Day Two of our east Mojave explorations...
The older I get, the harder it is to get myself out and about before sunrise in sub-freezing temperatures. I'm always awake before sunup in camp, but it's COLD so I decide to start a fire and put water on for coffee. As I sip that first cup of coffee I try to psyche myself up to grab the backpack and wander off on my own in the dark...just as soon as I finish this cup of coffee...okay maybe just one more cup to get the blood going...next thing I know another early riser has joined me around the fire and it just seems rude to run off. Meanwhile I had missed the early morning light on the old car graveyard. I think that Reason #3 for a return visit. Hehe, I tell myself it will be easier again in the summer.
With the sun finally shining in camp we could see how incredibly beautiful this area is; volcanic peaks, granite spires, deep canyons and broad washes. Absolutely amazing. As I was writing this I realized that I had managed to grab one quick photo of the Turtle Mountains just as the sun was sinking before we made the turn onto Lost Arch Trail the previous night. I can't emphasize enough how badly I want to return here, early enough to catch the light.
After breakfast we wandered down into the valley behind the Lost Arch Inn to explore some of the many mine shafts in the area. Great fun, especially for the kids. We found one that was large enough to drive a truck into, although the entrance was quite steep. Most of the group ventured as deep as we could go into that one; it was a bit scary, a little claustrophobic and it was hard not to think about the possibility of collapse, especially when you noticed areas that had collapsed previously. There is a famous (infamous?) lost mine in these mountains for which this area was named - the Lost Arch Mine. Many people have searched for it over the years, one person claimed to have found it but couldn't relocate it a second time. It's supposedly located near a natural arch by a river bed. While we were wandering I did spot a cool looking arch up on a cliff, and if I had known about the famous Lost Arch Mine before our trip I would've climbed up to check it out even though I know that if it was that easy to find, others would've found it already. I haven't yet figured out how to photograph a mine shaft and make it look like anything more than a hole in the ground, maybe with a few 2x4s pretending to provide support, so I've stopped trying.
But there were beautiful cactus specimens on the valley floor and the photographers of the group spent a lot of time on them. The barrel cacti were bright red with lots of new growth, another sign that we could have a good wildflower show this spring.
Back in camp it was time to start packing and cleanup before hitting the road again. We always try to leave a site better than we found it, and the Lost Arch Inn needed a little TLC. Seems a lot of yahoos like to practice their target shooting here and people had
spread out the remains of the collapsed second cabin to fill them with bullet holes. A group of the guys gathered up the various pieces of bullet-ridden tin to place in one spot while I went about gathering up spent shell casings. In total I collected 5.5 pounds (yes, I had to take them home to weigh them because I couldn't believe how many there were) not including four live rounds! It is legal to shoot for target practice on this BLM land (although not to vandalize historic relics), but why can't people collect their shells when they are finished? Here's my collection shortly after I started:
The place looked great by the time when we had finished and it made me proud to be associated with a group of people who care.
Packed up and ready to go, we continued along Lost Arch Inn trail to the trailhead for the hike to Mohawk Spring. It was a nice mile long hike up the side of mountain to the weep in the side of cliff which has provided water for Indians and miners through the years. Along the way were spectacular views of the mountains including an up close look at the Mexican Hat rock formation (too bad it was mid-day and the sun was directly overhead) and some interesting cairns and rocks with writing that indicated that they most likely marked claim boundaries.
It's difficult to read in this small size, but this one says "N. End Center, Mohawk #1".
The downside to a spur of the moment trip planned by someone else is that I don't have time to do any research before venturing out. This area is well known for two other important items: petroglyphs and rockhounding. I noticed strange looking "art" on a rock near the Mohawk Spring and thought about taking a photo, then decided it must be more modern graffiti because I had never seen anything like it before. Well it seems that I found the Blueprint Petroglyph, which does not resemble any other known petroglyph; instead it looks like an abstract or blueprint and no one has ever been able to determine what it means. Cool that I saw it, disappointing that I didn't grab that photo.(I'm up to Reason #5 for a return visit.)
I also noticed some really neat swirled creamy pale pink rocks and I just had to pocket a few because they were so unusual. Back home I found out that they were chalcedony roses, a semi-precious gem stone which weathers out of pockets in the volcanic rock. I also found one stone that I believe may be fire agate, but I don't think I'll be able to tell for sure unless I clean and polish it because the dull brown surface layer of iron oxide needs to be removed to reveal the fire. It's times like these I miss my grandfather, an amateur rockhound with knowledge and a stone polisher. If I had known that this area was a such wealth of chalcedony roses, agate, geodes, opalite and jasper I'm not sure I would have picked my head up to enjoy the views along the hike!
Back at the jeeps it was time to relax and enjoy lunch, then hit the trail again. We continued on Lost Arch Trail until it rejoined Sunflower Spring Road and followed that sandy trail until it met up with US 95 twenty-three miles south of Needles, where we headed to gas up. At the gas station half of the group decided to extend the trip another day while the other half needed to head back home. We decided we would look for a place to eat dinner together before going our separate ways.
All I can say is that driving through Needles on a late Sunday afternoon is like being in an episode of the Twilight Zone. Everything looked clean and relatively new, but there wasn't a single person in sight and absolutely everything (except the gas station) was closed. It was surreal. After driving all around town trying to find someplace, anyplace, with food, we gave up and decided to cross into Arizona on the 40 and head up 95 toward Laughlin and Bullhead City. After another 45 minutes or so with no luck finding any open restaurant (or even a fastfood joint), those of us who needed to head back home finally had to separate from the group for the long 5+ hour trek in the opposite direction.
I was really disappointed that we couldn't stay for the rest of the trip; after they finally found some food and restocked for another day, the WayOfLife family, the Doojer family, and Patrick and Kenny ended up setting up camp around 11:00pm at Fort Piute and driving part of the old Mojave Road the final day. As for us, I never realized how remote it is along that stretch of the 40. It is just endless mile after mile of absolutely nothing. We grabbed some fast food once we were back in civilization near Newberry Springs, and the most exciting part of the drive was seeing the aftermath of the plane crash in Riverside along the 15.
This was an incredible trip, and I can't wait to visit the area again to finish exploring and catch the right light. Thanks to WayOfLife for planning another incredible adventure!