Wednesday, April 22, 2009

F4 Crash Site Revisited

I returned to the F-4 crash site to show John and his boys the debris field. I've been there once before back in July of 2008. Here's my previous blog post for that visit.

The Land Rover was able to drive up the sandy hill at the end of the trip. The sand was pretty deep; maybe 6 or 7 inches. I used the LR3's "sand mode" and it bogged down to the point where I had the gas floored but the wheels were barely turning and I was still creeping up the hill. Definitely a new experience for me. On my previous trip, I left my MDX at the bottom and walked up.

We found far fewer pieces than was there on my last visit. You can see some of that by comparing the photos from my previous post to these. The jet reportedly crashed in 1964 and the pilot ejected safely. The remaining debris still sparks your curiosity. Some pieces are remarkably light weight. Maybe they're made of titanium or aluminum or other metals. John's boys enjoyed searching around. Unfortunately, this time of year has the plants budding with burrs that release tiny spinter-like things that are extremely itchy and hard to remove from your skin.

On a sadder note, I accidentally drove over a leopard lizard that was on the trail. The little guy (about 14 inches long) didn't stand a chance against 3 tons of truck. Note: I'm not a herpetologist, and I'm just guessing at the species. But it was longer than wikipedia reports for leopards.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Phillips Drive Trail

John and I headed to the Calico hills east of Barstow to tackle a challenging road that we saw on our last trip there. It's called Phillips Drive in the maps. Some 4wd trail books call it Phillips Loop. This book rates it at moderate difficulty. Here's a Google map centered on the beginning of the difficult section which is a short way beyond the turn for Kramer Arch. The hard section isn't very long; maybe about 50 yards. It's a series of bedrock steps with some small boulders for fun.

Before we started, we watched a train of about 15 modified off-roaders drive up the road.

I am happy to say that my rover went up it without hitting bottom even once, thanks in part to John's spotting. Needless to say, John's Jeep had no troubles. We were a bit rushed near the end as we saw a couple Jeeps headed up behind us. Here are a few pics I took after we crossed the hardest part.

We also drove up and down the steep hill east of Kramer Arch that's centered in this map. John wanted to try it in 2WD. I just wanted to try going up. At John's suggestion, I did it without using any fancy-schmancy Land Rover terrain modes and it drove up just fine.

I forgot to use my GoPro camera, which is too bad because it would have captured some thrilling video. I almost rolled my truck on a moderate hill. It didn't seem that big a deal to me at the time, and I'm sure it was less than 45 deg in pitch. But it sure got the attention of John and the 3 people in the 2 Jeeps behind us. The hill was uneven and when the rear tires drove into a small depression, the front of the truck raised up ... kinda high. I was trying to take the challenging line and wasn't getting the traction I needed (the tires kept sliding). The truck even started to slide sideways because the hill was off-camber. So I backed down in order to take the easier (and soft dirt filled) line. Of course, as I backed down I had to go back through that depression, making the nose raise up again. I heard whooping from the guys in the Jeep behind me.

A negative aspect of the Land Rover's "smarts" is that at some point the computer thought I needed more clearance and it raised the suspension to the highest setting ("extended mode"). This further raised the truck's center of mass which made it more unstable and much more dangerous on that hill. Here's a photo of that hill, showing a caravan of trucks headed down it. My thrill-ride occured on the bedrock section you see just in front of the lead (white) Jeep.

We also drove a fun hilly road to the adjacent canyon. It was like driving on a narrow roller coaster track, with a series of short steep hills followed by equally steep descents down the other side. Unfortunately, the weekend crowds were there and we were often driving amongst modified trucks, ATVs, and dirt bikes. That actually made it a little more uncomfortable since I'd not driven that road and wasn't certain of the terrain beyond each of the many blind hilltops. Here's an earlier photo I took of the start of that road.

The white arrow marks that section of a 50k foot race that took place a few weeks before I took that photo (the Calico Trail Run). I can't believe people voluntarily run that far, and the uneven hills make it even more arduous.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Mojave Lava Tube

Here's another post about an old adventure that I failed to blog about. In February 2008, I ventured to the lava tube site in the Mojave National Preserve with Mark and Dave. Here's a National Parks Service page that mentions it.

With modern GPS navigation systems, this site is easily visited if you want a diversion south of Baker. The major dirt roads in that area appear in my Garmin Nuvi, so I assume they're in most other units. The sand isn't deep at all, but there is a stretch of about 100 yards of lava rocky road at the end. I parked my Acura MDX at a small parking area where that rough section began and walked the rest, while Mark and Dave drove their Ridgeline all the way.

The lave tube opening is a short hike from the end of the road. We pass a few openings into the underground chambers below us. For brevity I won't explain lava tubes here. The last link I offer at the end of this post has a nice description.

The main opening has a ladder, placed there by the parks service. It was a repurposed ladder that wasn't ideal for the situation and I actually preferred hiking up the wall when I exited.

Once you get down, there's only one direction you can go, and it's further down. The ceiling gets really low in places and it's dark so you can easily bang your head on pointy lava rocks.

Most of these photos are blurry. Sorry about that. I'm not sure why that happened. Obviously it was "pilot error."

Then you end up in a rather large chamber. Nice and cool compared to the outside desert temps.

Further back into the tube we saw the famous steaks of light from above. At first they weren't very noticeable, so I walked around kicking up a bit of dust and the streaks became much more dramatic.

This last photo shows some scale with Mark in the shot.

Here's a Google map centered on the site.

Since my photos are so craptacular, here's a link to a site with better photos and nice descriptive text. More can be found by googling.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Short Canyon and Indian Wells Canyon

I recently took some time to explore some of the roads west of Inyokern, where the 395 and 14 highways split. On previous trips this direction I've stopped at the Indian Wells microbrewery to get some Lobotomy Bock and I always see the dirt trails up in the hills to the west. They seem to beckon me.

So I drove up into Short Canyon to find a nice parking area and a hiking trail. I was surprised to see many cars parked there. I'd read online that there's a waterfall somewhere off along that trail, but I have no details. Since I wasn't in a mood to hike, I just took some photos. The granite outcroppings are visually captivating.

I drove south along a curious shelf road halfway up the hillside that is roughly level. The road was sometimes adjacent to, and sometimes atop, a large flat concrete structure. I'm guessing that it's a conduit for the second aqueduct. The pipeline for the other aqueduct is visible at a lower elevation.

Many flowers were in bloom. I'd see a hillside covered in yellow, and after walking there discover that it's from tiny yellow flowers that are about 0.25 inches across and not even very dense.

The next canyon south is Indian Wells Canyon. Between the two canyons is a large rock formation called the Five Fingers. Very large granite formations that draw hikers and climbers.

I drove the jeep trails up into Indian Wells Canyon. I came across recreation areas up there (at least road signs directing the way to them). These roads are used by hikers that are aiming to climb Owens Peak, Mt. Jenkins, and Morris Peak.

Eventually, I got bored. It was getting colder as I drove higher. I turned around at just over 5000 ft. I was looking down on the Five Fingers from that location.

Berdoo Canyon

I drove Berdoo Canyon after exiting from Pinkham Canyon and returned north into the park. Berdoo is supposed to be a more difficult drive, but I'd say they're about the same. There was a 40 yard stretch of boulders but they were mild and didn't require any extra effort. Here are a few photos of that section.