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2019 - Trip Report - Arrowhead Trail

Arrowhead Trail / U.S. 91 and Afton Canyon

Leader: Nelson Miller

Photos by Allan Wicker

Seven vehicles set out on this trip with Nelson Miller, David Mott, Dave Burdick, Mark Mejia, Dean Lindner, Allan & Ding Wicker, David & Lois Hess, Sunny & Jean Hansen, Bob Jacoby, Rich Brazier, Chris Parker, Steve Richards and his friend Esther. Thank you to Allan and Ding Wicker for running sweep!

Before starting our trip we reviewed some of the geographical history of the Mojave River, Pleistocene Lake Mannix, Lake Mojave, and the cutting of Afton Canyon about   14,000 years ago.

We started off from the Field Road Off-ramp following the 1932 route of old U.S. 91, the precursor to I-15. The Arrowhead Trail preceded this in 1925 with a slightly different route located to the north of present day I-15, whereas this portion of U.S. 91 was located south of present day I-15. First stops were the “Double Circle” Intaglio and the “Candy Cane” Intaglio (or geoglyphs). Bill Mann included these in his Volume 1. These two geoglyphs probably date from when the Mojave Tribe occupied this area of the Mojave Desert, so are at least over 300 years old and could be much older. We drove around the back side of the C.V. Kane Rest Stop, which is located at the site of Midway (midway between Barstow and Baker) where there was a gas station, garage, and café until the I-15 realignment in the 1960’s. During the 1950’s there was also a small zoo, called “The Thing.” We also passed by Dunn, a former watering stop for the steam engines and where borate was shipped by wagon from Death Valley and Tecopa area until the railroad was extended to those areas in the early 1900’s.. We followed old U.S. 91 to the Afton Canyon offramp. Old U. S. 91 merges with present day I-15 just a little east of here.

At Afton Canyon offramp, we headed for the campground where we stopped for a break, while some of us scouted the ford of the Mojave River. Water level was pretty high and there was a line of about 20 vehicles waiting for someone to be brave enough to go through. Finally a jacked-up Jeep came up and blasted through the ford. He made it all the way across although he slipped a bit. However, his buddy tried a go-around and got stuck in the mud. We decided to go back to the freeway and take the back door into Afton Canyon from Basin Road. So, we headed back to the freeway, exited at Basin Road, and followed Basin Road until it joined the Mojave Road, which we followed into Afton Canyon. We had lunch at Spooky Canyon and then walked up Spooky Canyon as far as everyone wanted to go. This is a small slot canyon that you can follow all the way to the top if you bring lights and are willing to climb several pitches of 15-25 feet.

On the way out of Afton Canyon, after we finished at Spooky Canyon, we located the remains of the wooden bridge deck that had been washed about 1. miles downstream by the 1938 flood. It was replaced by the steel railroad bridge at the east end of Afton Canyon. The 1938 flood must have washed nearly into Cronise Dry Lake, because there was large debris items scattered along Basin Road much of the way back to the I-15 freeway.

Once we reached the I-15 freeway we hopped on the freeway to exit at Razor Road where we had another pit stop. On the north side of the freeway we followed the frontage road back west. This is basically the 1925 alignment of the Arrowhead Trail. We followed this paved road, or at least remnants of pavement all the way past Cronise Dry Lake. The paving here was macadam, an early form of paving which was basically heavy oil mixed with, or covering gravel. At the west end of this valley you can see where the old alignment merges with present-day I-15 to go over a saddle on the north side of Cave Mountain. We followed the cable-line road over a steep hill at this point. Some of the group had trouble making up this hill, so about half of the group returned to the freeway and met us at the Afton Canyon offramp. From Afton Canyon Road, we once again took the frontage road west to where it joined the cable-line road, which is basically the alignment of the Arrowhead Trail. The Arrowhead Trail winds back and forth across the cable road. In many places you can see old roadside markers and cut-off telephone poles that followed the Arrowhead Trail. We were able to drive stretches of this old alignment. A little west of Field Road, the old Arrowhead Trail diverges from the Cable Road and trends south to merge with the 1932 alignment of U.S. 91 about 1 . miles west of Field Road. Bob Jacoby and I share the thrill of driving these old highway alignments.

We continued on the cable-line road across the “tank” road which goes to Fort Irwin and at Alvord Mountain Road picked up Hacienda Road, the freeway frontage road, over to Harvard Road where we able to enter the freeway. This was the end of another interesting day in the Mojave. ~Nelson Miller