plenty o’ water (175-250oz)
2 gold mines
a pinch of open, sandy washes
double track roads, and a dollop of cross-country travel
1 point & shoot camera
1 illegal gravesite
1 crashed weather balloon
plenty of time
lots of sun
Throw it all out in the Chuckwalla Mountains & serve hot!
Our mountains in Idyllwild have been quite smoky from the fires & the forest was closed anyway, so we decided to go ‘sploring (thanks Dave) in the desert down past Joshua Tree.
We set out with a gazetteer & an incomplete topo in hand with a rough idea where we were going. Marlin, a local trail guru, gave us some info about where the good stuff was. We could see one of the mines on the map, so this gave us a direction to go. The road to the the mine was very rough, and required a good bit of climbing. When we finally stumbled onto the first mine we couldn’t help but throw a couple rocks down the vertical shaft- to see how deep it was. 🙂 We found a trail nearby and pushed on to the other side of the mountain. The trail turned into a beautiful singletrack for a little while and then evolved into a hike-a-bike. Upon descending the mountain, we discovered the second mine- this one a horizontal shaft that went in a little ways. From there we hit the dirt roads and covered some ground.
Most of the roads we used were for pipeline access, and surprisingly well packed. We even spent some time in our big rings! We hit a few patches of deep sand & some washes that were slow going, but the weather was nice & the scenery beautiful through the open desert. This is where one can really get the feeling of the limitless open West.
We pressed on for 3 hours then decided to head back, taking a slightly different course. We weren’t 100% sure the other route would get us back but decided to roll the dice. We were lucky we did, because this was how we found “Desert” Steve Ragsdale’s illegal grave. (Marlin told us he’d heard it was out there) Coming past a small mountain (the Alligator) we noticed a rectangular plaque high on the rock, which from a distance looked like a door. We put the bikes down & headed up on foot. There we found the desert rat’s self-dug gravesite, which his friends allegedly filled after his departure. Even if this route back didn’t work we were glad we’d come this far.
Making our way back, we found a dead-end road on the map that would “probably” punch through to the area we left our car… then we found the mystery object. White styrofoam, wrapped with red duct tape, protruding wires & antennae.. we weren’t sure what to make of it. And it seemed to have a tripwire strung out among the brush! Our fear was soon put at ease with the words “REWARD IF FOUND” on one side. There was a label on the side describing the balloon’s origin on Table Mountain, some 175 miles away. It was used to measure ozone in the LA area and had flown to 100,000 feet before landing near a dead-end road in the Chuckwalla Mountains. Turns out the “tripwire” was actually the parachute cord.
So, we packed up our booty (if your wingnut can’t carry it, you don’t want it!) and headed south. This is where we found out the map was right; the road really came to an end. We shot a bearing and set off through the desert, finding a few choice campsites for the next trip along the way…
and yes, we will be back!