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2003 Trip Report - Mojave Potluck

Mojave Potluck

March 15, 2003
Led by Debbie Miller

Reported by John Page

This was Debbie Miller’s first trip as a Desert Explorer Trip Leader, so, as Trip Coordinator, I felt obligated to participate. In addition to probable rain, I resigned myself to suffering through a couple of long days in the Mojave Desert, enduring her looks (lovely), personality (charming), and brains (intelligent). Luckily, there was one other plucky DEx trooper who was willing to make the same sacrifices: our esteemed Treasurer, Ken Sears. Where is Neal when you need him?

I drove to the Hole-in-the-wall campground on Friday evening and set up my cot while the skies were clear, but, after dark, decided to pitch a tent as the clouds were drifting in and the stars began to disappear from the sky. My first hunch had been correct; there was no rain on Friday night, and it was quite warm, thanks to the overcast. Oh well, my “tenting” skills were honed.

By 9:30 Saturday morning, Ken, Debbie, and I had formed up at the Visitors’ Center, and we struck out for the Mojave Potluck Experience.

Debbie had planned the trip to give us hands-on experience on several facets of Mojave Desert culture: pre-history, homesteading, commerce, military presence, and mining. She had obviously spent some time preparing for this trip and was able to tell us the history and circumstances surrounding most of our stops. It is truly a pity that this effort was wasted on a couple of lame-brains. Talk about casting pearls!

Our first stop was at Woods Wash, where we took a short hike under threatening skies to a rock art site containing petroglyphs that ranged from mediocre to fascinating.

Then, to the Watson homestead, where Debbie related some history that Dennis Casebier had obtained from Betty Stokes, who had lived there in the first half of the 20th century. The windmill, near which Betty hid the family’s homemade moonshine, is still working, pumping water into a couple of nearby tanks. 

A bit later, it was beginning to drizzle when we stopped for a short walk to find a rock on which Betty Stokes had chipped her name.We went on to the Bert Smith cabin, where we had lunch in the light rain. Then on to the “High Valley Mine” cabin, where we took a break in a protected porch, and our Schoolmarm read us the history of Camp Rock Springs and described the lives of the soldiers stationed there. For some obscure reason, duty at Camp Rock Springs was not really popular, and the desertion rate was one of the highest in the U.S. Army. The Camp Commander was unwilling to send patrols out to capture deserters because the patrols rarely returned, either with or without the deserters.

We did a drive-by of the Camp Rock Springs area to compare the scene today with that shown in some old photographs that Debbie had handy.

Then we ran a length of the Mojave Road, which by now has, in many places, been worn into a channel in the desert floor. It was for the purpose of protecting the mail run between the Los Angeles area and Prescott, Arizona along the Mojave Road that the military presence at Camp Rock Springs was established.

Finally, we worked our way to the Sagamore Mine on a road that Debbie described as “maybe a little rough” in a masterpiece of understatement.

The Sagamore mine was great! In addition to the large adit on the hillside near the end of the road, there are extensive workings and several modern buildings and stone structures in an adjacent wash. One of these buildings, a bunkhouse, showed the business cards of some notorious Barstow pioneers: our friends Bill Mann and Gene Stoops. There is an impressive vertical shaft and some more dumps farther up the little canyon.

By the time we got back to our trucks, the rain was getting a little stronger, and it was getting cold so that there was a real likelihood of snow, ice, and serious mud. Debbie made the Leader’s decision to call it a trip.

She took us to I-15 where we stopped at the Mad Greek in Baker for dinner and then separated and headed home through very heavy rain.

We never did get to do the potluck!

Debbie: you planned a fine trip and led it very well under difficult circumstances; it’s a shame that the weather was poor and that there were not more of us to benefit from your effort! We hope you continue to be active as a Trip Leader.


Post script by Debbie: it was a good thing we did not stay at the Sagamore. The Providence Range was buried that evening with 5 feet of snow.  We would have been marooned on the mountain until the snow cleared, which probably would have been fine with the guys....