Destinations: Dale Mining DistrictDiscovering an overlooked gem just outside Joshua Tree. Once upon a time I lived in California, moving every year in search of a place I liked enough to settle down (and expecting, perhaps hoping, never to find it). Before crossing the river into the Arid Zone I lived in Twentynine Palms, about 15 minutes from the northeast gate to Joshua Tree National Park. The Dale Mining District was stumbled upon during an outing that was one-part “Where’s that road go?” and two-parts not wanting to pay the entrance fee at Joshua Tree (a mere $10 at the time, I didn’t have a pass yet). Just outside of National Park boundaries, Dale can be reached (for free) via Gold Crown Road from Highway 62 to the north. Access from the south is within the park, via Old Dale / Eagle Mine Road from Pinto Basin Road. The region can be appreciated in a long weekend, but it’s just as easy to spend a week wandering through the various mines and abandoned structures. I leave discovering the rest to you, exploration is half the fun… Over the course of a few days we wandered to and fro, dazzled by the drastic color changes the desert experiences over a matter of hours, or a matter of mere yards. Old Dale is about as isolated as one can get in the south Mojave, particularly so while baking under the summer sun. The O.K. Mine, seen above, is one of two larger gatherings of abandoned structures, shafts, and equipment. Opportunities to explore the remains of this operation are ripe, but venture in at your own risk—help is many hours away, as is cellular service. Darkness swept in fast on approach to the National Park border, and with it another dramatic show of shifting colors and fading light. The decaying carcasses of dead classics litter the floor of Pinto Basin below the site of the abandoned Goldenrod mine, which was well worth the short climb to explore. Crossing the next ridge revealed the best campsite in the entire Joshua Tree region—Gold Rose Cabin features a huge raised patio, fire pit, chairs, tables, a fire place, cots, supplies, and no pesky roof to block out the night sky. The owners of the nearby claim have set this up adopt-a-cabin style, with a leave-it-if-you-can-spare-it, use-it-if-you-need-it policy for visitors passing through (we borrowed chairs for the night and left cases of water, fair trade). Morning required a swift, calm, creative evac—bees, thirsty in this parched terrain, arrived at… NSFW · Explicit
Slow Car, Fast HouseMike and Geneva build a Ford-powered VW AdventureWagen for life on the road. The 1985 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia rested alone and unwanted in a field, baking under the Arizona sun until Mike and Geneva rescued the little camper from her gloomy fate. It wasn’t long before the modifications and updates started, including a hightop AdventureWagen conversion, Bostig Ford engine swap, and a multitude of clever alterations to enhance comfort and convenience for the long run. Dubbed Alta (Spanish for “tall”) for obvious reasons, she’s begun her new life as a home on wheels to Mike, Geneva, and their three dogs Seri, Zeb and Mango while they travel to points unknown. To say the Vanagon is well equipped would be an understatement—as I peek inside the cabinets and cubbies I can’t imagine not finding the right tool on board for any situation. External modifications include an original 8-foot awning and 10-foot Fiamma awning (both with attachable walls), cavernous secure storage boxes fore and aft, swing-out bike and spare tire racks, ladders for roof access, storage for tools and spares, and tables and racks for outdoor living. On the mechanical front, a Bostig engine conversion places a reliable Ford 2.0l DOHC motor where the 1.9l Volkswagen used to live. The transmission, axles, CV joints, cooling and brake systems have been replaced or rebuilt, and the electrical system has been updated to a stout dual-battery system with high-output solar charging. A practical selection of recovery gear stands at the ready, awaiting the inevitably muddy roads in Central and South America. A custom 20-gallon water tank replaces the factory unit, and ample spare propane allows for comfortable extended stays off the grid. A heavy duty GoWesty suspension with Koni shocks provides a smooth ride. Living and storage space abounds inside the spacious hightop. Cabinets and racks for cookware, dishes, food and spices surround the coveted Westfalia kitchen. Other additions and alterations include storage areas in the front and back of the hightop, blackout curtains for the windows, lighting, fans, and even a small library. Stretch netting serves double duty as cargo and canine management, and an impressive collection of Volkswagen paraphernalia decorates Alta inside and out. We look forward to reading about Mike and Geneva’s adventures on the road as they work their way south. Read more about Alta’s build or follow along with their journey at It’s not a slow car, it’s a fast house. Originally licensed to Expedition Portal for publishing on October 7th, 2014.… NSFW · Explicit
SimplifyLighten your Load, Lighten your Life Necessity. Convenience. Preparedness… Coffee. Left unmanaged, the pile of stuff we carry every day grows exponentially. The affliction has become so bad it’s caused the phenomena of the manpurse (aka “murse”) to appear on city streets world-wide—as an addition to the briefcase. Over the last few years I’ve been on a mission to reduce both the bulk and appearance of this clutter while still maintaining an acceptable level of function. After optimizing everything from banking habits to keychains only a handful of items remain on the “need to carry” list. The result is a shorter morning/evening routine, little or no complications when plans change, and a lot less crap to carry around (both figuratively and literally). Here’s what doesn’t fill my pockets: Kershaw Ken Onion Leek A gentleman should never be without a knife—arguably the single most important multi-purpose tool ever created. During the daily grind it’s a trusty companion for slicing through the jungles of cardboard delivered by the Brown Truck of Joy. When disaster strikes, it’s the ultimate survival tool capable of providing everything from fire to food (with the right skills). The Leek is elegant enough for a night on the town, durable enough to take on a hike or bike ride, and sleek enough to please any minimalist. It’s also inexpensive enough to carry (and risk losing). More info » Vehicle Key Immediate access to a vehicle is simply a smart resource to keep at hand. I frequently commute by bike, but always have the key to motorized transportation with me. Streamlight Nano You never know when or where darkness may fall—light should be part of everyone’s daily carry. The Nano is bright enough to light the way yet small enough to clip on a single key without adding noticable bulk. More info » Fisher Space Pen 400 TAD Edition I was skeptical at first, but in the end a pen has come in handy quite frequently. The Fisher Bullet practically disappears into a pocket, expands to the size of a normal pen, and will write on just about any surface—wet or dry. More info » American Bison Leather Money Clip Commerce is a fact of life, but not one that requires a fat wallet. Consolodation of my accounts down to one checking and one credit not only simplifies my finances, but allows me to slip into a slim money clip with just enough room for… NSFW · Explicit