Monday, July 25, 2016

Day Four - Mojave Road Saga (Ends)

The Fourth day on the Mohave Road started with little sleep.

 A million mosquitoes from the Mojave River just to the southeast of the Afton Canyon campground kept the arms sweeping the air all night. That is not a way to sleep. Even a zippered tent didn’t alleviate the need of the flaying of the appendages. Each time one of the two boys went out of the tent seemed like a siege was going on with the annoying little flying beasts.

I just need the restroom 
Zip the door open and dozens of mosquitoes flew into the tent. OFF – GET OUT – and – WHAT THE HELL! was sprayed in the air and every crevice of the body but to no avail. 

Three in the morning found John rinsing his mouth with bits of chewed mosquitoes flowing out.

No photos here - obviously!

Gross – yes – it’s an adventure right? No, it was just disgusting.

The sun rose and so did two very tired guys. A quick breakfast while being chased around by two of the largest wasps known to mankind made the early morning that much less cheerful.

On the road – thankfully.

Road looking good from the passenger's side view 
The day’s driving was rather uneventful until the end while trying to locate the location of Camp Cady. It sounded like a great way to end the trip - a fort established in 1860 by the 1st U.S. Dragoons near the Mojave River. 

Through the years it was manned by soldiers, abandoned, manned by soldiers and then abandoned completely in 1871. We needed to find the spot where this mainstay of the Mojave Road had been crucial to soldiers and pioneers as well.

But there was a problem.Trying to figure out how to get out of the Mojave River and locate the Manix Wash and up onto firm land. Easy - just follow the deep sand, hang a right on the wash and it's done. Oops, the river bed ended suddenly into tightly knit channels which offered no way out of the river bed. 

Four days and this is was how it was to end? Back track - not even in the equation.

One more try up a dry wash west and suddenly there was a dirt track jumping out at us. It was the Manix Wash. We smiled.

Okay - where was this marker? Taken from the internet.
Two hours later the old site of Fort Cady could not be found. It's like Fort Mojave - is it there or there? 

Who knows but sometimes being near is as good as being there.

Tired, dirty and ready for some sleep, a good meal and just all around relaxing the boys decided to spend the last night at a KOA in Yermo. Pool, showers, snack shop and shade. What else did they need?

A good cigar - a cold beverage and the trip was over. Wonderful experience but an eye opener when traveling in the desert of the southwest.

Pool, showers, and shade - it was Heaven after 4 days of none of the mentioned.
What did we learn? Isn’t that research demands? And the exploration after that research needs to answer those demands if at all possible?

The following is in bullet points – easier that way.

·       *  Realize that sites aren’t always to be found – the general area is good enough many times. It’s the adventure that counts.

·      *  Bring plenty of supplies when traveling in the remote wilderness – overkill is not a thing to be ashamed of.

·       * Be prepared for an event which can turn lethal – sort of like the above point.

·       * Don’t travel alone on the Mojave Road – Casebier says that is not a good idea in his guidebook. It’s not.

·       * Carry good maps and a GPS.

·       * Don’t drive like a ‘Ricky Racer’ – the road or path dictates the speed not the mind.

·      *  Slow down and enjoy the scenery – there is so much to see and witness.
·       At night look up into sky – there’s a lot of stars up there.

·       * The deserts of Southern California are gorgeous and full of life.

·       Just remember – time on this planet is short so get out there and explore it.

A final side note – the day the trip was over the FJ’s starter went out. The vehicle would not start, granted a deep part of the Mojave River was crossed in Afton Canyon and may have led to the malfunction with water rushing through the engine compartment, but the point is if that starter had gone out two days earlier it may have proven fatal. Hot desert days, limited cell service, no full service auto shop, closet town dozens of miles away, and no vehicles seen in four days while on the road point to the direction of a dire circumstance.

You don't want this to happen out by yourself on the Mojave Road!
Enjoy, but do be careful.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Mojave Road Saga - Day 3

One rule J and L stick to, most times, is never to have a cold adult beverage until the day is done. Sitting around discussing the day’s adventure is time to celebrate.

It was no different on the third day upon the Mojave Road, so when Paul and John started seeing gnomes, frogs, toy jeeps, and a plethora of eclectic plastic entities, a question arose: did the boys break with the almost constant golden rule?

They had NOT but the images below will surely make the reader understand why they questioned themselves.

Gnomes going on a trip to the Mojave Road

There's even solar powered 'Ribbet' sounds from some

Even bobble-headed sports figures

The White Rabbit - it explains it all

It seems the game of placing such items near a heavy steel Mojave Road Mailbox at mile 74 has become a fad – a rather large one. It began in 1983 being erected by the Friends of the Mojave Road so visitors could sign a guest book telling others about their trip.

Paul guarding the Mojave Road Mailbox

Proof the boys were there
Fascinating - albeit a bit creepy!

On the road again, as the duo took to the Cimacito summit at 4556 feet above sea level where the view of the desert valley was awesome. Mile upon mile of empty vastness reminded the travelers again of the excitement and danger such a remote road the Mojave is.

Three days and no other vehicle had been seen. Weird and spooky.

Coming across Willow Wash the guide book warned of soft sand at Mile 81.8 and it was more than correct. A steady hand on the wheel, steady touch of foot to pedal, and steadier eyes were needed to navigate the long stretch of sand.

Having driven through deep sand before was no problem, but the length of the wash rather took the fun out of the nearly 6 1/2 miles we had to maneuver. Of course, this was child’s play considering what we came across on a few hours later which was nothing but a white-knuckler. 

The day sped on and so did the miles. Around one in the afternoon the boys decided it was time for lunch. Taking out the ‘easy-up’ and erecting it on Soda Lake at a temperature a little over one hundred degrees seemed the best spot.

Perfect place to relax in triple digits
No wind and the sun baking down on top of the nylon man-made shade made for a wonderful lunch location. Hard boiled eggs, tuna on crackers, water, and a western view of the ancient dry lake bed was all that was needed.

Though – it was hot and getting hotter. Off to Afton Canyon to find a spot to camp.

The Travelers Monument - a collection of rocks in a heap with an American flag was the place was the place to stop. Photos were taken and then back on the road. Not really much to see actually and it was getting hotter by the hour.

Very Patriotic and well worth the stop.
After leaving the monument is when things got a little nerve whacking. 

Railroad bridge just east of the entry to Afton Canyon
Easy sand compared to earlier in the day
At mile 106.8, Casebier states in his book that there is a steep hill at Shaw Pass which then leads into a wash. This may have well said quicksand. 

The sand for the next 10 miles was brutal. Unbelievably soft from the daily barrage of desert winds bringing soft particles to lay upon one another. The wash was not a road - not in anyone's mind. 

No photos were taken since Paul was navigating by searching for the cairns to ensure the FJ stayed it's true course and John was gripping the wheel with all his might. 

The travel was fast but progress was slow. Each bend in the wash brought new challenges - deeper sand and wondering when the next cairn would turn up. 

At one point the boys lost sight of all markers and nearly made a fatal error (remember one vehicle, triple digit temperatures and sketchy cell phone service). Going north along the deep sand John was about to continue in the direction until Paul yelled "left - go left" and there on the edge of an island of river rushes was a cairn. The FJ careened on it's wheels, the steering wheel was yanked left and the tires shuddered to a near stop. But the 200 plus horsepower kept the momentum going. It was actually pretty close to being sunk.
Imaginations can soar like the cliffs here

What happens if a car gets stuck in the sand? With no back-up available a decision has to be made. Walk out of the desert to the nearest settlement over twenty miles away or wait it out - luckily the FJ performed as it always does. It didn't get stuck and we continued to the mouth of Afton Canyon.

Are those parapets with Knights with bows behind them?

A peaceful and gorgeous canyon of high cliffs and wondrous colors.
It had been exhilarating, exhausting, and educational.

The first night in awhile to sleep in a fixed campground. It was a sight for tired eyes - but again - no one else around.

View from Afton Canyon campsite
Now it was time for a cold adult beverage, a cigar and hopefully a good night’s sleep.

The cold drink and cigar proved possible but tons of mosquitoes and a very hot night inside a tent did not allow a good night’s sleep.

Oh well – that’s how many adventures go and to the explorer just another day on the job.