Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cadiz Dunes

After leaving the well positioned gas station at Vidal Junction, I headed west and drove up Cadiz Road, a long graded dirt road that connects highway 62 and Route 66. The section of road south of the dunes was smooth and I was able to go 40 mph. The stretch north of the dunes is scarred with washouts that the average street car might not get past. Daylight was fading and I was rushing to reach the dunes, where I planned to camp. When I arrived, it was dark and I couldn't see any dunes.

I decided to sleep in my car. That's the first time I've done that in the rover and it was amazingly nice. With the 2nd row of seats down, I could stretch out on the flat surface. I used my self-inflating sleeping pad to improve the comfort over the knobby rubber cargo mat. The 2nd moonroof is ideally positioned to offer a great view of the night sky, which was only a moon partially obscured by clouds. Here's a photo of my setup. The temperature dropped to 35F so it wasn't bad at all.

Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate. The next day was totally overcast and morning temps were below 40F. This hosed my original plan to snap some great sunrise photos of the dunes. Note: the photo at the top is not mine. I found that online, and it triggered my interest in visiting these dunes. In the morning light, I drove to the end of the sandy road I parked on, right to the base of the dunes. There's a handy turnaround there and plenty of places to camp. This area is officially called the Cadiz Dunes Wilderness Area. Note: I used the road on the NW side of the wilderness area, not the one on the SE side. Here's a google map centered on the turnaround.

I decided to skip an extended hike across the dunes, and instead walked out a short distance to take a few shots. It was cold. I was wearing fleece mittens. It looked like the dunes were maybe 400 feet in height. On a warmer day, I'd love to hike around on them.

Along highway 62, east of Cadiz Road, is the site of an old railroad stop named Rice, and the site of a former WWII army aircorps training center: Rice Army Airfield.

I looked for the famed Rice Shoe Tree, but couldn't find it. As the linked page explains, the tree burned down and the fence has taken its place.

Also along highway 62, I pulled off to take some photos of the Colorado River Aqueduct.

Lastly, I noticed that people have been lettering the railroad berm that runs beside highway 62.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sunflower Springs Trail

A few days ago I drove a few very remote trails in the eastern Mojave Desert. Leaving the desolate town of Essex, I started down Sunflower Springs Road.

This road skirts the north eastern edge of the Old Woman Mountains Wilderness Area. It's in Massey's book (Desert #10) and is rated 4. He gave it that rating based on very deep and loose sand in the Ward Valley and says it'd be worse in the opposite direction. I was originally planning to drive that opposite direction, so I changed my plans. That wasn't necessary because the sand in Ward Valley was pretty easy. The hardest part was the first 3 miles south of Essex. That was about 8 inches of loose sand. I almost turned around there, but I'm glad I didn't.

This is a very scenic and enjoyable trail. The views down into the valley were very nice, with Pilot Knob standing out.

I came upon a great place to camp among some large granite boulders that offer sheter from any wind. This google map is centered on the spot.

I turned east onto Turtle Mountains Road which cuts between the Turtle Mountains Wilderness Area and the Stepladder Mountains Wilderness Area. Here's a clickable map of BLM wilderness areas in California, and here's a list of them. Here's a photo of the reportedly deep sandy road crossing the Ward Valley.

This road was kinda boring. I did come across the remnants of an old house, in the middle of nowhere. (click on photos for larger version)

I saw one camper parked out there.

I stopped to sign the register in the old mailbox at the turnoff to the Lost Arch Inn Trail. I didn't drive that trail. Good thing too, as you'll see from my next post that I didn't make my planned camp site until after dark.

I turned south on 95 and fueled up at Vidal Junction before heading back east to the Cadiz Valley.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mojave Desert Dirt Roads

To avoid the holiday shopping traffic, I spent this past Saturday driving many dirt roads in the eastern Mojave Desert, in and around the Mojave National Preserve.

Cow Cove Petroglyphs

I wanted to return to the petroglyphs at Cow Cove, but the strong winds were unpleasantly cold to any exposed skin. The sandy road was in good condition, although I did come across 2 splash guards that had been ripped from previous cars. I moved them from the middle of the road so they didn't snag on others' cars and do unnecessary damage. The first photo shows Clark Mountain off in the distance. [click on images for larger version]

Powerline Road

I decided to drive the powerline road from Excelsior Mine Road southwest to highway 127, just north of Baker. This is the same power corridor that I've blogged about here, and here. Once again, I was struck by the wide scar remaining from the trenching for the 2 natural gas pipelines that go this way.

I came across this interesting rectifier station for that pipeline, outfitted with a satellite dish, a GPS antenna?, and four warning placards!

The road was hilly in places offering great scenic views of the desert to the north. Here's a memorial cross that I came across. I googled and found no further info about this.

I reached Silver Dry Lake at the end.

Arrowhead Trail
Next I took the Rasor Road exit off I-15 to visit Cronese Dry Lake. I took a few spurs to the north but still haven't made it to the playa. The sand was very fine and silty - probably normal for an ancient lakebed. That sand dune on the side of the Cronese Mountains was featured in a 1962 research paper.

The road is a BLM "open route" and is part of the old Arrowhead Trail, which was a paved road between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City circa 1915-26. This stretch parallels I-15. I came across another scar and signs indicating yet another buried communications cable, this one was posted by AT&T and reads: Warning - Transcontinental Cable Crossing ...

The road came to a hill and I chickened out. It looked super steep and covered in loose sand.

As you can see, I was right next to I-15, north of Cave Mountain (which I've hiked on many times). I later took some photos out the windshield when I was on that part of I-15 and the hill looks not quite so steep afterall. Maybe I'll try it another day.

I made it as far as the base of that pylon on the left of the image.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Super Freakonomics

I just finished the audiobook version of Superfreakonomics and I enjoyed it. The authors include Steven Levitt, the famed prodigy economist at the Univeristy of Chicago. I also enjoyed their previous book, Freakonomics. They present micro and behavioral economics as it appears in everyday modern life. And they do it in language that anyone can understand.

Here are a few items that are discussed in this book:
  • Walking drunk is much more deadly than driving drunk.
  • How pimps are like Realtors.
  • Why suicide bombers should buy life insurance.
  • How Iran uses incentives, and not altruism, to get kidney donors.
  • Children who watch a lot of TV are more likely to engage in crime when they get older.
  • The profit motive encourages doctors to administer chemotherapy, even though it's not effective in saving more lives.
  • The Endangered Species Act has perverse incentives for landowners, causing them to clear habitat.
  • Buying locally produced food increases greenhouse-gas emissions.
  • You're more likely to solve global warming by throwing sulfur dioxide into the air than through any incentives Al Gore has in mind for getting people to use less energy.
  • Monkeys can learn the value of money.
  • Why are doctors so bad at washing their hands?
  • Childrens car seats aren't quite as effective as we think.

There are plenty of negative reviews online. That is to be expected since the authors tackle some relatively sacred cows. Regardless, the book was interesting and kept my attention during long drives. It was interesting enough to make me google several included topics afterward to learn more. I recommend this book.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Old Dad Mountain

I've tried twice in the past month to hike to the top of Old Dad Mountain, south of Baker. I'm clearly getting older and my fitness level is dropping. Yes, I am full of excuses! It's a short steep hike on a ridge line of very sharp lava rocks. I fell a couple times when the rocks gave way under my foot. On the first attempt, Luke and I got a late start (around noon) and so daylight hours were shorter than ideal. I would NOT want to hike on that jagged hill in the dark with headlamps. My second attempt was more of an exploration of the wash running along the east side of Old Dad. It was full of footprints from 2 or 3 hikers that appeared to return by that route. I'm not a peakbagger and I really enjoy hiking in the desert, so I have fun even when I don't summit.

I may try one more time. I'd like to try a route up the west side. I can't find any indication that others have tried that. It's longer and less steep with about 800 feet more elevation gain.

On both my recent trips I really enjoyed driving the powerline roads in that area and sections of Jackass Canyon.

We also visited the Kelso microwave repeater station. It looks to be falling apart a bit.

Going home, I drove Kelso Road running north-south on the west side of Old Dad.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Red Pass Powerline Road

On Black Friday, I decided to go adventuring in the Mojave desert. Last year I drove the Bradshaw Trail on Black Friday. This year I drove the powerline road from highway 127 (north of Baker) southwest past Red Pass Dry Lake and returning to I-15 at the Afton Road exit. Here's a map where I crudely drew the route. You can see the corridor and road much better by zooming in with Google Maps/Earth. This road skirts the south east border of Ft. Irwin Army National Training Center.

Here's a shot of where I started, at Silver Dry Lake.

After a short distance, I turned left onto the powerline road. The route was signed as C0743.

I thought it would be challenging due to little use, but I was surprised. This is the easiest powerline road so far that I've drive in the Mojave. It was a lot of fun to drive, with road conditions varying from easy dirt road to moderate sand (4-6 inches) in short sections and even a short spot of bouldery rocks.

It would have been even more fun in a dune buggy or baja bug. As it was, I covered the 28 miles from Silver Dry Lake to the Afton turnoff in 1 hour and 25 minutes, and that included many stops to take photos.
I came across a rock cairn site that's protected by the BLM, but couldn't spot any of the ancient cairns.

Red Pass Lake (currently dry) is just north of the road, but is mostly on Ft. Irwin property. I was surprised to see a border fence stretching across the lakebed. Using my zoom lens, I could make out some of the structures at the Army airfield that sits north of the dry lake.

Most of the road appeared in my Garmin Nuvi, but a section in the middle was missing.

This photo shows the big scars from the trenching of the Kern River Gas Transmission Company's natural gas pipelines that follow this BLM energy corridor. That scar shows up well in Google satellite imagery. This section has two 36 inch diameter steel pipelines carrying 1.7 billion cubic feet per day. It was built incredibly fast from January to December of 1991. They have maps on their web site.

Also buried along this corridor are fiber optic internet cables. Their signs indicate Williams Communications and WorldCom, both were big in deploying fiber lines in the late 1990s.
On the way back to I-15, I stopped off at the grave of Bonnie Keebler Harris. I've posted about that a year ago. This year the sandy wash is much easier to drive - no 4wd or high clearance needed.