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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Silurian Hills - Pt 3 "They had a new winch"

 We drove north on CA 127 until we reached a right turn onto a road that led us out onto Silurian Lake.
 Crossing the dry playa of Silurian Lake with the lights of our vehicles pushing away the blackness of the night.
 Upon reaching the eastern side of the lake, which was very dusty, we drove up the canyon on a surprisingly mellow road.
 We set up camp on level ground near the cabin. After dinner I shot this 15 second exposure looking east toward Las Vegas.
 The constellation Orion over the Silurian Hills.
 Morning light on clouds above our camp.
 Rays of a new day on the Avawatz Mountains.
 Looking west from the cabin's kitchen window.
 After breakfast we broke camp and drove east looking for the correct canyon from which we were going to start our hike. Our plan was to hike into the Silurian Hills in search of a couple of interesting locations.
 I was absentmindedly driving along in 2WD checking our route on the iPad when the truck bogged down in the gravel of the wash. Engaged 4WD and tires spun. Exited vehicle and found several large rocks blocking front wheels. Decided to ask Jo Ann and Clark for help because they had a new winch on the front of their Jeep and were eager to try it out. Plus, the position of the vehicles made for an excellent photo.
 Cautionary tale for backroad photographers. I did not think that my truck was really stuck because a quick look underneath did not reveal any problems. Besides this was a good opportunity for my friends to use their new winch and it would make for a good photo op. It only took about ten seconds of winching until I shouted for Jo Ann to stop the winch because I could feel my truck assuming an unnatural position. The tip of a large boulder had caught on the underside of my truck and rotated up as the winch pulled it backwards. Note: If you find yourself in this situation grab a shovel and dig a hole big enough for the rock to return. If you don't the boulder will reposition itself higher than its original position and the degree difficulty of the problem will have trebled. We dug a fairly large hole for the rock but it still rotated about eight inches higher.
(photo credit: Jo Ann Ward)
We spent about 45 minutes extricating my truck from the offending boulder in the foreground and another 45 minutes bending a section of bent skid plate away from the drive shaft. After spending almost two hours extracting my truck from the bedeviled photo-op we decided to postpone our Silurian hike for another time.
Our route west toward Silurian Lake. I did not tell Brian that there were a couple of cabins in that distant mountain range but am sure that once he reads this post his fingers will be working GoogleEarth to locate them.
Departing the Silurian Hills.
Crossing Silurian Lake.
To the north storm clouds looked to be producing rain in Death Valley.
We decided to stop, have lunch and watch the show.
The three of us wanted to stay out another day but soon it was time to begin the drive home.
Traffic on our drive west was very congested and slow. As we neared Kramer Junction on CA 58 we left the highway and took our usual dirt road bypass. It was pure serendipity that we chanced upon Murrough and Pat from Victoria, Canada. Being caught in the same traffic they had driven off the highway to set up camp. It was our pleasure to spend about 30 minutes talking with this wayfaring couple.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Silurian Hills - Pt 2 "Damage that we could not surmount"

 Dawn in the Silurian Hills on the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad.
 Looking west toward Silurian Lake and it seemed to be very dusty down on the playa.
 There was a washout to the north.
And another to the south but maybe today's route would be a bit easier.
 We enjoyed a relaxing breakfast and admired Brian's timeworn percolator. It was more than 20 years old.
 View of our camp looking south.
 After breakfast we worked our way around the washout to the south and turned east toward the next stop on "Brian's Desert Cabin Extravaganza."
And not a single spot of erosion on the road to this cabin.
It wasn't as rodent infested as the last cabin but there were several large holes in the roof and a door was missing.
The bar looked like it had been open quite a few times.
While I studied the route south to our next destination on my iPad*, the rest of the group drove over to a nearby mine and ventured into the netherworld. *Gaia is my preferred navigation app.
A last look at the previous cabin and then it was on to something I had spotted on GoogleEarth.
We drove south along the T&T until reaching a spot where I could hike over to my objective. Out on the sand I spotted evidence that someone had been there, although a long time ago.
Looked like something man made on the knoll ahead.
I found the remains of a mine and a stamping mill.
In the past I have rappelled into mines but the fire to do it no longer burns. Although I have to say that adits off of shafts contain some interesting artifacts because vertical mines are seldom explored.
Clark, Brian, Beth and Jo Ann with the Silurian Hills in the background. Contrails courtesy of Las Vegas air traffic.
Just before this minor washout, which was the worst of our second day, a courteous dirt bike rider warned us that the road was washed out ahead. I responded, "it's worse three miles north."
Location three on "Brian's Desert Cabin Extravaganza."
Two rooms and one with a nice stove.
Someone spent a lot of time creating the rock walkways and patio.
We hiked up an old road and found this reservoir along with several adits. There were also the remains of a tramway to working high on the ridge above the camp.
Soon we were back at the vehicles and ready to drive on.
In the distance to our left was an arch.
After several miles of bumpy road we turned left up a wash toward the last structure on "Brian's Desert Cabin Extravaganza."
This wash also showed signs of a recent rain event. In several places the road disappeared and drivers had to search for the route.
A couple of hundred yards before the cabin our route encountered damage that we could not surmount. The track continued above the damage but our vehicles weren't going any farther. Maybe a highly modified 4x4 with front and rear lockers could climb up the near vertical step but we walked from here. (A Unimog perhaps.)
Brian didn't know but I had saved the best cabin for last.
This well kept cabin is tidy and comfortable.
Jake died in an accident near Zzyzz in 2013.
A scruffy looking desert rat sat on the front porch and visited with our group for about 30 minutes.
Brian and Beth leaving the wash.
After exploring a side canyon the group began the drive back to pavement.
The sun was setting as we neared a power-line road which would provide a graded route back to CA 127.
Brian and Beth turned left for home, while Jo Ann, Clark and I turned right for one more night in the Silurian Hills.