I've always loved small-town newspapers. Now I have one as a local
paper (though more often, I read the online
Los Alamos Daily Post.
The front page of the Los Alamos Monitor yesterday particularly
caught my eye:
I'm not sure how they decide when to include national news along with
the local news; often there are no national stories, but yesterday I
guess this story was important enough to make the cut. And judging by
font sizes, it was considered more important than the high school
debate team's bake sale, but of the same importance as the Youth
Leadership group's day for kids to meet fire and police reps and do
arts and crafts. (Why this is called "Wild Day" is not explained in
Meanwhile, here are a few images from a hike at Bandelier National Monument:
first, a view of the Tyuonyi Pueblo ruins from above (click for a larger
Some petroglyphs on the wall of Alamo Canyon.
We initially called them spirals but they're actually all concentric
circles, plus one handprint.
And finally, a cairn guarding the bottom of Lummis Canyon.
All the cairns along this trail were fairly elaborate and artistic,
but this one was definitely the winner.
[ 14:01 Apr 16, 2015
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Cadillac-smooth down low, but take it slowly higher up.
Not many buildings or mine shafts, but lots of miner trash.
Too much deep sand for us -- we gave up and turned around.
Aiken Mine Road:
A lovely beginner 4WD road:
scenic and weird, from slightly challenging rocky basalt
to deep (but not dangerously so) sand.
Our first goal of the morning was Morningstar Mine, a set of abandoned
mines in the northern part of the preserve.
Two wide, smooth dirt roads leave paved Morningstar Mine Rd to
climb the alluvial fan, but the quality of the roads gradually
deteriorate over the short distance to the mines.
Morningstar Mine turns out to be a private, going concern, fenced
off with NO TRESSPASSING signs. But there are plenty of older,
abandoned mines nearby. Very few buildings or mine shafts, but lots
of rusting cans and other trash. Really, not much to see, and Dave
was in a hurry to move on, so we did.
The Contentious Memorial
Down on Cima Road near the Teutonia Peak trailhead, I wanted
to see the famous WWII monument, about which a Supreme Court case is
currently raging. (The monument is a cross, a religous symbol, which
federal law says should not be supported by government funds or stand
on government land.)
I couldn't find anything on the web that gave the location of the
monument, so we had to look for it. It turns out that it's easily
spotted from the road, atop one of the granite outcrops on the north
side of the road, just east of the Teutonia Peak trailhead.
(Or see the GPS waypoint file linked at the end of this article.)
In fact, we'd almost certainly seen it before, and shrugged it off
as another of those weird inexplicable things you see in the Mojave.
The upper part of the cross is currently covered with a box, so
it looks like a small sign that says nothing.
Several people have put up small flags nearby.
Jackass Canyon -- not to be
The next goal was Jackass Canyon, down in the south part of the
preserve west of Kelso.
For quite a while the road is
in great shape, hard packed and not badly washboarded. There are lots of
red anthill-like formations right in the road that turned out
to be built not of sand but of some sort of dried plant matter.
(Did I mention the curious things you see in the Mojave?)
But then the road descends into a wash full of deep sand with
occasional buried rocks. After smacking our undercarriage a couple of
times on hidden obstacles while fishtailing around in the sand,
we decided retreat was the better part of valor. We'll try Jackass
Canyon from the south some time -- maybe it's easier from that
Mojave Rd from 17-Mile Pt to Aiken Mine Rd
Returning to Kelbaker Road, we proceeded a few miles west to 17-Mile
Point, where we'd exited the Mojave Road a few days ago, and turned
north to complete a section of the Mojave Rd. we hadn't done yet.
From Kelbaker to Aiken Mine, the road is quite sandy, with lots of
fishtailing, but not a problem for the Rav.
Aiken Mine Rd
This was our second time on Aiken Mine Rd, one of our favorite routes
in the preserve.
The lower section of Aiken Mine, from the paved road to the lava tube,
is brutally washboarded, like most park dirt roads that get a lot of
We didn't stop at the lava tube today, since we'd explored it fairly
thoroughly the last time (it's lovely, and provided several of my
favorite desktop wallpaper images) but continued straight past it
into the basalt.
The ascent from the lower lava fields up to Aiken Mine is weird and
wonderful. The road is entirely basalt cinders (Aiken mine is a cinder
mine located on a large cinder cone), a mixture of black and red and a
little white sand here and there. It's like driving on Mars. The
ascent is steep and slightly slippery, but it looks scarier than it
is -- there's really no danger here for anything with reasonable
clearance, and although 4WD is probably helpful I doubt it's required.
The mine, an active cinder mine, is at the top, along with some hiking
trails up one of the cinder cones.
Past Aiken, the road descends into the Joshua tree forest on the side
of Cima Dome, supposedly the densest Joshua tree forest in the world.
("In the world" should be viewed in light of the fact that Joshua
trees don't really exist anywhere outside the Mojave desert of
California and Nevada.) More fishtailing in deep sand with a high
center groove. The Rav4 never bottomed, but this is definitely not a
road to take a 2WD street car of normal ride height.
The melon patch
At some point, the road forks and the left fork seems to be the main
one -- but it's a sham. The left fork is actually a power line
maintenance road that cuts across to I-15.
(We knew this because we'd gotten caught by
it the last time, followed the power lines then eventually figured it
out and cut back to the more interesting Aiken Mine Rd.)
A few miles afer the powerline fork the road passes a water tank
and corral, goes back into sandy Joshua tree forest for a while, then
comes out at a strange clearing. What's strange about it? It's a
patch of coyote melons. These delicious looking, softball-sized
melons apparently grow wild in the Mojave -- but I've never seen
them anywhere but this spot. They're apparently all but inedible by
humans ... but something eats them, because you can see broken,
emptied and dessicated melon rinds lying everywhere.
Did I mention "strange things you see in the Mojave"? Coming on a
melon patch in the middle of the desert is one of the things I love
about this place.
Alas, the melon patch is almost at the end of the road.
Not long after it,, there's a house (I hear one of the rangers lives
there) and an intersection, and the road suddenly turns posh for its
last mile or two to paved Cima Road.
Photos and GPS Logs
[ 10:34 Nov 18, 2009
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Castle Peaks hiking corridor:
A rocky road with a couple of tricky sandy gulches takes you to a
hike along a wash leading to gorgeous views of basalt and breccia
and eventually the Castle Peaks, ragged spires that look like
A smooth, easy road takes you to an abandoned town site and a
collossal open-pit mine.
Castle Peaks hiking corridor
Our goal on Tuesday was the "Castle Peaks Hiking Corridor". The Trails
Illustrated map showed a side road leading northwest from Walking Box
Ranch Rd and eventually petering out to become a hiking trail that
went, if not actually to Castle Peaks, at least close enough
to get a good look.
Castle Peaks are the rugged spikes you see from I-15 between Mountain
Pass and Primm, jutting into the skyline and giving the New York
Mountains their appearance of skyscrapers which must be the reason
for the range's name. They're eroded fins of eroded Miocene
volcanics, surrounded by Precambian metamorphic rocks.
Walking Box Ranch Rd is easy to find off Nipton Rd -- not only is it a
prominent, wide dirt road but there's even a road sign, a few miles
after the eastern end of the Wee Thump Joshua Tree wilderness (on the
north side of Nipton Rd). I'd like to explore Wee Thump and its
impressive Joshua trees some day.
The road is good, open and well graded, notwithstanding the humorous
not maintained" sign you encounter a few miles in.
The side roads follow the map well enough, so it wasn't too difficult
to identify the Castle Peaks turn-off. It's a 4-way intersection, not
3-way as shown on the map.
The Castle Peaks road is much narrower and alternates between sandy
stretches and dirt. Mostly it's nothing difficult, but the rocky
sections are slow going (first gear), there's a high center rut
and you cross a couple of washes that make you stop and think about
the right line. There are also a couple of sections where the road
splits and the higher fork leads to a washed-out chasm, so proceed
with due caution.
Eventually the road deteriorated and we parked and continued on foot,
along the road and eventually through the gate that marks the
Wilderness area boundary. After that the trail crosses through
an area of basalt breccia -- the northwestern limit of the "malpais"
lava area concentrated around Malpais Springs.
The icy wind dissuaded us from trying to go all the way to Castle
Peaks (the trail doesn't go there anyway) but we did get a good
view of them as well as nice views of Joshua trees and the malpais.
After our hike, we retraced our steps and crossed over along smooth,
good roads to the deserted Hart townsite.
Hart Site: Ozymandius in the Mojave
Hart was a mining town established in 1907. At its peak it had five
hotels, 8 saloons, a newspaper and about 400 residents. And today,
what you can see of the town is ... a lot of rusted cans.
That's all. No buildings. No walls. But I guess when Hart's residents
departed, they left their trash behind, and scattered among the yucca
and creosote you can find collections of rusted cans and a few
glass bottles darkening in the desert sun.
It's sobering. What happened to all the buildings? Where are those
hotels and saloons and hundreds of houses?
Apparently if you search long enough, you can find a few tiny segments
of walls -- but mostly, this boom town has crumbled into nothingness.
It reminds me of Percy Bysshe Shelley's Ozymandius:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away
There's no shattered visage -- just a plaque giving the history of
the town, the expansive pit mine nearby, and the garbage quietly
rusting away in the lone and level sands.
Photos and GPS log:
[ 14:03 Nov 14, 2009
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