Mojave WanderlustSolitude on the Beaten Path Windows down. Sunroof open. Summer air rushes through the cabin. Tires screech in protest as they fight against another turn they’re simply not designed for. The engine roars back up through the power band, and the heavy beast remembers what continent it was born on as it catapults out of another curve. Ulysses is happy today, she wants to run. A glance in the mirror before I enter the next turn reveals no sign of the stock Discovery 3 running with us, either I’m hauling ass or he’s dragging it. I glance at the speedometer—it’s me. 33-inch mud terrains wail in anguish once more as they’re pushed to the edge of traction. I push the accelerator down farther and smile with a joy that only comes from driving a slow car fast. The Escape I’m relieved the event is over. Don’t get me wrong, I love the community and visiting with the people that bring it together, I just wasn’t wired for large gatherings in fixed locations. Three days is just about right, then it’s time for my cure: an equal number of days wandering. Soaring. Eastbound above the smog along Rim of the World Highway. Chris catches up as I roll to a stop next to the old, long abandoned Cliffhanger. I’ve known him since I was 14, but never would I have guessed he’d want to race down this twisted tarmac, hopping from tavern to tavern, on a never-ending quest to find the world’s best tuna melt. So go our conversations and revelations over a pint at the first of two bars in the entire town of Crestline. We hit the next bar, so we can say we’ve hit every bar in town—tuna melt ordered, and we watch as the attractive brunette behind the bar grabs a muddler and sets about making a proper mojito. She’s lived here her entire life. She owns the place. It dawns on Chris what she’s making for me. He orders one too, and she skips through the back door again for another bundle of fresh-picked mint from the garden. The tuna melt arrives, and all is right with the world. Conversations with more of the locals reveal the location of an “edge of the world” campsite just outside town. The view on arrival does not disappoint, not a bad end to the first (half) day. With Abandon Rounding the next bend I’m blinded by the full force of the rising sun.…
Desert Rendezvous Last month we rolled out to southern California for American Adventurist’s annual Desert Rendezvous event. This time late February was chosen for the event, and with highs in the low 90s the change was much appreciated. Activities were as we’ve come to expect from an AAV event: smaller groups out exploring the area by day, followed by evenings filled with good food, great company, and plenty of cold beer. On Saturday, the volunteer clean-up removed 3.3 tons of trash from the desert…not counting the trash from DRV shenanigans. I enjoy catching up with old friends, making new ones, and partying in the desert for a good cause, but as always my main purpose for making the trek is the extra few days of wandering we get to enjoy taking the long way home. After an obligatory stop at my favorite desert taco stand, it was time to find a sunrise view. Salton View The Salton Sea Standard Oil   Desert Center Bill’s Town The U.S.-California Border Dinner Break…
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…
BorregoFest 2013 In mid-October each year, Outdoor Adventure USA’s BorregoFest brings together a small gathering of adventurers for a long weekend exploring the scenery and history of the Anza-Borrego region. Highlights of the event include trail runs from easy to intense, a delicious potluck, and the chance to visit with like-minded folks from all over. Most of the group arrives Friday afternoon to set up camp, take in a lecture on the history of the area, and enjoy the sharing of drinks and stories around the campfire before Saturday’s outings. This year we had the privilege of joining the OAUSA-exclusive Julian Mine Tour on Saturday for an up close look both around and inside the region’s most noteworthy mines with local historian and author Leland Fetzer. The “hike” was not the easiest, but the trail’s end was well worth the effort. Back at camp the scent of barbeque fills the air to signify the start of the official potluck. Wine and beer tastings make for the perfect refreshments after a long day in the field, and a wide variety of vehicles and equipment go on display for the ogling. Sunday morning caps off the event with a raffle of gear, tools, and swag, followed by an amateur radio testing session. For those that stick around after lunch, a short exit run offers one last taste of the region before heading back home. On-site camping for the three-day event runs $55-65, which includes access to the shower facilities, swimming pool, and one raffle ticket (additional tickets may be purchased). Swing by the OAUSA Forum to check out photos and stories from previous events, or to sign up for the next BorregoFest. Originally licensed to Expedition Portal for publishing on November 15th, 2013.…
April 27-29: Anza-Borrego Our last trip out I played the fool and went unprotected under the sun (and heat) a little too long, so we had to cut it short and head back home. We made up for it this time by spending 3 days wandering to and fro, and grabbing a hotel so we could get in some night-wheeling without worrying about camp. Ben over on OTN almost has me sold on a GPS to help track and automate this part, but in the mean time… Our route this time out took us straight out the S-22 from state route 79 (by way of S-2) to drop down from Ranchita into Borrego Springs. Heading this way in the dark (and this time, moonless night) is fun… after cruising across the plateau in a straight line for what seems like an hour the road somewhat suddenly makes a steep downward adjustment to it’s course before making a sharp left (at what appears to be the end of the earth) and plummeting 2,500 feet to Borrego Springs. We checked in and grabbed a plate of the world’s best fish taco’s from my favorite little taco shop before hitting the sack early. In the morning we picked up near where we left off with Peg Leg’s monument. It’s a bummer we had to head back early last time, as we would have been there for the annual Pegleg Smith Liar’s contest. Ok, it sounds corny (and probably is), but I have an odd passion for desert junk and thus naturally for desert folklore and tradition. Yes, I sign the silly visitor logbooks too! Speaking of desert junk… After snapping a few more pics and grabbing some munchies, we made for state route 86 and the Salton Sea to the east. We ran most of the trails off the S-22 not too long ago so we blew past most of it, though we did spend some time exploring along the western edge of the 86 for an easier route into Tule Wash or Arroyo Salado. After stopping for refreshments (next to a sign stating the obvious), and double-checking our position, we headed east down Navy Road (which is not marked) until we found it being consumed by the dunes. Not wanting to risk running solo through extremely soft sand, we headed back up the road a little ways to plan-B… …which turned out to be the…