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.