Sunday, October 04, 2015

Mesquite Spring and Mojave Megaphone - The Long Way

I returned to the Cady Mountains Wilderness area to see if BLM Route 9470 continues on to Mesquite Spring.  Short answer: yes, sorta.

I reviewed all the maps I could find.  There was no consistent story for this road.

  • The Benchmark Maps road atlas shows the road continuing only so far as the private property parcels.  
  • DeLorme's Topographic atlas also shows the road ending at the private property.  
  • The CTUC maps (San Bernadino NF & Barstow map and Amboy & Mojave Preserve map) show the road continuing to the spring.  Although the Amboy & Mojave Preserve map labels the road as BL 8560.  
  • The BLM map: "Broadwell Lake Subregion - Off-Highway Vehicle Route Supplement" dated Aug 9, 2011, shows the road continuing to Crucero Road, but at a spot south of Mesquite Spring.
  • BLM TMA (Travel Management Area) maps from 2014 indicate that the road ends, well past the private property and just as the wash exits the canyon and broadens.
  • Google and Bing satellite imagery shows vehicle tracks along the wash all the way to the spring.

So I didn't know what to expect.  I figured I'd end up stopped at a BLM "trail end" marker.  I've encountered those before and I always honor them.  I've got no reason to break the law.

Here's a screencap from google earth showing my route.  I don't know why the tracks are 3 different colors.  I suspect they indicate when I spent some time in a given spot.  The green started after I stopped when I lost sight of the tracks I was following.  The green ended when I got stuck.  The blue is Crucero Road.


For those who prefer an interactive map, here's a Google map centered on Mesquite Spring.

To save time, I didn't stop to take photos along the section I'd already driven last month.  I'll repost a few of those photos here for completeness.

This time I wanted to start the drive heading north from I-40 on Hector Road.  


There's a VORTAC station nearby.



I soon had to pick an alternate route because the railroad crossing had a locked gate.  Seems pointless since it's super easy to cross the tracks 5 miles down at the powerline crossing.


The early part of the trail is easy.





There had been some rain since the last time I was here.  These roads had clear tire tracks with tread marks visible a month ago.  The recent rain has smoothed out the ruts and made the surface more compact and firmer.



My car wasn't sinking in at all.


I could still see several sets of tracks in the wash.


This next photo was taken where the red track in my GE screencap above ends.  I was following the recent tracks of 2 motorcycles and 1 or more vehicles.


At this point I realized that I hadn't seen a BLM "Stay On Trail" marker for a while.  Earlier, I saw many of those signs.  The wash was still very firm and my car didn't sink in at all.  Just as I had seen in the satellite imagery, there are 2 main channels that people had driven in; one on the right side of the wash and one about 30 yards to the left of that.  The tracks I was following switched back and forth between these channels as needed to follow the widest path.

I had loaded the coordinates of Mesquite Spring (and some waypoints along the way) into my Garmin.  That was comforting, but wasn't really needed in the end.  


The closer I got to the spring, the more tracks I saw.  


I finally reached the spring.  I've been here before.  


The hill behind it has petroglyphs.  I didn't hike up there this time.  I just used my camera zoom feature.  What a lazy tourist, I am.



Likewise, I didn't hike up to the Mojave Megaphone.  I did that back in 2007.  You can see it on top of the ridge in the background if you look up from my front bumper.



Crucero Road heading south is pretty tame.  I've driven it several times.  It passes Broadwell Dry Lake before hitting I-40 at the tiny town of Ludlow.


Heading south I crossed the powerline road that services several high-power lines that cross the Mojave Desert.  I've driven the section from there to I-40 several times.  That's a very pleasant drive.  


I've driven the section from there to Kelbaker Road just once.  That is an adventure.  I recommend that for any avid 4wd off-roader.


Broadwell Dry Lake looking northward from the southern end.


Conclusion:
I'm still not certain if BLM Route 9470 continues along the path I drove.  I never saw any signs indicating an end to that trail (something the BLM is good at doing), and it was very well signed on the western end.  I continued to follow several tracks that weren't very old.  If 9470 does officially end, then I'm sorry for driving off-trail and I hope they'll install some signage.  To be fair, maybe they did and it succumbed to weather or vandals.

If this is an allowable route, then I recommend this ONLY for experienced drivers in capable cars (4wd AND high clearance).  Ideally, you should only drive this with 2 or more vehicles, so you can pull each other out of any deep sand.  I lucked out due to the recent rains, so the ground was very firm.

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