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| Neal Johns | Trip Reports

2013 Desert Explorers Rendezvous at Zzyzx

March 1 - 3, 2013  Story written by Neal Johns

 We had about 70 intrepid desert rats show up at the most “desert” of all desert places; Zzyzx, CA for a delightful weekend. Nearly everyone in Southern California has passed the Zzyzx off ramp on I-15 near Baker but few know what is at the end of a short road.

     Back when the world was a few decades younger, an itinerant preacher named Doctor Springer filed a mining claim on aptly named Soda Lake for the mineral crystals that were found on the surface. Overstepping the mining regulations more than a little, he built a health resort using homeless people from Los Angeles he bussed out to the desert for labor. He promised them sunshine, better health, and a place to stay in exchange for a little work. No booze was allowed, and guess what, it worked out well for all concerned. He let guests stay for whatever they could afford and sold the crystals as a cure-all with the help of his own radio program. My ancient wife remembers listening to it.

The end came when the Los Angeles Times published an long article basically stating “Why is this man allowed to build and run a health resort on public land under the guise of a mining claim and sell dubious medicines?” This prompted several government agencies including the BLM and the IRS to come down hard on Doc Springer. After a long legal battle, he was evicted and the now large resort was left to deteriorate in the sun and wind of the East Mojave Desert. After several years the BLM finally realized something should be done and arranged for the California University system to take over the facility under the lead of Cal State Fullerton and use it as a Desert Studies Center. Any educational organization can, for a modest fee, use the facility. Since the Desert Explorers are a section of the Barstow Mojave River Valley Museum, we were in!

Eight different trips were led to historical mining sites, petroglyphs sites, scenic canyons, a geology tour, ghost towns, etc. My Current Wife and I led eight vehicles to several scenic canyons in the Cady Mountains. Hidden away in one was a Bighorn Sheep Guzzler which furnishes water in a mountain range where few if any all year springs exist. We had a former President of the Bighorn Society along to explain why and how this volunteer organization builds and installs these expensive and complicated systems in remote places. One canyon rivaled Artist Palette Canyon in Death Valley for colorful formations while another had dozens of caves in the side walls.

Our catered food was outstanding, the rooms were clean and comfortable, and the people who had not been there before were amazed at the facilities hidden away from public view. A good time was had by all. Kudos to the facility manager of 27 years, Rob Fulton for his excellent after dinner talk and the helpful people at Cal State Fullerton - Hi Norma !