The Sauters moved on and we rolled forward into their camping area taking over the very nice campfire circle their predecessor had built and some of their firewood. This was made easier by our need to service our holding tanks and get some more freshwater. Which meant we had to move the coach anyhow. The water was still low, but the temperature was rising and overnight lows were moving into the 50’s.
We explored several areas we had never been to in the 4 or 5 five years we had been coming to the area. We finally found the turn off for Mittry Lake, an unmarked dirt road running along an irrigation canal right across from the access to YPG. We arranged to pick up mail at the Christian Service Center on Ferguson Road. We had drven by the turn off many times and had actually pulled in to the area once, but had no idea what services they offered. Mail service is good!
We had heard of the Castle Dome Museum, but had never thought to go there for no reason we could explain. The drive of 10 miles over a barely improved dirt road was a great introduction to the area. Castle Dome is a distinctive mountain top that can be seen for miles around. It sits in the middle of an area that has been mined for gold, silver and lead from the mid 1800’s though the early 1960’s. The most recent claim was filed in 1973. When the mining collapsed the Interior Department took control of all the land that was not subject to active claims and began to remove all signs of development. The founders of the Castle Dome Museum went out into the land and moved buildings and abandoned equipment onto their land. There is now a fairly complete mining ghost town preserved and watched over by a corp of volunteers who live on the outskirts in their RVs. We spent 2 and a half hours there and will go back on our next visit. I will post some pictures on Picasa soon.
The previous day we had returned to the Martinez Lake area and the NWR (National Wildlife Refuge) to reprise a hike in the Painted Desert. This is an area where the ground is colored by volcanic dust in greens, reds and deep brown reflecting different mineral content of various eruptions. It is geologically interesting and quite beautiful. We enjoyed both the hike and the driving way back on 4wd dirt roads to see this area. There are many turnoffs to headlands overlooking the Colorado River which defines this area. On our return to paved roads we explored the lake Martinez area and decided we were not thrilled with the idea of coming there to stay in the future.
Meanwhile at Senator Wash the water was beginning to refill the reservoir. We decided to hike around it while we could still use the exposed shoreline to avoid having to go way back into the desert to get around to the North Shore. This hike took over three hours and it was not as level as you might think. The reservoir has many bays and it was not possible to stay on the shore all the time so we had to hike up out of the shoe area to cross the points and then back down to the shore. Eventually we found ourselves stymied and had to bushwhack up a donkey path to find our way to the top of the dam to continue the hike. This hike whetted our appetite for more. We had talked to George and Linda several times – they were in slot 1 at the very far end of the beach where it would be tough to set up a motorhome, but their trailer fit quite nicely. George had been looking at the mountains to the west and decide to hike out to them. He reported that it was a nice hike so we decided to try it ourselves. The only direction we had was “hike towards those mountains, there is a mine up there.” So we set out to “hike to those mountains.” First we had to cross the LTVA (Long Term Visitor Area) and that brought us to a wash (arroyo, wadi, pick your terms). As we surveyed the sides of the wash we noted a trail down into it and up the other side. We spent the next 2 hours following this trail to the mountains and then up a ridge line where we could see a car and a couple hiking further up. They were rock hounding (looking for turquoise) and we talked for a while before finding a convenient perch for our picnic, we always carry lunch in our hydration packs. By the time we got back to G 2 we were ready to kick off our boots and put our feet up with an adult beverage.
After catching our breath we began the preparations to break camp and head out the next day. After a two week stay we had plenty of stuff out of the compartments. The inflatable kayak was snugged up to the coach, the bikes were in riding condition and we had gone riding and all of the comforts were scattered around the campsite. It took about 30 or 45 minutes to put it all in condition to move.
Move to where? We wanted to go to Borrego Springs in the Anza Borrego Desert, but had been informed that the desert flower bloom season had started and all the campsites were reserved. We decided to head for Borrego Springs anyhow since this is one of the few areas in the country where there is open camping anywhere you can find, off a designated road and not too close to water (what water?). Sure enough all the campgrounds were full when we got there, but we picked up maps of the area with suggestions of where we could find like minded desert boondockers and soon found ourselves near the Peg Leg Smith Monument with several other Rvers. Nice place. No amenities, no charge. We will dump our holding tanks in Los Angeles when we get there. Since our arrival we have had two days of strenuous hiking and back road driving – this park is the reason we had to have an AWD vehicle with reasonable ground clearance when Carol’s car needed to be replaced. We have used all of its capabilities this trip. The short list is Calcite Mines, Palm Slot, The Slot and Hawk Canyon. Each of these entailed a drive of 1 to 4 miles over dirt tracks and a hike of half to 4 miles as part of the experience. There is still much to do and see, but we will save it for another time. We are preparing to leave for Los Angeles in the morning as I write.
. . . picking up where I left off . . .
The Calcite Mines were developed in WW II to provide calcite for lenses for war time applications. They are slots or crevices in the mountain top. The road was rough and we parked the car 2 miles in and hiked the remainder of the way. A car similar to our RAV4 passed us as we hiked and we met the occupants at the top. The driver had made the trip before which gave him an advantage over us. We enjoyed the climb and spent some time on the summit with views of the surrounding mountains and desert and the Salton Sea. On the hike down we met some young men at a place where the road crossed a large wash. They said we could hike down the wash rather than retrace down the road. With no idea where we would come out relative to the car, we started down an amazing canyon with a series of slots that were just magnificent. At the bottom we located a road (donkey path?) that seemed to head towards where the GPS said we would find the car. A short very steep climb brought us back to the car. We drove back down the road we had driven up and took a right at the bottom before going back up to the highway. This brought us to the entry to Palm Slot, another slot canyon. After pause for lunch which we had packed, we walked through this exquisite slot and retraced to the car.
Although we had had enough hiking by now, we set off for Fonts Point, four miles up another dirt road. This provides a over view of the Borrego Valley and the mountains that surround it. We returned to G-2 and collapsed and read for a while before going into town for Mexican dinner and a show “American Song Book” a review of as much Rogers and Hart as you would want to enjoy in an evening. The performers were Sherri Roberts, vocalist and David Udolf, pianist. We really enjoyed this break from books and videos.
The next day we decided we needed to hike one more slot canyon, this one is known as simply “The Slot.” Another long desert dirt road brought us to a cliff edge. First we took a side trial to a bluff overlooking Hawk Canyon, the floor of which we visited later in the day. We retraced to the car and walked over the edge of the cliff to scramble down a path that led to the bottom of the slot. This slot was longer than the others and was so narrow that I had to move the car keys to a different pocket to negotiate some of the crevices. We returned the way we had come and took the car to Hawk Canyon where we had lunch. Through out these two days we were overwhelmed with the desert flowers in bloom. We never went to any of the special sites people travel for hundreds of miles to visit to see the blooms, but we saw everything they were seeing, just not a two minute walk from a highway. We saw a field of desert lilies and lupine and all the flowers that were listed in the guide. There were acres of yellow and purple flowers and in places the ground was carpeted with orange and yellow flowers that were too small to see as individuals and barely visible unless you looked down at an angle with low angle sunlight. It was a shame to leave, but we were headed to Los Angeles to see the grandchildren so leave we did.
We have been staying with Azriel and Avtalyon for two nights while Miriam and Yechiel have a break to go sea kayaking and tour Hearst Castle. During the day on Thursday, while the boys were in school, we went to downtown LA to see the Walt Disney Music Hall and MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art. Our membership in Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester got us in to MOCA and we went first to the rotating exhibit of the permanent collection. When we entered the room we both stopped and started laughing. That room is dominated by several large pieces by Donald Judd and John Chamberlain. This snapped us back to Marfa TX a month ago. The world really is smaller than we know.
Enough! We have dinner with my cousin John Levey tomorrow night and on the 11th we will have to decide where we are going.