East Mojave Heritage Trail
February 18-19, 2012
By Neal Johns
I usually do not have a limit of vehicles on my trips but this time it got to a point where more were impossible. We had 16 when I called it quits, and a few last minute dropouts made it 13. It was an over-ambitious program of over 170 miles in two days but we made it to our destination of Ivanpah at 5:00 p.m. Sunday. We lined up at Needles at 8:00 a.m. in front of the hulk of the old El Gracés railroad station which someday may be rejuvenated – but don’t hold your breath. Rejuvenation has been planned (hoped for?) for many years. Over a decade ago Marian and I bought a donors brick with our name on it to be installed in the lobby and guess what? Sue Jaussaud saw it recently in a display in the Needles library!
Winding our way through Eagle Pass, we turned right toward Flat Top Mountain and stopped at a long dead hidden ranch just off the trail. There was a spring and decrepit corral but the only thing being raised there was Teddy Bear Cactus. Not familiar with Teddy Bear Cactus? It is a cholla that looks sweet and cuddly at first glance – but don’t pet it!
After everyone made it up and over Watermelon Hill, we made a quick stop at Dennis Casebier’s Goffs Museum with all its outdoor displays and two million dollar library with well over 100 thousand old historic pictures of the East Mojave. Not to mention thousands of oral interviews of the old timers who settled and mined this part of the Mojave Desert. A quick Hi! to Dennis and we were gone.
Onward we went past the remains of the Leister Ray Mine, and over Piute Hill to follow the Mojave Road for a while. We camped a mile north off Caruthers Canyon Road except for a couple of weaklings who went back to Needles. Names will not be mentioned to avoid incriminating myself. On the way to Needles we noticed a dog seen earlier being petted by another group was still in the same place all alone. We saw she had water and went on. The next morning, she was still there, lost or abandoned, so our kind hearted Jeep mounted traveling companion adopted her! I have a new respect for Jeep drivers!
My secret petroglyph spot was still near the trail so we checked it out and then wound our way to Searchlight. Wound is right, the leader (whoever he was) got spatially displaced (never lost!) on the way, and took the scenic route. Then, through the Crescent Mountains we went, ending up in a mining area that sat right on top of the old site of Crescent.
We went to the nearby pavement and made a quick stop at Nipton to check out the store, and proceeded toward Ivanpah. What are all these mirrors doing smack dab on the old Ivanpah road? Progress! That’s what. Three solar facilities are being constructed to heat the water on top of the high towers with reflected sunlight, convert it to steam, run turbines and generate electricity. We took the Yates Well exit off I-15 and followed the pavement, and followed, and followed, until a guard gate appeared. Uh Oh! I parked nearby, and listened to the guard explaining to the car in front of me “Sorry sir, you can’t go in to look around, I can’t even let my mother in to see it.” When it was my turn, I hesitantly asked how to get to the old Ivanpah road. A very friendly guard said “Why sure, you just go past me and turn right, and when you come back, I will explain all about our facility if you like.” Wow! Just what I wanted to hear, but did not expect. Ivanpah spring was posted Private Property for the first time ever, but you could look in. We went on west a half mile to see Willow Spring and the remains of several rock houses for this small, once thriving mining town and after listening to the friendly guard explain the facility, this ended the trip.
Check out the photos taken by Mal Roode and Homer Meek