Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Joshua Tree to Havasu to …?

After the search for the missing hiker in Joshua Tree ended rather successfully (see previous blog post) and I was no longer required, I had the day off to catch up on things.  I took advantage of the time to do laundry, fill up with propane, and get a much needed haircut.  That took most of the day, so I thought it might be a good time to check out the free BLM camping spot I had heard about on the north side of Joshua Tree park.  I found the spot out near Sunfair.  It is a rather huge, featureless, flat area with lots of space to spread out, but only a few small trees and no shade.  AT&T speed was slow but adequate, but the constant breeze made sitting outside not that attractive an option.  Campers were mostly widely spaced, but it seemed that there was a lot of after-dark driving around that is not typical with most similar locations.  I found it totally adequate for an overnight spot, but not somewhere we would want to spend any time.


The truck was still connected, so in the morning we were rolling out of there at first light.

We headed south into the park and drove all the way through eventually.  It was a weekend, so all the campgrounds were full and traffic was fairly busy.

The thin strip of BLM land along the south boundary of the park where we have camped before was also busier than I have ever seen it, but after unhooking and scouting around, we found a private spot a few km to the east and settled in for a few days.

Spent some time with my big floor magnet and picked up a pound or more of nails, screws and other metal scattered around from abandoned fire pits, as well as assorted broken glass and empty shell casings.

A couple of day trips were made into Indio, Coachella and Desert Hot Springs for groceries, fuel and the like.  From miles back I could see a column of smoke ahead.  As I got closer I could see it was a section of thick brush burning on the outskirts of Indio.


It must have just started, as I could see no fire or other emergency personnel on scene, but as I read later, it had been a homeless encampment that had caught fire, but fortunately no one was reported injured, thought there were some power outages as a result.



Nearby the BLM area at Chiriaco Summit on I-10, there is a museum with lots of tanks and armoured vehicles from the era when General Patton trained in the area for the north Africa campaign.  Out behind in the desert, there are a number of relics that did not make the cut for being on display.IMG_9657IMG_9656IMG_9655IMG_9654

While in the Palm Springs area, I also picked up my $500. cheque from AT&T that had been waiting for me at a friend’s place.  I’m sure I’ll think of something to use that for!  Thanks AT&T for keeping my money for a year, interest free! 

I can’t believe my good fortune and timing though, to get in on the unlimited data plan they offered last year for $20. a month.  Unfortunately, that plan is no longer offered, but in the meantime I am enjoying it to the fullest.  Of course, I will be paying for it and getting zero usage all summer, so I guess it evens out?


On the way back to camp, there was another bad looking wreck with an overturned car in the center median, surrounded by police, fire, and medical crews.

At this time of year, many of my fellow snowbirds have already returned home including the Bayfield Bunch, Wandering Willy, Jean & Skip, John & Brenda, and others.  I know that Al,  Bill, and John at least have had snow to contend with upon their return.   I’m was also considering heading home soon as well, but then my neighbour sent me a photo of my driveway!


Hmm, not that enticing right about now. I intentionally block my driveway in the winter time to prevent the snowplows from clearing it.  It works as a pretty effective security system too, and usually the snow has mostly melted by this time of year.  But not this time!

Weather reports have been poor for much of northern California, with rain on the coast and up to 5 feet of new snow expected in some areas in the Sierras.  So I really don’t want to head north yet.  So, needing to kill some time, we headed back over to Lake Havasu.  Unlike last visit, the Standard Wash BLM area was not at all crowded, with only a half dozen rigs present. This time, we got our preferred spot up on the hill with a distant lake view and good cell coverage.  I think Spring Break is starting to wind down now, but down at the channel, there were still lots of folks enjoying the warm sunny weather.


The beer bongs were out, million dollar boats were lined up along the shore, airplanes were towing advertising banners across the sky, and the bikinis were blooming!

And, London Bridge was presiding over it all as usual.vlcsnap-2018-03-23-17h15m26s112

I took the boat cruise across the lake to the California side.  I figure it is a good deal for the $2. round trip fare (if you don’t bring the free coupon)!

The ducks in the channel were getting physical.   They may have been attempting some ‘love making’, but it appeared to me that this pair of ducks were doing their best to drown the female on the bottom.  They were holding her completely under water for many seconds at a time.


Regardless of what the weather and snow conditions are like at home, we reluctantly pulled out of Havasu and started the inevitable journey northward.  Now we’ll see how slowly we can travel, while wasting as much time as possible along the way, giving the snow at home a decent chance to melt.  But inevitably, at some point we seem to encounter cold and/or rainy weather along the way, at which point wasting time is less appealing than just getting home to face whatever the weather throws at us.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Nevada Telephone Cove to Joshua Tree

Time was running out on our 7 day stay at Nevada Telephone Cove. Don & Donna decided to head over to Death Valley for a look around as they had never been there before.

Hailey and I also had to come up with a destination, or at least a direction.

Eventually, I decided (Hailey just purrs and goes along with it) to head north up 95 on the Nevada side, at least as far as Searchlight.  I wanted to head west from there, as I don’t think I have been on that section of road before.  It starts out fairly bland, but gradually builds into a nice Joshua Tree forest.  I didn’t discover any long term camping gems, but there were lots of roadside spots for an overnight stay, and traffic looks to be very light.


After entering California (with the required full tank of fuel!) and passing Nipton, we turned south into the Mohave National Preserve and headed down to Cima.  It was a very nice, sunny warm day and it looked like there might be some attractive overnight spots right near the Cima junction, but there was no AT&T signal that I could find.


Instead of continuing on towards Kelso, we headed back north again and ran into I-15.  At the first opportunity, after only about 10 minutes we exited the interstate onto Halloran Springs road.  Someone was having a very bad day as just past the exit, almost under the overpass was an RV laying on it’s side and a state trooper attending the scene.  Could not tell what type of rig it was as the bottom was all I could see.  North of the interstate, Halloran Springs road deteriorated very rapidly, with the unfortunate accumulations of trash, building materials and the usual dryer full of bullet holes.  We motored on around the holes till we were past the travel path of all but the most hardy interstate criminals, and found a scenic, quiet place to spend the night.


The spot we spent the night was not conducive for longer stays, so after a quick consultation with freecampsites.net we continued on east through Baker, and turned south on Zzyzx (that’s not a typo) Road leading back into the National Preserve.  Just down the road was a large sign saying, ‘No through Road, No off-road driving, No Camping along the road.’ !   Once again a U-turn was in order, and back to Baker we went.  Next we headed south on Kelbaker Road, looking for another camp spot listed on the website.  In the process of looking we happened across an even better spot with tremendous 360 degree views and fast AT&T.  It is a bit too close to the road, but the traffic is light during the day and nil at night.


The spot is right beside a rock pile, which provided ample opportunity for Hailey to chase the lizards. 


Further back are some small peaks along a ridge which made for some good hiking, scrambling and photographic possibilities.  One day was spent driving around exploring back roads in the area, including one drive up to some communications towers on a high ridge.

 IMG_4402IMG_9634IMG_9633Views from there were superb.  No other better camping spots were discovered however.  Another day involved the short trip back up to Baker for fuel and a few groceries.  Baker is not much more than a whistle stop along the interstate between Vegas and L.A., and the businesses reflect that.  Google says the population is 735, but they have more fast food franchises than anywhere I’ve seen.  Every imaginable fast food place is represented, with the notable exception of McDonalds for some reason.  I believe there may be actually more than one location for Subway and a couple of other places. As expected, fuel prices are high here.  As I was entering some of the prices into the Gasbuddy app, it kept questioning me asking if I was sure, as the prices seemed out of line even for California!  Diesel was $4.19 at all but one station which had it on for ‘only’ $3.99.  I reluctantly filled up there.  There are a few convenience stores, but I had to go to two before I found one that had exotic items like milk and cereal.  I asked all over town, but apparently newspapers are not available in Baker in spite of thousands of trucks passing through each day from LA and Vegas …

Another claim to fame for Baker is the world’s tallest thermometer!

IMG_9642IMG_9648One ‘gas’ station in Baker seems to be a bit ahead of the curve.  They had a whole batch of Tesla electrical charging stations!


On the way back to camp, we crossed this unique cattle guard!


What’s unusual, you ask?  Well, usually they are connected to a fence, otherwise the smart cows will figure out that they can just walk down the ditch!IMG_9644IMG_9647

I think I may have turned into a solar snob!  I have not been plugged into shore power since leaving home in October.  A few overcast days back around Thanksgiving (US) provided an excuse to give my generator a little exercise then.  After another day of overcast and rain here, I decided I’d better keep the gas in it from getting too stale and actually used it again for a couple of hours!  At this rate my gallon of generator gas will last till 2019!


I had been hearing reports on my scanner and in the media that a large search was underway in Joshua Tree National Park for a missing hiker who had not been heard from in about 4 days after not returning from a day hike.  The search itself was moving into it’s third day, as he had been missing for a couple days before being reported overdue.  I was heading down towards a friend’s place in Desert Hot Springs, so I stopped by at the Incident command post at the Interagency Fire Center in the park.  I thought their staff might be getting a bit tired after several long days searching, and with my 28 years of experience in mountain rescue, perhaps I could lend a hand?  I fully expected a polite rejection, but instead they gave me a nearby spot to park the rig and started the wheels turning to sign me up in some capacity.  As it turned out, the very very fortunate man was found alive and injured just as I was about to begin my assignment the next morning at 0600. So instead of joining the search in the morning, we loaded up and headed on down the trail!

Missing hiker found conscious in Joshua Tree National Park – KESQ

Missing Hiker: La Mesa man missing in Joshua Tree is found - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Missing Hiker Found Alive in Joshua Tree National Park After 4 Days - NBC 7 San Diego