Sunday, March 30, 2014

One Summer

I just finished Bill Bryson's new book, One Summer - America 1927, and I really liked it.  If you have any interest in history, then you'll probably like it also.  The book is all about notable people and events that took place in the US during the summer of 1927, including: Charles Lindbergh's flight across the Atlantic as well as his victory lap of the country afterward, Al Capone, President Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover's rise through government, the beginnings of Mount Rushmore, prohibition, the first talking pictures and Al Jolson, the invention of TV, the seeds of the stock market crash, widespread flooding of the Mississippi basin, Jack Dempsey, Babe Ruth, and more.

It rambles a bit, the way Bryson tends to do, jumping around from thread to thread and back again.  That doesn't bother me as much as it does some people.  I listened to the audiobook, read by the author.  If you've got 17 hours to kill (maybe a string of long airline flights), then this is perfect entertainment.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Very Steep Hill

If you enjoy steep hills, then try this one (map).  I chickened out and turned around.  It was almost a 45 degree slope at its steepest and covered in loose dirt with some small rocks (no bigger than baseball size).  Too steep to even walk down.  There's more traction a few feet off the road.  I'm sure my car could handle the hill.  And why not?  It won't have a heart attack half way up.

The road is south of Barstow and easy to get to.  Either take Camp Rock Road down to route 7525 then head south and turn east on  6640, or take Highway 247 (Barstow Road) to route 6640 and head east.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Rodman Mountains Microwave Towers

If you visit the Rodman Mountains petroglyph site and are sad that you didn't get to exercise your vehicle's 4wd off-road abilities, then you can try this diversion.  A few miles south of the glyphs is a mountain high-point with many microwave towers on top.  This google map is centered on the peak.  The road to the top even appeared in my GPS navigation system map.  When I drove it a few weeks ago, it was a bit rugged.  There were a few large boulders on the road that I had to get out and move.  One very large embedded boulder is painted green to get your attention, so you don't hit it (because it is not going to give way).  I never had to use low-range, but it was in first gear most of the way up.

Even though it was super windy on top, it was worth the drive.  Nice views in all directions.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Rodman Mountains Petroglyphs

Ten years ago I visited the Rodman Mountains Petroglyph site and was amazed.  That was the first petroglyph site I had ever visited.  It was easy to get there in my 2003 Acura MDX.  I decided to return to the site because I had heard that a pending expansion of a military base was going to close access to the site.  

It's still easy to reach, even in street cars.  You'll just need a ground clearance of about 7 inches or more.  Here's a google map centered on the parking area.  The best glyphs are located on black rocks in a wash named Surprise Tank about 1 mile to the east at the end of a easy-to-follow trail from the parking area.  This google map is centered on the Surprise Tank site with the many glyphs.

Camp Rock Road is graded and easy.  Beyond Camp Rock Road continues to be easy because it's used by the mining trucks (see the mining operation in the distance).

After turning east off that road and onto BLM route 8640 it gets a tiny bit bumpy.  This is about as hard as it gets.

Here's the parking area.

The entrance to Surprise Tank.

And in no particular order, here are some of the glyphs.  Sorry for the poor quality shots.  I was mindful of exposure settings only a few times, and they stand out.

Now for a confession.  Since I hadn't been there for 10 years, I forgot how to get to the tank from the parking area.  I was wandering around hoping to trigger some long lost memory.  Luckily, another group arrived and I followed them to the glyphs.  Thanks very much to Don for his kind help.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ericksen Dry Lake

Located in the middle of nowhere, SSE of Barstow, CA, Ericksen Dry Lake is not a place you visit accidentally.  You have to want to go there.  The 4wd roads in the area aren't very difficult and they're all signed with BLM route markers.  This google map is centered on the playa just south of Ord Mountain.

I was out driving 4wd trails and utility service roads to gain familiarity with my new car.  I started out on a really fun little powerline service road (BLM route 7381) between Daggett and Highway 247 (Barstow Road).  I highlighted that road in the map below.  If you've got some time to kill, I recommend this road.

Then I returned east on BLM route 6640, which is mostly very easy.  I think the road is also named Ord Mountain Road.  The big kiosk sign called this area the "Ord Mountain Subregion."

There's one big steep hill.  Here's a photo looking down from the top.  It's not so bad.  An alternate offers an easier way around the hill.

I turned south on route 6635.

There were several modern mining claims.

Looking south toward Ericksen Dry Lake.  The granite hills to the southeast of the playa offer wind protection for several attractive camping sites.

I continued south and then turned west on a big powerline road.  I found some smaller trails that were interesting.  This big boulder is located on the north side of the powerline road named BLM route 6600 at this spot.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Streamlight Lantern: The Siege

I decided to upgrade my camping lantern.  I just bought the Streamlight LED lantern named The Siege.  For years, I've been using a rechargeable Coleman model that puts out 190 lumens and lasts for 15 hours.  The Streamlight is smaller, waterproof, impact resistant, brighter, and lasts longer.  All in all, it should be an improvement.

The Siege has 4 C4 LEDs and 3 brightness settings with 340, 175, and 33 lumens.  It uses 3 D-cell batteries and is supposed to last for 30 hours on the brightest setting.  There's also a red LED giving a 10 lumen red light or red SOS flashing mode.  The black parts are a rubberized tacky material, including the bottom.  That makes it easy to grasp and helps it to stay put on a table.

I did a completely non-scientific test of the relative brightness of these two lanterns using an iPhone app named Light Meter in a dark room.  With each set to high: the Coleman had a brightness of 1600, and the Siege had a brightness of 6800.  The readings were changing wildly and so the results are probably useless other than to confirm what my eyes already saw: that The Siege is brighter than the Coleman.  I just wanted to use that app.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Special Black Lobotomy Bock

After hiking Morris Peak, I stopped off at the Indian Wells Brewery to pick up a case of my favorite beer.  They recently started making Special Black Lobotomy Bock Lager and I like it.  It's strong at 12% alcohol and has an interesting taste.  Maybe a pro would call it "complex."  It's not something you drink to quench your thirst.

This brew comes in a big 22 oz bottle.  So drinking a full bottle might be comparable to drinking a bottle of wine (with a lower alcohol content).  I got myself some bottle caps so I can enjoy a glass of this beer without any drive to finish the open bottle.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Morris Peak

A few weeks ago I hiked Morris Peak with Luke.  It's my first hike this year, so I picked an easy one.  We started from Indian Wells Canyon to the north.  I like the 4wd roads in that canyon.  I also like the brewery at the bottom of the canyon.  Here's a map of our route, thanks to my Garmin fenix GPS watch.

The weather was great.  No wind.  Temps in the 70s.  It took us much longer than the expected 3 hours because we are not in good shape.   Our hike began near the base of a ridge.  The view from there looking down Indian Wells Canyon is really nice.  You can see the Five Fingers rock climbing formations on the left.

From there we hiked cross-country up the rocky ridge to meet up with the PCT.

Some of it is a bit steep.  The dirt is loose and most of the rocks move when you step on them.

The PCT section is much easier.

We never found any marked point to leave the PCT and head up to the summit and our gps trail shows us ascending a less-than-ideal line.  There were a few spots of snow.

Here's a view of Mt. Jenkins summit taken from Morris Peak summit.

The view east from the summit.

All was going well.  Then on the return, about a half mile from the car, bad things happened.  Mistakes were made [by me].  I fell.  More than once.  Unpleasantness ensued.  Blood loss was minimal.  There were many bruises.  And not just to my ego.

So here's what happened.  While hiking down yet another field of rocks, my ankle turned and I fell head first.  I fell to my chest, sliding down the rock field.  I should have worn hiking boots with more ankle support, instead of trail shoes.   Both arms were pinned by my body and the trekking poles that were pinned between rocks.  I actually needed help getting upright.  I was rewarded with many abrasions on my arms, legs, and chest.  Two of my fingertips had small punctures and were spurting more blood than I would have imagined.  I was lucky.

I learned that I need to periodically replenish the band-aids in my first-aid kit.  Almost all of the band-aids in my pack had open wrappers and weak adhesive.

I wasn't too injured to stop at the Indian Wells brewery on the way home.