Offroad Trailblazers and Envoys

COMPLETED: Vegas West, South thru Mojave: Sept 19-22, 2014

Trips/trails in the western coast of the U.S. (loosely follows the Pacific Time Zone)
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by The Roadie » Wed Oct 01, 2014 1:04 am

PICS COMING TOMORROW....

So Greg (Teebes) and I both have work issues getting away for 6-10 days like we used to in the days of the epic Sierra Nevada and Death Valley expeditions, but we managed to do four days recently to commemorate the 5th anniversary of ORTB, and to reconnect after Greg's relocation to Vegas. Managed to drop some really good GPS bread crumb trails this time with new tablet tools, so here is a link to an annotated Google archive:

https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid= ... AKuHnNlAr4

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by The Roadie » Wed Oct 01, 2014 11:37 am

DAY ZERO: Drive to Vegas

On I-15, there is a massive mirror-based solar power generation facility.

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There is a bit of environmental controversy about this one now because of the bird kill. It will never be zero, but the bird-huggers are especially up in arms because of the *way* they die. In wind turbines, they get chopped up. In the solar facilities, they catch fire in the air, and fall to earth as what's been called *streamers*. Sigh....there's no perfect way out of the need for air conditioning in a place like Vegas.

Closer to the city, the pavement is striped with these triple lines. Don't know why. They aren't noise makers to wake you up, so I haven't been able to guess the purpose yet. Anybody have a clue?

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At Greg's fantastic house:

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by DirtyBacon04 » Wed Oct 01, 2014 12:07 pm

I was interested by the markings also. A little google-fu has led me to the answer. Those are markings for "dowel bar retrofitting". A type of highway maintenance. I found this on the Nebraska Dept. of Roads website.

Background: As vehicles travel down the highway, the weight of the vehicle load passes from one concrete panel to the next. In older highways, dowel bars (steel rods) were placed at transverse joints along the road to help transfer the weight of vehicles from one panel to the next. Since many of the early dowel bars corroded and needed to be replaced, their use was discontinued. However, without the dowel bars, weight load transfer was dependent on the strength and cohesion of the concrete at the joint, and the support of the road bed. Over time this joint can break down and fail to provide a good load transfer. When this happens the joint begins to displace, or fault, and provides the “thump-thump” sound you may hear while driving.

We would then have to grind the pavement to again provide a smooth ride. This would last approximately 6-8 years and then the “faulting” would return. Faulting can also have undesirable effects. Also, joint seals tend to open up and allow moisture to enter. Moisture damages and weakens the sub grade, allowing the loss of sub grade material that causes edge cracking, pot holes, and settling or cracking of the adjacent shoulder.

Solution: NDOR began using epoxy coated dowel bars about four years ago to alleviate this problem. The epoxy coating retards the effects of moisture and chemicals on the steel bar. The dowel bars are installed by cutting slots into the existing pavement, three in each wheel path, a dowel bar is placed in each slot, and the slot is filled with high strength non shrink grout. The area is then ground smooth and the joint is resealed. The retrofit also prolongs the life of any resurfacing that might have to be done at a later date. NDOR has completed about a dozen retrofit projects over the last four years and plans to do three to four retrofit projects each year in coming years.

New Construction: Epoxy dowel bars are now used in new construction. They are put in place prior to paving and are not visible once the paving is complete. The installation of dowel bars extends the life of the pavement, improves the ride quality and is less expensive than the maintenance activities that would be required without them.

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by The Roadie » Wed Oct 01, 2014 4:10 pm

Nooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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54911257[1].jpg (117.32 KiB) Viewed 22900 times


Thanks. :friday:
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by DirtyBacon04 » Thu Oct 02, 2014 3:28 pm

My apologies, master. You have trained me well.
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by Trail X » Thu Oct 02, 2014 4:16 pm

Following! :lurk: Can't wait for all the details. I was recently out there and the mountains were calling my name too... just didn't have the truck with me.
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by TBYODA » Thu Oct 02, 2014 5:48 pm

Trail X wrote:just didn't have the truck with me.
You could have rented a Jeep. :roll: :puker: :lol:
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by The Roadie » Fri Oct 03, 2014 10:33 am

So we get on the road for Day 1. (152 miles total for Day 2 combined) Greg with nice LED taillights. I had been telling him for years when one or the other of his brake lights went out. No failures at all now. And his intrepid trail dog SPEED, in his traditional spot on a pad behind Greg. Only problem is when we're on a steep downhill trail, and something flies from the back and hits Speed, he leaps forward and gets in Greg's lap, and that does nothing to enhance his driving skill.

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On our way out of town towards Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area (BLM) http://www.blm.gov/nv/st/en/fo/lvfo/blm_programs/blm_special_areas/red_rock_nca.html There's an entrance fee as for National Parks. Annual passes can cut this expense, as can (what works finally for me) turning 62, so I bought a lifetime national park pass for $10 (!) that also gives discounts on organized campgrounds where it's not free.

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First of the Joshua Trees that dot (or carpet) distinctive areas around here and the Mojave Preserve just to the south of Vegas.

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Some of the noted red rocks

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Finally the trails begin, and when the pebbles got over 1" tall, this guy was parked. Sayonara!

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So onto Rocky Gap "Road" we go. Climbs past a summit, and we usually enjoy having lunches on summits. Destination was Lovell Canyon Road, but we didn't actually get there in 8.6 miles. More like 60 miles when it was all done.

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Air down. Now we're getting serious.

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It's a rare trail that reveals how hard it's going to be up front. How else could it sucker you in?

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Now we're talkin'

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Watch that pumpkin Greg - you haven't put on a Spider yet!

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Up to where the air is cooler

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The trail goes just east of the summit

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One of Greg's nice panoramas

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And the drooling Speed, the Rhodesian Ridgeback hound, admiring the rocks

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Start of the technical section. Lots of getting out to plot lines, but mostly not so difficult we have to do active spotting or rock stacking. Back when Greg and I were first learning this stuff and we weren't as well-built, we could take 15 minutes to get through a section like this that we just walk through now.

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More of the same

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But this section, not one mile from the end of the trail and Lovell Canyon Road, made us go Whoa. We got out and walked most of it, decided it was passable, but might take an hour to get through. At some risk to tie rod ends, and the like.

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Got a bit easier after the washout, but we would have had to put our tires partway on the tree in the edge of this section, and that's not really cool to do to the poor tree

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Decided we didn't have anything to prove, so we backed up a hundred yards, which isn't easy, you can guess, and found a hill to do a five point turn on.

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Back 30 miles to pavement. Spotted this. Do they really think they're fooling ANYBODY that there's a lone pine tree in the middle of scrub, and it's not a bloody OBVIOUS cell tower? I PREFER to see cell towers, as reassurance there might be a signal in the mountains nearby.

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It's getting to be 2 or 3 o;clock, so we drive a bit on pavement to get into the next Canyon on the tour.

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by The Roadie » Fri Oct 03, 2014 11:05 am

END of Day 1:

Up Lovell Canyon. Easy and scenic

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Until my power steering starts making noises and it's clear I have a leak like the one I had just after my brother replaced the steering rack last winter. Decide to just top it off until we make camp for the night, but without being really comfortable with the number of pints of fluid on hand (have plenty of all fluids EXCEPT PS fluid), I pull off to the side while Greg goes back to pavement to get more. We put together our 1/4" extensions the next morning with an 8mm socket, and tighten up the slightly loose PS line bracket bolt by going in above the CV shaft. Leak fixed.

Getting very dark around 6PM, so we choose a nice campsite with an established fire ring, although restrictions aren't going to allow us to actually USE the fire pit. Except for an ATV and a ranger the next morning, there was zero traffic here.

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My spot

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Greg and Speed choose a site

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Overhang tied down in case wind comes up overnight - it didn't

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Set up

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The trucks barf out all sorts of gear, especially for cooking and drinking.

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Coleman drip coffeemaker ready for the morning

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Fridge on its slideout, guarding the groceries

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Cell, SPOT emergency beacon, and new Samsung tablet mount. I'm using a Galaxy Tab 10" now instead of my old Motion Computing Windows tablet. No hard drive in the tablet. BackcountryNavigator Pro for topo software, which saved the bread crumb trails I used to generate the Google trail map in the first post.

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It went down to 51 degrees overnight, quite a change from over 100 in Vegas that day. I didn't get a picture, but while we waited for it to get late enough to go to sleep, we watched the Big Lebowski on the tablet. :lurk: I needed better speakers, but my wired external ones weren't charged and I forgot to bring my Bluetooth wireless externals. Sigh....the hardships you have to endure sometimes on the trail. :wallbash: I also forgot the Jiffy Pop.
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by DirtyBacon04 » Fri Oct 03, 2014 2:28 pm

Florida sucks... :( i'm headed back west.
great write up, as always.
Glad to see that Teebes actually exists and still wheels.
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by Trail X » Fri Oct 03, 2014 11:11 pm

Movies while camping... bill, you should be ashamed. That trail did look extremely gnarly after where you turned around. That would have been a serious challenge.
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by The Roadie » Fri Oct 03, 2014 11:46 pm

Har. Greg and I gossip all the time on 2M simplex while we're driving. Like an old married couple, there's not as much to talk about around the campfire, which we weren't allowed to have in that forest at that time. We've been wheeling together on some epic adventures for coming up on seven years now. At 7:30PM with a new moon, there's nothing much to look at but the stars, which we're getting enough of. So it was music or a movie, and Big Lebowski was on both of our watch-it-every-year sort of lists.
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by The Roadie » Sat Oct 04, 2014 12:39 am

DAY 2:

Woke up and brewed coffee. Day doesn't start without coffee. Back on the trail, first to the west across Lovell Summit Road, which was pretty easy except for a few narrow old washouts.

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To the western side of this trail, there were intermittent private holdings and ranches, typical for BLM land and the edges of some National Forests. Then up Trout Canyon Road until a locked private gate blocked full access. Southeast back to pavement of route 160, then west towards Pahrump, NV. Just before Pahrump, take the marked trail to the north - Wheeler Pass Road. Fantastic trail. If you're in the area with 4WD, short wheelbase - go for it. Not a good idea with an F150.

Washes along the way

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Including one to get across with shelf roads down one side and up the other

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An historic site along the lower, easy part of the trail - pioneer era charcoal kilns

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Picking up a bit more dust on this section

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Deceptively easy-looking view of what we thought was the pass.

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Scary view of what turned out to be a bad stepper on my temp gauge

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Now we can see more of the approaching trail

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Summit!

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The summit was full of about ten Jeeps on a Saturday outing, so we proceeded down the north side before pulling off for lunch. Lots of partial washouts on the downhill slope. Narrow and scratchy in places.

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Interesting rock erosion at the peak

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Easier at the lower elevations

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In the Willow Springs area (check out the topo map link), there was an extensive trail system with many, many campsites to explore. Many ATV users also in this region.

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We met up with a local friend of Greg's with a nicely built Toyota.

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Then we went east to the Cold Creek area, poked about on some 2-track that were mostly used by ATVers.

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Some parts without much vegetation

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And one narrow trail where we were finally denied by gatekeeper trees, and they expressed their annoyance by making a 4" tear in my tent cover.

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Backtracked a bit from the narrow trail, and located a bald dome with 360 degree defendability against the hordes of elk we had heard from up-mountain.

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Our view downhill

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Setting up for dinner

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View to the north

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The view after dark, with 4-5 thunderstorms going on the horizon for over an hour, was the most intense distant lightning choreography I've ever seen. And I had cell data, so I could check my RadarNow app for real time weather radar. No cell looked like it was within 20 miles of us, and they were mostly stationary on the horizon to the north. We went to bed convinced it would not rain on us overnight. We were wrong. One cell hit in the middle of the night - didn't bother me with my automatic rain fly, but Greg hadn't put his up and he went into a flurry of activity deploying his. Then he had to sleep with a wet bed and dog all night. I stayed dry and happy, only to see I'd left my camp chair out and it was too wet to use for a while. Sigh....

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by The Roadie » Sat Oct 04, 2014 10:46 am

DAY 3 (111 miles): After the storm.

Woke up to a wet site, but the sun shining brightly, for once not a late sunrise from mountains to the east. Tilt my camp chair (A very nice ARB fold-up) at the sun to get the seat dry. Note: Carry a backup folding stool (check) and don't leave it out to get wet if the main chair does (oops).

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A paragraph about food. When Mrs. Roadie or my other expedition partner Paul is with me, standards are higher. I used to spend way too much valuable trail or camping time on food prep. For solo trips, what I've been doing lately is keep leftovers from home meals like spaghetti and meatballs or chicken Tikka Masala, vacuum seal them into bags, and freeze them. At the bottom of the fridge, they stay mostly frozen for 4-5 days. Reheating is as simple as boiling the bag for 10-15 minutes. No pan or cutting board mess. No storage container to take up trash space.

Greg this trip seemed to be on a bratwurst kick like he had just been to Costco or something. He pulls a mile-long string of brats out of his fridge morning, noon, and night. Great brats, though. Speed loves 'em, and I appreciated them as well.

Morning coffee, toasted blueberry bagels, and canadian bacon. Mmmmm.

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Speed surveying his site

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Wild horses abound in this area.

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Sunrise on the surrounding hills

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Cool puffy cumulus clouds are not typical for Vegas

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After packing up, we had to go downhill on pavement to get east to the next canyon over. Meandering wild horses and donkeys act like they own the road.

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Going into the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area. No fuel when coming in from the north. We took a 20 miles round trip to hit the nearest fuel. As typical, we were glad 8 hours later that we had. Each carrying 5 gallons extra, and Greg with his 2002 small fuel tank, had to sip his Scepter can once.

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First, we poke about on Mt. Charleston, with a lot of summer camping places and winter snowboarding. More trees and vegetation there. Too much pavement - a perfect example of government waste

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Greg wanted to rediscover Macks Canyon, which he had explored by dirt bike but not in the truck. We found good signage off the pavement, and a moderate trail that had a few spots to keep the unworthy out. Dozens and dozens of superior campsites, all free. Gated off private at the end of Macks Canyon, but for some reason neither one of us took pictures while we had lunch.

Out of the Mt Charleston resort area to the southeast, we tried numerous times to get onto BLM land south of Kyle Canyon Road (rt 157) but it was all closed off after a recent burn for resource restoration. So we followed a trail hinted at by old USGS Topo maps to the north - Lucky Strike Road, implying a Lucky Strike Mine would be on the trail.

Started out easy with Joshua trees

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Might look like nice gravel, but this trail got VERY little traffic, and being aired down is almost mandatory to keep flotation going so you don't sink in and get bogged down.

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View from the trail

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Getting towards sundown. Not sure we want to camp out yet again.

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We hit a washed out section that makes it impossible to go past the Lucky Strike mine and the easy downwash trail to pavement to the north, about 20 miles away. I look closer at the Topo map and spot a dotted line that *might* get us through a different route. After some initial tough spots including washes that get to 6 ft wide in a 3 foot deep channel we hope doesn't tighten up, with ONE other set of tire tracks to give me hope it goes through (if it dead-ended, there would be TWO sets of tracks made by the same tires), it DOES open up into relatively wide washes

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As you can see on the topo link on post #1, this section offers 100 ways to go, and some of the washes peter out or disappear, and then we have to go perpendicular to find a way through. Trying to not drive over anything green or even brown. Stopping on or scraping over a piece of tinder-dry brush, letting it hit your 500 degree catalytic converter, can burn the truck to the ground.

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We STILL couldn't get through to pavement yet, even though the sun was going down and we really wanted to escape. Blocked by fencing, we went east on a powerline road that was ALSO rutted and washed out in places by recent Vegas thunderstorms.

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Got back to pavement, low on fuel, after having rediscovered a long-forgotten trail and feeling quite the explorer-types. We each wanted to wuss out, and Greg blinked first and asked on the radio if I was interested in somebody else cooking and sleeping in AC comfort. I said I was about to ask YOU the same thing. So we drove 40 miles or so back to his house, cleaned up, and went out for BBQ.
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by The Roadie » Sat Oct 04, 2014 12:54 pm

DAY 4: (143 miles offroading)

Refreshed and all that, we start off south of the city, intending to parallel I-15 into some BLM land and then Mojave National Preserve. http://www.nps.gov/moja/index.htm. Greg had explored some parts on dirt bike, but now he could use the truck. I had put in a bit of time in the upper elevations of Mojave, in the New York Mountains area, a few years ago when a busted wheel bearing cut that trip short. Always wanted to go back.

So out of town to the south, we tried numerous side trails to the east of Las Vegas Blvd, which parallels I-15. Most of them were gated off or signed as closed. Some saying resource preservation. At the first available trail that was open, we discovered why. This area (at least close in to Las Vegas Blvd) was *too* easy to get to. Dozens of illegal dumps and shooting areas. Cleanups seemed to be beyond the capacity of volunteers to keep up with, and the yahoos who trashed the area were no friends of the Earth. We got through this to some harder to get to areas that ended up being pristine. Yahoos are lazy asshats as well as thoughtless. Or else their pick-em-up trucks can't get through a moderate trail without blowing their cheap-ass tires.

Anyway, finally saw the kind of trail marker we enjoy seeing

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Looking for Hidden Valley - an attractive looking name

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In the middle of the valley, I spotted a hill to climb that was right at the limit of our rigs. Loose, sharp crumbly broken stone. Might be climbed at full throttle with a lot of wheel spin, but with huge risk to the CV joints and disconnect. So we took it slowly, accepting a bit of wheel spin. Starts out looking easy.

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No pics of mine in the climb itself - was a bit of white-knuckling.

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Halfway up, it turned left and continued past a saddle to another climb. Looking at it, the off camber angle was worse, and with my RTT, I didn't feel like I had anything to prove by becoming king of THAT mountain, so we just stopped at the halfway point for pics.

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Greg's climb

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View from the hill

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Truck meet

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My perpetually lucky shirt - never let me down yet. You all should know it by now: "Roads?....Where we're going we don't need ... roads."

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Off-camber down the hill on the sharp, loose rock

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Selfie!

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Forther on, exploring a nice dirt road to a gravel pit, Greg's SES light came on and he wanted to know the code. He had his Scangauge cable plugged in, but had misplaced his Scangauge in the garage. So he held the cable out for a drive-by code reading session. It was benign, so I just cleared it for him.

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The gravel pit was in use, and nothing special. Greg had to get back to town, so we split up then.

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I continued on south through Jean Dry Lake, offroad to the backside of the Primm developed area for fuel, and to find the start of the next trail I picked up from the excellent Massey Trail Guide book.

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Backside of Primm

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Documented start of trail closed off by new water treatment catch basin. Went around.

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The offroad trail to historic Nipton paralleled the RR tracks, with numerous overpasses over the many washes. This is a tall one you can drive through. As it turns out, most of them are shorter, and can thwart you if you depend on getting to the other side of the tracks.

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You really can't safely cross the tracks without using bridging ladders, even if you're at the same grade level.

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Got into Mojave National Preserve, went past the New York Mountains, and poked around for a bit and looked at the Hole In The Wall campground. I think it was $10 a night ($5 for my Golden Pass) but all it offered was pit toilets and nice picnic tables. Not really interested. Found the escarpment the region was named for on a back trail

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Looking for a quicker way downhill back to pavement, I took the very interesting Macedonia Canyon Road.

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There was a clue in the appearance of the wash, but I failed to pick up the significance at the time. The clue was that there had been significant recent rain. Rain washes things like sand DOWN the washes. The lowest spot of the wash at the end of Macedonia Canyon went UNDER the RR track and the pavement I wanted to get to was 30 feet on the FAR side of the underpass. Rats.

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Not feeling up to the work of digging for 2-3 hours to clear out the wash, I decided to head north and south along the tracks, looking for a taller underpass. Struck out on that idea. You can see the attempts on the topo tracks.

Back uphill around sunset, discouraged and annoyed at the Park Service for failing to put up a sign at the TOP of the canyon.

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As the sun was abruptly down as I got back near the Hole In The Wall campground, a ranger drove by. Since I was the only one out there, we stopped to talk. I expressed my annoyance at the lack of warning sign that would have been so easy to put up. He said it was only his second day back on duty there after being in another park all summer, and he's take it to the park superintendant. 30 seconds after he drove off over the rise, I heard a hissing and realized I had a sidewall puncture on the passenger's front tire. Double rats.

Whipped out the plug kit (you ALL have plug kits within easy reach?) because if you catch a slow leak quickly, you don't even have to pump it up from being fully flat. This was about a 3/8" long slice - and the location was such that the tire was toast. But would the plug hold and get me back to pavement?

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Turns out after 15 minutes letting the rubber cement set up, it WAS holding pressure. At least 18 PSI. I was tired, it was two days before the new moon, that part of Mojave has NO street lights for 20-30 miles around, I had my Hilift and a bottle jack, but I have a policy of not using the Hilift alone and in the dark unless it's a screaming urgent situation that I have to change the tire before daylight. So I wussed out, which is difficult to admit, and limped to pavement at 15 MPH, and then limped on pavement at 20 MPH to get to Interstate 40 at an exit with NO services but cell coverage at least. Then I used the Android app to call AAA for a tire change, and they had to send someone from Needles, almost 50 miles away but that's what they get paid for, and I just waited on the dark and moonless road for a while and read. The guy came, turns out he was an offroader who had seen what a runaway Hilift handle could do to a skull, and he totally supported my decision to wait for a younger and stronger dude with a floor jack to change my 90 pound tire. On the road again, with any more offroading cancelled due to my no longer having a spare or a buddy truck, I drove downhill on I-40 until getting to Barstow .... a more wretched hive of scum and villainy you will never see. Chose a clean motel in a rare safe-looking part of town, and crawled into bed at 2AM.

Drove home the next day and stopped into the March AFB museum that I had been meaning to visit for the last ten years, and was never driving past when it was open and had the time for a visit. Saw the extremely rare Lockheed D21 drone that was intended to fly off the back of the M21 drone carrier, a variant of the A12 that looked very much like its successor the SR71 Blackbird that everybody can recognize instantly. I had only seen a D21 twice before out of 11 on display worldwide (Evergreen Museum in McMinnville, OR and the Air Force Museum in Dayton), and I'm an air and space museum nut. I guess I should make seeing all the surviving D21s in the world a bucket list item.

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End of report. Let the questions begin!
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by DirtyBacon04 » Sat Oct 04, 2014 3:07 pm

That looks fantastic!!! No rolling footage?
Are you willing to re-do the trails when I make it out there on my GAA?
Also, the third pic of "Greg's Climb" looks like calender material!


This is probably my favorite shot, though. Great view of the unique topography.
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by The Roadie » Sat Oct 04, 2014 3:42 pm

Took no videos. Always keeping the calendar in mind. Nothing like the far vistas out west.
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by Trail X » Sat Oct 04, 2014 10:04 pm

Great writeup Bill! Amazing scenery, but you're showing your age by not changing that tire! Comon, you knew you'd get some ribbing on that one.

Love this picture, it really captured the enormity of the valley. I'd camp there.

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by bartonmd » Sat Oct 04, 2014 11:01 pm

Cool trip! Sucks about the tire! Never seen a Pro Comp Extreme MT with a sidewall cut!

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by The Roadie » Sun Oct 05, 2014 11:43 am

It's actually a new MT2, and Discount Tire replaced it for $33, the cost of a new replacement certificate. They chose not to enforce their "offroad damage not covered" clause. I would have changed the tire (on further reflection) if I hadn't been sputteringly frustrated at the backtracking I just had to do. Was not in a calm state of mind that my normal offroading Zen puts me in.
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