It was "this"
Okay, here we go...
stop by the Cookie Company in Fort Bragg for Lattes and croissants to
go, then head East out of town. 7:30 AM. E-Ha! Even
Lolli is awake and upright!
After thirty miles
we break out of the miserable coastal marine layer into bright Spring
sunshine. The Red Bud already past its prime! We see a
flight of pelicans, some Buffalo, Suzanne spots some Elk. An
Osprey is flying with a fish near Clearlake. Spring Break is
We decide to take
Rumsey Canyon because it is always such a pretty drive. And it
is. Down, then out into the Central Valley at Esparto, over to
I-5 for the long grind south. Ed has some cache sites lined up
along the way and they help break up the monotony. Lots of
traffic. Evidently folks are getting a jump on Easter weekend.
After hours of
trouble-free motoring we arrive at the Buttonwillow turn-off to
Bakersfield then find another cache hidden in an old abandoned house
beside HWY 58. We stopped at this house years ago and threw the
stick for my dog Sarah. It was hilarious watching her bound
through the tall grass looking for the stick, her head popping up
every now and then. This time the place is over-run with rabbits
and ground squirrels! They run for it when we pull in. We
sit still for a moment and they hop up from their holes to see what we
are up to! Suzanne finds the cache. Next stop, Harbor
Freight and Garbage in Bakersfield, Eddies first time!
Harbor Freight and Garbage is open! Into the isles and piles of
goodies we go. "Oh look!! Bungee Cord Special, $2.99!" Ed
and I each buy a container full. A few more items, then up the
road to Benjy’s Basque restaurant for our "Last Supper in
Civilization". The parking lot is not crowded and tables are
available even though it is Easter Weekend!. We tuck into a
Out of there, back
onto 58 heading east, up over Tehachapi Pass, the orange blossoms
smelling wonderful. Down the other side into Mojave.
Around the town on the new by-pass, the coordinates for Sarah’s grave
coming up. We pull off into the desert, park near the grave
and called it a day. Sarah's dog dish with the red tennis ball
is still there. We toast Sarah, retell a few favorite "doggie
stories" and fall into bed. It was a 14 hour travel day but we
are now in the desert!
We wake to a
beautiful sunny morning, Happy Birthday to me! I fly my electric
RC wing and buzz the Vanagons a couple times while my travel mates
have breakfast. Cool!
Pack up and head
for the first cache of the day, a "Confluence" cache which, when we find
it, also happened to have two trains going opposite directions on the
tracks just to the south of us! A double whammy for Eddie (a
train nut) because this cache was also Eddie’s 700th find!!
Two trains, 700th Cache, and Eddie! It don't get much better!
Eventually we pull
into Barstow for a stop at Vons to top off our groceries and ice.
Then top off our gas tanks. A last minute conference and we decide to change plans
and take HWY 40 out of Barstow rather than HWY 15. We don't feel
like hammering along with all the folks going to Vegas. Also it
will be a more natural progression to enter the Mojave Wilderness from
the south and work our way north.
After miles and
miles of HWY 40, with a cache stop now and then, we reach the Essex
road turn off and head for "Hole in the Wall". We arrive around
3:00 PM in the afternoon and check out the visitor’s center.
Suzanne buys some books; teachers get a twenty percent discount!
I show interest in, “The White Heart of the Mojave”, a book about two
women who visit the Mojave in 1920! Suzanne buys it for me!
It is my birthday after all!!
And, since it is my
birthday I wrest control of the group and insist they follow me to a
campsite of my choosing.
I consult my Topo
USA map, backtrack from Hole in the Wall a couple miles, turn onto a
two rut road into the creosote brush. Soon I find a nice flat
spot with green grass and fire ring! Good enough!! Time
for hiking and exploring, a game of Petanque, and then, Ed and
Suzanne's special Birthday Dinner, Nuoc-Mom barbequed chicken!!
After dinner we sit
around and note what we have seen so far: Sage sparrows woke us
up, a California King Bird, 2- red tailed kites trying to impress each
other in a familiar way, a Horned lark, profuse desert
dandelion, Mojave aster, Desert Mallo, Beaver tail cactus (blooming),
blooming creosote bush, Coreopsis, Woolly marigold, Phalecia, evening
primrose, stack trains and pig trains. Burlington Northern/Santa
Fe in new colors. GE dash 8’s and EMD’s. (Eddie spotted a
total of ten moving trains on my birthday.) What we all agreed
was a big day! Happy Birthday to me. I'm now 63!!
After a windy night
at the "campsite of my choosing" we pack up and return to the Hole in
the Wall visitor center, use the facilities, then walk a quarter mile
up the road to the trailhead for Hole in the Wall.
installed to help climb down, or up, the vertical rock slots. We
visited this place thirteen years ago. Nothing different except
more flowers and no visible Coach Whip snake!
We drive the loop
through Horse Canyon on a freshly graded gravel road. A nice
drive that takes us up over 5,000 feet into the Junipers. A
beautiful area with great views but it is too cold and windy to camp.
Onward and down the other side into lower, warmer, desert.
encounter the old Mojave Road. In the photo you can see the
road, the vertical wiggle, just to the right of Ed and Suzanne's
Vanagon! Yippee! Away we go! Quite loose sand and
many many ups and downs. First and second gear driving but the
desert is absolutely lush.
We arrive at Marl
Spring. There is a well dug into the hillside! A pipe from
the well trails down the hill to a watering trough. There are
also the remains of a mill for grinding ore. Suzanne’s Old
Mojave Road book gives good information about the area.
Moving on we start
thinking about a camp spot but the wind is quite strong. The
good news being we have dropped two thousand feet in altitude and it
We come across a
nice pile of rocks and check around them for a campsite. There
are fire rings in several places but no place to get out of the wind.
We arrive at the
"Mail Box" and this time there is an American flag flying from the
pole. The Mail Box is stuffed with stuff and a nice new log
book. We sign in.
Soon we enter an
area of recent lava flows, lava flows that happened with-in the last
thousand years. There is a corral and a empty water tank.
We pull over and think about using the place as a campsite but,
outside of a Raven sitting on the tank watching us, it is not
all that interesting. We decide to continue up the side road.
Soon there is another side road going over and up onto a basalt hill
that has some abandoned workings. Ed drives up to it but says,
via CB, that it isn't all that interesting. He returns and we
press on. I take over the lead and in another mile or so I see a
side road that “feels right” and take it. A bit further we
arrive near a lava flow. There is a fire ring with a pile of
split firewood waiting beside it.
What I call, "Good enough"!
In fact, Perfect!
We set up camp! No wind. Perfect temperature!!
In the late
afternoon a young woman driving a Ford Explorer shows up and asks if
we know where the Lave Tube is. We tell her that we have seen
mention of it in the Old Mojave Road Book but the location was very
vague. We don't know where it is. She drives on up the
road and half an hour later returns, Lava Tubeless.
temperature is 58 during the night. No wind. We all sleep
about ten hours!
Up to a beautiful
sunny morning. Time to deploy our Shady Boy awnings!
Breakfast, book reading, fly my model airplane, walk around the
desert, bird song, lizards, blooming flowers. A perfect Monday
morning. We decide to stay another night!!
We go for a walk to
see if we can find the "Lava Tube". There is a lava flow just
north of our camp. We walk up the road and discover a rock
cairn. I had just mentioned we ought to watch for a trail and by
golly there is a sort of a trail going up the lava flow from the
cairn. Up the trail we go. Soon we arrive at a hole in the
We can see a dirt
floor about 15 feet down but there is no way to get down there without
a rope and climbing gear. But Hey!, we found the Lava Tube!
I comment on how it is better to be an Explorer than drive one!
Back to camp for
naps and a late afternoon game of Petanque. Perfect.
Then... here come five guys on big dirt bikes! They come roaring
up the road, ripp, rrrip, rriip, give us a quick wave as they go past,
on up the road they go...but then they stop by the cairn! Oh
Ho!! They must know about the Lava Tube!!
From the comfort of
our lounge chairs we watch them walk up the path. They gather
around the hole, just like we did, and look down into it, but then
they walk on up the lava flow a bit further. Suddenly, one by
one, they all disappear into the ground!!
We give them some
time and then walk up the road to the cairn, then up the trail to the
hole just as they reappear from the ground. The leader of the
group, who it turns out is giving the other four guys a tour, tells us
that we can, "Get into the Lava Tube via a small ladder just up the
hill! Once in the tube there is a low place we will have to duck
under but don’t be stopped by that; it gets better. A lot
Off they go and up
the hill we go and by golly, there is another hole but this one has a
Down we go and sure
enough, the tube slopes sideways down hill and narrows down to a low
ceiling about four feet high. We crawl through and it opens back
up into a big chamber with shafts of sunlight shining, cathedral like,
through various holes, illuminating the chamber. Excellent!
Beautiful! And here we didn’t even know it was accessible!
The tour guy also answered our question about possible petroglyphs in
the area. He pointed towards a far off lava flow. "About a
two mile walk". We returned to camp and decide to try and find
the petroglyphs in the morning.
Ten hours of sleep,
breakfast, gather together our hiking paraphernalia, slather on
sunscreen and set out. Eddie wants to go cross country rather
than follow the road. Fine. Out across the desert we go
and what a lush desert, Joshua Trees, Yucca, lots of blooming
flowers, lizards, and butterflies. Amazing!
arrive at the edge of a lava flow and start hiking beside it looking
for Petroglyphs. In about a quarter of a mile we see a couple
small ones. Very faint. They are almost as dark as the
desert varnish they were pecked in. They must be quite old.
Walk further on. Nothing for a while and then a few more.
We finally run out of lava wall and decided to cross over to the other
side and check. Ed goes up a sandy rise. Soon Ed called us
on his FM transceiver, “I found ten on one rock!”. We head for
By golly, we found
them! Over a hundred of them! We take photos and return to
camp. It is time to have lunch, pack up, and head for the Bed
Springs Mining Company, Ed and Suzanne want to see it. Off to
Baker we go.
petroglyph say $2.75.9 per gallon for regular. Ah civilization!
Out of Baker and
north to Tecopa to freshen ourselves at the hot springs. A
shower, a soak, and a stop at the Post Office. Then into the south end
of Death Valley we go. Off the blacktop we encounter some of the
worse washboard yet! Eight miles per hour or 38 miles per hour
seems to work best. It is what ever I think our nerves and the
hardware can stand!!
But, we arrive at
the cabin and it is all ours! After barbequed chicken, my “World
Famous Mashed Potatoes”, and Lolli’s excellent salad we spent the
night sleeping in our Vanagons with the wind gusting and shaking our
busses every now and then just enough to wake us but... it is not hot.
In the back of the
book Suzanne bought me I happen upon a photo of the cabin taken in
1932. The porch was added later by Bob and Ward.
In the morning the
ladies are on the porch reading but it is time to pack, return to the
blacktop, then head to Shoshone for gas and groceries and lattes at
the Cyber Café! We find a couple of cache in the Shoshone area
then duck back into Death Valley via Salsberry Pass. This time
to show Ed and Suzanne Roades Cabin. Or is it McKirks! Ed
and Suzanne like the place and, since the weather is not too hot, we
decide to call it a day and stay. Book reading, flower and bird
watching, Ed and Suzanne doing dinner this time.
We have a wonderful
time at Roades Cabin, Ed and Suzanne love it. Lots of birds and
flowers, quite different from Lolli's and my winter visit three months
earlier. We decide to stay another night rather than press on
for the Alabama Hills; just lay around, read our books, watch the
birds. There are Mockingbirds for Eddie, doves cooing for me,
the Hooded Oriole for Suzanne (An addition to her life list.)!
A bat flew into our
Vanagon around 4:00AM and woke me with its fluttering sound. I
managed to get a photo of him. He finally figured it out, flew
out the open door, and I went back to sleep!!
We wake to another
wonderful sunny morning, the temperature 58 and warming.
Breakfast and a
leisurely break-down of camp start thinking of moving on.
We finish packing,
head back to the highway, continue on down into Death Valley.
Approaching Bad Water in the bottom of Death Valley I stop for a photo
op. Around 280 feet below sea level.
over Emigrant Pass and down into Panamint Valley. This is a look
back after we climb out of Panamint Valley heading for Owens Valley.
Telescope Peak in the distance.
stocking up our groceries and ice at Lone Pine we enter the Alabama
Hills and find a campsite for the night. Birds and interesting
rocks but Spring Break is winding down.
morning Ed and Suzanne head for home. Suzanne likes to get a
jump on her coming week. Lolli and I hang around and read our
books but finally decide to mosey on up the road. By the time we
get to the hot spring area by Mammoth the weather turns worse.
Onward. And onward.
decide to push it and drive all the way to Reno. I know of a
camp site north of Reno off of 395. We arrive before dark.
I barbeque rib eye steaks, do my world famous mashed potatoes, cook
fresh sweet corn for the salad! A great dinner but man is it
wake to 34 degrees "inside" the bus! and snow flakes on the front
to give it up and head for the barn.
Donner Pass and into four inches of freshly fallen snow. I had
to stop and build a snowman on the windshield wiper so Lolli could see
it. Lolli would not get out of the Vanagon for some reason!!
Donner and down into the Central Valley. The weather not too
is a photo of the Sutter Buttes!
Finally we reach the coastal hills. We are almost back to the
great 15th Annual spring Break. All in all, it will be hard to
top this one.