Wednesday, January 30, 2019

You Never Know What (or Who) You're Going to Find

After 10 days or so on the north side of town, I moved the Scamp to the south side of town in preparation for a gathering.

It doesn't seem that that sunrises and sunsets are quite as brilliant, but the sunrise is still worth getting up for!

I went into town first thing on Saturday morning to take one last past through the "big tent." Things were MUCH quieter than they had been on the first day of the RV Show. Still nothing that I needed, but I did get more info from the gal that was looking for summer workers in Alaska.

The big reason to move south was to be positioned for the Escapees GeoCachers event that is always scheduled for the week after the Big Tent.

They meet for four days to teach new folks interested in trying geocaching, to compare notes and make recommendations, to tell stories that may or may not be true, and to geocache in the surrounding area.

Numbers vary from one day to the next with most of the days limited to people who are members of Escapees.

Yesterday morning, I teamed up with another fellow to see if we could find some caches that had just been published. Sure, there was a presentation scheduled in camp, but there were First to Finds that needed to be found!

We managed to be First to Find five of the six new caches southeast of town while others headed to new caches west of town.

Not only that, we were back in plenty of time so that we didn't miss the snacks!

Not only have I found some fun caches this week, as we were standing around talking late yesterday afternoon, I discovered that one of the other attendees and I share some mutual friends. Turns out, she lived down the road a bit from a gal I dated in high school. Small world!

Friday, January 25, 2019

Quartzsite Quest

We dropped the trailer off in Quartzsite on our way back from Death Valley. After a couple days at home I came back to start my annual Quartzsite wandering. Q draws me back for the fiery sunrises and sunsets and the surprises that you find as you wander the desert. The weather is cooler this year but that's OK.

I wondered if the stick in the pile of rocks was a claim corner.

Not far away, I discovered a collection of rusty tin cans which pretty well confirmed my assumptions.

Not sure if this was supposed to be Mickey Mouse or a rabbit or their sister, but it made me smile.

I happened to be in the right place at the right time to log a few First To Finds, and meet another geocacher in the process.

Another chilly morning, I was able to help some other geocachers as they got their phones set up to do Wherigo caches. Getting the app downloaded with Quartzsite's overloaded cell towers was the biggest challenge!

BJ and I did tour the Big Tent one day, but I didn't take any pictures. You're not missing anything except crowds.

Last night's sunset was even better than normal! Unfortunately, the squiggle in the middle of the picture was MUCH more impressive in real life!

Next week, the Escapee Geocaching group gets together. Time to make another pass past the new caches I placed and make sure they're clean and ready.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

I've Got Gas

One of the things we learned in Death Valley was that it's BIG. While the truck has a big tank, it's always easier to burn off the top half when you don't know where you're going. We paid $2.20 in Bullhead City on our way to Death Valley, and $4.25 in Baker, California figuring gas would be more expensive in the park.

There was a gas station at Furnace Creek posted at $5.05 but we ignored it.

We went to Beatty, in part for fuel, but also because of some ghost towns around the area. Gas in Beatty was posted at $3.25 but it cost more than that because there was a candy store in the station...

Another day, we drove out to the west side of the park, where we could see the snow covered peak of Mt. Whitney in the distance. Apparently there are places in the park where on a clear day you can see both the highest and the lowest points in the continental U.S.

Coming back towards Stovepipe Wells, we made a note of the gas price in Panamint Springs but did not partake. Instead, we fueled at Stovepipe Wells ($3.58/gallon) before hooking up the trailer for our southbound departure.

We stopped in Shoshone at the famous Crowbar Cafe and Saloon for lunch with friends who have been volunteering at a nearby wildlife area. Good food and good conversation!

The gas pump next door to the cafe said 44 cents but it was dry. The pump across the street said $5.05, but we didn't partake.

We continued south from Baker through the Mohave Nature Preserve to check out the restored railroad depot in Kelso. It is now used as the visitor center for the Preserve but was closed due to the shutdown. We found a boondock (thanks, Campendium!) with a view before we got to the intersection with I-40 which made a nice overnight stop.

We had plenty of fuel to reach Parker, Arizona where we took on 24 gallons at $2.19. It pays to shop around!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Back Roads - Part Way

Our second full day at Stovepipe Wells had us heading to Nevada, not only in the hopes of cheaper gas and the start of a one-way back road,

but I wanted to check out a place with a geocache called Geocacher's Heaven. When we spotted this outfit that deals in used ammo cans, we could understand the name.

The other planned stop before we started our back road jaunt was a visit to Rhyolite. The site is now managed by BLM and has a paved road,

but that hasn't stopped vandals over the years.

Rhyolite was a going concern for a few years in the early 1900's but was totally deserted within 15 years or so. Portions of several large buildings remain but many of the smaller ones were moved to Beatty years ago.

Immediately adjacent to Rhyolite is a small piece of private land that hosts a museum and several pieces of large art

including "The Last Supper" by Polish-Belgian artist Albert Szukalski.

On our way out of town we stopped to visit the cemetery. Some graves are still obvious, but many of the wooden markers are long gone and the wood ones that remain are unreadable.

After our visit to Rhyolite, we headed out on the 27 mile road to Leadfield and Titus Canyon. Turns out, this is Death Valley National Park's most popular back road trip. We saw a few other vehicles, but often had the place to ourselves. The road was steep in places and occasionally had large potholes that required high clearance or avoidance.

I discovered that rough roads are great for conning the Fitbit that I was actually working. The road was such that if you wanted to consider the view, it was essential to stop first. We spotted this small mine shortly before we reached Leadfield.

Leadfield was created in the 1920s. According to Wikipedia, "The product of extensive and fraudulent advertising by the Western Lead Mine Company and C.C. Julian, the town boomed in 1925. His advertising posters showed steamboats navigating the Amargosa River to Leadfield, ignoring the fact that the Amargosa River is dry much of the time and does not run within 20 miles of Leadfield."

As a fan of history, rust, and ghost towns, I was looking forward to Leadfield. Turns out, the best part of the trip was the drive out of town through Titus Canyon. The rock, and the road were twisted!

It's times like these I wish I'd taken a geology class somewhere along the line.

I understand now why the park operates this as a one way road!

While Rhyolite and Leadfield were interesting, the drive was the highlight of the day!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Rolling the Dice

For several years, we've talked about visiting Death Valley, but it always seemed the conversations revolved around the late May northbound, or August southbound time frames. Apparently August is Death Valley National Park's busiest month which just goes to show how many people are lacking sanity.

With the government 'partial' shutdown in place, we knew the experience would be impacted but we decided to go anyway. After rain most of the way, we parked for the night at the Riverside in Laughlin and enjoyed dinner with one of our dear river rat friends.

We headed from Searchlight to Baker, avoiding Las Vegas traffic, and approached the park from the south. Baker is "interesting" but I wouldn't want to live there! We'd fueled in Bullhead City at $2.20 but wanted to top off the tank because of the long distances in the park. Fuel in Baker varied between $4.25 and $4.50.

I spent some time before departure looking for places where we could get off the road with the truck and trailer so that BJ could stretch. My planning was good enough that there just happened to be a geocache at almost all of the stretch breaks.

We didn't have any rain, but it sure looked like it on the second day.

We arrived at the park boundary west of Death Valley Junction, and saw slivers of blue sky ahead of us.

Nearly all of the NPS campgrounds were closed except for Stovepipe Wells, 30 miles north of Furnace Creek. The concessionaire operated campgrounds were open, but why pay their price when there was no charge for the NPS campgrounds since they can't charge during shutdowns. (What was that about sanity?)

The sunrise the next morning through a very dirty window, looked very inviting. After breakfast, we headed back to explore the central portion of the park.

Some roads were gated off. This one had been open the day before when we went up to Stovepipe Wells, but now our first stop of the day had equipment blocking the road to the parking lot. While you couldn't drive, you could walk to visit the mill. Turk couldn't walk on the path, but he could walk on the road.

I'm old enough to remember 20 Mule Team Borax advertised on the radio so I was really looking forward to this stop. The most interesting tidbit was that they couldn't process borax during the summer since it won't crystallize at temps above 120 degrees.

We stopped at Furnace Creek and wandered a bit. These facilities were built to attract tourists by the railroad and the borax company when the borax business slowed down. Still very nice!

The museum was closed, but the yard full of equipment displays was open. This steam tractor replaced the 20 Mule teams before the railroad replaced the steam tractor. The mules pulled 30 ton wagon trains 163 miles from Death Valley.

We went as far south as Badwater Basin, just so we could say we've been to the lowest spot in the U.S. How low can you go??

After checking out the salt growth in the basin we headed back to view the Badlands. If we hadn't had Turk along, we could have been enticed into a hike through this area. Turned out the weather was perfect for hiking - highs in the mid 60's.

I'm glad we visited in the winter, and it's on my list to return. There's LOTS that we won't have time to see (or opportunity due to locked gates) this time.