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Friday, December 30, 2016

Southern Turtle Mountains - "a magical 1200 seconds"

Eight miles West of Vidal Junction we turned right and drove North ...
and crossed the Colorado River Aqueduct.
The road showed no traffic since the rain from the previous week.
 But about four miles later we passed a pop-up camper near the turn-off for Horn Spring. There we met the owner, a man named Loren, who had been camping at the location for the past week.
We set up camp about two miles from the other camper at the edge of the wilderness with Castle Rock to the North.
The three of us sat in the darkness watching for meteors. Although I don't believe that Bosco had any astronomical interest but he does notice the lights of low flying aircraft in the sky above our backyard.
Sunrise to the South.
Bosco and I were watching the sunrise when the thought crossed my mind of looking in the opposite direction.
Panorama to the North. After brunch Bosco and I hiked away from camp toward something discovered on GoogleEarth.
Along the way we found a very old tortoise shell ...
and several roads.
On the return storm clouds were forming.
About 30 minutes after reaching camp rain began to fall.
The rain pounded our camper but Jan had Bosco's full attention while she ate a snack.
This rainbow lasted about 20 minutes, which was a magical 1200 seconds.
We began our drive for home headed toward a magnificent sunset.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Eastern Turtle Mountains - "a note scratched on a wall"

A traffic jam in Barstow at 3:30PM on a Monday. Who would have thought?
Two hours later the sun was setting.
We stopped at the Mountain Springs Road exit for Bosco to stretch his legs.
After purchasing fuel in Needles we drove South and then West on the Heart of the Mojave road.
Our camp at the edge of the wilderness boundary.
The dawn sky was cloudy.
The trail behind this sign follows an old road for a portion of the route to Mopah Spring. I had intended to hike the four miles to the spring but an old injury flared up and cancelled that plan because I wanted to save the miles for another hike.
We spent a leisurely morning relaxing at the trail-head before driving on to our next destination.
After 30 minutes we returned to pavement.
Then we drove a few miles North and turned West onto another dirt road.
Umpah and Mopah in the distance behind abandoned mining equipment.
We drove over and found
an interesting
And then it was back on the old road that seemed to get sketchier by the mile.
We stopped and set up camp after the road conditions deteriorated to the point where is was faster to hike than drive.
Bosco and I left our camp behind and hiked West toward the objective.
Umpah and Mopah were a constant presence to the Southwest.
After two miles the remains of a cabin came into view.
The cabin was in bad shape and no longer habitable.
But this note scratched on a wall panel saved us a hike up to the mine. Thank you, MW.
Bosco posed for a photo as I consulted a map to check on our route.
We hiked on and dropped into a wash.
Debris tangled in the trees showed that some deep water had flowed down this wash.
The sun was setting when we turned back.
One last look to the South before darkness descended.
The last mile of our hike was in the moonless night and it was good to see the porch light of the camper ahead in the darkness.
Bosco and I were up early to watch the sun rise.
Umpah and Mopah in the distance behind our camp.
The road back to pavement seemed shorter but just as rutted.
We drove South to Vidal Junction and then turned East toward Parker for lunch and fuel.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Journey to the Quail Spring Cabin, DVNP - "the jeep road disappeared"

After fueling in Baker we drove North on the 127 and then West on the Harry Wade Road.
The drive into the Owlshead Mountains always takes longer than expected. This time was no different.
Fort Irwin to the South.
At the Fort Irwin entrance we turned right and entered Death Valley National Park. The Owlshead Range was annexed when the monument became a national park in 1994.
This is my fifth trip into this area and have yet to encounter another vehicle.
We set up camp alongside the road near the closed 4x4 road that would be our route the next day.
Our objective was about four miles to the South. The road was closed in 1994 when the area was declared wilderness.
As we were walking along the old jeep road Jo Ann spotted this .50 caliber shell casing. Interestingly she found it again on our return.
After 1 1/2 miles we cached water.
The jeep road disappeared where it entered the wash.
But there were many well trod burro trails to use.
While we stopped for a break Bosco, sans backpack, remained alert watching for burros.
After a few minutes he relaxed in resignation that burro chasing was not permitted.
Looking back on our route. Several times during our hike I lamented the fact that years ago a friend had suggested that we drive in and visit this cabin.  Assuming that there would be many opportunities in the future I declined. Now I trudged up a canyon that we could have driven just a few decades before.
In the upper reaches of the canyon we found the first relic of habitation.
Soon we sighted the cabin.
Sad to see the cabin in such poor condition.
The log book told of a snug, well kept dwelling that was used often for decades.
 Last entry in log book.
 Interesting account of a visit to the cabin in 1979 can be found here.
The condition of the cabin deteriorated after wilderness designation because equipment and materials could no longer be transported by vehicles.
The hill behind the cabin is encroaching on the back wall.
After reading all the entries in the log book and checking on the condition of the spring, it was time to begin our hike back to camp. (The spring was a small puddle.)
There were many burros in the area and their trails crisscrossed all the hillsides.
Lost Lake in the distance behind our camp.
I dined on Thanksgiving leftovers while we looked for meteors in the night sky.
 Our plan had originally been to walk out to the Lost Lake playa on the second day but my exploring spirit was dampened by the thought of walking eight miles on a road that I could have driven 22 years ago.
The only section on the return route that might require 4x4.
Sections of the road are paved. Probably done when the microwave relay tower at the end of the road was in service.
We made a brief stop at Owl Hole Springs and discovered that the palm tree had died.
Road conditions improved after we passed the Fort Irwin gate. Kingston Peak in the distance.
More burros were sighted.
Hard to believe but in Death Valley National Park a person can ask their passenger if they want to drive over to the river.
No water flowing in the Amargosa River but on August 16, 1983 the flow was 10,600 cubic feet per second and must have been something to see.
We continued on to Baker and then drove West on I-15 past Cave Mountain. Whenever I drive by this peak I cast it a friendly wave. Jan, Jo Ann and I were on its summit 14 years ago.
Storm clouds were forming as we approached Barstow.