed a love for the desert during boy scout trips to the Mojave. After serving in World War II, they went to College and a professor advised them to look for careers in construction because a post-war housing boom was underway. After graduation they bought the property where the company still is located and acquired an old crusher circa 1900, a wooden screen, and a dilapidated bucket elevator. The rock was broken with sledge hammers, fed into the mill and bagged in used sugar sacks. In 1979 Ronald Brubaker sold his share of the company to William Mann. After becoming semi-retired, Mr. Mann used his vast knowledge of the desert to author six guide books. Mr. Mann passed away in August 2006 and his wife became the sole owner.”

Dottie was very pleased with the mural and the wonderful reception that was given at the ceremony. She said that Bill would have been very proud, and would have enjoyed being in the spotlight!

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