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.