Thursday, January 25, 2018

2017~18 Winter Break

December 18

Hi Ho, Hi Ho!  It's off to the desert we go!
It is Winter Break time and this year the weather in Death Valley looks more promising than last year.

We leave at 9:55 AM and head to the Skunk Train parking lot so I can be sure the SOBs leave at 10:00 Sharp!  They leave a bit late due to our wishing each other "Merry Christmas", "Happy New Year" and "See you next year".  They head for the north end of Ward Avenue and Lolli and I head for the desert.

Fort Bragg to Willits, Willits to HWY 20.  HWY 20 east to Williams and then settle in for the long slog south on I-5.

Somehow, late in the afternoon, we miss our usual stealth camping spot off Firebaugh Road and continue on and on thinking we are not there yet.  We are almost to Bakersfield before we finally give up looking for Firebaugh and take the Paso Robles off ramp.  We drive a ways west from the freeway until we find a spot.  It isn't ideal but it is 7:30 PM, very dark and I am tired of driving.  It is well past time to call it a day.

December 19th.

We sleep good, have some breakfast and I step out to see where we spent the night!!

Perfect!  The two tone brown Vanagon fits right in!!

Back to I-5 and on down to the Arvin turn-off, then east towards Tehachapi, I want to check and see if the Orange Groves are  loaded like they were last year.

Oh man, are they ever!!

This time I borrow six oranges instead of two like last time; they are so darn good!


Up and over Tehachapi and down to Mojave.  From HWY 58 we spot, at Scaled Composites, the new Stratolaunch with six engines!!

It has not flown yet, only taxi tests so far.

Behind the hangar you can see some of the thousands of wind generators grabbing the breeze from Tehachapi Pass.

A few more miles and we take the turn off to Sarah's doggy dish.

Sarah's dog dish is still where we placed it as a grave marker fifteen years ago.  

We set up camp and pop the top.  I get out my lawn chair and do a sketch of Sarah's dish.

Two doggie balls are still in it!  We have replaced them on previous visits.  I think rain floats them out and wind blows them away.

We go for a walk before the sun sets behind the Tehachapi Range.

Only a few Joshua Trees are around here so we walk to one and include it in a selfie!

We set up Sandy Claws for the night.

Thanks Duncan.

December 20th

Onward to Barstow.  The wind picks up and is blowing sand across HWY 58!

In Barstow we stock up on groceries at Vons, fill the gas tank and take HWY 15 to Baker in time for lunch at the Mad Greek.  Baker has the world's tallest thermometer and it is showing 70 degrees.  Nice but still very windy.

On to Tecopa for a shower and a soak in the hot tubs.  Tecopa Hot Springs used to be free when we first started coming here, years ago, but now the price is up to $9.00 each!

It is still really windy.  We decide to skip our Ibex camp spot and proceed directly to McGirk's to get out of the wind.

Perfect!  Hardly any wind at all!

We set up the Vanagon and settle in for dinner.

While we are eating, a mouse runs out from a vent under the Vanagon refrigerator!!

Darn.  I forgot to close the front air vent.  That's where I "finally" discovered they were getting in!

Well, that's why I carry a mouse trap in the Vanagon.  I bait the trap with a bit of cheese and within five minutes we see the mouse come out again and head straight for the cheese.  BAM!


December 21

With breakfast I toast a couple slices of Bill Effinger's homemade raisin bread.
Yummy.  Thanks Bill.

I decorated our chrismess bush with some globes I picked up at the 99 cent store in Barstow plus the solar powered santa.

This is the library in the cabin.

The air tight stove in the foreground and the kitchen beyond.

I brought my screw gun this time with an assortment of deck screws and repair a couple of windows that are coming loose and put back up the screen door which was laying on the floor in the back room.

In the afternoon we go for a hike to check out the surrounding area.

On the other side of the Jubilee Pass road we happen upon a former mine site and it's tin can dump. 

There is also this.  No idea what it is.  Lolli off in the distance.

About ten years ago I happened upon a backpack with barbell weights in it.  I looked around to see if I could find it again and did.  The backpack was totally rotted away but some of the weights were still there.  Strange.

Back to the Vanagon for another evening.

The sun drops behind the Panamints by 4:30 so we start our evening fire at 4:00!


Into the Vanagon around 5:00 because it cools off quickly.

Another day and another walk.

This is a collection of coyote poop.  I think this is an information center because it is obviously more than one coyote visiting this spot!

Further along we spot a tarantula walking along!  We've never seen one in the desert before!  This one spans about five inches.

We don't know what this is.  First one we have seen near McKirk's cabin.

Another view of our set up near McKirk's.

On our last day I suit up, sweep up and toss out a bunch of pack rat droppings that are in the cabin.  I need to be careful about getting Hantavirus.

We have been here a total of six days including Winter Solstice and Christmas.


December 26th.

 Time to pack up and head to the Hot Springs in Tecopa for a shower and soak.  The hot tub temperature is always around 103.  Good enough.  Feels great.  There are separate facilities for men and women.

Refreshed, we head to Shoshone for breakfast at the Crowbar Inn.

I have the California Omelet!  Excellent!

Then to Pahrump, Nevada to do our laundry, update our emails at the Pahrump Library, get groceries and gas and then beat feet for our camp site near the Ibex Dunes.

It is getting dark by the time we reach the Harry Wade turn-off to our Ibex camp spot.

The Amargosa River is on our mind.

No problem!

December 27th.

Honey, we're home!!

The top is popped, the solar panel is set up, my hammock is hanging, the Shady Boy is deployed and the lawn furniture is out!  Perfect!

Breakfast with a view.

After breakfast we hike up canyon to the Talc quarry.  I continue on uphill to check on my virtual geocache.

It is still here.  Only 36 Geocachers have found it since 2002.  (15 years!)

From this geocache you can see the Ibex Dunes where I have my other virtual geocache.

Back to camp for a little rest in my Hammock and then an evening fire.

I set up the Game Camera I borrowed from Valerie and toss out some chicken bones from dinner.

By golly, a Kit Fox!!

Excellent!  He/she is sure in good shape for living in such austere conditions.

Several years ago we were sitting here having dinner by our fire and a Kit Fox walked right up to where we could see him!  This time, only the camera saw him.

By the way, guess what I bought in Pahrump Nevada for New Year's Eve?

Just sayin'

Heh, heh.

Another day, another walk.  This time over to the dunes.

I continue on past the dunes to the Ibex Mine.

Still there, of course and still holding the answer to my Ibex Mine virtual geocache question.  Only 22 geocachers have logged this one during the past 15 years!

Note the blue sky!  We are happy campers!

On the way back we happen upon a circular maze someone built out in the middle of nowhere.

Way off to the west we notice someone zooming along the Harry Wade route heading for hwy 127.

I'm back in camp first.

Here comes Lolli.

Oh boy, Taco's tonight.

In the evening, around six o'clock, well after dark, we notice headlights off in the distance.  It looks like someone is going to set up camp up the road a ways from us.  But then they turn their light off.  Then on again.  And then off.  I decide to walk up the road to see what is going on.

It turns out they are way  beyond where I thought they were and way off the road!

I return to camp and soon see their yellow flashers are blinking.

We go to bed.

About 10:00 PM we are awakened by four pick up trucks heading up the road.  Several are marked BLM and one has his red and blue flashers going!!

We fall back to sleep.

In the morning we discover the Game Camera captured the BLM trucks and the "stuck car" leaving around midnight!

After breakfast we decide to investigate.  We follow the tracks to the scene of the "crime".

Oops.  It is a big no no for driving past a road closed "Wilderness Area" sign.

After another half mile of walking, following the truck tracks, we see where the tourists got stuck and where the BLM pulled them out.

The tracks tell the story!

Later in the day a Park Ranger comes driving along and drives on out to where the tourists got stuck.  Later he returns and I walk out to the road, stop him and ask what a screw up like that costs.

He tells me it is a fine of $750.00 for driving past the Road Closed "Wilderness Area" sign.
Add the cost of four rangers with four trucks on overtime to pull them out.
And the cost of sending a crew out to repair the damage.
And a court date in Bakersfield!


In the evening we celebrate the coming of the New Year!


Bye bye 2017!

Hello 2018!

New years day we celebrate our Anniversary!

Thirty four years with my honey. Fifteen years legally.  :-)

I try for that Kindle logo look.

Lolli adds some more rocks to the maze.

Seven Days at our favorite camp site near Ibex and it is time to head to Tecopa for a shower and soak.  Besides, it is starting to get cloudy.

Driving down hill towards the Amargosa and the Wade Route.

This is how we found the Amargosa River last year.

This is the Amargosa River this year!!

The record of over 110 days with no rain sure makes a difference!

After our soak at Tecopa Hot Springs we decide to head for Kelso.

Along the way we meet a touring cyclist from Germany.  He flew to Las Vegas and bicycled to and through Death Valley.  He is heading south to the Mojave Desert when we met him!

Our camp spot near Kelso by the railroad tracks.  Only four trains during our stay.  Two in the evening, one at night and one in the morning.  Perfect!

Full moon rise.

Up in the morning, stop at the restrooms at the Kelso Depot Museum and we are on our way.

Onward to Pioneertown.

We stop to do some wifi at the 29 Palms Library and some shopping in Yucca Valley.  I top up the Vanagon propane tank.  We have used two gallons.  Next, up the hill to Pioneertown to find our spot for the night.  It takes some driving around as it gets dark but we happen upon the "Pioneertown desert preserve".  We drive in and soon discover "No Camping" signs.  We turn around and find a wide spot near the entrance where they forgot to put up a No Camping sign!  Good enough!

We enjoy a quiet and restful night.

In the morning we go for a walk around the preserve.

It is a pretty area that is much more lush, with a bigger variety of desert plants, than we had in Death Valley.

I even find the remains of a Kangaroo Rat!

We drive back to Pioneertown for a look around.
The link above will tell you all about it.

Back to HWY 62 and south to Interstate 10.  Along the way we happen upon the Morongo Preserve.  We pull in for lunch and take a walk around.  There are a lot of cottonwood trees and over 245 species of birds have been spotted here according to the kiosk  It is very nice but no overnight camping.

Onward to I-10. Turn west, up and over the pass and into civilization!!

Oh boy!  What a change after two weeks of solitude.

We arrive at my cousin Charles and wife Terry's home four blocks from the Venice Beach.

Of course we go for a walk on Venice Beach.

Electric bikes for rent.

We stay for two days.  One evening Terry fixes an awesome Lamb Rib Roast.  Yummy!  
We'll be back!!

Onward to our friend Scott in Ojai.  The Village Potter.

We help install a roof over the kiln he built last summer.

Scott bakes awesome bread!

Scott takes us for a walk along the Ojai River, the edge of the Thomas fire.

January 8th.

Breakfast with Scott and then out of Ojai via Hwy 33, up and over the Los Padres Mountains. Here is one of the campgrounds along the way!

What a mess but I am sure it will be green soon.

Over the top, down the other side and east to Interstate 5.  We spend most of the day driving north.

Near the Tracy cutoff we hear about a tractor trailer rollover blocking all northbound lanes!

We take the next exit and look for our spot for the night.
I love what we retired people can do with our Vanagon!

We find a dead end frontage road, park and pop the top.  

Here's the view out the window while we have dinner!
  Rain and stopped traffic.  No thanks!

In the morning life is all better.

Back to the Interstate and we are home by 2:30 PM.

What an excellent trip!  The Vanagon didn't miss a beat!!