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Trip Reports - 2000 - Edmond C. Jaeger Nature Sanctuary & Chuckwalla Mountains

Edmund C. Jaeger Nature Sanctuary and Chuckwalla Mountains

April 14-15, 2000
by Reda Anderson

(Note: This trip was originally scheduled to include a tour of the future Eagle Mountain Mine trash dump site north of Desert Center which has been postponed until September due to construction and lack of tour personnel.)

A small party of enthusiastic desert explorers was led through the desert 60 miles east of Indio and a few miles south of Highway 10. The participants were the Trip Leader, Reda Anderson; Debi Cherry and Pamela Ware; Homer Meek and brother-in-law Jim Cox; Allan Wicker and Ding Elnar; and Tail Ends, Chuck and Jeanice Kalbach.

Early Friday morning, the group congregated at the Desert Center Family Cafe, then proceeded east and south to Graham Pass Road (DeLorme, page 110 at D2), a thin ribbon of a trail between the Chuckwalla Mountains Wilderness Area 30 feet to the west and the Little Chuckwalla Mountains Wilderness Area 30 feet to the east.

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Homer and Reda compared readings on hand held GPS instruments while standing still and adjacent to each other. They were startled to discover that Homer was moving at 2.3 MPH while Reda was moving at a slower pace of 1.4 MPH. Well, anyone who knows anything at all about Homer-the-Hiker knows he's not one to let a molecule of soft moss grow under his well-worn desert hiking boots.

Likewise, anyone who knows a fragment about Reda, has observed that she takes flight periodically. Although, to the naked eye, Reda appeared to be motionless next to and slightly northeast of Homer, according to the GPS she was gaining and losing altitude of 500 to 1,500 feet at a dizzying pace. A chubby rattlesnake sunning itself in the middle of the graded dirt road shook its distinctive tail at the noisy interlopers.

Trekking west on the Bradshaw Trail, we paused briefly at Indian Well just long enough to investigate the ruins of a goat farm, and to observe the winged bugs struggling in the shallow stagnant water of the animal guzzler and the non-operational wind mill.

Turning north on Dupont Road, a large ocotillo of about 20 feet in height came in view. Its many branches, completely covered with moist green leaves and red-orange blooms, shaded the yellow flowers on a substantial barrel cactus, and eight fuchsia blossoms covering a beavertail cactus. So lovely was the sight, and so cool the breeze at noontime, we stopped for canned tuna and Gatorade.

Continuing north, we passed miles and miles, acres and acres, of magnificently healthy teddy bear chollas and ocotillos in bloom, with an interspersing of jojobas, desert yuccas, buckthorn chollas, and hedgehog cactus. Two shiny black ravens perched atop a telephone pole delighted in the ritual of repeatedly pecking each other's beaks.

Exiting from Dupont Road onto old Highway 60, Reda stopped to ask a man airing down his tires if he needed any assistance. The man politely declined aid. After returning home, Reda received an e-mail from Alan Romspert that, not only had she met the man previously (senior moment), but that Alan hooked up with him half an hour later in order to explore the same area.

We turned west, then south, onto Corn Spring Road for eight miles to view the oasis and campground. Three miles west of Desert Center, after filling up at a relatively inexpensive $1.89 a gallon, the group turned south of Eagle Mountain Road and into the Edmund C. Jaeger Nature Sanctuary (DeLorme, page 109 at C6, unmarked). Pamela, who had never been on a four-wheel-drive trip, shifted her best friend Debi's Ford Ranger pickup truck into low gear, low range, crossed a narrow wash, then rock-climbed a steep exit, screaming all the way, proud of her new found ability. Pamela's conversion was instantaneous: she suddenly finds van-driving on tarmac boring and is impatient to propel a 4x4 off-highway once again.

Camping along the edge of the wash, we enjoyed an hour hiking up to the Granite Mine. Returning to camp, we found the wind kicked up substantially, and the coolness of the night was fast approaching. With the wind far too gusty to enjoy the traditional campfire after happy hour and pot luck dinner, we retreated to our temporary abodes early in the evening. That is, except for the Kalbach's. Their pop-up tent and inflatable mattress had blown on top of their Jeep Grand Cherokee. Determining it to be faster and easier to clear out the inside of the vehicle rather than rebuild a collapsed tent, they elected to retire to the cabin of their Jeep for the night.
Saturday morning found the Kalbach's Jeep suffering from a dead battery. Homer came to the rescue with an impressive portable battery. In a few minutes, we were on our way west and south to Red Cloud Mine Road (DeLorme, page 109 at C-D6). Into the Chuckwalla Mountains, high up Radio Tower Road (so dubbed by us), many miles of alluvial fans, dusty dry lakes, the Salton Sea twenty-five miles to the west, and the vast desert floor were brought into a view.

At the Red Cloud Mine a Wrangler spun its wheels on a rapidly-climbing splinter road and backed down out of its predicament. Allan Wicker introduced himself to the unfriendly driver and relayed that he was with the Desert Explorers. The driver retorted with verve "We sure ain't with the f--ing Sierra Club!" A banded gecko cautiously watched the proceedings from a nearby sandy-colored rock.

Passing by the Great Western Mine, we sauntered further south into the bowels of the Chuckwallas, edged by the hills on both sides of Red Cloud Canyon. The way appeared so impassable, that Jeanice Kalbach, experienced trip leader that she is, repeatedly inquired "Did you prerun this, Reda?", and "Have you been on this, Reda?" The end of this implausible run was one outstanding view.