November 13-14, 1999
by Reda Anderson
Leaders: A group of enthusiastic rock-hounds and gem seekers were led through Hauser Geode Beds and its surrounds by Dr. Delmer Ross and his lovely wife Karen. Accolades and standing ovations are inadequate to thank Dr. Ross, professor of history at La Sierra University, Riverside, for his invaluable participation in this trip. Assisting Dr. Ross was Reda Anderson, accompanied by her friend George Coleman.
Participants: Those participating in picking and “louping” were: Miguel and Phyllis Aguilar, and their little doggie Frances-the-Dachshund; Chuck and Mary Hughes; Ron and Linda Lewis; Bill Ott; Richard and Rita Jo Pope; Larry Reese; Bob and Alicia Wieting, along with their eight-year-old son, Andrew, Bob’s brother Ron, and their two Pekinese dogs; Dave Welbourn; and Matt Westlake with his delightful eight-year-old daughter Raquel. Many thanks to Jeanice Kalbach for assisting as Tail-End-Charlie.
Vehicles: Our train of 12 four-by-fours consisted of six Jeeps, two Blazers, three Toyotas, and one GMC truck.
Itinerary: Pulling into camp Friday night, Larry heard what sounded like a flat tire on my Jeep. Miguel changed the tire while Chuck demonstrated how to properly plug it. Saturday morning we met at the entrance to Coon Hollow campground (about 16 miles west of Blythe, and 13 miles south of Interstate 10 on Wiley’s Well Road). We meandered to the nearby Hauser Geode Beds (DeLorme, page 118 at A-B 2-3, depicted as “Geode Beds”). George showed us two gorgeous geodes he had obtained there a couple of years ago. While he was digging at the bottom of a hill, the unexpected happened. The largest geode found that day simply came rolling down the hill, stopping in between his legs! That story excited the already eager rockhounds who toiled and dug for a couple of hours, finding numerous geodes.
Reda thrilled to the Navy fighters. based at the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range a few miles south, which were doing 360 degree maneuvers directly overhead apparently using our parked string of vehicles as a pivotal point of reference. Putting the vehicles into low range, low gear several times, we drove to Owls’ Roost and found much banded agate waiting for us on the ground. The mountain on which Owls’ Roost is located was formerly called Buzzards’ Roost. However, those who have climbed the mountain claim to have seen much owls’ pellets (regurgitated animal skins and bones) within the prolific caves clearly visible in the hillside, but have not seen evidence of buzzards. For that reason, the number one expert in the area, our own Dr. Ross, renamed the mountain Owls’ Roost. That works for us. At one point, Rita Jo whispered to me “There aren’t any roads where we’re driving!” I responded in an all-knowing manner “You can’t see the roads, and I can’t see the roads, but Delmer can, and that’s what counts.”
On to an interesting old ramshackle cabin where, on the prerun, I experienced an irreparable flat tire, this time due to a 1/2 inch sliver of ironwood having penetrated the sensitive area between the tread and the three-ply sidewall. I tried to convince Miguel that the valuable desert book written in the 60’s which he found in the cabin should be turned over to the leaders, but he held it tightly in his arms. Back to camp for a gourmet pot-luck dinner and campfire where we rehashed the day’s events with new and old friends. John Maclean had returned home before the trip began because his dog Bandit was ill, but left the bread he had made. We used it to sop up the gravy in the hearty meat and potato stew Chuck and Mary had brought.
Sunday: Travelling east of camp through the Mule Mountains, we thoroughly enjoyed crawling over a rough rocky road on the way to the Opal Hill Mine (DeLorme, page 118 at A 3-4). One of the co-owners, Nancy Fisher, led us on a private tour of the mine’s activities and displayed fire agates and micromount crystals being mined there. Nancy is one of those uniquely wonderful and eccentric outspoken desert characters that you often read about but rarely are fortunate enough to meet. When I tried to thrust my arm deep into a pit in search of agates, Nancy’s boxer attacked me with ravenous kisses galore. We continued east to Pebble Terrace finding naturally polished rocks and a few fossils. Heading west, we four wheeled it back mostly via a challenging wash, where we examined agatized shale which fluoresces to a beautiful green under black light. (Sidebar: We noted during the prerun of this area, that the dirt road Delmer had planned to take back through the Mule Mountains was completely washed out and thus invisible to our experienced naked eyes. In our efforts to locate some semblance of a path, Lorene Crawford became rather severely high centered and stuck. Nonetheless, I was delighted with the inconvenience because I got to use for the first time the yellow yank strap purchased many years ago. Although the two inch wide strip of nylon seemed as if it were going to snap at any second, it worked easily and effectively.)
Making it back to Wiley’s Well Road in the early afternoon, some returned to Coon Hollow for the night, while others followed me to an abandoned air strip and camp site used by General Patton in 1942. We departed anxious to meet again in our enchanting desert playland that we love so much.
Fauna: A jack rabbit which had been frightened as we entered a wash was seen scurrying away. Coyotes and their pups, sometimes seen in the area, eluded us. Raquel and Andrew inspected a hollowed out desert tortoise shell. Chuck and Mary, on their return to camp, noticed a very large desert tortoise hot-footing it across Wiley’s Well Road. Mary carefully picked it up and placed it out of harm’s way.
Flora: The now clear desert sky had rained its summer rains several weeks before our trip resulting in gorgeous valleys of the prolific Creosote Bush with its yellow blooms and tiny white fuzzy ball fruit, bright green palo verde, ironwood, and various shrubs, making for many splendid foto opportunities. The crawling Chinch-Weed (Pectis papposa of the Sunflower Family), and Mountain Mist displayed their tiny yellow flowers; while the twiggy White Ratany (Krameria Family) boasted its reddish purple flowers. Yellow flowers and white “wool” adorned several Cottontop Cactus by the abandoned cabin. Splendid examples of colorful Barrel Cactus were seen in the Mule Mountains on the hillsides next to a wash. An occasional Beavertail Cactus was seen, as were a few nonblooming small Pencil and Buckhorn Cholla. Although many Ocotillo were quite green, only one bright red bloom was seen.
I am in awe at the opportunity granted to each of us to view our magnificent desert garden and feel sad for our lethargic fellow humans who see the desert as nothing more than a denuded boring landscape. Within moments of returning to my El Segundo townhouse, cabin fever set in, and I was ready to go again.