Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Random Desert Roads

I drove a few other desert roads on my return from Vegas. I decided to drive some powerline roads south of Nipton, CA in the Ivanpah valley. It was fun and interesting ... and a bit different than most powerline roads in the desert.

For one thing, this one was paved with asphalt ... kind of. There was, of course, the random weathering along with the odd total washout. Couldn't go more than 30 mph, so I could slow in time to crawl through those washouts - which were filled with very deep sand (up to 8-9 inches). This washout had handy cones to warn me - but the sand was treacherously deep.

Here's a shot of a little leopard lizard that I spotted outside my window as I was consulting my maps. It was about 10-11 inches long. It's pretty well camouflaged.

Here's a road I started down, then turned back. It'd been far too long since anybody had driven it and it's much safer if I drive those with another truck (so we can pull each other out of the deep sand).

Here's a photo taken from a BLM road east of Nipton. Our country has so much virgin land like this. When I'm there, for some reason, it makes me smile.

Finally, here's the crash for this trip. Seems every one of my trips comes across a car crash or such. This time it was a burning truck. An ambulance had arrived and was tending to the adult and child - they looked uninjured but shaken. The fire trucks came a few minutes later.

Each time I see these incidents, I count my blessings.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Shaman's Eye

On my way back from Vegas, I drove into the Mojave desert to see a geologic formation that Bill Mann calls the Shaman's Eye. This site is in his Volume 2 book for the Mojave Desert. Located north east of Baker, CA, it's a volcanic neck where erosion has exposed a solid tower of volcanic lava. Devil's Tower is a famous example of this formation. Here's a Google map centered on it. NOTE: for those of you new to my blog, I don't tend to post blatant latitude - longitude coordinates of sites, but you can get that by inspecting the URLs in the Google map links that I offer.

I approached it by leaving the highway at Halloran Summit and driving a short distance on dirt roads that were all in my Garmin Nuvi maps. That part was easy, requiring only high clearance.

From the site, I continued SW on a long dirt road toward Kelbaker Road that included a couple sandy sections. That part was fun because it was downhill and offered a great view of the desert. Here's a shot looking down that road. You can see Cowhole Mountain and Little Cowhole Mountain and Soda Dry Lake off in the distance. I've now hiked up both of those desert peaks.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Las Vegas

I just returned from Vegas and thought I'd share something interesting. The pamphlet in my hotel listed who was on stage this week at the various venues. A large number of vintage artists are there. Almost as if Vegas is the retro entertainment center. The artists on stage this week included Cher, Louie Anderson, Donny and Marie Osmond, Barry Manilow, Carrot Top, Penn and Teller, and Wayne Brady.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Joker One Book

I listened to the audiobook version of "Joker One" by Donovan Campbell. It currently has 4.5 (of 5) stars from 80 Amazon reviewers. I got the book based on positive reviews that commented on its accurate depiction of life in Iraq for our soldiers. This NPR site has a nice excerpt, and other sites offer the first chapter.

I liked the book. It's not the most polished of writing, but I wasn't expecting that. It did deliver what I hoped for, a description of what day-to-day life is like for some of the soldiers there (in this case, for Marine infantry).

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My New Nemesis Hill at Zion

I tried again (and failed again) to reach the summit of an unnamed hill on the east side of the park. This was my 5th attempt (each along a different route). I was unnerved with how fast I was able to get myself into trouble. Within a hour of starting off, I had climbed up a scary-steep sandstone slope only to be stopped by a barrier. Then I had to scoot down a 6 foot section on my butt. It's harder to go down than it is to go up, and I seem to forget that ... a lot. An hour later I had succeeded in going around that barrier and made it to the place (the "Y" shaped tree in the photos) where I thought there'd be access to the next (less steep) section leading to the top. I was wrong. This route provided handy access to an 80 foot drop. Yikes!

I'll try again on my next trip to Zion.

Then I went off to try and climb another hill that drew my attention. I'd printed a view in Google Earth, and hand-drawn a possible route. LOL That failed. The topo map (and Google Earth) didn't show the 60 foot deep slot canyon full of water that I needed to cross. So I picked another route. A very very steep route. It was fun.

Zion Trip - New Favorite Hotel

Last week I went to Zion NP to do some hiking. I wanted to beat the crowds of the upcoming holiday. A Zion shuttle bus drive once reported that Memorial Day and Veterans Day holidays bring the largest crowds at Zion.

I stayed at the Cliffrose Lodge on this trip. The weather forecast was for hot weather and I wasn't in the mood to camp in the heat. I tried to get a room at my favorite, Flanigan's Inn, but none was available. I'm kind of glad for the change, because Cliffrose is my new favorite hotel in Springdale. The room is plenty large enough, with a mini-fridge and a large screen LCD HDTV with DirecTV. I had more channels of TV than I've had at any other hotel in Sprindgale that I've previously stayed at. I had a nice view of the red-orange cliffs and a grassy area with flower gardens fronting the Virgin River. They also have a nice pool and spa area. I plan to stay there again.

Unfortunately, I didn't see any big horn sheep on this trip. And the girl at the pizza place said they were common sights now on the east side. I also didn't get attacked by peregrine falcons (like last year). I think I saw a pair off in the distance, but that's about it. And lastly, no huge condors flew up and landed near me, watching me as if I was his next meal (like my last trip). So this was a relatively uneventful trip, as far as wildlife goes.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Earth Scope GPS Monitoring Station

While exploring the Mojave National Preserve, driving some of the powerline roads (see photo above), I came across something interesting. A solar powered, automated GPS receiving station with a transmitter for sending data to a collection point. It appears to be collecting seismic data for academic research.

It was clearly labeled to be an Earth Scope GPS Monitoring Station and had a nice poster explaining what it is.

I found this associated web site at earthscope.org.

Mojave Phone Booth and Then Some

I needed to get away from the crowds of Los Angeles, so I went for a drive in the Mojave National Preserve. I decided to visit the site of the once-famous Mojave phone booth. There used to be a working phone booth in the middle of nowhere. The number was posted on the internet and people would go there to answer the phone - yes, people around the world would call that number all the time. It was removed around 2000. Today there are no remnants of it, even less than on my previous visit about 6 years ago.

I encountered a man out there who was lost. He was looking for Cow Cove, to visit the petroglyphs there. He had a good map but no GPS navigation system (which is very very helpful out there because of the many unmapped roads). I gave him directions and made a mental note to go there someday - I didn't know about the petroglyphs there. Be careful if you drive on these roads, some of them have deep sand (9 inches deep or more) and 4WD with high clearance is necessary.

I decided to drive another section of the famous historic Mojave Road. It's in all the 4wd trail books and almost every weekend (except for mid summer) is traveled by various off road recreation clubs. I drove the section between Cima Road and Kelbaker Road. Half of that section is very very undulating. It's not that annoying, but does limit your speed quite a bit. They barely show up in this photo - due to limited shadowing from the mid day sun.

Here's my photo of the Mojave Road Mailbox. If you're interested, you can google any of these terms for much more info.

Here's the plaque that's on a big concrete monolith where the Mojave Road hits Cima Road.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive

I finally finished the book "Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive," by Robert Cialdini, Noah Goldstein, and Steve Martin. It currently has 4.5 (of 5) stars from 106 Amazon reviewers, and has made the best sellers lists of the NY Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Business Week. I bought the hard copy about a year ago and tried to read one chapter per day. That didn't last too long and I made it only half way through the book. Then the audiobook version was released and I recently finished listening to it.

I enjoyed this book and recommend it. I've already loaned my hard copy to a friend. It's chock full of interesting results from research into what factors seem to influence people. I actually think that I may be able to employ some of these methods. The only challenge is mapping the material into your own domain and situations. I also liked that it's written in a digestible style and not full of jargon. Or, in the words of several reviewers: it's "easy to read".

Trona Pinnacles

If you've never been to the Trona Pinnacles, here's a Google map centered on them. It's a large group of calcium carbonate (tufa) formations that were once under water.

Here's the BLM web site about them. About 10,000 to 100,000 years ago this was the bottom of the Searles Lake, which was about 600 feet deep.

You may recognize them because it's been used for location shooting for several movies and TV shows.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Wildrose Camp

This time of year it's difficult to get a camp site at the Furnace Creek campground, so we headed to Wildrose Campground where they don't take reservations. The 4100 foot elevation meant cooler temps than in the main valley. Here's the NPS web page listing the campgrounds in Death Valley. We were surprised to see so many people arriving at the campground after we got there. There's nothing special there. No trees, no shade. Just a series of terraces of flat dirt areas. The pit toilets, fire rings, tables, and water spigots were handy. After setting up camp, we drove up the canyon to check out the charcoal kilns.

Then we continued up to the Mahogony Flat campground above 8,000 feet elevation to check out the views down to Badwater. On the drive down, the dusty road and setting sun made for a neat photo.

This turned out to be a nice place to camp. Even the pit toilet was nice: it didn't smell! The door didn't latch, but hey! ... It didn't smell!

Darwin Falls

We drove the 4wd back road to Darwin Falls, a year-round waterfall in Death Valley NP. This road starts at the ever-so-sad old town of Darwin. The town is not named after Charles Darwin, but instead is named for Dr. Darwin French, a 19th century adventurer prospector. It helps that the road is shown in my Garmin Nuvi. This is the 3rd or 4th time I've driven the road, and it gets easier each time.

Here's the only NPS web page I could find that mentions the Darwin Falls. Along the way, we stopped off at the China Garden Spring to see the pond with goldfish. This is a very nice place to stop and rest. It'd also be a great place to have a picnic.

Near the end of the road, we pulled into the parking area for hiking to the falls. It took us about 30 minutes to hike to the falls.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


We stopped off to visit the Manzanar site and check out the museum and memorial they've constructed there. I was impressed with it. It didn't seem to be overdone and gave some insights into life for those unfortunate people interned there. I stopped to take some photos of the memorial at the cemetery. I wish more people would pull off the highway and visit this site. It's an important and horrible thing to remember.

Alabama Hills

Joe and Jenn joined me for a little camping and off-roading in the Lone Pine and Death Valley area. After meeting up in Mojave, our first stop was to check out the jet planes stored on the outskirts of the Mojave Airport. This is a small boneyard, but still kinda interesting.

Then we stopped off at the Jawbone Canyon OHV area just to get the SUVs a little dirty. I led Joe to a short but steep hill, then over to the aqueduct service road for a nice view.

We then headed north to the Alabama Hills, outside Lone Pine. Here's a shot of our trucks looking through an arch. This site has a nice description of arches in that area, but you can find more by googling.

Mt. Whitney was shrouded in clouds as we drove around the roads. It was great to have many of them in the Garmin GPS database.

We started driving roads we didn't see in the GPS, just to see if they were any more challenging. The weather was great. Here's a photo looking east.

I only took one video there, so here's a screencap from that.

Then we settled down to camp at Diaz Lake, which is actually on LADWP land. It was nicer than I expected. We were far enough from the highway that the road noise was hardly noticeable. Here's the Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce page listing camping options in that area. Joe's got a propane-powered lantern that really lights up the camp site.

Joe and Jenn were astonished by the animal sounds at night. It didn't phase me that much. The wind kept me from sleeping too soundly, but I knew that meant the weather front was moving out - which was a good thing.