October 30, 2011

The End of an Era

For a few years now, we've joined a band of desert rats for a twice-annual boondock in the wilds just south of Death Valley National Park. Our group has been camping there for over 40 years. It is a remote location which requires some skilled driving to get the caravan back into the secluded canyon of volcanic ash, opals and mastodon fossils. As it turns out, we learned that our spot in the desert has become part of the Ibex Wilderness and after a nice-enough visit by the NPS Ranger, we've been told, in no uncertain terms, this was our last trip with vehicles.

One of the highlights of these trips is the venturing out into rarely visited remnants of desert life. On this trip, we followed the right-of-way of the Death Valley Railroad. This narrow-gauge railway was built in 1914 by the Pacific Coast Borax Company with the route running from Ryan, California, located just east of Death Valley National Park, to Death Valley Junction, a distance of approximately 20 miles. Regular operation of the railroad stopped in 1928. Most of the construction labor was done by Chinese laborers who lived in these rustic stacked stone structures with canvas roofs. This structure was the largest we found, and it was surrounded by a dozen or more smaller structures that were the size of a bedroll, and only a couple feet high (Google Earth view). There were lots of remnants of their encampment; mostly tobacco cans and water jugs.

We were able to 4x4 for some distance, before landslides meant hiking the last three miles. You can see that the roadbed follows the contour of the mountains and there are some incredible vistas across Death Valley.

The Ryan Mine is the terminus of this roadbed, but armed guards prevent getting any closer than a mile or more from this compound. The locals say that they switched from Borax to a nitrate and it might be Homeland Security that requires the extra protection.

Along the way we found one ore car that we could reach and a couple others within view, but far down a landslide. After a couple of hours hiking, and climbing over rockfall, we came to a large set of mines on the friendly side of the Ryan mines. Most of the wood structures had long been burned or removed, but we rested in the shade of this shack before heading back to the trucks.

After two nights in the desert, probably our last at this camp, it was time for the long drive back home and a nap for the puppies.

October 9, 2011


For us public servants, this is a long Columbus Day weekend, and one we don't use for camping. Since it isn't a holiday for the schools, Sherry and I have used the annual holiday for a trip to the Huntington Museum and Gardens for a grown-up day with lunch in the tea room. This tradition has been going on for over a decade. Now that Andy is almost 17, another tradition has changed hats from our son to our godson, Anthony. We spent the day, and much of the evening at the Disneyland Resort.

October 3, 2011

Dogwood with Rocky and Mom

This past weekend, it was just Mom and I for a weekend getaway to Dogwood. It was a very relaxing weekend and I got to try out my new hammock -- twice. We also stopped at a GREAT sandwich shop at Highway 18 and Kuffel Canyon. Rocky's Outpost had the most awesome bread on their sandwiches. Great weekend and great food.