Sunday, June 12, 2016

Mojave Desert Trifecta

This weekend Bundu Trek accompanied  two other off road vehicles on an exploration of Last Chance canyon and the surrounding area.  Our goal was to find the Rock House, a geocache location that had been visited last year in May without the Bundu Trek crew.  Little did we know that we would visit not just one homestead ruin, but three!

The weather was sunny and warm, reaching somewhere around 90F by midday, not bad by desert standards.  We followed the number one directive in off-road desert travel, never travel alone!  Two vehicles is acceptable, three is better.

Reducing air pressure in the tires just after leaving pavement.  Lower air pressure gives a broader tire 'footprint' in loose soil and sand and better cushions the bumps and battering of off road travel.

Slow and steady and in low range for best control in these conditions

Time for lunch!

Our lunch spot near the sparse ruins of a long abandoned mining operation.  

The Bundu Trek crewman exploring the blasting magazine across the wash from the mining building pads

On the trail to the Rock house

The Rock house blending in the the boulders surrounding it.

The back of the house.  Whoever built this place had poetry in his soul.  The front of the house overlooks a vista that is breathtaking in its majesty.

The geocache. We updated the log and left something for the next visitor

The front door and window of the Rock house

Seeing this every day could never become ordinary.  From here we spied another ruined homestead on a far mountain.  We were determined to find it after we finished here.

Bundu Trek crewman with the trip mascot 'Lucy'

On the way to the other homestead we stumbled on yet another abandoned mining operation

One of several buildings on the grounds

The ruin of a substantial single room building.  It appeared to have burned long ago.

Notice board, perhaps this was the office for the operation?

Water!  green and a bit slimy but water in the desert.  A trickle was coming from the pipe into the trough.

The mine, partially collapsed.

We traveled across the valley and up a trail to the ruin that we had seen from the Rock house.  It turned out to a place we have visited a couple of years ago with a ruined shack and horizontal mine shaft.  It begged to be explored, something that is not recommended by Bundu Trek for amateurs.

The mine shaft

View from the shack

Looking back at the Rock house we noticed the glint of something shiny in the distance.  I used my 10x50 binoculars to make out a solar panel along a trail.  Very interesting and worth a visit!  It was to be our next stop.

The solar panel was powering a tectonic plate observatory that remotely sends information that reports on plate drift.  A very cool find!

From the plate observatory the ruin that we left from could be made out.  Can you see the red circled dot?  That's where we were when we saw the reflection of the solar panel!

Fellow trekkers examining some of the observatory equipment

We saw many jack rabbits on this trip and took pictures of two of them:

It was a great trip and a perfect trifecta, three homesteads finishing first, second, and third in best ruins found in the Mojave!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Bundu Trek to the rescue!

I was on my way home from the local outdoor shooting range this morning in Rough Rider.  The road to the range is a windy canyon road and has been the bane of many a driver who misjudged the curves.  I have personally come across several folks  in the past who lost control of their vehicle and went off the road and into the rocks and dirt.  It is always a job for a tow truck to get them out.

Today as I rounded a sharp curve my eyes were drawn to skid marks on the road and then to a white BMW sports sedan planted on the hill with the front facing the road and the back tires off the ground.   The driver was standing beside the car looking lost.  No one was stopping so I pulled over and went to speak with him.

He had made a U turn at the curve and punched the pedal before the back right tire was on the pavement.  He spun out and went off the road backwards with the tail of the car up the hill, the back tires hanging in air and the nose buried in the soft dirt.

I offered to pull him out and he took my offer.   I had to rig a snatch block to his tow hook and run the winch cable through the snatch block and back to my front bumper tow hook.

The car was buried enough in the soft dirt that when power was applied to the winch, the Jeep got pulled to the BMW!   I had the chap get in and put his foot on the brake (apparently he has not driven a clutch because the three pedals threw him.  I told him to make use of the center one) while I ran the winch control.  We got the car back on the level and started after checking for damage to the engine pan and transmission.  Except for the tail pipes full of dirt and the plastic rear bumper pushed in, all seemed to be well.

The chap had an English accent which made me wonder if the car was a rental.  I hope he took the damage waiver!

About 20 years earlier I was driving on a similar twisting canyon road in my hometown when I came across a hatchback car off the road and in the mud.  The driver was an English tourist and somehow had lost control and gone off the road.  That day I was driving my little Suzuki Samurai with a winch.  I pulled his car out and sent him on his way with more goodwill created with our cousins across the sea.

I followed today's errant driver until he reached the city limits in case his car quit running but all was ok.  He was leaving a trail of dirt though, falling from his quad exhaust each time he hit a bump!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Lone Pine part IV

On our last day in Lone Pine we headed up into the mountains to visit the mining ghost town of Cerro Gordo.  The town currently has one resident who keeps an eye on the place and gives wonderful personal tours of the buildings and grounds of anyone who makes the trek to the 8,000 ft high town.

The most recent owners, Mike and Jody Patterson have died and the town is maintained by the permanent caretaker and volunteer helpers.  There is hope that the town will receive state or federal protection soon in order to arrest further decay of the structures.  

When we visited a recent snow fall was melting off but it was still cool in the sun and cold in the shade!  The road is mostly graded and anything but a low clearance roadster should be able to make the trip given dry roads.  There are some rough spots that will need to taken slowly.  A high clearance 4WD vehicle is the best bet as the loose dirt on the road can be a bit slippery.

A delightful wind sculpture at our hotel in Lone Pine

Starting out on the road to Cerro Gordo from the Owens valley floor

A lengthy cable car system stretched from the town to the valley floor.  This cable car system carried ore down to the valley where it would be shipped out.  Seen on the ridge is one of the cable winding towers.  There is cable laying all along the road to the town, the remains of the cable system, left where it fell when it all collapsed sometime in the 50s after years of disuse.

Looking across the valley to the Sierras

I don't like sheer drops and this road had some.  At this point we parked Rough Rider and walked the last mile to Cerro Gordo.  We climbed over 1,000 ft in that mile stroll.  The rest of the party drove on up to the town.

The Jeep is down that road aways

Almost to the town!
Yay, snow!

The town church in what used to be a car repair garage.  The church I grew up with in Forest Hills Pa.  was in a former bus garage so there seems to be a connection between vehicles and churches!

Looking towards the American hotel.  When the Pattersons were alive the hotel was operated as a bed and breakfast.  Now it is in poor enough condition that the second floor is off limits

Inside the hotel.  About this time the battery started giving out in my camera.

The cardroom, the scene of several shootings over the decades pre 1900.


the caretaker's house and another house beside it that is available for rental can be seen here

The town caretaker is on the right

The long metal building is the bunkhouse that is also available for rent to large groups.  It is popular with scout troops in the summer.

Earlier I had a picture of a stuck and broken rock bit...this is what would have put that pit into the rock!

8,200 ft.

We're at the exact midpoint between the highest (Mt. Whitney) and the lowest (Badwater basin) points in California!    We have been to Badwater basin but not Mt. Whitney but we did see it on our trip!