We started out the day just as relaxed and kicked back as yesterday, but somehow the afternoon developed a life of its own.
This morning, Karin took her usual walk. She has not yet gotten around to investigating burrowing animals here. And why should she?
We bought an intriguing little book, Desert Holes, and have been studying up. At first, we thought it just a simple guide to what critter digs what hole (and it is), but it also has a plethora of information about things we didn’t know existed.
Did you know that the Mojave desert provides habitat for (among many others):
- Howling predatory carnivorous mice
- Asexual lizards that self-fertilize using double-chromosome sets
- Honey-storing ants with grape-sized abdomens which feed their working brothers
– – – the list goes on. Amazing stuff, take a look at the book here on Amazon.
I laid around and read, browsed (Internet is much improved during daytime), and whiled away the morning. Afternoon just begged for more exploring, and off we went. Did I say “get stuck” in a previous post? Really I didn’t mean it. Really.
We turned off of Wild Horse Canyon road to the west and made our way toward Blue Jay mine. The road went from marginal to ugly and then pretty much impassable.
Ralph is set up as a multi-purpose vehicle, and doesn’t compete with off-road-only configurations (some super-mudder tire prints of which preceded us). At 31 inch tires and 9 inches of ground clearance, Ralph’s qualifications are modest, and the road was extreme.
Rainy seasons had made enormous gullies and ditches, not wide enough to drive in, but not narrow enough to straddle. The result was severe off-camber runs, punctuated by horrendous piles of washed-up jagged transmission-eating boulders.
As we worked our way towards the inevitable no-go, a minor clutch of rocks tossed one up toward the rear driveline connect linkage.
One flying stone nudged the link just a wee teeny bit toward the driveshaft, and it got caught in the spin and instantly mangled to a pretzel.
In the cab, all we heard was bangitty-wappity-bangity-wappity, nearly the exact same sound as when a U-joint bearing fractures and collapses (ask me how I know this). Karin and I looked at each other with lots of white around our eyeballs. It was with real relief that I found the culprit. A few minutes with some wrenches and pliers and I extracted the junk parts, shifted the connect by hand, and we were off again.
But soon after, the trail stopped (for us) at a V-shaped “road” full of hatchet-edged boulders the size of lawn chairs. We walked up the road only a few hundred yards more to discover the mine, which was in pretty good shape.
Couldn’t say the same for the workers’ lodging, which was totally derelict and abandoned, old iron stove and bedsprings rusting in the desert air.
Truly, it was a bleak sight, nestled amongst the old burned trees on a gray, flat day. Very hard to imagine living and working out here.
We have better sense than to enter any old mine, regardless of how sound it looks, so we just snapped some pix and went back to Ralph.
He was waiting patiently, but he was pretty nervous that we might want to take him up that awful road. Pretty relieved when we turned back home. Us too.
Walking anywhere in this area must be done with caution, not only because of treacherous terrain, but because of a local piece of pure vicious called Cat’s-Claw. This shrub-tree looks innocuous at first glance, but reveals its true colors when you get within a foot or two. ANY brush or intrusion is met with tenacious, needle-sharp hooked thorns that catch in clothing, skin, boots, even leather. Once hooked, a professional surgeon must be summoned to extract the claws. This maniacal desert assassin is also called the Wait-a-bit bush. Obvious.
On the way back, we checked out the water supply for the mine. No water was in evidence, but near a natural drainage there was a large iron tank and a broken-up concrete cistern, typical technology of the time and area.
So, all considered, a pretty decent afternoon. Got stuck, got broke, got fixed, got home. Saw some interesting stuff along the way.
Nothing wrong with that.