Monday, July 21, 2014

Eureka Dunes

The Eureka Dunes are some of the highest dunes in North America, rising more than 680 feet above the floor of Eureka Valley, and are an imposing mountain of sand against the stark Last Chance Mountains. These dunes are the highest in California and are unique for the otherworldly tone they produce.  In certain conditions these dunes hum or boom with a sound that resonates through the entire valley, an etherial vibration that appears out of the arid desert.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Forgotten WWII Bunker

Looking inside
Recently I have started summer work at a local park, and eventually I heard rumors of a forgotten World War Two bunker up in the park's hills. After brief research I found it did exist, but finding the location was all up to me.

It took some time but was not terribly difficult once I figured out what to look for. Today (the day this post was written) myself and a friend made the steep hike (430+ vertical over half a mile) up the ridge to find this forgotten relic of chaos.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Hungry Bill's Ranch: A Guide

View up to Sentinel Peak from Hungry Bill's Ranch
The Eastern Panamint Mountains are rather barren and hostile to easy living. Every so often, however, is a lush paradise for all weary travelers. The springs in some of these major canyons off West Side road are fairly high yield and can maintain year-long streams in the canyon bottom. Johnson Canyon is one of these canyons.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Tucki Mine

The remaining Tucki Cabin

The scenery overtakes you long before the road reaches the site. Towering canyons and broad vistas are far more attractive than any artificial feature of the Tucki Mine road. The road begins by slithering off of Emigrant Canyon Road along the base of Tucki Mountain, a rather stand-alone peak of the Panamints, providing unique view of the valley below. Soon enough the driver is engulfed by the orange whirls of Telephone Canyon, so named for the Skidoo-Rhyolite telephone line that ran though it. The driver splits off into a side canyon, and enters a towering and broad gorge separating Tucki from the rest of the Panamints. Cresting the pass, the view of Furnace Creek dominates the horizon and the road descends into the head of a canyon that contains various mining relics.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Harrisburg and the Eureka Mine

Pete Aguereberry, 1906
Sparks are bound to fly when two big names find the same gold. This was the case in July of 1905, when Pete Aguereberry and Shorty Harris, two of the largest names in the entire desert (Shorty Harris was responsible for Rhyolite, Skidoo, the Eureka Mine, Keane Wonder, Greenwater, and many others) decided to team up. Of course, there is speculation of the way it started.

Pete's version of the tale goes as such: the two partnered up to escape the summer heat by prospecting up in the Wildrose area of the Panamint Mountains, but Harris wanted to attend the Independence Day party at Ballarat. They arrived in Harrisburg Flats via Blackwater Canyon's Dry Fork, the shortest trail between Furnace Creek and the mountains. Harris was farther ahead, being on horseback, and Pete had time to stop at a ledge of gold. Examining the ore he chipped off, it contained free gold, gold that does not require cyanide or mercury to separate it from ore. They divided up the ridge, Harris taking claims on the north and Aguereberry taking claims on the south. This came to be known as Providence Ridge.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Racetrack

At 3700 feet nestled between the Cottonwood and Last Chance Mountains is a desolate playa of cracked mud, speckled with rocks and punctuated by a large granitic island, the Grandstand, one hundred seventy feet above the flat expanse. At this north end of the kidney-shaped playa there is little other than this monzonite boulder pile. It makes for good fun and cool pictures but otherwise is of little attraction. This is where most crowds accumulate on busy weekends as well.

At the south end of this lakebed are the bulks of the rocks that pepper the mud. However, something is unusual about these rocks: they lie at the end of tracks in the mud the same size as the rock. These rocks move across the playa when no one is looking. To date no one has seen the rocks move, and countless people believe that magnetic vortexes or some other oogie boogie force is at play here, but the reason is rather simple.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Going Underground in the Salt Creek Watershed

"Curvature Drain"
Orange County is built on arid land, a coastal desert. In the San Joaquin Hills, South Orange County, houses are built on hilltops and roads are built in canyon bottoms. In this land dominated by fog and sun, rain is a rare treat. The mud that makes these hills is oceanic sediment, deposited over ten million years ago when the sea level was much higher. This mud is largely clay, and is filled with sandstone outcrops and rocks. Water does not sink into this mud very well, and when it does, the land slides. Water usually runs off the hills in sheets in heavy rain, and floods the streets and impermeable clay. Because of this, a massive network of storm drains runs under the area, all emptying into the local ditch–er, creek. The drains mentioned here all drain the Salt Creek Basin, which are the most easily accessible of the large drains. I won't disclose entrances because Its fun to find them or search for them. In the following post, three of the largest tunnels are lectured on which I have given names to make them more interesting.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Boulder Pile Habitation Site

At our camping spot one morning, I chose to walk over to my friendly vehicle and aquire a refreshing bottled water. Sitting in my favorite chair, I noticed on the ground a bright red flake of jasper. Of course, jasper is not found in this part of Death Valley or in decomposing granite. The sharp edges and smooth underside proved one thing: it was a flake from tool knapping, an activity performed by natives for thousands of years to make all manner of stone tools. I stared at this, and eventually I realized that there must be more.