Inbound 2010 Rendezvous Trip
Kingston Wash and Kingston Mts.
By Marian Johns
We arrived at Bob’s Big Boy in Baker at 8:00 a.m. right on schedule and found some of the crew already seated and chowing down breakfast. The buffet had a fine selection for those of us who can’t resist an all-you-can-eat opportunity.
By 9:00 a.m. 25 Desert Explorers had assembled in the parking lot. Our troops included: Nan Savage, Gary Preston, Vicki Hill, Dave McFarland, Mike Vollmert, Ron Lipari and son, Jeff, Rebecca and Leonard Friedman and daughter, Hannah, Bob Younger and Mary, Sonny and Jean Hansen, Bob and Shirley Bolin, Terry Ogden, Bob Jacoby, Nelson Miller and sister, Ellen, Larry Boerio, Bert Eddins, Glenn Shaw and Marian and Neal Johns.
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Our caravan of 14 vehicles headed north out of Baker on Hwy. 127 for about 20 miles, and then turned onto a dirt two-track that headed east across flat terrain. Initially, the scenery was rather dull, but the road was in good condition, so we were able to zip along at a respectable speed. Our first stop was the site of Valjean which was once a settlement on the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad. The buildings are long gone - just a rusty can dump and other debris remain. 15 miles further on, we joined and followed the Kingston Spring Cutoff of the Old Spanish Trail. About this point the scenery began to improve with interesting and colorful formations and the Kingston Range towering in the near distance.
Next, we arrived at Kingston Springs, a watering hole for those early travelers and more recently a reclusive miner who built a house there. His presence annoyed the BLM, but they allowed him stay. However, upon his death they bulldozed the house and buried it. Future archaeologists should have a wonderful time digging up this remnant of an earlier era.
You would think Kingston Springs would be in Kingston Wash, but this is not the case. We had to drive two miles farther before we reached the main wash. Continuing east up the wash, we could see dense vegetation not too far ahead on the high banks of the north side of the wash, and here, hidden under dense brush we found Coyote Hole. If you know where to look, it’s possible to worm your way through the tangle to a small seep which someone has surrounded with a basin made of rocks and concrete.
Just a 1/8 mile farther up the wash, we stopped for lunch at the “Mailbox” which is one of the four East Mojave Heritage Trails mailboxes. After signing our names on the register for posterity’s sake, we pressed onward up Kingston Wash and several miles after turning north out of Kingston Wash, we eventually reached the Excelsior Mine Road. From this intersection, we were able to see snow-covered, 11,900 ft., Mt. Charleston in the distant Spring Mountain Range of Nevada.
The Excelsior Mine Road was once the paved access to the mine, but the asphalt is now beginning to deteriorate and eventually disappears completely. Nevertheless, it was faster than the previous two-track we had been following, and we hustled along since Death Valley Junction, our final destination, was miles away.
As we turned west, our road climbed high into the heart of the Kingston Range. Its awesome, craggy, near-vertical peaks, over 7,300 high, still had remnants of winter snow. Side roads leading off into pretty canyons or to old mines beckoned us, and it’s a shame we didn’t have more time to spend in this beautiful and interesting area. When we reached the summit and looked west, we had a fantastic view of Telescope Peak, another 11,000 ft, snowy mountain, on the west side of Death Valley in the Panamint Range.
On the way down the flanks of the Kingstons, we passed several more abandoned mines, some of which once produced talc and some lead. When we finally reached the community of Tecopa, we turned our train of vehicles lose, most heading for the Chevron station in Shoshone (Yikes, nearly $4.00 a gallon!) before continuing on to the Rondy festivities in Death Valley Junction. Thanks Mike Vollmert and the Lipari’s for being our sweep and eating the dust of the 13 vehicles!