Welcome to our blog

Us at Arcadia Beach

Welcome all who have found their way to our family blog.

We have been working on this for about a week, testing links out, etc and now feel ready to make it available to everyone.  I’m sure there are going to be issues that we’ll work out as well as things we’ll add as the blog progresses.  I’ll probably add more links, pages and categories as things progress.  But for now, this should be fine.

Shelley and I hope to update the blog regularly, but not sure what that really means.  Daily?  Weekly?  At least weekly.  Maybe more often once we get into the swing of things.

Feel free to offer recommendations or things you would like to see added that Shelley and I may be missing.

Our Trip on the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route

After our completion of the Idaho Backcountry Discovery Route we started looking for our next BDR adventure and Washington State’s BDR seemed appropriate.  

We decided to do the southern half of the WA BDR in conjunction with a weekend trip to the Northwest Overland Rally in Plain, WA.  We had attended the NWOL Rally a few years ago and really had a great time.  We put out some feelers within my Moby 1 Trailer community to see if any other Moby 1 owners wanted to attend as a group and found two others that were interested.  They weren’t able to join us of the BDR but would meet us in Leavenworth, WA the day before the Rally.  I also looked around for some fellow campers who wanted to hit the WA BDR and found two others for that part of the trip as well.  

Shelley and I started out on a Friday morning.  Leaving Boise mid-morning for the short drive to Cascade Locks, OR.  We picked the nearby KOA RV park where we could spend Friday night and load up on water before starting out on Saturday morning.  

Shelley found a local brewery, Thunder Island, right on the Columbia River for drinks, dinner and dessert after we got into town.  What a great location and they had really good beer and food.  I have since learned that Thunder Island is going to break ground on a new facility nearby, but it won’t be on the Columbia River.

Shelley and I at Thunder Island Brewery

Shelley and I at Thunder Island Brewery

The next morning we headed off across the Bridge of the Gods to meet our group on the WA side of the Columbia.  

Bridge of the Gods

Crossing the Bridge of the Gods

Section 1 of the WA BDR wasn’t all that difficult.  Since we were pretty early in the season we had to deal with the occasional dead-fall but the road and route was pretty straight forward.  I really wanted to chop that dead trunk down.  But everyone convinced me to leave it be since we could squeeze under it.  I would get my chance to use the chain saw soon enough.

03 Shelley helping with dead-fall

One of the great features of this route is you are traveling in the Cascade Range for the entire trip.  The views along the route of the great mountain peaks in this area is spectacular.

our line up

The group line up photo

Mt Hood

Mt Hood

Not for trailers

Not for trailers. You just have to have the right kind of trailer.

We took time during this day to take a side trip to the Guler Ice Caves which is just southwest of the community of Trout Lake off of Carson Guler Rd/NF 24/SR 141.  If you visit the caves make sure you bring a jacket and a flashlight or head lamp.  You can really feel the temperature drop once you descend the stairs into the cave.  Once inside, the ground is very slick so watch your step.  After-all, it is an ice cave.  As you go deeper you’ll need some light as a cell phone light just isn’t sufficient.  It was a very interesting little side trip that is well worth our time.

Ice Cave

Shelley descending the stairs into the Guler Ice Cave

I had hoped to camp somewhere near or with a view of Mt Adams.  We found a nice spot just off NF 23.  It was a large, open area with a partially obstructed view of Mt Adams.  It was still a great spot to prepare dinner.

Camp 1

Camp 1

Dinner with Mt Adams

Dinner with Mt Adams

On day 2, we traveled down NF 23 a bit to a marked Mt Adams view point.  This stretch of road, with Mt Adams so close, was really a great area.  There was one funky spot along the route that we stumbled upon, Babyshoe Pass.  There’s a view point near here, but passerby’s have taken it upon themselves to nail baby shoes the sign post marking the pass.  

Mt Adams

Mt Adams

Baby shoe pass

Baby shoe pass

A little farther down the road, we took the time to pull into Takhlakh Lake for another view point of Mt Adams.  This was the best view point of Mt Adams of the trip.  All of us just hung out on the boat launch in awe of the view here.  

Takhlakh Lake Campground is run by the Forest Service and, for $18 a day, would be a great spot for camping along the BDR.  If you have a canoe or kayak, you could spend the day here and tool around on the lake under the gaze of Mt Adams.

Mt Adams from Takhlakh Lake

Mt Adams from Takhlakh Lake

We finished up Section 1 when we pulled into Packwood for lunch.  Rick did some provisioning at the grocery store and then we grabbed lunch at a little pizza place in town.  

When leaving Packwood, you start Section 2 on US 12.  This first portion takes you along the White Pass Byway as you cross over White Pass.  There are a number of view points along the highway that are worth the stop.  We stopped at the Palisades Viewpoint which is an interesting geological formation caused by a volcanic eruption about 9 miles away from the view point.  A little further down the highway was our first good view of Mt Rainier on this trip.  The last view point we stopped by before hitting the dirt again was the Clear Creek Falls Overlook.  

Palisades Viewpoint

Palisades Viewpoint

Shelley and I at the Mt Rainier viewpoint

Shelley and I at the Mt Rainier viewpoint

Clear Creek Falls Overlook

Clear Creek Falls Overlook

After passing by Rimrock Lake you intersect with NF-1500 and go back onto dirt.

I was really looking forward to this portion of Section 2 as this is when you climb up to Bethel Ridge.  I had heard a lot about Bethel Ridge and was really looking forward to the climb.  The switch backs are very big and did not pose any issues for us.  The road does get steep in parts and the truck certainly had to work on this climb.

Once on top of the ridge itself the road became very rough and slow.  This improved as we continued down the ridge and into the trees.  The challenging portion for us pulling a trailer was in the trees.  I really had to look ahead and plan each obstacle with the next one in mind to avoid getting stuck, jack-knifed or forced to back up.  We managed this section without any of those things.  There are a lot of little pull outs along the road for opportunities to pull over and check out the view.  Near the half-way point you can take the a right turn at a fork in the road that leads to a clearing and spectacular views looking back at Rim Rock Lake.  

Looking back at the first half of Bethel Ridge

Looking back at the first half of Bethel Ridge

Looking down on Rim Rock Lake with Mt Adams

Looking down on Rim Rock Lake with Mt Adams

After leaving this half-way point we started running into more mud and eventually got into some serious muck that made the going a bit tougher for us with the trailer.  Rick and his Jeep could take a better line to avoid the deeper stuff and not get bogged down.  I tried some of these and ended up getting jammed in with some trees and had to back out.  We just couldn’t cut the corners like we did on Bethel Ridge and we were not going to cut any live trees to make a hole.  We ended up trying the muck and hoped we could stay up on top of the existing muddy ruts, but the trailer slid down into it and that dragged the truck with it and stuck we got.  Luckily, it was a short muddy section as we did get about half way and the winch pulled us right out with little effort. 

During this muck fest of being stuck, jack-knifed and back up, somewhere my front license plate was torn off our truck.  Luckily, Brandon was outside my driver’s door spotting me while I was back up and heard and saw it go flying off.  We were glad to get it back and would never had noticed had Brandon not been standing outside the truck.  We still don’t know what it got caught on to tear it off.

But this whole ordeal put us quite a bit behind schedule for our next camp site and we ended up pulling into a nice spot that appeared to be used for hunting. There were a lot of little pullouts along this section of the road and you could tell others have staged here in the past.

Camp 2

Camp 2

Now that we were up on top of the ridge line for day 3, Mt Rainier began to follow us all afternoon.  We took every opportunity to stop and check out these views.  The wildflowers were coming out as well and the contrast with the flowers, blue sky and Mt Rainer were great.

A ridge line with Mt Rainier

A ridge line with Mt Rainier

Another ridge line with Mt Rainier

Another ridge line with Mt Rainier

The route drops down into the community of Nile and then up an over another ridge before you drop into the community of Wenas where you use an easement through some private property to get onto Wenas Rd.  There are signs reminding you to make sure you close all the gates behind you as you pass through.

We said goodbye to Brandon and his family at this point.  He was hoping to make it to Ellesnburg with us, but having so much dirt remaining, he knew it was unlikely.  He needed to drive back to Oregon so he took the advantage of this pavement to head home.  

Rick and us made our way over the next ridge into Durr Road Campsite along Umtanum Creek.  This is a no-fee campsite and was big enough and private.  It was really a large cul-de-sac parking area and day use spot, but there are fire rings and camping is permitted.  We parked along the tree line and called it a day.

Durr Road Campsite

Durr Road Campsite

Day 4 turned out to be the most challenging day of the trip.  We pulled up camp and headed into Ellensburg where we topped off on gas before heading out of town.

We were really surprised at how much pavement there was heading north out of Ellensburg.  The pavement just kept going and going so we made great time, which would benefit us later that day.  We passed through some forest that burned some years back and ran into some wild land firefighters that were out training.  They asked us to hold up for a few minutes while they were cutting down trees along the road for clearing and training.

Burned forest

Burned forest

A bit further was must stop location that is only a few hours north out of Ellensburg, Lion Rock.  We had been hoping to camp here the previous night, but the mud and muck above Bethel Ridge killed those plans.  We did get a chance to check out the campsites around Lion Rock, the views and take our lunch.  The photos we took from Lion Rock simply do not do this spot justice.  Both Mt Rainier and Mt Adams are visible from Lion Rock.  On the east side of this area, you can just make out Mt Baker in the distance.  Just spectacular.

Mt Adams on the left, Mt Rainier on the right

Mt Adams on the left, Mt Rainier on the right

Lunch with a view

Lunch with a view

A happy camper

A happy camper

After lunch we started running into the most challenging section of the trip.  There were a lot of tight turns as the route drops down into Wenatchee.  Pulling a trailer doesn’t give you the freedom to pick, what others might call, the best line.  Rick made these turns without issue as any other full-size truck would.  Some turns were pretty tight and there was a lot of dead fall along the route.  We simply could not avoid the down branches and still make the sharp hair-pin turns.  So out came the chain saw a number of times.  I guess you could call this more inconvenient than challenging.  

Branch deflectors don't work well on heavy limbs

Branch deflectors don’t work well on heavy limbs

Even if the limbs missed the truck, they hit the trailer

Even if the limbs missed the truck, they hit the trailer

Then came the “Beehive.  We had no knowledge about this section.  None of my research talked about this area.  Evidently, this area washed out a year or two ago and the road was still a mess and extremely difficult and challenging.  For Rick, he had no issues.  He did manage to get a wheel off the ground on a part that was pretty steep and off canter.  But other than that, it wasn’t an issue for him.  For us, in a full size truck with a trailer we had to take things a bit slower and walk it carefully.  The ramifications of a mistake would be a terrible outcome as the exposure into the gully down hill was extreme and there was no road edge to give me any fudge factor.

Add to this the washed down and partially buried tree trunks and branches and we had some serious obstacles that a chain saw wasn’t going to clear out.

We went up and over the first one pretty easily.  We had some tires spinning in 4-low, 1st gear but the ARB airlockers on the truck got me over that problem.  It was just loose dirt, rocks and super steep.  At 11,000lbs combined weight, it wasn’t simple.  We were pretty happy how the truck and trailer performed on that section.  We all gave each other pats on the back and shook hands and off we went.

Until we got to the second one.  It was worse than the first and now there was no way to turn around.  

The problem with the second one wasn’t any obstacles like tree trunks.  It was the steepness going down into it, then it turned slightly to the right and then you had to climb out the other side.  Both the entrance and exit were off canter with no shoulder on the driver’s side.

After walking it with Rick and Shelley we were confident it was wide enough and passable, but Rick would really have to spot me as there was not a lot of room to maneuver the trailer in it to make the slight turn at the bottom.  With no shoulder on the inside either, the last thing I wanted to have happen was for the trailer to get too tight on the inside of the curve and have a tire roll up the inside hill putting the trailer off canter to the gully on the driver side.

Initially, Shelley rode with me in the cab but after dipping down into it and feeling the truck go off canter to the down hill side, she bailed.  She jumped out of the truck so fast she forgot her camera and Rick was too busy spotting, so I have no video or photos.  Bummer.  

After pulling out of that one, my mouth was pretty dry.  We shook hands and patted each other on the back again and moved on down the road.

Then we got to the third one.

After those first two, the third one was really a “no brainer.”  We just took our time to walk it carefully and pick our line.  

A few weeks after we got home from this trip, the Forest Service closed this road to all vehicle but motorcycles and high clearance 4×4.  We follow a Facebook page for the WA BDR and saw many others navigate the Beehive after our trip and into as late as mid-September.  So we’re not sure how impassable this section has become.

These are the only photos we have of the Beehive.  These were taken before we went over the first obstacle.  You can see the partially buried tree trunks, branches and other loose debris from the washout.

Rick and Shelley at the top of the first obstacle

Rick and Shelley at the top of the first obstacle

Climbing up the first obstacle

Climbing up the first obstacle

We finished out the day pulling into Wenatchee and decided to spend the night at the Wenatchee Confluence State Park.  It was getting late and we figured we would finish out Section 3 the next morning by taking the short section of dirt from Wenatchee over to Cashmere.  We would then head to into Leavenworth to refit and replenish for the NWOL Rally which started in two days.

The last morning, Day 5, we packed up and headed out to get back on the dirt and go up and over the ridge into Cashmere.  And wouldn’t you know it, the road was closed.  We learned there was a new house under construction up Number 2 Canyon Rd and they were putting in a power conduit under the road to the house and the road was completely closed.  They closed it about 3 hours before we arrived.  Just to be sure it was really impassable, Rick went up the road till he saw that it really was completely blocked.

Road closed

Road closed

So, our BDR trip ended right there.  We headed back down the road to the highway and took pavement into Cashmere and Leavenworth.  But not before hitting Starbucks in Wenatchee. Rick was staying in a different campground and we were meeting friends at the Leavenworth KOA.  

Snack time

Snack time

When we return to finish the WA BDR we’ll start at this same spot and head to Canada.  

We checked into the KOA in Leavenworth, took showers and got ourselves cleaned up.  Then we headed into town for drinks at our favorite Leavenworth brewery, some sight seeing and dinner at our favorite spot in town, Pavz Cafe Bistro.

Leavenworth KOA

Leavenworth KOA

Appetizers and a beer flight at Icicle Brewery

Appetizers and a beer flight at Icicle Brewery

Shopping for snacks

Shopping for snacks

Our friend Charles, from Portland joined us in Leavenworth

Our friend Charles, from Portland joined us in Leavenworth

We had a great time on the BDR.  The road wasn’t super difficult, except for some challenges on Bethel Ridge and the Beehive.  The views of the Cascade Range are always spectacular and we were very fortunate with the weather.  We’re looking forward to wrapping up the northern half sometime in the future.

You Were A Good Dog, Ripley

Ripley on the beach in Oregon.

Ripley on Cannon Beach, Oregon.

Ripley passed away this afternoon from complications resulting from both liver and kidney ailments.  We tried our best since the problems arose on August 1 but they were just too complicated and too many systems began to fail.  

She was 16 years old.

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Celebrating her 16th birthday this past July 22nd at Deadwood Reservoir, Idaho.

After adopting Jake from the Humane Society in 2001, we decided he needed a companion and we started researching breeds shortly there after and selected the Appenzeller Sennenhund from Switzerland.  The name Sennenhund refers to people called Senn, herders in the Appenzell of Switzerland.

We found a local breeder of Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs in Washington who would help us find a baby Appenzeller and be the go-between for the import.  At the time, 2002, there were no American breeders that we found.  We found a good breeder in Hague, Saskatchewan Canada and made the arrangements to bring her home.  

On September 17, 2002, I drove to Washington to pick up “Ariel” (as she was named at the time) and brought her home.

It didn’t take long to recognize the sheer determination this dog had at only 2 months old.  We only had one kennel for the trip and it was a big one.  So we filled it with pillows and cardboard boxes to shrink the interior for her puppy size.  That made no difference to her.  She dug all the way through it so she could watch what was happening on all sides.  But especially out the front windshield.  This would become her go-to road trip spot for the next 16 years.  

self portrat with ripley (8092)

On a road trip.

I made the round trip in a day and got home in the evening for her to meet Jake and Shelley.  

She was a hit right from the start.  Jake absolutely adored her and became her protector.  Ripley took over the house as the dominate dog.  She was only a few months old and Jake was about 2-1/2 years old and twice her size, but that made no matter.  She took over immediately.  I don’t think Jake really cared that much.

two dogs playing 3, 2003

Ripley and Jake playing in the backyard.

two dogs in backyard, 2002

Playing the backyard garden.

ripley jake tugwar, 2003

Playing tug-a-war with her new “brother.”

rich and ripley tug-a-war, 2003

Tug a war with Ripley.

Now we had to come up with a new name, as “Ariel” would not suffice.

After watching her behavior around the house and around the neighborhood (and because we’re kinda geeks), we settled on “Ripley,” after Ellen Louise Ripley from the Alien movie series.

Over the next 16 years, Ripley would travel nearly everywhere with us.

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Wildhorse Creek.

Including to the Center of the Universe.

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Standing at the Center of the Universe in Wallace, Idaho.

She became a camping dog and a hiking dog.  She and Jake were inseparable.  Although they weren’t blood brother and sister, they acted like they should be.  

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Ripley climbing up to Patterson Peak

Ripley was a strong-willed dog.  Ever ready to play and fight over what she thought was hers fair and square.  And pretty much everything around the house was hers.  She would even protect the Christmas stockings every year.  

And how she loved the water.  She loved fetching nearly anything from the water.  Tennis balls, frisbees and sticks.  The bigger the stick the better.  

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Fetching with a big stick.

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Fetching a stick in Greenlake, Seattle.

ripley in the river

Hanging out in the Salmon River.

ripley leaping and jake watching

Leaping into a high mountain lake for a tennis ball.

Being a Swiss dog, she loved the snow as well.  We would play fetch with snowballs endlessly in the winter.  She was forever frustrated by the fact they seemed to disappear when they hit the ground and demand I throw more.  If she had the chance she would catch them mid-air with them exploding in her face.  She loved it.

Ripley and view

Playing in the snow during a yurt camping trip.

When she wanted something, be it to go outside or to fetch, she would howl.  She howled for fun when we rough-housed and she howled just to register her presence.  

Ripley howling on a dock

Heyburn State Park, Idaho.

ripley howling

A creek trail somewhere outside Stanley, Idaho.

The only times I ever saw her afraid of something was when the Wash-n-Wagon arrived at the house for her grooming.  She didn’t like the groomer all that much.  

She also didn’t care much for the laundry chute door in the closet.  I never did understand why she hated it when I would open that trap door to the laundry room.  

She did have a tendency to get her big brother in trouble on occasion.  Like one time in Seattle when she found her way into her pill bottle and ate the entire bottle.  We knew Jake was too good a dog to eat any, but we couldn’t take any chances and both dogs got their stomachs cleaned out at the emergency vet.

ripley, jake and pill bottle, 2010

Unlike Jake, she wasn’t concerned about cameras being pointed at her.  She did, however, have issues with hats, beards and anything that changed the shape of the human outline.  Many times I would come home for dinner while working and she would alert to a ‘stranger’ in the house till she realized it was me.  

I mentioned earlier that Ripley was our traveling companion for many years.  She traveled to Canada and every western state.  She explored the California dessert, the Washington rainforest and the mountains of central Idaho.  

dogs in window

Getting some air on a road trip.

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On the beach in Oregon.

Over the last year, Ripley had begun to slow down.  When she was just a few years old she had surgery to repair her left rear leg and over the last few years, that leg had begun to stiffen up and she walked with a stiff leg for the last few years.  When managed it with medication, but our walks became shorter.  She was still ever excited to go on walks and road trips.

In the last two months, she began to suffer from a minor bladder issue and started to become slightly incontinent at night.  She wasn’t having major accidents, just wet fur in the morning from slight leakage.  I only mention this because it appears to have been a sign of a much larger issue.  We began treating this bladder problem and it went away until this last week.

ripley and the city, 2009

Playing frisbee in our backyard.

On August 1 of this year Shelley and I attended the ZZ Top concert here in Boise.  When we got home, Ripley was very ill.  She was fine when we left, but when we got home 4-1/2 hours later she seemed, quite literally, near death.  She was a limp noodle in my arms.  Nearly comatose and refusing to eat even her most favorite treats.  We raced her to the emergency vet.  About the time we arrived, she seemed to start regaining some of her composure.  As near as anyone could tell she may have had a seizure.

The emergency vet did various tests but could not identify the underlying problem that led us to think she was about to die.

After this ‘seizure’ something else began to manifest itself.  She began to “knuckle” with her back feet as if there was some sort of neurological issue going on.  Not with every step, but her walking was noticeably different.

The emergency vet kept her over night and we picked her up the following morning after all the tests came back.  She seemed no worse for wear.

ripley resting

Taking a break from fetching the frisbee during a yurt camping trip.

That night, she suffered a set back that caused us to go back to our regular vet the next morning.  This time our vet did an x-ray and diagnosed a Megaesophagus and aspiration pneumonia.  Megaesophagus may be caused by any disease which causes the muscles of the esophagus to fail to properly propel food and liquid from the mouth into the stomach.  Food can become lodged in the flaccid esophagus, where it may decay, be regurgitated, or may be inhaled into the lungs, leading to aspiration pneumonia.  We were able to treat the pneumonia.  There is no treatment for Megaesophagus.  The only thing you can do is adjust the diet and the eating position of your pet.

Our vet did some blood tests too and there were some elevated issues with her kidneys and liver.  Elevated to the point of concern, but possibly treatable. 

We began a new diet for her and began to work through the problem.  

Two weeks later, we returned for a follow up visit and blood test and all the problems were now dangerously elevated.  We continued to try various treatments including two days of IV fluids in the hopes that it would clear out the bladder and help the liver like it did back on August 1.  But nothing seemed to help her.  The numbers improved, slightly, but she was weak and couldn’t stand very well.

Ultimately, Ripley’s body was just simply starting to shut down.

Ripley howling at the city

Ripley letting Boise know that she’s a pretty big deal around here.

The sorrow we both feel having to make this decision is beyond words.  Ripley has been such a wonderful companion to us both.  She was stubborn; she was our companion for 16 years and our protector.  

I hope she can find Jake at the rainbow bridge and play tug a war and go swimming with him again.  

You were a good dog, Ripley. 

ripley sitting, 2003

Ripley 2002 – 2018

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Death Valley – Mojave National Preserve 2018 (Part Last)

For the first three installments of this story, you can follow these links to Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

After waking up and breakfast, we headed back south to Cima and then hooked back up with the Mojave Rd.  It was time to finish the second half of our trip and head up to the New York Mountains.

On the way, we stopped by Camp Rock Spring and checked out the old cabin.

We then left the Mojave Road for a side trip up New York Mountain Rd to the New York Mountains. 

As we drove along the road to our campsite, two snakes came out of the brush and decided this would be a good time and place to get it on.

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Once they broke things up and moved on, I took a couple photos of them as we went by them.

The New York Mountains is another one of our favorite campsites.  

Last year we stayed at 35.21886, -115.30940 so we tried a different spot this year at 35.21616, -115.31309.  This was a real wide cul-de-sac spot with lots of rocks and trees circling the area.  

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It was hot when we arrived, even up at 5,440 feet.  After it cooled off a bit, we had dinner and went for a walk around the area.  We saw quite a bit of deer in the area.  

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The next day we stayed put and went for a day hike up Carruthers Canyon to Giant Ledge Mine. 

This mine had an open mine shaft that we didn’t go explore.  There were a lot of small campsites up this trail.  The road past the trail head is expert only and the campsites aren’t big enough for a trailer, just a single vehicle, but we saw plenty of tire tracks going up.  

After our hike we drove around Carruthers Canyon checking out the various campsites in the canyon.  There is some private property in the canyon, but it’s marked and gated.

This was a pretty relaxing day.  We went for another walk around the area hoping to see some more deer or other wildlife, then came back to camp and watched an amazing sunset.

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The following day we headed back down New York Mountain Road and met back up with the Mojave Road.  We elected, based on other drivers’ recommendations, not to drive down Watson’s Wash so we took the bypass.  

I really enjoy this section of the Mojave Rd, east of Watson’s Wash.  It’s very scenic and the road is very interesting.  There are portions of the road where you’re driving down a “ditch” of sorts with very high walls.  There is no way anyone can pass each other in this area.  Luckily, we didn’t encounter any westbound traffic.

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Along the say we found another abandoned cabin.  It appears to be private property as it has a chain link fence around it.  It wasn’t posted, which I found odd.  

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We passed the Ivanpah Railroad Memorial and continuing east, we came to the Mojave Tin Can.  Yes, we paid our dues to cross.

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Tea Cup 3

The last major tourist sight along this section of the Mojave Road was the Mojave School Bus.  To our surprise, we found it was removed.  Pretty disappointed to learn it was gone.  We’re lucky we saw it last year.  I was also pretty disappointed in whomever removed it as they left a bunch of bus garbage behind too.  If one is going to spend that much money to tow that thing out of the desert, you’d think you’d take everything instead of leaving a pile of garbage behind.

Mojave Bus 5

From the Mojave School Bus, we headed east to Fort Piute.  

We did stumble across something odd.  Where the Mojave Rd turns south to detour around the washout in the mountains, we noticed freshly laid road-mix and it was being graded.  The intersection I’m referring to is located at 35.103145, -115.051789.

graded road

A few years ago, the route from Fort Piute through the mountains washed out and there was no timeline for it to be repaired.  Now, I wonder if it has been repaired or is being repaired.  Why would the government be spending the money to re-grade the western side of this route if they weren’t repairing the whole road?  Yes, I get it…..it’s the government, but they are spending a lot of money to lay new road-mix and grade this area.

Shelley and I discussed it for a bit, but decided not to go check it out.  I was concerned about not being able to get turned around easily with the trailer if the grading stopped before the washout for some reason and we had to turn around.  We were pretty early in the day as well and didn’t need a short cut to Fort Piute.

Maybe someone who reads this can tell everyone if that route is reopened?

We continued down south and went by Leiser Ray Mine, as well as some other covered mine shafts along the way, then back up north to Fort Piute.

I have to say, I never plan on visiting Fort Piute again.  That road from Gulch Road (I believe it is) up to the Fort is the worst.  

Fort Piute is only at 2,770 feet and it was hot.  There was no shade but for our trailer awnings.  Ripley was not happy.  

Fort Paiute 1

The area around the fort itself was very cool, however.  There isn’t much left of the fort but some piles of rocks outlining the old foundation.  We did some walks around the area once it cooled off.  

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We weren’t sure if camping was actually allowed near the fort, but we interpreted the signage to imply there was no camping beyond the sign, which is how most signage is meant to be read.  This would make sense as beyond the sign was a hiking trail leading to the fort.  If they didn’t want people camping in the area, I would have expected the sign to be posted on the road as you entered the area.

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Either way, we backed down as far away from the fort as possible and spent the night.

We decided to get up early the next morning.  As hot as the afternoon was, we knew the morning was going to be warm.  Fort Piute has no protection from the morning sun rise.  So we got up to an alarm clock, closed up and had a fast breakfast and headed to Beale’s Crossing.

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Once we crossed Hwy 95, I was surprised at how technical the road became over on this east side.  I’ve done a lot of reading about the Mojave Road and I never read anything about this area.  At least with a trailer, it seemed more technical than anywhere else on the trip.  I really had to be careful about my line and walking out ahead of us to look over the ups and downs before blindly heading over them.  This caused us to take some time getting through this area.

Once on the Nevada side, the road turned more into a dry river bed wash area with lots of sand and this was pretty easy.

Then, finally, we arrived at Beale’s Crossing.  The end of The Road.  

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We took our time making this drive.  We wanted to stop along the way and see the sights and check out all the “stuff” along The Road.  Our plan worked out pretty well.  We didn’t even have a minor break on either the trailer or the truck this go around.  I was really impressed how well the trailer handled everything that was thrown at it from sand, to rocks, to water crossings and the truck did great as well.

We had a great time traveling with Joene and Ralph.  Death Valley was spectacular and the Mojave Road was just a lot of fun.  

Now we need to start planning our next big trip from 2019.

Death Valley – Mojave National Preserve 2018 (Part 3)

This is Part 3 of our two week trip through Death Valley and the Mojave National Preserve.  Following these links to Part 1 and Part 2.

Our entry into the Mojave National Preserve marked the beginning of the second half to our trip.  We had a great time in Death Valley.  I wish we had another two weeks to explore it.  I bet you could spend a month driving around Death Valley and maybe see everything.  

Maybe.

Now it was off to the Mojave. 

Last year we attempted the Mojave Road (east to west starting at Hwy 95, 35.112815, -114.829544) and had vehicle equipment issues that forced us out early.  This year, we were trying it west to east.

I never found the actual starting/ending point of the Mojave Road on the west side.  So I had to do some guessing based on others’ travels.  I settled on a starting point off of I-15 near Alvord Mtn Road and Manix Rd (34.981555, -116.594562).

We restocked on fresh vegetables and other staples…..like beer…..and head down I-15.  There was no signage for the starting point, so I climbed up on the roof of the truck and took our starting photo.

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Shelley and I used to do posed starting photos of the two of us and our truck/trailer but stopped doing that after the first two trips ended in mechanical failures and early exits.  Hopefully, this trip (without the posed photo) would end better.

We headed up the Mojave River, now dry (does it ever get wet down in this area?  I don’t think it does).  This section was pretty easy and we ended up climbing out just west of Afton Canyon Campground (35.041512, -116.393707) and onto a more improved roadway.

We found a section of Afton Canyon Campground we didn’t know about before this trip (35.040565, -116.390362).  We pulled in to use the restrooms and ran into two other guys out for a short drive.  These guys would come into play later and it’s important to recognize we ran into them here on their way down to Afton Canyon Campground.  We exchanged pleasantries and they took off east.

After a bit we did as well and passed by Afton Canyon Campground and onto the road leading to the water crossing and, to our amazement, we found a Jeep Grand Cherokee stalled and stuck right in the middle of the water crossing.  And no one was around.  The car was abandoned.  We couldn’t believe it.  That’s Shelley on the right in the below photo.

Jeep stalled in water

There were a few people around, including the two guys we ran into at the campground I mentioned, and I started up conversations with them.  They told me that the two occupants of the vehicle got concerned about the water coming into the vehicle as it crossed and, instead of staying on the gas and driving out, they stopped.  Soon thereafter the vehicle’s engine stalled, the cab flooded and they abandoned the vehicle.  

Right in the middle of the channel.  

The two guys I mentioned told me they had given the two occupants a ride up to the highway and ran into us on their way back down.  They told me the occupants were going up there to meet a friend with a “more capable” truck to pull them out.  Well, our truck was certainly capable of pulling them out, but no one was around.  I wasn’t going to start pulling on it without the owner sitting in the driver seat or, at a minimum, giving me permission to do so.

Shelley and I walked out to the Jeep and checked the area around the passenger side of the Jeep to see if I could drive around.  Shelley went out there with a staff and poked around and didn’t find anything obstructing the channel.  It wasn’t that deep and after walking out there it was clearly wide enough.

So the question became, do we wait for the owners, or drive around?

After another 45 minutes of deliberation, I made the decision to drive around.  We had no idea how long it was going to take the owners to come back and they were coming back with help.  I saw no reason to wait.

So, I drove around it.  It was a no brainer in the end.  The truck did great and the trailer followed right around the Jeep.  

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We continued on our way into Afton Canyon and came to the area I was eyeing at camping in and set up for the evening (35.02508, -116.33831).  The days were getting warmer now and we hung out in the shade till the sun went behind the canyon walls.

The evening was very warm.  This campsite is only at 1,300-ish feet.  We slept with the doors on the camper open.  Ripley was panting most of the night.  I’m sure it was getting uncomfortable for her.  With the doors open it made the evening more bearable for her and us.

Afton Canyon Campsite

The next day was our toughest on the Mojave Road.  Once past the trestle bridge this section was very difficult to navigate, even with a track to follow. 

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The wash in the area east of Afton Canyon was very wide with lots of different routes to take.  Somewhere around 35.075809, -116.206440 the track on the ground pushed us east instead of northeast and actually ended up going the wrong way, quite noticeably.  We ended up turning around, which was easy in the wash with a trailer, and back-tracked to try and figure out where we went wrong.  Once back at the point where the track said to go northeast, there was no road there at all.  The last thing I wanted to do is cut a new road (Leave No Trace) and get bogged down in fresh sand.  So we continued to hunt around a bit and came upon a old road segment and made it back onto the actual Mojave Road, per the map, but it was quite difficult to locate.

This brought us back towards a ranch along the Mojave Road (35.075809, -116.206440) and we were back on track.

Then we came upon a rise up onto a pass who’s name I forget now (35.093403, -116.178540) and had to build the road back up for our truck/trailer as the slope was very washed out.  We spent some time building it and once it was finished, we went right up with no issues.

Up on top, a few miles later, we ran into a Park Ranger.  We chatted a bit about road conditions and she strongly recommended that we don’t cross Soda Lake this day.  It was Friday and it had just rained on Wednesday and she was concerned our weight would prove difficult crossing the basin of the Lake with the mud.  She did say we could make it to the Traveler’s Monument, but recommended we take the long way around afterwards.

Taking her advice into our planning we headed to the Traveler’s Monument.

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I was very surprised by the road surface here.  I’ve never been on a salt flat and found it very interesting.  There was a very thin layer of solid dirt/salt, then right below it was a muddy, slimy mess.  

In looking east down the road to Soda Lake, it was obvious that taking the trailer down that road would be a bad idea.  The road was very narrow, maybe 15’ wide and the rest was muddy and churned up.  If we got into a bad situation in the basin, there was no way to turn our truck/trailer around. 

Road to Soda Lake 1

Maybe we could have made it; maybe it would have cost us $1,000.00 in tow bills; maybe we could have spent hours digging ourselves out of it.  Taking the Ranger’s advice, we took the detour along Rasor Rd, I-15 and Kelbaker Rd.

There was a nice side effect to taking this detour.  We ran into Ralph and Joene on Kelbaker Rd as they were seeing the sights.  We all pulled over and met up on the shoulder of the road for a bit.  They were camping at the Mojave Cross, which we were shooting for in two days.  We told them we would look for them when we got there.  Ralph told me about a Jeep group he had run into and he told them about us and how we were coming from the east.  If they saw us, we might be able to provide some road condition updates.  Then it was off again for our over night stop at the Lave Tubes.  

Mojave NP sign on Kelbaker Rd

I had an idea where we wanted to stay, but only generally.  It turned out this area of the Lave Tubes has a lot of great camping spots.  Well big enough for multiple vehicles and trailers.  We set up in a cul-de-sac campsite and relaxed.  (35.18237, -115.83137).

Lave tubes campsite

We explored this area bit on foot with Ripley during our stay.  We met another group camping farther up the road from us.  They were all in Jeeps and planned on crossing Soda Lake the next day.  These were the guys Ralph met and told us about.  They recognized us coming into the area when they saw the, “Big orange Tundra pulling a trailer.”  I have to figure there aren’t too many of those in the Mojave at any given time.  I didn’t think they would have any issues with the mud the following day, and if they did, turning a Jeep around is much easier than a Tundra and Trailer weighing about 9,500 lbs.

Day two was in the books.  So far so good.  We were taking things pretty slow and deliberate with no rush.  That was just the way we had planned things.

Lava Tubes campsite firepit

The following morning we headed east some more to the Lava Tubes themselves.  We parked at the parking lot (35.213645, -115.753166) and hiked up to the tubes.  The light wasn’t perfect for us but Shelley was persistent and did get some good shots.  

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I was pretty amazed at the number of volcanoes surrounding this area.  I counted 13 cinder cones from the entrance to the tubes.  I could only image all the activity this area received when they were all active.  

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Another cool feature we noticed was the cliffs of lava flows that the Mojave Road follows.  In discussing this with Shelley we both decided the reason the cliffs exist is we were driving where water flowed at the time and the lava flows stopped the way they did because they ran into a river or lake of water.  These cliffs were 10’ to 15’ high and they were nearly straight up.  Something stopped them abruptly and water seemed the best the idea.  

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The rest of the trip east to the Kelso/Cima Road was pretty uneventful.  It was a long drive, for sure.  We hit the must see sight along the way, the Mojave Mailbox.  It seems to have spread quite a bit into the desert now with all sorts of different trinkets and toys being collected. 

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While here we met another guy traveling westbound.  We got to chatting and talking about road conditions.  He was curious about Soda Lake and I was curious about Waton’s Wash.  He showed me photos he took of the wash earlier that day.  It was in pretty bad shape.  I don’t know if that’s what it always looks like, but the ruts seemed pretty wide and deep.  The ruts ran in the direction of the road and criss-crossed it.  He had concerns about us driving down it with a 3,000 lb trailer.  There was a lot off canter areas and he recommended we may want to take the alternate route around it.

After a short break for lunch here, we continued eastbound.  

One of the things I wanted to do on this trip was document the various campsites and campgrounds along the Mojave Road for my future information.  There are a lot of them.  Some small and others quite large.  Some of the “formal” ones, such as Marl Springs (35.169042, -115.648053), are pretty nicely set up too.  We stopped along the way marking them in my Gaia maps and taking pictures for possible future use.

Once we came to the Kelso/Cima Road we headed north to the Mojave Cross. 

Mojave Cross campsite 5

We were hoping to meet back up with Ralph and Joene but when we arrived, they weren’t in the area.  We assumed they moved along to their next destination.  We learned later they were in the area, just not at the cross itself.  We probably could have thrown rocks at each other, but unfortunately we simply missed each other.

This campsite is one of our favorite spots (35.317016, -115.547205).  We climbed up on the rocks behind our campsite and watched the sunset after dinner and hung out enjoying the Joshua Tree forest.

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The first half of our trip was over.  All of the Mojave Road we missed last year, we made it to this year.  The second half of our trip would be crossing portions of the road we were familiar with, but we would be heading all the way to Beale’s Crossing this time instead of simply stopping at Hwy 95.

Death Valley – Mojave National Preserve 2018 (Part 2)

Part 1 can be found following this link.

We awoke on Day 5 outside Echo Canyon to cool temperatures and overcast skies.  We left the trailer at the campsite for our travels this day.  After breakfast Ralph and Joene decided to move into the RV park a day early.  We followed them down to Furnace Creek and got some good info for ourselves since we were going to move in the next day.  

We then all headed east on Hwy 127 to Zabriskie Point to the overlook.  This was quite an amazing spot to stop and see.  I would have loved to hike over to Golden Canyon and back if we would have had the time.  Since we had our dog with us, hiking was out of the question this day.

From there we continued east to 20 Mule Canyon.  I wasn’t sure what to expect from this little drive but it was interesting.  Not a lot to see or do but there is a hike from this road if one has the time.  We would have checked it out had we not had our dog with us as they are not allowed on the trails.

We came back up Hwy 127 and headed south to Golden Canyon.  We hiked into it about 20 minutes or so and checked it out.  Not as spectacular as Zabriskie Point but worth the visit. This is the other side of Zabriskie Point, by the way.  You can start at either end and hike from one to the other.

Then we headed south some more to the lowest point in North America, Badwater Basin.  Shelley and I have stood on top of the highest point, Denali, in 2011.  Now we have stood at the the lowest point as well.  We walked out into the salt flat to check it out as well.

If you look closely in the photo above, inside that red circle you can see the marker denoting sea level.  We thought that was a nice touch from the Park Service to put that up high on the cliff.

As we drove back north, we stopped at the Devil’s Golf Course.  There are a number of places to see the Devil’s Golf Course.  There is the tourist spot just north of Badwater Basin.  We did stop there.  But there is a better spot to see it off of the West Side Road.  We saw this spot off West Side Road the day before when we drove out to our failed campsite.  So we went back there again, this time to stop and see it better.  Less tourists and less trampled areas of the ground.  There was a water pipe under the roadway here which was full of salt.  You could see how the water ran down this valley, through the pipes under the road and continued on.  But when it dried up, it left behind this white salt where ever the water had flowed.  Very cool area.

The above photo shows the tourist area with all the rocks making up the “golf course.”

The above photo is off of West Side Road.  That white in the background is the salt strip where the water had ran down the valley.  I’m standing on the road way with the pipes below me allowing the water to flow under the road.

We saved the best spot for last.  We wanted the afternoon light to be on Artist Drive so we saved it for last.  It didn’t disappoint.  I only included four photos here, but really this place is spectacular.  You can stand back at the overlooks and take all of it in and you can also walk down into the slot canyons and walk around among the rocks.  After we went back to our campsite, Ralph came back later in the evening and took more photos of the area as the sun was setting.

After Artist Drive, Ralph and Joene headed back to their camp and we headed back to Echo Canyon.  We got in early enough to relax with some tasty beverages, a fine cigar and just watch the sun go down.  

The next morning it was our turn to move into the RV park.  After moving in and dropping our trailer, we wanted to get a couple other sightseeing stops in before it got too hot.  So we drove north up to see the Salt Creek Boardwalk and the Harmony Flats Borax Works.  

Death Valley just kept surprising me.  I would never had guessed that there were fish living in some of the creeks that flowed year around in Death Valley.  But, there in front of me, were little pupfish swimming around in the creek at the Salt Creek Boardwalk.

I could not image working the Borax flats for $1.37 a day in Death Valley 10 months out of the year.  The work shut down in July and August.  Still, that’s pretty awful work if you ask me.  But 100’s of men did so.  And did it for a couple years.  I kind of like to think that once word got out about how terrible the job was, workers simply stopped showing up for work after the 2-month long summer break.  But who knows.  

The 3-car wagon train on display is an example of what was used to take the Borax to market.  That set up was pulled by 20 mules and became a symbol of the borax industry.  That wagon car was for the mules.

We stopped by the visitor center as well.  Did some reading of their displays and spent some cash along the way.  It was a very nice visitor center.

Then it was back to the RV park for refitting.  It was now May 3 and this would be our first showers since April 27.  Along with showers, we needed to do laundry.  This RV park was the only one nearby that had a laundry facility, which is why we chose it.  Across the street was a RV dump station and fresh drinking water.  So we dumped our toilet and filled our trailer’s water tank and all our water jerry cans in preparation for the Mojave the next day.

This little resort was stayed at was pretty nice.  The diner was okay, nothing fancy, but the grounds and services were good.  It also has the lowest golf course in the United States.  And the sunsets were pretty spectacular.

By dinner, we were all set.  Ralph and Joene joined us for one last meal back at Stove Pipe Wells.  They were going to head off in another direction and not follow us into the Mojave.  

It was great traveling with them.  We talked about when and where we would be in the Mojave and hoped to cross paths at one of those over night stops if it fit with their time table.  They were eventually on their way to Escalante.  It was great they took a week out of their trip to meet up with us and do some traveling together.  

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The next morning, Shelley and I had an early start.  Up at 0530, breakfast at the RV park’s diner at 0600 and on the road by 0700.  We knew it would be a long day and wanted to make sure we built in enough time for any contingencies.

First, we had to head to Barstow for groceries and gas.  There just isn’t a whole lot of choice or options in Baker for either, so we went to Barstow.  Our starting point for the Mojave was that direction so there wasn’t much in the way of back-tracking.  As a bonus, Barstow has a Starbucks. 

We stopped at Starbucks, filled up the Tundra and the four jerry cans with gas and then hit Walmart for groceries.  While Shelley stayed with the trailer in the parking lot, I collected the groceries. 

Then it was back onto the Interstate to start the Mojave Road.  We pulled out of Walmart around noon on May 4th and headed east on I-15 and took the Harvard Rd exit (206).  Then took Yerma Rd to Alvord Mountain Rd and turned right into the dirt.  We may have gotten lucky here.  Yerma Rd was completely closed beginning at the intersection with Alvord Mountain Rd.

Our plan was to spend our first night somewhere in Afton Canyon.

 

 

 

 

Death Valley – Mojave National Preserve 2018 (Part 1)

This is part 1 of a 4-part trip report from our week in Death Valley and our week in the Mojave National Preserve back in May.

Planning for our Death Valley – Mojave National Preserve 2018 Trip started in the fall of of 2017.  I wanted to complete the Mojave Road after getting cut short in 2017 but didn’t want to travel all the way to Southern California from Boise for just 5 or 6 days in the Mojave.  So I came up with a 2-week trip and included Death Valley at the start and the Mojave at the end.

Using Beatty, NV as a kick off point for Death Valley allowed us to travel from Boise to this starting point in one day.  

Once those initial logistics were taken care of I put out word of the trip with other Moby 1 Trailer owners to see if anyone wanted to join us for part or the whole trip.  Initially, two other couples were going to join us, but one had to pull out due to work commitments.  The other, Ralph and Joene from Connecticut, were already planning a months-long trip out west and decided to join us and fit the two weeks into their plans.  

We met them in Beatty, NV on Friday, April 27.  We picked the Beatty RV Park where we could fill up all our water and fill up in Beatty with fuel.  The Moby 1 carries 36 gallons of water, but I added 20 more gallons to that with four Jerry Cans.  Our Tundra carries 38 gallons of fuel, but I added 20 more gallons to that too with four Jerry Cans.  

On Saturday morning, we made breakfast and headed west towards Death Valley.  

We made two short stops before entering the park.  First, we stopped by Rhyolite Ghost Town.

Then we went down the road a few hundred feet to the Goldwell Open Air Museum.  Both were interesting and worthy of a visit if you are driving by.

Then we headed off to the park. 

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Our entrance to the park was going to be via Titus Canyon.  I had read a great many good things about this route and thought it would be a great way to get into the park.  It was very scenic with lots of places to stop and check out the sights.  Along this route is the Leadfield Ghost Town.  This was a nice place to pull over for lunch and a short rest.  We didn’t walk out to the old, run-down buildings.  There was some signage and foundations around the pull outs for vehicles stopping.  

This road is 1-way westbound only.  And I think that may be for good reason.  The west end of the road was spectacular.  You finish the drive through a narrow slot canyon and then you come around a corner and see your first views of Death Valley through the opening in the canyon.  An absolutely stunning end to this road.  

After exiting Titus Canyon, we drove north to our first campsite at Mesquite Springs.  We needed to pick up a 7-day park pass at the kiosk here as well.  This is a nice campground.  Like all of them in Death Valley, there are no amenities other than a bathroom.  No water, no power, no sewer.  There are very few hook-up sites in Death Valley and all are in Furnace Creek or Stove Pipe Wells.

But we were fine with this arrangement.  The bathroom had a dish-washing sink and we were able to dump our gray water there, which is all we need.

Shelley and I hiked up to an overlook behind the campground and took in our first views of the valley we were in.

On our way back down to camp from this overlook, we took some photos of the moon rise coming over the hills behind us.

We were lucky on the weather.  It was really mild.  Not much over 90 degrees.  Very comfortable.  We ate dinner, hung around our fire pit with Ralph and Joene and made smores before going to bed.  

On day 2, we continued north to Ubehebe Crater.  This was the last of the pavement for us for a few days.  We did a short hike to the crater overlook before airing down our tires and heading down Racetrack Rd to our first sightseeing stop.  

This section of road isn’t all that bad, really.  It had its moments of scenery, but overall it was just a nice drive down to Tea Kettle Junction.

Our first stop along Racetrack Road was Tea Kettle Junction.  Just some sort of funky “thing” that was made many years ago by someone and now it’s this icon of Death Valley that one needs to get their picture taken with when they visit.  We did just that.

As we continued on south we got our first look at Racetrack Playa from the roadway to the north.  An interesting fact about Racetrack Playa.  It is one of the flattest places on earth with just a 2″ rise/drop from one end to the other over a 2-mile distance.

First, we stopped at The Grandstand at the north end of Racetrack Playa.  It’s a short walk out across the salt flat to a rock formation growing up out of the the sand.

Then further south we came to The Racetrack itself.  We walked out into the salt flats to check out the rocks that appear to be racing around the Playa in some mysterious fashion.  It wasn’t until just recently that scientist uncovered how these rocks move along a dry salt lake bed leaving tracks and appearing to turn simultaneously.  Follow that link above to the National Park Service and the story behind the solution to the mystery.  It was very cool to see and follow the track.  

I really like this photo of The Racetrack with The Grandstand in the background.

By the way, this section of road between the Grandstand and the Racetrack was just absolutely horrible.  Just terrible.  Worst washboard I have ever seen.  Three miles of just sheer hell.  I guess if you can go 45 mph over it you might be okay, but you’re not doing that while towing a trailer.  

Further south from the Racetrack was our camp for the next two nights.  Homestake Dry Camp.  Just a simple pull in spot with some fire rings and room for a dozen or so vehicles.  Pretty nice views looking at the mountains to our east and the old Lippincott Mine up above us in the mountains.  We would base out of here for the next two nights as we drove around the area seeing various sights.

The next day, Day 3, the four of us drove over Lippincott Road.  We had wanted to take our trailers over it the next day on our way out of this area but weren’t sure if we could.  So we had pre-planned on driving over Lippincott Road with just our trucks to check out how bad it would be.  

It was pretty bad.  Except for two spots, a trailer would be very easy to take.  But there was no way we were going to risk it.  It is definitely not a trailering road at our skill level with our size trailers and trucks.

At one point we had to build a portion of the road with rocks and boulders it was so washed out.  This photo was taken above the area that was washed out that we had to do some building.  You can see a group of vehicles stopped at that spot as they try to negotiate their way through it as well.  Just as we got down to them, the last one in their group went through, so there wasn’t any waiting around for each other.  

In all, it took us about 2 hours to drive over.  I read a trip report from 2014 where it took that party just 30 minutes.  Pretty sure the road has gotten worse since then.  Maybe if you’re in a rock-crawling Jeep or small wheel-based vehicle you can do it faster.  You might even be able to pull a trailer with you if it’s short and light.

Once out into Saline Valley, we headed south towards Hunter Mountain Road.  Just before pulling over to take our lunch we got buzzed by a low flying F-18 headed to Star Wars Canyon (The Jedi Transition), I’m sure.  I mean, right over the top of our trucks.  It came from behind us, so we didn’t see it till it was past us and only then did we hear it.  It couldn’t have been more than 300 feet above us as it climbed up over the ridge and dove back down again.  

I jumped out of the truck hoping its wingman would be next, right behind it, but no luck.  It was all by itself.  My guess is its wingman was in another valley nearby.  

We took our lunch not far from this spot and could hear jets all around us, but never saw another one that close.  We saw four other F-15s flying in formation way above us, but that was it.

After coming out of Lippencott Road, we were greeted with great views of Saline Valley.

After lunch we continued up Hunter Mountain Road when, again, we got buzzed by a jet in the canyon.  This time it was a Harrier.  It was super low, less than 300 feet again, and banking over us as it rounded the corner of the canyon.  And again, no wingman following behind.

It was pretty cool to have two jets buzz over us so low like that.  Our own little 3 second air show.

We continued up Hunter Mountain Road till we came to the Lost Burro Mine.  This was a very cool ghost mine.  We found an open mine shaft and duck-walked in about five feet just to peek around the corner.  It was very cool.  Lots of old mining rigging and stands and a couple, fairly intact, buildings and structures.  A very cool stop along this road.

Death Valley is full of old mines.  Many of them have still open mine entrances, such as the one below.  It went back a good distance, but we only peeked in to look around the corner.  Maybe about five feet.  I can see how people can get tempted to crawl down these things.  They seem very cool to explore.  But we both like living, you know.

Hunter Mountain Road comes out at Tea Kettle Junction and then it was back down south to Homestake Dry Camp again for the evening.

We relaxed around the camp fire watching the moon rise over the hills to our east.  It was pretty spectacular watching it rise over the ridge.  Shelley got a pretty good shot of it too.

On Day 4, it was off to the south end of the park.  Since we couldn’t take Lippincott Road we decided to drive back north up Racetrack Road to Ubehebe crater and get back on pavement.  Once there, we air’d back up and drove all the way south to what we hoped would be a good spot along West Side Road.  

Even with the extra fuel I was packing, I could see we were going to run out gas.  Ralph had a smaller gas tank then we did, so we detoured over to Stove Pipe Wells were I heard gas a bit cheaper than it was at Furnace Creek.  It turned out to be $0.30 cheaper. 

We decided to take in a nice lunch at the saloon as well.  Then it was off south to the West Side Road.  

On this day, the weather began to worsen as rain clouds came in and we even got some drizzle now and again.  Our plan was to camp a few miles off West Side Road and base out of that campsite for two nights while we drove around the valley checking out the sights.  Pretty quick, we realized that West Side Road is all washboard and the road to our campsite was even worse.  We estimated we would end up being about an hour, 1-way, from pavement to our sights if we camped up at the spot we were shooting for.  We didn’t want to waste two hours a day just driving back and forth from our campsite on more washboard.    

We turned around and were on the verge of checking into the RV park when Shelley found Echo Canyon Road on her map.  Most everything around this area is off-limits to primitive camping and we had very limited connectivity.  We headed to the Visitor Center and Shelley asked a park Ranger about Echo Canyon and they said it was fine as long as we were one mile off the pavement.  Great!  We headed to Echo Canyon.

Just a short 3 miles off the pavement and we were set.  Much better than West Side Road.  We set up for, what would be a 2-night stay and settled in with dinner with Ralph and Joene.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

Totality in Stanley and the Idaho BDR

We became aware of the total eclipse sometime in the summer of 2016.  When Shelley bid her vacations last October, we set up our annual week vacation in Stanley to coincide with the eclipse.  We reserved two camp sites for our family gathering, which only happened thanks to Courtney who managed to be “the one” who got through on the website for the reservation.

We traveled up to Stanley on the Saturday before the eclipse and got some good mountain biking in over the weekend.  Luckily the weather was clear with little to no smoke in the area and no chance of rain till after the eclipse.

We rode the Elk Mountain Loop on Saturday which was really nice.  Pretty easy ride overall.

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Elk Mountain Ride

Just after we started we ran into a hiker who told us she saw a black bear moving off the trail ahead of us some ways.  We rode a bit more gingerly for a while after that but once we ran into other bikers and hikers coming from the other way with no signs of a bear, we felt better about the rest of the trip.

Hawk and his son Orion tried their hand at sailing in their make shift sail boat with a tarp.  They put in on the south side of the lake and came all the way across the lake.

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Monday was the eclipse and Shelley took some really spectacular photos of the event.  Shelley came prepared for the event with a great camera and the tripod.

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The gang just hung out and waited.

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I had never seen a total eclipse and had no idea what to expect, other from pictures.  I was pretty surprised that it didn’t really get that dark till the last few minutes, nor did it start getting noticeably colder till about 15 minutes from totality.

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Then totality was absolutely incredible.  Watching the last glimpse of sun disappear while wearing the eclipse glasses then taking them off to see totality was unbelievable.  I just couldn’t believe how big the event was.  Pictures just don’t give the event scale unless you see it in person.

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The other thing that was really cool was looking to the north and seeing the glow of a sunset…..to the north!  That was the only horizon we could see being surrounded by hills and mountains.  But that was just really interesting.

Bats came out.

Our dog, Ripley went to sleep.  She began laying down about 30 minutes before and at totality she was out.  Sleeping.

We weren’t too far off the center line so we had well over 2 minutes of totality.

We did watch the whole thing.  Including the sun coming out from behind the moon as well.  Took in the entire event in from start to finish.

Just absolutely spectacular.

On Tuesday, we did some more mountain biking.  We drove over to Potato Mountain and did a really difficult ride.  We had to do quite a bit of pushing the bike up hills as well as a lot of natural obstacles.  From wash-outs to stream and creek crossings.  It was a real, true mountain bike trail.  It did have a mixture of cruising too through meadows and traverses.  But when we were finished, we were whipped.

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Potato Mountain Ride

As we drove out of the trail head and back to our camp site, we saw a concerning site.  A small billow of smoke rising from the area of Stanley Lake.  The local authorities spent the whole weekend concerned about someone coming up to watch the eclipse and starting a wild land fire, and now, the day after eclipse, we were looking at one not far from our camp site.  On top of that, Ripley was in our trailer and the doors were locked.

We hauled ass back down the dirt roads from our trail head to Lake Stanley.  As we got closer, we realized the fire was in our valley, but then upon arriving at the camp ground, we saw it was at the south end of the lake and was pretty small.  Some forest service guys were in our camp telling us the fire was being worked and there was no evacuation in effect.  They told us resources were on their way to combat the fire and two crews were already on the ground working the fire.

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Along with other campers, we hung out at the lake shore watching it as we couldn’t see what was happening on the ground.  Shelley and I started to break our camp down a bit in the event the authorities ordered an evacuation.  We wanted to be close to pulling up stakes and getting out if things came to that.

A few hours later, the firefighting air force showed up.

First, a couple small firefighting planes arrived and did three runs on the fire.  Then a lone helicopter showed up and started collecting water from the lake and dropping it.  Then another helicopter showed up.

Then another.

Then another.

Pretty soon there were five helicopters in the flight pattern picking up and dumping water on the fire.  This went on for hours.  Till just before dusk.

But the star attraction was when the Sky Crane showed up.  Oh man.  Jack pot!  Only 31 were ever made and very few are even still flying.  And the Sky Crane was picking up just about 300 feet off the shore from our camp site.  Yeah, I watched it for some time.  Took lots of video too.  Very cool.

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Sky Crane picking up water

The air show went on for hours and when it ended it was hard to see what the condition of the fire was.  With all the rotors beating the smoke for hours it was tough to see the fire’s condition.  We were told by the forest service that we were in the clear for the evening and the fire presented no more threat to us.

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We roasted some s’mores that night in peace.  You can see the smoke from the fire in the background on the far side of the lake.

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We were going to do another mountain bike ride the next morning, but the fire burned up the area of the trail.  So we went into Stanley and just hung out at a coffee shop for a few hours to catch up with email and the rest of the world.  The camp ground has no service at all.  With no ride on the schedule, we took Ripley too.  Which she enjoyed.  Then we drove down to Red Fish Lake and she got to fetch in the lake and go for a good walk.  We ate dinner there and then listened to their live music on their lawn.  It was a pretty chill day and relaxing.

Perfect.

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On Thursday morning, we started the second half of this trip.  We packed up the trailer, hooked up and headed for the Idaho Backcountry Discovery Route (BDR).  If you’re not familiar with the BDR system, you can read about at the above link.

Back in April we did part of Section 1, from Jarbidge NV to Bruneau ID.

We left Stanley to pick up the BDR south of Lowman where FS384 comes into US21.  Due to the Pioneer Fire in 2016, lots of the area SE of Lowman is closed to allow the area a season to regrow.  The main road the BDR uses (FS385) is closed so we used a detour which starts SW of Lowman.

Once on the BDR, we headed south to Trinity Lake (43.62481, -115.43186) for the night.  Arriving there mid-week it was nearly empty.  We set up at a real nice spot overlooking the lake.

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At Trinity Lake we got to try out the newest gadget we bought for the backcountry, the Outland Fire Bowl.  With all the fire restrictions in place all around the Northwest, we wanted a way to have a camp fire and not be in violation of the fire restrictions.  While at the Overland Expo in Flagstaff in May and the NW Overland Rally in Plain in June, we saw different people with these and everyone seemed to like them.  It seemed a smart way to have a camp fire while in the back country.  We didn’t know how fuel hungry it would be, so we brought a second 5 gallon propane tank we had laying around, but we didn’t did one.  We carry a 7-1/2 gallon propane tank on the Moby and that would have been plenty for this trip.

It did work very well.  We roasted s’mores on it and hung out around it at Trinity Lake and at Anderson Reservoir.  We did notice that it doesn’t perform nearly as well at altitude.  Trinity Lake is over 7,000 feet and on full, the flames were decent.  But at Anderson Reservoir, we had it at 1/2 power and that was more than enough.

The other thing I would recommend is buying the extra carry bag for it.  The fake rocks in it rub together while in transit and create dust.  I saw this while getting it ready in the living room at home so we put the bowl in a 33 gallon garbage bag.  A garbage bag is cheap, but it got torn up too and was only good for one trip.

The next morning we went for a short hike around the lake and up the ridge to explore the trail system and see what’s around the area.

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We really enjoyed Trinity Lake.  We found two really great hiking trails we want to come back to some day.  If you are reading this for information on the BDR, Trinity Lake is a must stop for an overnight camping stay.

From Trinity Lake, we continued down the BDR to Pine and then on to Anderson Ranch Reservoir.  We arrived at Evans Creek Campground (43.399409, -115.413954) in the area later in the day on Friday and the camp sites along the reservoir was starting to fill up.  We did find a decent spot and found a nice quite, private spot in the trees along the camp site to spend the evening.  Even though some of the camp sites were full with large groups, the spot we had in the trees made it feel a bit more private.  Those that were around us were really nice too.  It wasn’t Trinity Lake, but it was pleasant.

The next day our trip was over.  We continued down the BDR, passing through the remaining area of Anderson Ranch Reservoir and headed to Glens Ferry and finally on to Bruneau to meet up with where we left off in April.  That link up completed, for us, all of Section 1 and parts of Section 2 of the Idaho BDR.

Then it was back to Boise for a long weekend of refitting, cleaning and catching up with friends before our next adventure started the following Monday.

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