Sunday, May 06, 2018

Mojave Cinder Cone Hike

Yesterday I hiked the tallest of the cinder cones in the lava field I've been exploring.  Sitting just off Aiken Mine Road in the Mojave National Preserve, this cone is easy to reach with any car.  Here's a google map centered on the cone.

The weather was perfect: clear skies, very slight breeze, 75F at 7:30am.  The USGS topo quad (Indian Spring) says the cone summit is 1187 m.  It's not very tall and I reached the top after only 20 minutes.

For most of the route I followed an old mining road.  I took a short section off trail to shorten my hike.  The vegetation helps keep the small lava rocks from sliding under your feet.

The next shot looks back down at the parking area from the summit.

The summit is relatively flat and covered with very jagged lava rocks.  The two cinder cones in the distance are the next ones I'll hike.  I plan to drive the 4wd trails there and park between the two cones.

The Mojave Desert Lava Tube is just up the road so this is a nice hike to do after visiting the tube.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Halloran Springs Petroglyphs

There's a small collection of glyphs right off the interstate highway in the Mojave Desert of southern California.  The Halloran Springs exit is about 12 miles north of Baker (the town with the tall thermometer) on I-15 between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.  After an additional drive of 1 mile and a short walk of 30 yards I found the petroglyphs on an outcropping of black rocks.

Finally, here's a shot of my car parked on the fiber-optic cable service road.  That's as far as I had to walk.

I learned about this site from Secret Places In the Mojave Desert, Volume III by Death Valley Jim.  I take this exit several times a year to drive the nearby 4wd trails.  I never knew there was a petroglyph site nearby.  I didn't stop to look for the rock rings and circles that DV Jim described.  I was in a hurry to get to some 4wd trails I was driving that day.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Flattop Mountain Road - Mojave Desert

I was returning from Arizona last week and decided to take a scenic 4wd trail: Flattop Mountain Road.  This is actually a natural gas pipeline service road that (somewhat) parallels I-40, just west of Needles, CA.  It's signed as BLM Route NS061.

The section I drove was slow-going.  It took me 2 hours to cover less than 15 miles.  I used low range more than I have on any other trip.  

The route isn't terribly difficult.  I think it would rate a 4 on the Mitchell or Massey scales.  I had to go off road only once to get around a steep bit.  I followed the tracks from at least 2 other vehicles, so I wasn't the first to do this.

Like most gas pipeline roads, it's a very straight road.  The road doesn't skirt around terrain obstacles or undulations.  Gas pipeline roads tend to have a lot of hills and gullies as they go straight over the land.  After rain storms, erosion produces deep washouts in places.

I was using low range to climb many of the hills and even to descend a couple.  On one hill, I decided to try it in 4-Hi.  That lasted about 4 seconds as I quickly lost traction trying to climb from a deep gully up a steep, rutted and off-camber hill.  I had to back up and try again using low range.  Worked perfect.

I want to hike Flattop Mountain, but I don't want to drive this road again.  Maybe another day I'll feel more adventurous and return.  If I do return to hike the mountain, I'll approach from the west, the way Andy Zdon suggests in his book "Desert Summits".  Here's a google map centered on Flattop Mountain.

Apparently this area is a place to collect rocks.  Here's the BLM web site about that. 

The road is pretty flat and easy on the west side of the mountain.

This road skirts the southern edge of the Bigelow Cholla Garden Wilderness Area.

I had planned to continue on to Danby, but the slow progress on the hilly section caused me to bail out and head for pavement.  I turned north on High Tower Road.  That's a graded powerline road that hits I-40 at Water Road (another graded powerline road).  

It looks like continuing west on Route NS061 is pretty flat.  I've driven sections of that in the past and it's got some deep sand in spots.

The Camino Airstrip is located beside High Tower Road.  I've never seen any aircraft using it, but I have camped there.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Broguiere's Egg Nog

This is one of my favorite things about the holidays.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Petroglyphs Near Halloran Summit

A small collection of petroglyphs is located about 10 miles north of Baker, CA beside I-15.  They're on large boulders below a bluff just south of the Halloran Summit exit.  Here's a google map centered on the area.

It's an easy walk from the powerline road, less than 0.25 mile.  You can also drive the 4wd trail right to the location.  The only hard part is finding where the trail hits the powerline road.

The bluff above has the remains of an airmail navigation arrow that I visited in June.  Here are some photos of the rock art, in no particular order.

This website also has photos of the glyphs.  They show more markings than I have found, so I'll return some day to look for more.  Here's a view from GE showing the location.

The start of the 4wd trail looks like this.

It's to the left of the power pylon.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

My Hiking Poles Lasted a Long Time

After hiking up the last cinder cone, my Black Diamond Contour hiking poles broke.  Not the poles themselves, but a small flexible rubber/plastic ring that covers two recessed buttons to release the 2nd extension.  The polymer degrades over time (UV exposure, outgassing, etc.) and it's normal that it would eventually crack and split.

I don't feel bad.  They lasted over ten years.  That's money well spent.

I visited REI last weekend to buy some replacements.  I bought another pair of Black Diamonds, the model that most resembled my old poles.  I got the Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork poles.  If all goes well, I'll get another ten years of use out of them.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Toyota RSCA Button

My 2016 LC has a button that many Toyotas now have.  It's labeled "RSCA OFF".  My drive on the 4wd trails around the cinder cones last week was the first time that I've used that button.

RSCA means Rollover Side Curtain Airbag.  These aribags are activated by some inclinometer in the vehicle.  If it detects that the truck has tipped over too far (e.g., a rollover), then they are inflated.

Toyota provides the button so that this system can be intentionally deactivated by the driver when driving in "extreme off road" conditions.  Here's a screencap from the 2016 LC manual.

This prevents the system from activating simply because the truck is tipped over a lot in pitch or roll.  During my drive in the desert, my truck was tilted a lot.  Not as much as I've done in the past in a Land Rover.  But I didn't want to take any chances.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Cinder Cone 4WD Trails

After hiking the cinder cone, I drove a few 4wd trails in the area and returned to Kelbaker Road near the Old Mojave Road crossing.  

The trails are not signed, but are in good condition and had recent tire tracks visible.  The first one heading northeast had some creosote brush on the sides.  

Then the trail heading south was brush-free once you reach the lava zone.  That road is in great condition and was an easy drive.

Then came the hard part.  I knew about this already because I had explored the southern end on a previous trip.  The trail crosses a short field of very large boulders as it drops into a sandy wash before continuing the short stretch to Kelbaker Road.

I decided to take the alternate.  Yup, there's an alternate!  It's not easy, but it's a lot easier than the main trail.  The alternate crosses a zone of embedded lava rocks, with some pinch points to hit, and some to avoid.  Then it drops into the sandy wash crossing only a few large boulders.  One of those large boulders is just waiting to scrape your tire sidewall as you try to turn left into the wash.

Once you're in the wash, you need to make two sharp turns.  That's a bit hard in deep sand.  The sand was 12 or more inches deep, stirred up by previous visitors.  My 6000 lb truck just starts to swim in sand that deep and I can't drive any precise line.  I didn't lock the center diff, and at the second turn I ended up power-sliding the rear around the corner.  Cool.

Apparently I was distracted by the boulders and I forgot to turn on my Garmin Nuvi before taking the alternate route.  That's why the GPS track in the GE image above (the red line) ends before I made it back to Kelbaker Road.

There are more trails up there and I plan to return some day.  I want to hike a few more cinder cones in the area.