Monday, December 15, 2008

Red Canyon Trail

This past Saturday I drove the Red Canyon 4x4 Trail in the Orocopia Mountain Wilderness area east of the Salton Sea. It was a fun ride. I've marked it on the map in red. The blue section is the western end of the Bradshaw Trail, which I drove to return to civilization. I then drove through the windy Box Canyon road (shown in green) back up to I-10.

Wikipedia says the Orocopia Mountains were used (among other sites) for astronaut geology field training for the NASA Apollo moon missions. I was going simply because it appears in both Massey's trail book and Huegel's book. Massey rates it a 4, and Heugel says it's "easy." I can see where some short sections might be a 4, but most of it is easy. I liked the variety of terrain.

It starts out as a typical dirt trail, then adds countless rolling bumps that certainly would be unpleasant for anybody in the back seat. Then the hills get larger before you drop into a few sandy washes.

Eventually, the route gets to a serpentine ridgeline that offers great views. The ridgeline route twists and turns all over with a lot of blind turns atop hillcrests. Fun! I was glad to have the road to myself. It's only wide enough for 1 car, but the brush is so light it'd be easy to scoot off the trail and let anybody pass.

The trail is less than 14 miles long, and the books say it takes 2 hours, which means an average speed of 7 mph. I would agree with this. You can't drive very fast on those undulating hills, since you can't see which way the road turns (if it does) after each hilltop. That means you must drive up the hills kinda slow so you can make the (most common) sharp right turn and drop down the hill. If you miss that turn, it'd be quite disasterous.

I spent a lot of time testing 2 of my cameras. I was testing a new mounting rig for holding my Kodak camera on the passenger headrest and viewing out the windshield. That didn't work very well. There's still way too much vibration. I also tested my newest camera, the GoPro Hero Motorsports camera, that's designed to be used on cars. That one performed very nicely. I tried using the suction cup mount on several surfaces (all facing forward): inside of passenger window, front fender side panel, and hood. Here's a shot of the frame from the inside of the passenger window.

Here's the shot from the fender.

I forgot to try it on the top of the sunroof. Of the places I did test, the hood mount gave the best view, however I can improve the image framing by moving it more forward. I might also test it mounted to the front grill, or headlamp, or whatever I can find up there.

I kinda regret getting the wide angle model. That results in some mildly annoying distortions in the view. For example, the curving of the image masks how steeply the terrain drops away from the trail on that ridgeline.

The Hero camera also has a time lapse function, allowing you to record 5 megapixel JPEG images every 2 or 5 seconds. I tested that using the 5 second interval setting. That didn't work out too well for this trail, mostly because the terrain was constantly changing. A 1 second interval would have worked better. But the 2 or 5 second settings might do well on paved roads. I'll have to test that another day.

As I approached the Bradshaw Trail, I finally encountered other people: a couple guys on motocross bikes coming up in the opposite direction. Here's a photo of my rover on the trail where it passes under the disused Eagle Mountain Railroad trestle.

Driving the Coachella Canal Road was different. You drive right on the edge of the concrete lined canal. The canal road didn't take me all the way to Box Canyon Road. I had to improvise and use my GPS nav system to cover the last few miles which took me past many vineyards and orange groves, as well as strawberry fields.

Finally I returned to the highway by taking the scenic Box Canyon Road.



Hey, nice blog

Luke said...

I like the pic from the fender - it's my favorite of the camera positions from the samples you posted.