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2010 Trip Report - Fenner Valley

Fenner Valley Trip Report

Leaders: Mal Roode and Joe de Kehoe

November 6 – 7, 2010

The group consisting of Joe de Kehoe, Leonard, Rebecca & Hannah Friedman,  Charles and Mary Hughes, Bob and Sue Jaussaud, Neal and Marian Johns, Ron Lipari,  Bob and Betty Oliver, Mal Roode, Glen Shaw, Mignon Slentz, and Mike Vollmert in  10 vehicles agreed to meet at Roy’s Café in Amboy at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday for  an 8:30 a.m. departure.  After the customary hellos (with Neal off to the side shielding us  from his cold) we held a brief trip review meeting. Leonard Friedman phoned to say they were having car troubles.  We agreed to stay  in touch with Leonard throughout the day as best we could, and we left Roy’s  right on time in a 9-vehicle convoy and headed east for Kelbaker Road. Aside from enjoying some nice desert scenery, one of the purposes of the trip  was to visit some popular as well as some obscure sites in this part of the  Mojave- sites that I hope will be re-visited and not forgotten.

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We turned east off of Kelbaker Road south of Brown Buttes and drove the pipeline  road to a site that I have termed the “Mystery Settlement”, only because I have  never been able to determine why the settlement was there.  We all agreed it  looked like a ‘family’ settlement – too many niceties and too much work went into the camp to be a  temporary construction camp.  There exist the remains of about four cabins, an  outhouse, well defined walking paths and a driveway. We all speculated on the reason for the camp, but left without any definitive  answers.  Mignon Slentz picked up a nice rock with desert varnish on which to do  her rock art engraving. After leaving the Mystery Settlement we continued driving east on the pipeline  road to the turnoff to the remains of a stone cabin in the Clipper Mountains  purported to have been built by Tom Schofield.  For lack of a better term I  refer to it as the West Side Cabin.  There is evidence of digging/mining in the  dry wash behind the cabin and there is also a small spring with water (and lots  of bees).  The cabin was last occupied in the 1950s, but now only the stone  walls remain, the roof having collapsed. We made our way back to the pipeline road and drove to the remains of the  Chambers’ mine near Bonanza Springs (aka Danby Springs) where we stopped for  lunch.  Phillip Chambers and his wife Ellen lived here and operated a placer  gold mine for about 35 years.  While they were here the Phillip and Ellen  planted several hundred fruit and shade trees that grew quite tall with the  abundant year-round water from the spring.  The BLM forced the Chambers to  relinquish the mine in the late 1980s, and since their departure the BLM have  removed all of the trees as not being native to the desert.  The cement  foundations of the Chambers’ home still remain at Bonanza Springs but little  else. After Bonanza Springs we made the short drive across old Route 66 at Danby and  continued southeast to Old Danby.  Old Danby was an important watering point for  the railroad in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and was home to several railroad  families and miners.  We were disappointed to see that one of the two old wooden  cabins that has been here for 100 years or more had finally succumbed to  weathering and collapsed. The next stop was refreshing in that we left the vehicles and hiked a mile or so  up a dirt road to the remains of a rock house that was once owned by Fleet  Southcott.  Although the roof is gone, the walls are still standing and are in  good condition.  The site offers a good view of Fenner Valley – we could see  Essex and I-40 in the far distance. After hanging around the rock house, peering in the OX Ranch water tank and  throwing rocks down the mine shaft, we headed back to the cars.  This is where  Bob Oliver came into his own!  It is a bit of a slog to the cabin because the  road we were walking is sandy with a steady uphill grade.  However the trip back  to the vehicles is all downhill.  Bob took off, arms raised in a sort of Gabby  Hayes gait, and I remember thinking, “I can’t wait until I have open heart  surgery so I can keep up with Bob!”  He made it back to the cars well ahead of  the rest of the group. It gets dark by 5:30 at this time of the year, so the intent was to leave the  rock house and get to our intended camp at Sunflower Springs by about 4:00 pm.   We worked our way past some scenic and very impressive weathered granite cliffs  on the northeast flank of the Old Woman Mountains on our way to camp,  intersected Sunflower Springs Road southeast of Essex, and arrived at camp right  about on time.  On the way we made a brief stop at a very obscure concrete  foundation in the pass between the Old Woman Mountains and the Piute Mountains  that was formerly the early 1950s residence of Irv and Bea Landreman.  Irv  worked for the Dept. of Fish and Game maintaining guzzlers in this part of the  desert and they once owned the General Store in Goffs. The site is not very noticeable and most travelers drive by it without knowing  it is there.  (At this point poor Neal was still not feeling very well and  pretty much confined himself to staying in the truck.) From here we drove the  last 6 miles or so and arrived at our camp site amongst a group of granite  boulders near Sunflower Springs.   The Friedman family, Leonard, Rebecca and  Hannah, finally caught up with the group at this point, having had their vehicle  repaired in Barstow. On Sunday morning we spent a couple of hours exploring the abandoned ranch  houses at Sunflower Springs and the Peg Leg Smith inscription on the nearby  boulders. We finally got underway at 10:00 am and on our way out  we backtracked on  Sunflower Springs Road, but made a side trip to Weaver’s Well and a nearby site  where the Smith family formerly lived when the parents worked in Essex.  This  was another one of these remote and obscure sites that few people know is there,  it is seldom visited, and where only the foundation remains – one of those “I  wonder what was here?” places. We arrived back on pavement in Essex by noon, said our farewells, and with some  folks vowing to return for a repeat visit.  All in all a good trip and the  weather was perfect.  My thanks to Mal Roode for helping put the trip together  and to Ron Lipari and Mike Vollmert who very capably ran sweep for the trip.
Joe de Kehoe