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The

SURVIVOR
The Quarterly Journal of Desert Survivors

DEDICATED TO EXPERIENCING, SHARING AND PROTECTING DESERT LANDS


WINTER 2001 OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA

Crunch Time in the Mojave: Bring on the SUVs


Saving the Tortoise Requires Unlikely Alliance
By Bob Ellis

Twenty one years after the BLM promised tank base which will require greater OHV
to designate vehicle routes in the California restrictions on the remaining tortoise habitat.
Desert, the first “interim” route systems are As desert protection advocates and non-
being put into place in the West Mojave motorized recreationists, we support the BLM
desert. In certain areas the BLM has closed in its efforts to implement these restrictions.
as many as 70 percent of the existing routes. However, we are skeptical that these begin-
These are in critical desert tortoise habitat. nings will be followed through so as to result
The BLM is finally acting as a result of the in tortoise recovery. It took a lawsuit to get
Center for Biological Diversity’s (CBD) lawsuit the first steps under way. We don’t think the
settlement, which forced them to admit that BLM will really be able to enforce the restric-
they had not followed proper procedure tions they are starting to implement, or that it
regarding protection of endangered species in wiill demand sufficiently strong protection in
the desert. the final plans. We don’t trust the US Fish
After years of over-indulgent BLM over- and Wildlife Service and BLM to stand firm on
sight, the off-roaders and the ranchers are continued on page 16
starting to feel the pressure of a three-armed
Inside:
squeeze. The decline of the desert tortoise
Feature Stories:
has brought on the following: 1) The CBD’s Desert Trail Relay: Nevada or Bust 2
lawsuit forced the BLM to implement “interim” Peril in the Panamints: Dave McMullen 10
restrictions on OHV use and grazing; 2) BLM Spring On the Escalante: Dave Holten 32
is being forced to complete management
plans for the Northern and Eastern Colorado Travels in Nevada:
Three Mountains: Bill Johansson 26
(NECO), Northern and Eastern Mojave Reveille Range: Steve Tabor 27
(NEMO), and Western Mojave (WEMO) American Ground Zero: Chris Schiller 29
deserts, which contain long-term restrictions
on OHVs and grazing in favor of the tortoise; Issues:
and, 3) In spite of all the recent evidence Briggs Mine Imperils Panamints: Bob Ellis 14
Cadiz Groundwater Grab: Bob Ellis 17
showing their obsolescence, the military has Wilderness Plan for Inyos: Bob Ellis 24
insisted on expanding the Fort Irwin heavy Issues Watch: Janet Johnson 18
DESERT TRAIL RELAY REACHES NEVADA BORDER
by Steve Tabor

On November 10, 2001, under a clear


blue sky, thirteen Desert Survivors sat on the
Nevada border drinking champagne and
celebrating completion of the second leg of
the Great Desert Trail Relay. Participants in
the second leg had just crossed 352 miles of
desert in 38 days, from Kelso Depot in the
Mojave National Preserve to the northeast-
ern tip of Death Valley. Together, the first

“This trail is not a


Sunday walk in the park.”

and second relays had crossed the entire


656 miles of the California Desert Trail from
Mexico to Nevada.
Heat was our most significant obstacle
this fall, especially on the early segments.
We had decided to start the trips immedi-
ately after Labor Day, to beat the snow and
cold at the end of the Relay in the higher segments especially hard going (and dra-
elevations of Death Valley. Unfortunately, matically demonstrated why we call our-
September and October turned out unsea- selves Survivors). But the leaders were
sonably hot, which made the first three determined, the members were hardy, and
the trips went on.
Fourteen members and seven leaders
participated in the second Relay, many of
whom hiked two or more continuous seg-
ments. My thanks to all who participated.
Despite the extreme heat, sparse atten-
dance, long car shuttles and road wash-outs,
we didn’t miss a single segment. This was
largely due to the strength and commitment
of the leaders, and I am especially grateful to
them. I only hope that those who come after
us on the Desert Trail will savor the adven-
ture as much as we did. As one hiker told
me, “this trail is not a Sunday walk in the
park”. The experience is fluid and uncertain,
like the wilderness itself. Most of us, I am
-Dan Seneres sure, would not have it any other way.

2 The SURVIVOR Winter 2001


The following are taken from the notes prepared strenuous trip down that wash and out into
by our trip leaders, edited for space. Wild Horse Canyon. When we got to Hole-
in-the-Wall, we were out of water and real-
Providence Mountains (Segment M): Mojave
ized that we’d lost a camera and the Desert
National Preserve Survivors pennant. We were overheated,
dehydrated, footsore and exhausted. We lay
Jessica Rothhaar, Dan Seneres, Chris Tenney
in the shade and gulped down water from the
September 27 began with a seven-mile pump. Hole in the Wall is a wonderful place,
mindless plod along a paved road and jeep rhyolite cliffs eroded into fantastically
trail, under a relentlessly hot sun. I cursed sculpted holes – but we were too tired to
the Desert Trail. By 10 a.m. the sun was enjoy it. We left a note for Lucy saying that
high overhead and we began to wilt on the the pennant had been lost, then headed for
shadeless plain. Our rest stops became Baker and the cool interior of the Mad Greek.
longer and more frequent, and our walking
spells became shorter and slower. We were
gulping down our water at an alarming
rate. At 1:00 we stopped to rig up tarps for
shade and wait out the heat. It was 95° in
the shade. We lolled around for 3 hours,
listening to the flies buzzing and the tarps
flapping in the breeze. At 4:00 we ven-
tured out again and entered the mountains
via Summit Wash. We camped in the
wash below Summit Pass at mile 11.9.
On September 28, we started early to
beat the heat. We found no water at
Summit Spring, except for a few muddy
teaspoons in the bottom of burro foot-
prints. We got to the crest and hurried
down the other side and up the west side
of Wildhorse Mesa, a pink and white layer
cake of lava with steep sides all the way
around. The top is covered with cactus
and yucca, and would be stunning in the
spring when everything is in bloom. We
saw lots of wolf spider webs, and Chris
managed to coax one hairy brown spider
out of its den by vibrating the web.
We cut directly across the top of the
mesa on a shortcut, since we were low on
water. This ended up being more work,
since the mesa is cut by several deep
gullies. We dropped off the mesa and into
a steep canyon, but found it to be bouldery “No Whiners” - Dan Seneres
and clogged with catclaw. It was a long, hot,

Winter 2001 The SURVIVOR 3


Mid Hills (Segment N): Mojave National Cima Dome (Segment O): Mojave
Preserve National Preserve
Lucy DuPertuis, Hedayat Rasti Bob Ellis
We hiked this segment as two day hikes, On the afternoon of September 30, I
with car shuttles both days. stopped at the trailhead near the Cima Store.
I found a coyote melon wrapped in a ban-
On September 29, dana with the message: “The
because it was so hot, we flag is lost. No one from my
drove north to Mid Hills trip is continuing on yours.
campground and hiked Lucy”. Fortunately, I was
south back to Hole-in-the- accompanied by a fellow
Wall, so that we could member of the BLM Desert
travel downhill. The trail District Advisory Council. He
meandered down a narrow- agreed to give me a ride
ing valley to weird and back from dropping my car
haunting Banshee Canyon, off at the end of the segment
complete with rings to pull so I could do the trip alone if
ourselves up. We lunched necessary.
there where we toured a
delightfully cool cave When my other potential
hiker did not appear on the
September 30 began morning of October 1, I
with a steep and rocky started off on a warm but
descent from the juniper partly cloudy day for the
and pinyon pine of the Mid thirty-five-mile journey
Hills Campground to a across Cima Dome and
winding wash. Here the Cinder Cones National
yuccas, chollas and other Landmark to I-15. I carried
plants looked well-watered Hole in the Wall -Lucy DuPertuis four gallons of water, as I
and healthy, probably from had not been able to cache
summer thundershowers. We followed dirt water and did not want to trust the springs
roads to Cima. The roads passed through and possible water tanks. With this water
increasingly thick stands of healthy-looking weight, I could allow myself only one book, so
Joshua trees. We explored an abandoned I carried a Tom Clancy novel, which I enjoyed
ranch called Thomas Place and the shafts of during my long rest stops.
Death Valley Mine. Burro Spring was only
damp sand. The only mammals we saw on After a pleasant but warm morning I was
this segment were jackrabbits with huge ears, atop Cima Dome, having passed through the
jumping out of every other bush. The lonely, now cattle-free lands of the former Kessler
grimy Cima store had a sign saying it would allotment. This area is going to be important
be open at 4:00 pm. It was too hot to wait. I as a baseline in measuring the effects of
tucked a note and my bandana (as a substi- cattle grazing on these hot desert lands. I
tute pennant) in the fence for Bob and began rested under a juniper tree on the flat
the long drive home. toplands and realized I had drunk three
quarters of a gallon of water already that day.
Oh well, it was downhill from here. I passed
up the chance to get water from the cattle-
impacted Deer Spring a couple miles along

4 The SURVIVOR Winter 2001


the way and by five o’clock found a campsite
Shadow Mountains (Segment P): Kingston
about twelve miles into the hike. I did not Range BLM Wilderness
need the raingear I had brought in case of a Steve Tabor
thunderstorm. The dark clouds covering the
The route was easy walking and, by the
full moon passed by to the south and all I felt
end of the second day on October 6, I was
were a couple of fat drops.
within 5 1/2 miles of the end of the seg-
October 2 was clear and warm. I passed ment. The segment’s chief water source,
up potential water again in the cattle-ridden Francis Spring, was a badly corrupted
Water Tank #3 and finished the morning mudhole when I visited on Day One. I was
heading down Black Tank Wash, sometimes able to get water, but used it only for cook-
pushing through lush desert willow thickets ing. When we did the reconnaissance, it
in the sandy bottoms between the black had been a fresh pool 20 feet long, ten feet
lava-cliff banks. I rested four hours in the wide and four feet deep. On this trip, it was
heat of the day under a one tenth the extent and
shady lava arch and then I slowly got up to look,
three inches deep.
turned north, up and over the and saw a full-curl bighorn
lava flows. By six the sun sheep bounding away!
was setting and I was high on a
west-facing lava cliff top: Darlington’s View, Valjean-Amargosa (Segment Q): Kingston
hazy now. I watched the sweeping vista Range BLM Wilderness
narrow down to the sparkle of the red Bun Bob Lyon, Bill Roff
Boy thermometer as the light faded. On October 8 Bill and I met and set up
By the morning of October 3 I was down the car shuttle but could not find the relay
to three liters of water. I enjoyed a wonderful bandana. After half an hour we gave up and
hike north along the cliff tops to Halloran headed for the Valjean Hills. We hiked 8
Summit. While resting in the shade of a miles and camped near the westernmost hill.
rock, I heard a scuffle ten feet from me. I Saw a jackrabbit and bats at dusk.
slowly got up to look, and saw a full-curl On October 9 we set out early across
bighorn sheep bounding away! open desert for the old Tonopah & Tidewater
Up here along the cliffs the land had not Railroad grade, following an azimuth of 295
been grazed in recent years. Foot-and-a- as directed by the guidebook. We missed
half-high grasses of several species were the Dumont site by 1/4 to 1/2 mile. In the
the dominant plants in some areas and distance we could see the single wood post
cryptogamic soils were common. Quite a that marks the bend in the railroad. Our route
change from grass-poor Cima Dome. A was too far north and took us into the Sperry
petroglyph marked the route down from the Hills. We corrected by following a wash
cliffs and I had a few swallows left when I got southeast until it took us back to the railroad
to my car. This route is definitely recom- bed. About noon we reached the Amargosa.
mended for future travelers. At this nearly dry end the river was tinted
green and smelled of sulphur. There was
fresher water upstream in the canyon, under
the vegetation, and we filled our water bags.
At the old Sperry siding we found a building
and porch foundation, cona cistern, a trash
dump, and an “Area of Critical Environmental

Winter 2001 The SURVIVOR 5


I was waist deep and the bottom of my pack
Concern” sign punctured with bullet holes. was floating. There was no possible way to
After hiking 13 miles and pushing through get up on the surface, and I waded through
thick growth of tamarisk and mesquite, we the muck. My hat blew off. I retrieved it with
camped below a spectacular 350 foot high my walking stick and pasted it back on with
wall with fluted columns. my muddy hands. Sandy hadn’t gone so
October 10 was a slow, muddy hike deep and reached dry ground first. By the
across the grassy river bottom. For the last time I arrived she said that only my eyeballs
two miles, the east wall of the canyon has were visible, but she reminded me that some
several springs and seeps people pay
and two small creeks. It We hadn’t got far when Sandy called hundreds of
is thick with brush, wil- “Mud!” A moment later, dollars to spas
lows, and wild grapes. she was up to her knees in it. for mud facials.
After a six mile hike we We stopped at a
reached the end of our trail about noon. nearby water pool and washed off some of
the goo before continuing. With a bit more
attention to where we walked, this segment
Ibex Hills (Segment R): Ibex BLM Wilderness
of the trail need not have been so hazardous.
and Death Valley NP
Craig Deutsche, Sandy Nancarrow October 13 began with a walk west
Our walk began on October 12 at the through a narrow wash to the crest of the
Amargosa Natural Area just south of Tecopa Sheepshead Mountains. In the early morning
Hot Springs. The first mile or two is along a the temperatures were reasonable and the
road and passes the only store in this some- route was extremely pleasant. We enjoyed
what decrepit town, then passes the hot good views from the crest and then headed
springs for which the town is named. north along the west side of the mountains.
The guidebook says to turn left through There is a moderate amount of up and down,
the parking lot and out onto the old berm of and wonderful views. At about 2:00 p.m., we
the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad. Although were above Salisbury Pass and it was over
the guidebook suggests that there is some 85 degrees. We rested in the shade until
water and mud along this route, we foolishly 5:00 p.m., when we continued another hour
chose to avoid the grass and walked instead before camping on the edge of the
on the apparently hard and firm ground. Greenwater Valley.
We hadn’t got far when Sandy, who was It was warm on October 14, so we were
ahead of me, called “Mud!” A moment later, walking by 7:00 a.m. It was a two or three
she was up to her knees in it. Then my right hour walk north to reach the Greenwater
leg broke through the crust, and I was in up Valley Road, then a walk along the road to
to my thigh. We thought it couldn’t last long, the car. Afterward, Sandy went back to the
so we struggled ahead to reach firmer hot springs at Tecopa to wash away the last
ground. My walking stick, which I laid flat on of the mud.
the surface, provided no support, but sunk
my arms in up to the elbows.
[Editor’s Note: At this point, the Desert Survivors/
Desert Trail Pennant was returned to the Relay
following Dan Seneres’ solo recovery mission to
Wildhorse Mesa.]

6 The SURVIVOR Winter 2001


Black Mountains (Segment S): Death Valley down to my last 3/4 gallon and still had an-
Hall Newbegin
other day and night to go.
It’s one of my favorite Desert Survivor
On October 19 I began my hike in the
rituals - driving all night, stumbling around in
cool morning, well before dawn, in order to
the dark to find a place to sleep, and then
conserve water. The hike down Sheep Can-
waking up in an utterly transformed, beauti-
yon was beautiful, with dramatic views of
ful landscape. I was all alone
Telescope Peak. I dropped
on this trip, so I took some
about 1200’ down a steep
time the morning of October
ridge into the soft, sandy
17 to poke around in the
streambed of Sheep Canyon.
rocks and hills around my
Aside from a few minor
camp, and soak in the dra-
dryfalls, the hiking was pleas-
matic, sunrise-lit landscape
ant and easy. The Canyon
before me. I began to wel-
closes in at several places,
come the freedom the solo
and the sheer cliffs and Utah-
hike would give me. In the
esque erosional features in
afternoon I found myself a
these tighter spots make for
little slice of shade, put my
a dramatic descent.
pack down and snoozed
away. When I woke, it was I reached the bottom by
still a little bit hot, so I just lay 10:00 a.m. and had nothing
there and read for a while. to do until Steve and
On Funeral Peak -Hall Newbegin
Once the cool of the evening Lawrence picked me up the
started to set in, I got up and started walking next morning. So, I decided to find a shady
again. I didn’t knock off 10 miles on the first spot and read my book. However, when I sat
day like I had planned, but I had a wonderful down, I found myself besieged by large,
day. I ended the day with a pasta dinner, aggressive and persistent flies. I would have
watching the sun set over the Black Moun- liked to hike away from the moist, shady area
tains, and enjoying the solitude and silence where they hung out, but I was so low on
all around me. water I couldn’t afford to do anything but sit
there. I became obsessed with trying to kill
I woke on October 18 feeling energized.
the flies, and nearly destroyed my book using
In the morning, I hiked the 9 miles to the high
it as a swatter, when I realized that, no matter
saddle in the Black Mountains overlooking
how many I killed, more would take their
Death Valley. Since I had another day to kill
place. So I consigned myself to the incessant
waiting for Steve and Lawrence to pick me up
buzzing and just lay there, trying to read,
at the end of my hike, I decided to take a little
eyeing my water and wondering how long it
detour off the DT and climb Funeral Peak
would last.
(6384’). The hike was spectacular but hot,
and I burned through my water at an uncom- When the sun started to go down I hiked
fortable rate. I made it to the peak with about to the mouth of the canyon and - Bammm!
a quart of water left. I ate my lunch and read There it was, the wide open, panoramic heart
through the register - two of the seven entries of Death Valley. The lowest point in the U.S.,
(dating back to 1994) were Desert Survivor Badwater, was just north of me and the
groups. By the time I got back to camp, I towering Panamints, with majestic Telescope
realized that I had a water problem. I was peak (11,049’ ) dominating the skyline, were

Winter 2001 The SURVIVOR 7


from the valley floor. They began with the
directly in front of me. The sky turned a dark
true, hardcore halophytes (i.e. salt fiends) on
purple as the sun went down. I went to sleep
the valley floor, dominated by atriplexes (“salt
a little thirsty and, in that foggy transitional
bushes,” named for their ability to store
state between consciousness and sleep, I
excess salt in their leaves). Higher, less
imagined that there were glacial streams
saline soil had pure stands of pickleweed.
running out of the Black Mountains, rippling
Finally, leaving the salty valley floor entirely,
right by my sleeping bag.
at the edge of the bajadas we found the
usual Mojavean suspects including creosote
Death Valley (Segment T): Death Valley NP and burrobush. All along the base of the
Hall Newbegin, Steve Tabor, Lawrence Panamints we found thick groves of Honey
Wilson Mesquite, which use their lengthy taproots to
In the morning of October 20, Steve and feed from deep springs. One botanical
Lawrence picked me up, and we raced off to anomaly was the huge stand of cattails in the
a gas station where there were cold root (not dry) dry lake around the old Eagle Borax
beers sitting in a giant barrel of ice - civiliza- Mine.
tion! The car shuttle took six hours, so we We unsuccessfully searched for evidence
didn’t start hiking until 3:30 p.m. of the Bennett-Arcane camp, where stranded
It quickly became apparent that the ‘49-ers spent an unpleasant winter ruing their
valley walking would not be as easy as I had decision to take a “shortcut”. We passed the
imagined. We made our way over an in- hottest part of the day at the lovely Eagle
creasingly thick crust of hard, dried mud with
foot-deep crenellations. We crossed a
couple of perfectly smooth, salt crusted
streamlets of the Amargosa, which con-
trasted beautifully against the fluffy dried
mudscape. Crossing the first streamlet,
though, we sank ankle deep into the wet silt.
After a difficult 3-hour walk across the valley,
we were glad to find a lovely sandy area
next to a mesquite grove for our camp.
On October 21, we headed north, follow-
ing the west edge of the valley at the foot of
the magnificent Panamints and enormous
bajadas. The temperatures got into the mid-
90’s, and it was very humid. We found
ourselves resting every 45 minutes or so,
even in the relative cool of the morning.
We encountered many different environ-
ments along the valley floor: salt crust, wet
mud, sand dunes, great flashflood channels,
arrowweed thickets, and wonderful mes-
quites for shade. We crossed through sev-
eral distinct plant communities, which corre-
sponded to the salinity gradient moving up -Hall Newbegin

8 The SURVIVOR Winter 2001


Borax mine site, laying in the shade of some
shadeless, and when we rested we had to sit
mesquite trees next to the cattail bog. We
under our umbrellas. In the intense heat, on
sampled some of the musty, salty water from
a long run, I panicked, and led us full throttle
Tule Spring. The scenery along this seg-
across the rocks to get into the shade.
ment was absolutely gorgeous and the wide
When we got to the shade, I realized that we
open beauty of the valley was extremely
could have stayed on course and followed
memorable.
the “shore” all the way there. It would have
Salt Creek (Segment U): Death Valley NP been ¼ mile longer, but it would have used
Steve Tabor, Lawrence Wilson much less energy. We arrived at camp at
nightfall, tired and sweaty. We’d done 15
After Lawrence and I finished the previ-
miles.
ous segment with Hall Newbegin, it took us
most of the day to set up our next car Next morning, we were down to ¾ of a
shuttle. Finally, at 2:00 p.m. on October 22, gallon of water each. We got up early and
we were back on the salt crust. It was 95 hiked north toward Salt Creek. George’s
degrees. route required a long hike over rocky fans
directly toward Stovepipe Wells. Neither of
At first, we followed George Huxtable’s
us wanted to undergo that ordeal with our
route directly across the pan to the Blackwa-
sore feet. Instead, we hiked partway across
ter fan. But our feet were already blistered
the fan and into a near-barren landscape of
and battered from the previous trip and, after
desert pavement, then down an easy wash
an hour of hard going, I decided to stay off
to the creek. We crossed the creek at the
the crust and instead hike the pebbly “shore-
old gauging station, beneath photogenic
line” at the interface between crusty salt and
cliffs of upturned lakebed. On the east side
rocky fan.
of the creek, we followed an old wagon road
For the rest of the day we hiked the along a marsh of saltgrass, reeds and mes-
easiest ground we could find, traveling from quites. There was good shade when we
mesquite tree to mesquite bush, using them needed it, well-spaced.
for shade. We used nylon umbrellas to keep
At 2:30, we stopped in the shade of some
the sun off our heads. We were aided by
huge mesquites. If we persisted walking in
the late afternoon shadows from the
the heat of the day directly into the sun, we’d
Panamint Range to the west as the sun fell.
run out of water before we got to town. We
We camped in a small mesquite grove and
rested in the shade for two hours until the
were treated to a spectacular coyote chorus
sun dropped behind some clouds. An hour
from close range.
before sunset, we began the last four miles
On October 23 we were on the trail right to Stovepipe. We started by winding along
after sunrise. We continued around the salt the tops of the high Death Valley Dunes, but
pan on pebbly ground, stopping every 45 that was tiring, so we soon dropped down to
minutes or so to rest at mesquites. We saw the foredunes, where we had easier going.
several foxholes, and a large marsh hawk We reached the ranger station at 7:00 p.m.,
sailed by as we approached Blackwater fan. with a last pint of water each. We celebrated
It was a tough day rounding the rocky our ordeal with a big meal at the lodge and a
Blackwater fan, threading between rocks beer at the saloon.
brought down by flashfloods and four-foot-
high salt crust and lake mud remnants from
ancient Lake Manly. Part of our route was
continued on page 20

Winter 2001 The SURVIVOR 9


Peril in the Panamints:
The McMullen Incident
by Dave McMullen

Anyone queer for maps would under- east via a hard rocky road from Death Valley
stand. Anyone interested in the history of proper, followed by a short hike along the
miners and Native Americans would also canyon bottom.
understand. To follow their old footpaths Coming in that way in early May of 2000, I
over the crest of the Panamint Mountains easily found the ranch site, but was thwarted
had been my quest since I first saw the by burro trails etched along the canyon’s
single dashed line marked on the 1952 walls in my efforts to find the southwest leg .
USGS Telescope Peak 15 minute map. Following several of them led me to dead
Reading histories of their lives and times ends high up on bare ridges pockmarked
heightened the sense of adventure I felt with dust wallows and dried burro dung. That
whenever I reviewed that map, or passed by portion of the route from the ranch to an
that mountain range. Meeting descendants unnamed pass near Porter Peak remained a
of the Timbisha and Panamint Shoshone mystery to me.
also piqued my curiosity about the desert
places they once called home. Wanting to preview the route in prepara-
tion for a DS backpack, I headed out solo in
One place in particular, with its promise another attempt to locate the old route and
of flowing water, fruit trees and grapevines, mark its path for my return in October. How-
walls of stone, and terraces drew my atten- ever, this time I would do it from the upper
tion more than the others: Hungry Bill’s end via Pleasant Canyon.
Ranch. Named for a local Native American,
he, his family, and other tribe members had Using a borrowed 4WD truck I drove up
used the site to grow fruits and vegetables. early on Saturday, September 1st. The way
They called it Puaitungani, or “mouse cave.” in was gnarly at the lower end where the
Miners apparently moved in ahead of them road follows a water course - very rocky,
circa 1872 and commandeered its resources steep, and slippery. Riparian vegetation
for their own agriculture. The canyon cra- crowded in on both sides as well, obscuring
dling this site now bears the last name of my view. It took me well over an hour to
one of these men, Albert Johnson. The traverse the nine miles from Ballarat on the
mines quickly went bust, and the miners floor of Panamint Valley (1200’) to where I
moved on. Hungry Bill returned and contin- parked just below the Cooper Mine (6400’).
ued to use the area for many years after- After breakfast I walked up the mine’s
ward. access road, spent some time inspecting
Tales from other hikers revealed that a several adits (mine entrances) and the inter-
route from the west up Surprise Canyon and esting geology, and then located a USGS
over Panamint Pass to the ranch was well benchmark as a point of reference on the
established and well traveled. However, no map. Once oriented, I struck off for the trail,
information was forthcoming about a south- but it wasn’t immediately noticeable where I
western trending route up toward Porter expected it to be. I continued in the direction
Peak. The ranch is also accessible from the indicated on the map and found only scree,

10 The SURVIVOR Winter 2001


talus, and a few cairns strewn out among burned to the ground only two years ago had
brush and trees on a steep slope. Neverthe- many new healthy branches up to two feet
less I made it to where the supposed trail high.
crosses over a saddle into Happy Canyon to After a brief lunch and signing the register,
the north. I headed off to resume my trail search, hiking
From there I had a view of all of upper northward along the spine of the mountains to
Pleasant Canyon and almost the whole of the unnamed pass. The fire had burned along
upper Happy Canyon. The devastation this ridge line as well, coursing down the
caused by a forest fire that scorched the area eastern side of the mountains to the lower
in 1999 was plainly visible. The entire bowl- timberline. The entire face of the south fork of
shaped area of upper Happy Johnson Canyon was burned
Canyon is bare, save for the Every step was clear. An eerie landscape to
blackened skeletons of pinion brutal...It took me be in. At the pass I looked
and juniper trees, their dark over an hour to finish again for the route. With
nude trunks and branches that last bit of trail. some difficulty and traipsing
pointing skyward. The burn back and forth I spotted the
swept upward to the ridge between Happy trail. Old, faded, and not maintained, it was a
and Pleasant canyons where I was standing, barely visible line along the contour of the
but didn’t cross over. Pleasant Canyon main- hillside. I saw no prints of any kind on it and
tains its cover of arid verdancy. followed it downslope.
Along the ridge among the ebon trees At an open area covered with scree the
were patches of wildflowers, their bright trail gave out, or perhaps my eyes weren’t
colors offering stark contrast to the charcoal sensitive enough to follow it. Picking my way
and ashen landscape. I saw scattered stands as best I could along this jumble of loose
of yellow Nevada Viguiera (Viguiera multiflora rocks and gravel, I tried to stay true to the
nevadensis), dense clusters of Prickly Pop- map’s representation of the route. Soon a
pies (Argemone intermedia corymbosa) with rough rock outcrop impeded my way and I
their white crepelike petals dancing in the was forced to ski down the loose rocks in an
breeze, Desert Tobacco (Nicotiana attempt to get around it. There, several hun-
trigonophylla) with its long tubular creamy dred feet below, the trail was visible again,
white flowers, and dense round clumps of a and for the next several miles it was relatively
pink and yellow mimulus with pale blue green easy to follow.
leaves that were hairy and sticky. As my pace quickened I imagined how
Following the ridge eastward and keeping difficult it would have been to see the route
the burned area on my left, I soon came upon before the fire cleared the way. Blackened
the open quartz dome of Porter Peak at tree trunks and the charcoaled stumps of
9101’. Flames had licked the top, singeing bushes were standing smack dab in the
shrubs and charring rocks. Amazingly, bright middle of the trail, and dead branches
green Mountain Joint Firs (Ephedra viridis) crowded in from both sides. The little trodden

Winter 2001 The SURVIVOR 11


Peril in the Panamints, continued...

path was visible as it passed under these map. Somewhere on this little rise was once
branches for more than 20 feet in some a path down to the next wash, then around
places. At first I tried stepping off the trail the opposite side straight into the ranch. For
and walking around these thickets, but found the life of me, I could not find it. Walking
the slope too steep and loose for safety, and back and forth across the area several times,
opted instead to bust my way through. I became frustrated. Looking across the
Those following in my footsteps will have an wash I could clearly see a well-trodden path
easier go at it. heading in the right direction. Another burro
The trail so far had followed a roughly trail perhaps? In the waning light I saw no
northeast line along the eastern slope of the other, and elected to make my way into the
mountains, dropping easily as it went along. wash and to that path.
This changed abruptly at 6400’ where the It’s 120 feet from the top of the rise to the
route began a 1000' plunge straight down a bottom of the wash. I saw only two ways
soft drainage channel toward the bottom of down. A loose dirt and gravel slope filled with
the canyon. The map shows only a few thorny brush that would put me in a thicket
switchbacks near the top. Here the trail once in the wash proper, or a steep rocky
again vanished from my view. face with considerable exposure to fall haz-
I took a short break for water and ards that put me right on the path. Back and
snacks, then began a swift descent, being forth I paced, examining each as best I could
mindful the trail is supposed to leave the from above. Much to my later regret, I chose
drainage before hitting the bottom of the second option.
Johnson Canyon and cross over a rise to the Making my way down the rocks was easy
next drainage north. I found no trace of the at first, sidestepping this way and that, and
trail anywhere along this downward section, sometimes doubling back a few paces to find
the terrain being very steep and tracks easily a shorter stretch for my tired legs. I had to
washed away. use my hands a few times as well, to brace
Near the lower tree line a trail of sorts my body and control my weight as I swung
became visible again. But it is confused with around points of rock or leaned into a step-
many crisscrossing burro or game trails. I off toward the next foothold. About two thirds
again tried to stay true to the map’s course, of the way down I found myself having to
and soon came out on top of the rise be- choose between several undesirable direc-
tween the two channels. There the trail tions. I paused there a moment, grumbling
seemed to vanish once more. I rested again, inwardly about how impossible it would be
drinking water and eating snacks, staying for for me to lead folks up this way. In that
a good twenty minutes, lying on my back, moment the choice was made for me.
with legs elevated and resting on my pack. The rock I was standing on, about the size
Realizing sunset was rapidly approach- of a dining room chair, began to roll out from
ing, I put away my gear, and consulted the under me. I quickly grabbed another rock

12 The SURVIVOR Winter 2001


with my right hand, but it too let go. Exple- and putting on my head lamp, I tried to hoist
tives issuing forth, I crashed hard on the up my pack. It was then I discovered that
ground below, then tumbled further down during the fall one of the shoulder straps had
the slope toward the bottom. As if in slow torn away from an anchor point. I cinched it
motion I can recall my attempts to avoid all up as best I could and hobbled off into the
the rocks falling with me. Twisting and night.
turning to keep an eye on them, yet trying
Every step was brutal. The ground was
to watch where I was falling, we somehow
uneven, and loose rocks I’d have disre-
managed to avoid each other.
garded before suddenly became obstacles
When I came to a stop against a small needing thoughtful negotiation. Small rises
bush, I curled up, covered my head and became barricades I had to figure out a way
listened for the dirt, gravel, and rocks to around or over. It took me over an hour to
halt as well. They soon did, and I began to finish that last bit of trail.
assess my condition. Taking off my pack, I
A full moon was rising and begining to
stretched out as best I could and elevated
flood the canyon in soft light. In its beams
my legs. I stayed there for a few minutes
the ranch site with its old stone walls was a
letting my heart rate and breathing slow
welcome view. I halted just above it and
down. Soon I felt a throbbing pain in my left
quietly asked the Timbisha permission to
ankle. Still on the slope, and not able to
stay there for as long as I needed. Without
fully stretch out, I decided to scoot down on
further ado, I climbed down and over a break
my behind to the bottom of the wash.
in the wall, grabbed up a dead branch for
Luckily this was easily accomplished support and thrashed my way through the
across loose sand and small rocks. Once brush to where I hoped the flowing water
there I reassessed my situation. I had would be.
about one pint of water left, a very sore
As I approached, a burro snorted through
ankle I couldn’t stand on, darkness was
the darkness. “To hell with you,” I replied, “I
falling fast, there was little room to lie
need the water now.” I hardly noticed the
down, I was in the bottom of a wash, and
retreating sound of its hoofs as I pressed
there was approximately 1/4 to 1/2 mile
forward. Sure enough, in the location I’d
between me and Hungry Bill’s. I knew there
seen over a year ago, beneath overhanging
was water at the ranch. All the reports I’d
fig trees and grape vines was a steadily
read or heard indicated there was a peren-
flowing stream about three inches deep and
nial stream flowing there. Also, I knew there
two feet wide.
was plenty of open ground to camp on, with
trees for shelter from the sun. Painfully stepping through the tangle of
branches, I made my way to the creek’s
I decided to not let my adrenaline edge
edge, took the boot and sock off the throb-
fade and to make my way hastily toward
bing joint and plunged it into the cool water.
the ranch. After popping some ibuprofen
Damn, that felt good. I lay back on the moist

Winter 2001 The SURVIVOR 13


Peril in the Panamints, continued...

earth and breathed a sigh of relief. For some instant calm and gave me a sense of rever-
time I simply lay there letting my foot chill in ence for the place.
the water. Then I got out my water filter and The bottle filled slowly, but when it was
began refilling my empty jug. full I packed it and the filter away and pre-
This gave me time to meditate on my pared to find a place to sleep. In the process
situation. How in the hell did I manage to my support pole shattered. It happened, of
screw up my ankle? How bad was the in- course, just when I needed it most. Losing
jury? Luckily, nothing else was bothering me my balance, I leaned fully on it and quickly
save for scrapes on my hands, arms, chest, found myself face to face with the dirt floor of
and legs. Would I be able to walk out tomor- Hungry Bill’s ranch. I laugh about it now, but
row? The next day? There would be plenty believe me, there was plenty of cursing going
of water for me here if I had to stay. If I didn’t on just then. Out loud. (My apologies to the
return home Monday night, when would a Timbisha.) When that happened, I just
search and rescue mission likely be initi- plopped down right there adjacent to one of
ated? Thankfully I’d left an itinerary with my the many surviving fig trees. Not as level as
wife so if someone had to come looking for I’d like, but it would have to do, at least for
me they’d know where to look. How much one night. Pulling out my tarp, pad and bag, I
food did I bring? All these thoughts and stuffed the rest of my gear back in the pack
many more I reviewed over and over again, and used it to elevate my ankle, then climbed
but none as much as concern over the into the bag and tried to doze off.
ankle.
Soon, however, bats began flying around To be continued…
me, snatching up bugs attracted by the
headlamp I’d hung on a branch above. I’ve
only been that close to a flying bat once
many years ago in an old mine shaft. Here,
two or three were harvesting dinner in mid
air right before my eyes, seemingly oblivious
to my presence, except they were very
careful to avoid hitting me. I could hear their
wingbeats and the air rushing across their
bodies as they glided by my head. One flew
so close to my face I could feel the air cur-
rents as it passed by. Several times I
watched as one or two sipped from the
stream right next to my foot while in flight.
This impromptu aerial ballet brought me

14 The SURVIVOR Winter 2001


PANAMINT VALLEY LANDSCAPE THREATENED
BRIGGS GOLD MINE WANTS TO EXPAND AGAIN

By Bob Ellis

An environmental assessment is being from the Slate Range pass. Visitors would
prepared for an application to do extensive be confronted with the damage of senseless
exploratory drilling in the Panamint Moun- gold mine scars for the rest of our lifetimes.
tains southwest of Telescope Peak. The The BLM generally does not rate dramatic
Briggs Mine, operating a heap leach open pit views as something which would ever be
gold mine in the southern Panamint Valley, valued more than the potential return of a
short-lived mine. A large outcry will have to
Few landscapes in be heard. The value of a view will have to
be loudly defined, defended, and that value
California have the vast repeated over and over again.
grandeur of Panamint Valley.

now wants to expand northward several The value of a view will


miles as far as Pleasant Canyon. The drill- have to be loudly defined
ing activity would create roads and drill pads
and defended.
which will permanently scar the now-un-
marked face of the Panamints in full view
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from the Slate Range Crossing on Highway 12345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890
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178. 12345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890
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Few landscapes in California have the
A N
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CT OW
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vast grandeur of Panamint Valley. Eleven Now is the time to get
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thousand foot Telescope Peak in Death involved. Contact the BLM
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Valley National Park tops the range with the about the Briggs Mine Explora-
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1800' Panamint dry lake at its foot. More tion Environmental Assessment.
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than nine thousand feet in a few miles. Most 12345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890
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Death Valley visitors are awed as they en- 12345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890
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Write, fax or phone:
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counter the valley driving from Ridgecrest 12345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890
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and Trona north over the Slate Range. Just 12345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890
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at the pass the range rises ahead, wrinkled Hector Villalobos, Field Manager
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canyon after canyon plunging down from the 12345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890
BLM, Ridgecrest Field Office
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crest. Here the Argus Range is to the left, 12345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890
300 S. Richmond Road
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the Panamints to the right, and the valley 12345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890
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Ridgecrest, CA 93555
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opens northward, culminating at the 12345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890
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Panamint Dunes, miles and miles away in Telephone: (760) 384-5400
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the distance. This is an immense land- Fax: (760) 384-5499
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scape, a colossal viewscape, a precious 12345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890
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www.ca.blm.gov/
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natural aesthetic resource. 12345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890
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ridgecrest
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Exploratory drilling would cut roads into 12345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890
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this face in several places directly across 12345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890

Winter 2001 The SURVIVOR 15


Crunch Time in the Mojave...
continued from page 1

“We need to tell the story of the tortoise.”

demanding necessary recovery measures hike and want to have a chance to see some
under this administration. We continue to wildlife, not motorized thrill seekers.
oppose the expansion of Fort Irwin as taking SUV people are our allies. They are not
desert tortoise lands for unnecessary tank represented on BLM Advisory panels, they
training. are not an organized “partner” in desert
We also hate to see the desert being management; but they are a growing group
managed for the benefit of only one species, interested in a peaceful desert. It’s in our
even if the measures taken for that species interest to find ways to engage them.
benefit many others as
ACT NOW
well. Finally, we’re
starting to see some Educate yourself and
backlash as the OHV your friends about the
folks get more orga- the threats facing the
nized and as some Desert Tortoise.
deliberately violate Useful web sites:
closure areas. Desert Tortoise Pre-
So what can we serve Committee,
do? We need to tell www.tortoise-
the story of the tor- tracks.org
toise. We need to let Center for Biological
our urban friends with -Janet Johnson Diversity,
SUVs know that there www.sw-center.org/
is a problem out there swcbd/goldenstate/
in the desert. The BLM cdca
must start to hear from average people who NEMO: Northern and Eastern Mojave -
are concerned. People who go to the desert area north of I-40 and east of Baker to the
for peace and quiet, not vehicular noise and Colorado River. Comments closed on draft
dust. People who want to take back-road plan 11/1/01 - Final EIR early 2002.
drives in their SUVs and see untrammeled NECO: Northern and Eastern Colorado --
landscapes, not eroded “play” routes and area south of I-40 and east of Joshua Tree
the denuded areas surrounding watering Park to theColorado River. Comments
troughs for exotic species. People who closed on draft plan 11/1/01 - Final EIR early
want to occasionally camp away from an 2002.
organized campground, not a staging area WEMO: West Mojave - area west of Baker
blasted by those emitting their “piss and and northwest of Joshua Tree to Palmdale
vinegar.” People who drive out for a day and Ridgecrest. No draft out yet, maybe in a
year.

16 The SURVIVOR Winter 2001


DESERT SURVIVORS FILES PROTEST ON CADIZ PROJECT
FINAL EIR
By Bob Ellis
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Background
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The Cadiz Project proposes to mine up to two million acre feet of ancient groundwater
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from beneath the Mojave north of Joshua Tree National Park. USGS and San Bernar-
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dino County reviewed the proposal and found that recharge rates for the aquifers
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would be 10-15 times less than claimed by Cadiz. The role of groundwater in support-
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ing the Mojave ecosystem is not fully understood.
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On November 5th, Desert Survivors filed our protests are successful, this would result
a formal protest of the Cadiz Project Final in the BLM approving an amendment in the
EIR with the BLM headquarters in Washing- 1980 Desert Plan to allow the Cadiz Project
ton. The BLM’s preferred alternative for this an exemption from the requirement to use
project would disturb 12 miles of pristine an existing utility corridor for facilities like
desert lands with a pipeline, maintenance this.
road, and five story powerline. The next step will be an effort to dissuade
Desert Survivors protested that the EIR the members of the Board of the Metropoli-
did not fully analyze reasonable alternative tan Water District (MWD) from voting in favor
routes which would use existing utility corri- of the Cadiz Project. We feel that it is a bad
dors and existing disturbed right-of-ways as business decision to get involved in a project
mandated by the 1980 California Desert which will cost the southern California water
Protection Plan. We also protested the rate payers more than twice as much for
scheme used to rank alternative routes, water than they are paying now.
which improperly valued historic landscapes It is quite possible that this project will
and cultural sites and actually was set up to result in a lawsuit if the very real environ-
choose the cheapest alternative, regardless mental questions about this proposal are not
of impact. In addition we protested the lack resolved. Desert Survivors has been oppos-
of an alternative which used nearby natural ing this project from the inception and will
gas for powering the wells, rather than the continue to do so. Stay tuned.
proposed 35 mile long five-story electric 1234567890123456789012345678901212345678901234567890123456789012123456789
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powerline. 1234567890123456789012345678901212345678901234567890123456789012123456789
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A CT N
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OW
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Desert Survivors also signed on as a 1234567890123456789012345678901212345678901234567890123456789012123456789
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If you live in Southern California, please
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participant in a multi-group protest filed by 1234567890123456789012345678901212345678901234567890123456789012123456789
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consider sending a letter to your repre-
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the Western Environmental Law Center. 1234567890123456789012345678901212345678901234567890123456789012123456789
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sentatives on the MWD. For a complete
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This protest is a fairly comprehensive pack- 1234567890123456789012345678901212345678901234567890123456789012123456789
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list of MWD Board members by city, go
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age which addresses many environmental 1234567890123456789012345678901212345678901234567890123456789012123456789
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to www.mwd.dst.ca.us/mwdh2o/pages/
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and procedural deficiencies in the Final EIR. 1234567890123456789012345678901212345678901234567890123456789012123456789
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board/bio01.html. For more information
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Once the protests are “resolved” by the BLM, 1234567890123456789012345678901212345678901234567890123456789012123456789
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on the Cadiz project, see the Spring
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a Record of Decision will be issued. Unless 1234567890123456789012345678901212345678901234567890123456789012123456789
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2000 Survivor.
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Winter 2001 The SURVIVOR 17


Issues Watch – December 2001
By Janet Johnson

Military: Fort Irwin


On October 16th, the Department of De- cies and wilderness areas. Members of
fense posted a Notice of Intent to Prepare a Congress, including Senators Dianne
Supplemental Draft EIS (DEIS) for the Fort Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, and Represen-
Irwin expansion. The DEIS is expected to be tative Barbara Lee, were receptive to our
ready by December 2002. Written comments concerns and also raised concerns of their
were being accepted until December 29th. own. Representative Susan Davis (D-CA),
More public comments will be solicited after along with eleven other members of the
the DEIS is released. House, sent a letter to those members of
Significant issues include impacts to two Congress who will be part of the conference
listed endangered species: the desert tor- for the Defense Authorization legislation. The
toise and the Lane Mountain milkvetch. letter expressed their desire to protect desert
Additional concerns have been raised over wildlife and its critical habitat as well as
the military’s proposed expansion into parts potential wilderness areas, while meeting the
of the Silurian and Superior Valleys, as well needs of specific types of military training.
as impacts to air quality, Military withdrawal of public land will
noise (aircraft/ continue to be an issue to monitor. Even
range firing), soil before the events of September 11th, a move-
erosion, water ment was underway within the Defense
quality, and Department to ask Congress to rewrite the
cultural re- Endangered Species Act and other laws to
sources. The give the military greater freedom to train and
-Janet Johnson DEIS will consider conduct exercises in areas where there are
new alternatives threatened or endangered species. The
consisting of various configurations of land to military would like the Secretary of Defense
the east, west and south of the existing to be able t o grant exemptions “for reasons
boundaries and also utilizing land within Fort of military readiness.” Military officials are
Irwin boundaries that is currently off limits to said to be frustrated by growing friction be-
mechanized training. A no action alternative tween these protections and training exer-
(continue operations with existing ranges and cises on California’s military bases – includ-
facilities) will also be evaluated. ing Fort Irwin.
Desert Survivors, in coalition with Mining
thirteen other conservation groups, sent a Of grave concern is the Interior
letter to members of the Senate and House Department’s recent reversal on the pro-
Armed Services Committees voicing our posed Glamis Imperial Mine in Imperial
concerns regarding the Defense Authoriza- County. The proposal would put an open-pit,
tion legislation. The coalition stated its oppo- cyanide heap leach gold mine on 1,571 acres
sition to the Fort Irwin expansion as pro- of BLM land near Indian cultural and religious
posed, citing the threat to endangered spe- sites. Under Clinton-era mining regulations,

18 The SURVIVOR Winter 2001


dent repeatedly refused to take. The dunes
the Interior Secretary had the authority to
are in designated wilderness and are home
prohibit new mine sites on federal
to the endangered Swallenia
land where they could cause
alexandrae (Eureka Valley dune
lasting harm to communities and
grass) as well as the threatened
the environment. Secretary Bab-
Astragalus lentiginosus var micans
bitt used this power to block the
(shining milk vetch).
proposal, stating that sites sacred
to the Quechan Tribe would be Issues Group
irreparably harmed by opening the The monthly Issues Group has
mine. The Secretary’s authority to ceased to meet. Monthly issues
make that decision has now been updates will still be prepared and
overturned by the Bush adminis- distributed to members wishing to
tration. This action could revive receive them. If you would like to
the proposed gold mine. be placed on the Issues Update
The Western Mining Action mailing list, please contact Steve
Project has filed a protest with Shining Milkvetch Tabor at 510-769-1706 or
-Gerald and Buff Corsi,
the Department of the Interior to California Academy of Sciences StevTabor@aol.com. Watch also
halt the patenting of 672.5 acres for expanded issues coverage on
of mining claims associated with the Cima the Desert Survivors website, which is being
Cinder Mine inside the Mojave National redesigned and should be online by January
Preserve. If the Interior Department issues a 31.
full patent, the land will leave park ownership 12345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890
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and become private land. Desert Survivors Needs
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Grazing You!
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On November 29th, the director of the 12345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890
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Department of the Interior’s Office of Hear- We need more members to provide
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ings and Appeals reinstated a grazing ban on content -- articles and illustrations -- for
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500,000 acres of High Desert habitat in the the Survivor and the DS website
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Mojave for the threatened desert tortoise. (www.desert-survivors.org).
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If you are interested in contributing
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Landfill 12345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890
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desert-related content, design elements
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The proposed giant landfill at Eagle 12345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890
or ideas to The SURVIVOR or the
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Mountain, covering 2,300 acres directly 12345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890
website, please send your articles,
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adjacent to Joshua Tree National Park, is on 12345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890
artwork, photographs, news, trip re-
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hold as project opponents wait for a legal 12345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890
ports, letters and poems to Jessica
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ruling giving them standing to sue. If the 12345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890
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Rothhaar, Editor.
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judge rules that they have standing, they will 12345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890
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* Please provide written materials
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file suit against the National Park Service. 12345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890
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via email to:
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Sandboarding 12345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890
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Jessica@RothhaarCom.com.
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JT Reynolds, new superintendent of 12345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890
* Photos and artwork may be pro-
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Death Valley National Park, has informed the 12345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890
vided via email or hard copy to: 6710
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Center for Biological Diversity that he intends 12345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890
Schmidt Lane, El Cerrito, CA 94530.
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to close the Eureka Dunes to sandboarding. 12345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890
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This is a step that the previous superinten- 12345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890
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Winter 2001 The SURVIVOR 19


Desert Trail Relay, continued....

Marble Canyon (Segment V): Death Valley NP Cottonwood Mountains (Segment W): Death
Bob Lyon, Steve Tabor, Lawrence Wilson Valley NP
We hiked up the the Cottonwood Canyon Bob Lyon, Sally Greensill, Skip Smith, Mike
Yantos
fan on October 26, resting underneath our
This 16-mile route crosses two valleys
umbrellas as there was little shade. This
and two ridges at the west end of Death
segment was awash in flashflood evidence.
Valley National Park. The
Mudcracks and flow
group found pictographs
marks were everywhere.
at the “petroglyph site”
At the mouth of Cotton-
shown on the map at the
wood were giant piles of
south end of Sand Flat,
fresh rock, and big
and enjoyed beautiful
swathes of flood-swept
views of the limestone
terraces now encased in
bands on the east side of
hard adobe mud. We
the flat as they climbed
camped just inside the
above it on the north side
canyon mouth.
of the valley. They
On October 27, we camped on the ridge
hiked the length of between Sand Flat and
Marble Canyon, camping Hidden Valley. Numerous
at the confluence with limestone, quartzite and
Dead Horse Canyon. dolomite layers and the
Marble is an outstanding faulting and tilting of the
nine miles of dolomite layers give variety to the
narrows, colorful lime- landscape.
stone layers, faulted
Once again, a long car
canyon walls, and amaz-
ing flashflood deposits, shuttle slowed things
down at the start, but the
complete with driftwood
group still finished in less
piles several feet high.
than 2 days. This short
Close to nightfall, we did
segment would be best
a short hike up Dead
coupled with the Marble
Horse to get water, which
Canyon Segment, to cut
was ample, even this late
down on shuttle time.
in the season.
There is reliable water in
On October 28 we hiked Dolomite Narrows -Paul Brickett
Dead Horse Canyon, about
up the remainder of Marble two days into the Marble, that would make
Canyon, enjoying the cottonwood trees and things easy.
grapevine patches. More vegetation came in
toward the end, with lots of Mojavean and
Racetrack Valley (Segment X): Death Valley
Great Basin species, such as joshua trees NP
and bitterbrush. When we rounded the last Steve Tabor, Bill Spreng, Spencer Berman,
bend, we saw Sally Greensill’s red 4WD Lois Grunwald, Lawrence Wilson, Skip Smith,
parked on the hill at the road end. By driving Theresa Johnson, Dina Robertson
in that far, Sally saved us from an eleven-mile The first few miles on November 2 were
hike up onto Hunter Mountain and along its easy, mostly on sandy valley with few rocks.
top on a boring dirt road.

20 The SURVIVOR Winter 2001


The Racetrack is flanked by beautiful banded views to the east of Tin Mountain rising high
limestone on both sides. The classic Ordovi- above us.
cian sequence of Antelope Valley Limestone The next day’s hike was a long one
(gray), Eureka Quartzite (creamy white) and across the incredibly rocky fan, then crossing
Ely Springs Dolomite (black) rose high on the the soft pumice of the Ubehebe Volcanic
left near Ubehebe Mine. Wonderful altocu- Field and passing by Little Hebe Crater.. It
mulus clouds filled the sky. would have been easier to hike out the valley
Late in the day, we crossed a low pass along Racetrack Road, but we were here for
between Racetrack Valley and Round Valley wilderness. The whole morning we clattered
to the north. I wanted to take the group over up and down across the rocks. Luckily, there
to another low pass to the west, where we were no sprained ankles or twisted knees.
would have a view down into Corridor Can- Grey clouds hung to the north, and
yon and across Saline Valley to the Nelson strange bulbous cloud formations holding a
Range. But it was getting late and the group great deal of water drooped down from
was itching to set up camp, so we dropped them. Shadows rose and fell on the peaks to
down into Round the west. It was
Valley. Gradually, we became aware that the
great hiking
On November lower sky to the northeast was turning red weather. We
3, we got up early in spots...It was the Northern Lights! got to the cars
and hiked quickly at 1:45 p.m., and
north across Round Valley, heading for “Line the storm broke up as we drove out.
Canyon”. In the canyon, we were treated to a
beautiful wall of Lost Burro Formation on the Eureka Dunes (Segment Y): Death Valley NP
left, banded light and dark gray. It was Bob Ellis, Lawrence Wilson, Skip Smith, Mike
straight as an arrow, with high vaulted cliffs Tedeschi, Lynne Brei
that got higher as we proceeded. Gray Heading north from Ubehebe Crater
limestone on the right side contained an under partly cloudy skies on November 5, we
abundance of fossils. crossed pumice and ash sands and dropped
We hiked the canyon for three miles, then down into the main channel of Death Valley
proceeded eastward along a tributary. We Wash. Early September rains had run down
came to the top of the Tin Mountain Land- the wash, making the bottom firm and
slide, a 50-100 thousand year old agglomera- untracked. New growth foliage was dotted
tion of material that slid off the west face of here and there, brightening the generally dry
Tin Mountain, burying Racetrack Valley and dun-colored landscape. The route was easy
the east side of the Last Chance Range. The to follow and the hiking quite pleasant, al-
surface of the slide is hummocky, and there though warm enough to cause us to con-
are several dry lakes on top at almost 6000'. sume water at a good rate.
It was a strange topsy-turvy world of That evening we stopped part way up the
mixed-up drainage, with plants that seemed alluvial fan heading westward up into the Last
out of place. This part of the Park gets 90- Chance Mountains. By 6:30 p.m. we were
degree days during summer, but it snows in watching the stars from our sleeping bags.
winter and can be bitterly cold. We hiked Gradually, we became aware that the lower
down a long canyon as the sun set, and sky to the northeast was turning red in spots.
camped at the edge of huge fans coming We stared, amazed, as it grew brighter and
down from Dry Mountain. We had great vertical bands began to appear, pulsing and

Winter 2001 The SURVIVOR 21


shifting in posi- On the
tion and bright- morning of
ness. We November 7
speculated we paraded
about a terrorist down the can-
attack on the yon for the
Nevada Test grand view of
Site and some the Eureka
new Area 51 Dunes. We
secret weapon bee-lined to the
extravaganza. I northeast cor-
had been lucky ner, got our
enough to see a boots sandy,
similar effect in and spotted some
Eureka Dunes -Dan Seneres
the Mojave this last of the endangered
March. It was the northern lights! After an Swallenia alexandrae (Eureka Valley dune
hour or so the reds faded and a white glow grass) as well as the threatened Astragalus
remained for quite some time. It was quite a lentiginosus var micans (shining milk vetch).
treat. The birdcages of prior years’ evening prim-
On November 6, we entered canyon rose were scattered on the benches of the
country. The Desert Trail twisted upward lower dunes. A short march around the
through two different limestone narrows as northern end of the dunes brought us to the
we approached the southern crest of the Last cars. This is another good route: washes,
Chance Range. In the second narrows, as canyons, narrows, high views and, best of all,
we passed a reddish limestone belt of late that pile of sand.
Cambrian Pogonip formation, we spotted a
group of Dedeckera eurekensis. This mem- Last Chance Range (Segment Z): Death
ber of the buckwheat family was only discov- Valley NP
ered in 1972 by the late Mary Dedeckera. Jessica Rothhaar, Lawrence Wilson, Skip
Only about 15 populations have been re- Smith, Mike Tedeschi, Lynne Brei, Ron Cohen,
corded, and this wasn’t one of them. It had Dan Seneres, Nick Vasquez
about forty plants scattered on the steep November 8 brought yet another long car
north-facing scree slopes here on the eastern shuttle. A “Road Closed” sign forced us to
side of the Last Chance Range. We took take the long way around to Cucomungo
some pictures and after the trip I stopped in Canyon Road. When we got there, we found
at the Death Valley botanist’s office to record Cucomungo Canyon Road washed out, and
the new finding. had to leave our car 5 miles from the end of
our route. The yellow hazard sign in the
By early afternoon we were over the
canyon had been modified to read simply
crest. We climbed a small rise, hoping for a
“Dang Washout” - our sentiments exactly.
view of the dunes, but could only see a
portion of Eureka Valley. To the south the We started walking from the Dunes at
imposing bulk of Marble Peak filled the sky- 1:30 p.m. under a brilliant blue sky. We
line. We made a rapid descent down a headed straight up the alluvial fan toward a
twisting wash to Dedeckera Canyon and the low saddle in the Last Chance Range. From
Eureka Saline jeep corridor, where we the Dunes, the slopes of the fan seemed
camped. covered in a red mist. As we got closer, we

22 The SURVIVOR Winter 2001


saw that the mist was actually knee-high As the light faded, we descended a very steep
thickets of dry desert trumpet, whose many slope of loose rock in time to make camp in
delicate branches were interlaced in a sea of the next saddle just before dark. Our camp
color. Though we could have driven to the had good views to the east and west and
Crater mine site and started our hike from plenty of flat spots. Our water froze that night.
there, I would not have missed the beautiful On November 10, we continued along
views back to the golden dunes and the high the ridge, hiking up and down a series of
valleys around them. From the saddle, we short, steep peaks and saddles. Most of the
dropped into an unnamed wash and followed saddles would make good camps, having
it north. Night fell, and we camped at a plenty of flat spots and soft pine duff. The
broad, rocky spot in the wash, just south of navigating got a bit tricky, the guide book a bit
the road to Crater. The night was clear unclear, and I took us down the wrong ridge to
and cold, and the Willow Spring,
stars were great. descending more
Next morning, steeply than we
our route took us need have done.
past the Crater When we
mine and up a headed down the
canyon, and we mountain we
started our climb in also lost contact
earnest. This was with Dan, who
good, hard uphill had been slowed
walking, with plenty by knee trouble
of shade from and who had
pinyon and juniper. gotten off route.
He had a GPS
We made it to
and I knew he
the first saddle, at
would find his
7200’, by 12:30
way, but it was
and took a leisurely Lawrence Wilson, Sweetie the Desert Bear, Skip Smith and
Jessica Rothhaar on Last Chance Mountain - Dan Seneres unnerving.
lunch, enjoying the
views back to the Dunes and the valleys, In fact, Dan beat us down to Willow
lolling about in the shade. From here, we Spring, where Steve Tabor and four other
hiked 2.2 hard miles along the ridge over a Survivors were waiting to join us for the final 2
series of five peaks, each one higher than miles to the border. We reached the Nevada
the last, culminating in Last Chance Moun- border at 1:56 pm and cracked a bottle of
tain at 8456’. The hiking was challenging, champagne. Then we hoofed it five miles
and the views were glorious. To the west, back down the canyon on the jeep trail to
we could see Eureka Valley and the snow- where Steve and the others had parked. We
covered peaks of the Inyos. To the east, drove back to Eureka Dunes in the twilight,
valleys and ranges spread as far as we tired and footsore but satisfied. This is a
could see. Thick groves of pinyon and juni- great segment. It has wonderful scenery,
per sometimes made navigation challenging. huge views and challenging hiking.
We enjoyed the last ½ hour of daylight at In the evening, we enjoyed a potluck meal
the peak of Last Chance Mountain, admiring and celebrated the successful completion of
the shadows cast on the ridges below us. the Desert Trail Relay through California.

Winter 2001 The SURVIVOR 23


BLM, WHERE’S THE WILDERNESS MANAGEMENT PLAN?
By Bob Ellis

Recently the BLM proposed to allow a Planning efforts like this are a big job;
commercial group to run wilderness trips into they are costly in staff time and money.
the Inyo Mountains Wilderness. The 1964 However not doing plans leaves the interpre-
Wilderness Act discourages any commercial tation of the proper level of protection for
use of wilderness areas unless necessary for wilderness up to the individual manager’s
recreational wilderness purposes. In the latest interpretation of a fairly complex set of
recent Wilderness Implementation Schedule regulations and precedents. We start to see
(WIS) “plan” for managing the Inyo Wilder- wilderness protections eroded. More guz-
ness, the Ridgecrest BLM promised that no zlers are proposed, more commercial uses
commercial activities would be permitted in are permitted, more areas are developed
the Inyos until a formal wilderness manage- without proper inventory of what is there.
ment plan with public input was adopted. Particularly in the Inyos, complete archaeo-
Based upon this, the commercial groups logical and historic inventories must be com-
permit is being appealed. pleted before any added activities are permit-
The BLM chose not to include wilderness ted there. The unique sensitive resources of
planning in its recent NEMO, NECO, WEMO the area are already being carried away by
planning process. It currently has no sched- visitors.
ule to create wilderness management plans How about it BLM? Where’s the Wilder-
for the 69 wilderness areas created by the ness Plan?
1994 Desert Protection Act. Maybe its time
to ask WHY NOT?

April Nellson, Robert Armstrong and


Ella Mental atop Waucoba Mountain
(11,123’) in the Inyos , pointing to the
eastern Sierra (1998)
- Jessica Rothhaar

24 The SURVIVOR Winter 2001


Spring Along the Escalante, continued from back page...
road building programs of the 1930s finally
the historic Bowington Road (really a trail) made the mail trail obsolete, and left it to
back across the Escalante, and again up a people like us. The route, mostly over open
sweeping slickrock route to the mesa top; slickrock, descends and climbs out of numer-
finally, we reached the trailhead. ous washes and canyons. The best of these
is Death Hollow - big time deep, very narrow
More of the same on days three and four
and, thanks to a perennial creek, choked with
- down another shallow dry wash called
riparian growth. As we start our descent into
Phipps. It quickly became Phipps Gorge, and
this awesome maw, right on schedule, the
we walked its whole length to the Escalante
clouds and rain come running out to meet us.
River. Along the way were several great
Halfway down, a huge alcove gets in our
pour-offs and a marvelous arch to climb up to
way. Since it’s already late (3 pm), we crash
– Phipps Arch, of course. We continued
in this snug dry place. We spend a short but
tracking down the Escalante and several
memorable afternoon watching sheets of rain
crossings later, made camp at the mouth of
play off the vertical gorge walls opposite.
Deer Creek. On the morning of day four, we
explored Deer Canyon, and climbed up to Our last morning, and we are learning
and through Bowington Arch. There are what “riparian” means. We are tiptoeing
some ghosts in these canyons: Phipps and through about a half-mile of gorge bottom
Bowington were friends and ranching part- jungle trail. We tiptoe because of concern
ners. In 1878, they had a falling out. Their about these fresh new waxy sprouts that
disagreement came to a head on this very almost totally cover the trail - a green hell of
upper Escalante, with Phipps attacking poison ivy ! By mid afternoon, we are high up
Bowington and the latter shooting (and killing) on the open slickrock. All along the route,
Phipps. Bowington was later acquitted on one can follow the intermittent telephone line:
grounds of self-defense. We thought about here it’s carried by an old tree snag through a
all this as we exited the Escalante via a weather-tarnished porcelain insulator; here
hidden exit route (so well hidden we almost it’s still stretched tight across an open stretch
didn’t find it) up to the mesa. After a mere of smooth slickrock; now it lies on the ground
five more miles across the mesa, we did surrounded by many parallel grooves, all
manage to find our vehicles. worn into the sandstone by the wire’s flapping
through 75 years of Colorado Plateau winds.
Day six, and it’s 35 degrees F at the
Clouds are again building up, soon followed
trailhead, but at least it’s stopped snowing.
by a light drizzle. Now, through the mist, we
We have just passed the inverted airplane
can make out the green fields surrounding
fuselage that marks the Boulder International
Escalante Town, some 1000 ft below us. Who
Airport (and UFO landing site). We are at the
was it who said “rain enhances?” He’s right!
upper east end of the Boulder Mail Trail, an
ancient Indian route across mesa, gorge and The final slickrock descent to the
slickrock, 16 miles to Escalante. In 1902, it Escalante River is a true joy - the smell of wet
became a twice-a-week mail route; the mail- sandstone, the now vividly colored domes,
man was paid $200/year: that’s $1.92 per pinnacles, abutments, drop-offs, and other
round trip. Lonely cowboys walked the route landforms that just don¹t have words to de-
to go to dances in Boulder and Escalante. In scribe them. It’s serious rain by the time we
1924, a telephone line was strung along the reach the vehicles, but by now it doesn’t
route. The California Conservation Corps matter: we really own this place, at least in
the memory banks of our minds.

Winter 2001 The SURVIVOR 25


Road Trip:
Three Mountains and Three Springs in Nevada
By Bill Johansson

Every summer since ’95 I’ve been taking Next, we headed northeast to look at
road trips to Nevada. My interest in Nevada Lunar Crater and Easy Chair Crater, in
began after my 1992 Easter trip to Death Nevada’s “Moon Country.” Lunar Crater, 6
Valley via Lida Summit. I was struck by the miles on a dirt road from Hwy 6, is impressive
snowcapped peaks of Magruder Mountain – 420 feet deep and nearly 4,000 feet in
and the mysterious feel of the land. I’ve come diameter. The entire area has a purplish
back again and again, first to climb Magruder, haze, perhaps because of its volcanic nature.
which took 2 tries. Since then I have found it On our way back we hiked to Iceberg Spring,
fascinating to discover hidden springs in the which can be seen from the highway.
desert, climb other mountains with great The following day, we headed to Palmetto
views, and find petroglyphs, wildflowers, and Mountain. We drove almost to Lida Summit,
semi-precious stones. then started hiking. Our goal was to get high
This summer, my parents, my friend Louie enough to take a panoramic picture of
and I headed out through Fallon to Big Magruder Mountain from the north. The view
Kasock Mountain. I had seen this peak on my was almost perfect. Returning to the car, we
relief map and it called me. From U.S. 50 we then went to find Kline Spring. We were able
turned south on route 839 towards the ghost to find the road off the highway without any
town of Rawhide. We hiked from below problems, and began following a dry wash
5,800’ to the southeastern peak of the moun- “flowing” east. The wash was flowing in the
tain at 6,722’. From here we could see the wrong direction, though, so we backtracked
mountain’s highest peak at 7,142’. The and began following another wash. When we
climb was rather steep at times, so we encountered some moss and grass, we
stopped short of the summit, but the climb became optimistic that we were on the right
down was easy! track. Soon we were following a trickle of
We continued east on Hwy 50, then took water! We followed the spring for quite a
a detour along picturesque Highway 722, up while, finally turning back when it became
Carroll Summit to Tonopah. The green along difficult to continue. We didn’t go far enough
the Reese River Valley was amazing. to find the source, but I believe we had found
Kline Spring.
The next day we hiked from 5400’ to the
top of Monitor Peak (6,374’), southeast of Our last spring was Gap Spring, on our
Tonopah. The mountainside was sandy and way to Bishop.. No water here but quite a few
hard to climb up, but a cushion to the feet on trees and a marshy area. The only animal we
the way down. From the top we could see saw in the area was a skinny jack rabbit with
Ralston Valley to the west, the Monitor Hills tall ears– the proverbial jackalope.
to the south, Hwy 6 to the north and moun- All in all, this was a satisfying trip— three
tains and hills on the horizon. We were high mountains and three springs, and new ideas
enough to identify all the surrounding peaks for further exploration.
on the map. From the top our van looked like
a little speck.

26 The SURVIVOR Winter 2001


tailed on

We stopped for lunch at the first rocky


outcrop we could use for shade. Here, we
REVEILLE RANGE CARCAMP found sagebrush and twist-leaf rabbitbrush
growing in the rocks. Rubber rabbitbrush and
September 1-3, 2001
desert peach grew in the wash. A single
honeysuckle hid beneath the cliff. On the
By Steve Tabor
hillsides were Indian rice grass and
Labor Day Weekend - into the heartland! cheatgrass.
We sought to beat the heat and the crowds, We hiked up the wash and into a narrows
and we did both, with long walks on jeep toward the “Goblin Knobs”, a terrain of pink
trails and washes. latite and rhyolite outcrops called “Monotony
The Reveille Range is 60 miles east of Tuff” on the geology map. We negotiated a
Tonopah, just south of the ghost town of small dryfall, above which we found a wide
Warm Springs. Remote and little-known, the amphitheater with latite knobs (“hoodoos”) all
range is even mis- around. Knobs
labelled on the It was an exquisite little shangri-la, rose on both
state tourist map. presided over by jackrabbits and coyotes, sides, and at the
Most of the east
and the occasional band of wild horses. head of the little
side of the Rev- valley was a
eilles is easily hiked from a paved road, basalt flow, almost horizontal, layered over
Route 375, the “Extraterrestrial Highway”. the tuff. It was an exquisite little shangri-la,
Perhaps that is why the range is so little- presided over by jackrabbits and coyotes,
visited: people are afraid to get out of their and the occasional band of wild horses.
cars. After lunch, we took an easy path to the
We met at Warm Springs, then drove top, a long broad shadscale and sagebrush
down the E.T. Highway to a point just oppo- flat, gently rolling and quite rocky. We hiked
site Echo Reservoir. We parked the cars by southward across the flat, and dropped down
the side of the road and walked. Nevada is the rim toward the east on a rough switch-
like that. You can just park and walk; no backed trail that probably dated from the
“Adventure Pass” stickers are needed. early mining days. Its western destination
There’s always the chance that an out-of- was probably Tonopah or the springs in the
control drunk might whack your car on the next range over.
shoulder, but what the hell. We aimed for a The trail was a joy to hike as it led down-
good-looking canyon on the east side and hill and across the benches. We got back to
hiked toward it. the cars early, then headed for Reveille to
As we walked the alluvial fan toward the camp. When the road began to enter the
mountains, I was surprised at the greenery canyon, though, I called a halt. If we contin-
this late in the season. This country had ued to Reveille, we’d lose a view of the valley
been washed over by the same series of and would miss the rising of the full moon.
storms that had hit Death Valley the last week The group agreed we should stop, so we
of August. We spooked jackrabbits and did. It was a good camp.
lizards as we walked. Those of us in the lead In the evening, we had a delicious potluck
car spotted a couple of coyotes coming down meal. The moon rose orange over the south
to water at the reservoir. It was in the high end of the Quinn Canyon Range. We stayed
70s F. as we hiked, warm but not hot.

Winter 2001 The SURVIVOR 27


up late, watching and listening for signs of eral explorations of the late 1970s. Further
UFO presence. It was a warm night. up the canyon to the right, an old cabin of
In the morning, we hiked up the road rough-hewn juniper trunks stood sentinel. Its
toward Reveille, and visited Hyde Spring en roof was of juniper branches and dirt. There
route. I’ve always liked to investigate desert was handmade furniture inside.
springs that I’ve seen on maps, and this one From the mouth of the canyon, a couple
was no disappointment. It had a collapsed of us hiked the high road to Reveille. The old
building, a broken-down corral, a trough full site had a few buildings standing, most
of water and algae, and a tromped-up notably a large white clapboard house dating
mudhole frequented by wild horses. Near probably from the 1950s. A couple stone
the trough was a tub of molasses with a walls still stood, but the roofs were long
dead bird floating in it. gone. The spring just
Water dripped from a pipe downstream was flow-
into the trough and was ing strong. It and Hyde
probably drinkable. The Spring to the northeast
highlight of the place was a would make nice water
large apple tree with hun- stops for a backpack
dreds of nearly ripe apples trip through the range
hanging from its from south to north.
branches. The tree was We hiked back to
riddled with woodpecker the cars, arriving just
holes. after sunset. A baby
We cut cross-country rattlesnake, barely a
over the hills toward Lost foot long, frantically
Burro Canyon, a deep cut in the limestone to shook its tail at us, but no sound came out.
the west. Scattered junipers provided Next morning, we headed west on Route
shade. Wild horse trails criss-crossed the 6 to the Volcanic Hills. There, we hiked in a
landscape. We were solidly in the Great canyon of extremely fissile green shale.
Basin now, with sagebrush, rabbitbrush,
Later, we drove to the hot springs in Fish
desert peach, matchweed, a few bitterbrush,
Lake Valley for a dip. By this time, the hu-
and four-wing saltbush.
midity was palpable, and huge thunder-
A rough jeep trail led up the canyon. storms were forming over the mountains to
High limestone walls rose on both sides. We the south and east. From the springs, we
encountered a roofless stone cabin and a had a great view of showers falling on Piper
couple of mine shafts. Laura Pace and I Peak. Reluctantly, we finally left at 3:00 pm
hunted for fossils, and found a few. The and headed for home. We helped a family
group rested under a juniper tree for awhile, in an overturned car in Adobe Valley, then
eating, talking and dozing. Later, we drove through a powerful hailstorm near
climbed a low pass to the crest on a crude Sagehen Summit. The trip retained its aura
trail through the junipers. A refreshing of adventure all the way to the end. It was a
breeze blew through the pass, tempering the great way to finish the summer.
85-degree heat.
At the top, we found the canyon and the
ridge had been extensively bulldozed by
miners, probably during the tax-dodge min-

28 The SURVIVOR Winter 2001


A Visit to an American Ground Zero
By Chris Schiller

In the Nevada desert, just a few hours from San Francisco, ordinary citizens can walk freely around a
nuclear test site.

There are many euphemisms used to if the detonation would cause any damage.
describe what happened east of Fallon at Thousands of gallons of water and large
10:00 a.m. exactly on October 26, 1963: amounts of equipment were brought to the
project, event, device, test or, in the nomen- site to decontaminate people, clothing and
clature of the times, a shot. It was a small machinery. A dizzying array of instrumenta-
nuclear bomb, smaller than Trinity or the tion was deployed around ground zero to
bombs we dropped on Japan. It produced a record the shakes, rattles and rolls resulting
yield of about 12 kilotons, equivalent to from the blast. The stated purpose and
12,000 tons of TNT. selected location of the test were to help
Hundreds of bombs had already been set determine the difference between earth-
off on American soil by 1963, and many quakes and underground nuclear blasts.
hundreds were to come. As of 1992, the The US wanted to know if the USSR was
US had detonated over 1000 nuclear bombs. cheating on the size and type of blasts
The vast majority were covered by the newly
detonated at the Ne- “...with a half day or so to inked treaty. Shoal’s
vada Test Site in south- spare, I decided to engage in a ground zero is close to
ern Nevada, a military the Dixie Valley
reservation where little nuclear motor tourism.” andFairview Peak
unauthorized trespass- faults, where earth-
ers are subject to immediate arrest. About quake activity is frequent. By comparing the
100 were atmospheric tests; the rest were profiles of these earthquakes and the artifi-
set off underground. In late 1963, the US cial quaking caused by a blast, the US
had just signed an atmospheric test ban hoped to determine the difference in vibra-
treaty with the USSR. Shot Shoal was part tions emanating from the Soviet Union.
of the new era of underground testing. On that October morning, observers less
While the US government had recog- than a mile from ground zero reported being
nized the dangers of fallout from nuclear “jarred by a severe ground shock” and, a
blasts since the Manhattan Project, it had few seconds after detonation, “a loud roar
nonetheless chosen to sacrifice the health of filled the air and a cloud of dust a thousand
US citizens in the name of expediency, feet long began to rise over ground zero”.
convenience and national security. Not so Seismometers recorded a 5.2 magnitude
with Shot Shoal, at least on the surface. temblor. The shot produced a rubble-filled
For Shot Shoal, public health officials chimney 170ft in diameter and 460ft high.
were called in to sample milk and water both However, unlike the craters one might find at
before and after the blast. Mines were the Nevada Test Site from the large bombs
photographed before the blast to determine
continued on page 30

Winter 2001 The SURVIVOR 29


detonated underground there, the rubble even a commemorative plaque. Several
chimney from Shoal did not extend all the other public land ground zeros at least have a
way to the surface. After the blast, crews plaque, but at ground zero Shoal there is
drilled several sampling wells, capped them, nothing to mark the event . In the wild stam-
and by February, 1964, the site was vacated pede of late 20th century blasts, Shot Shoal
and the project declared a success. was nothing but a minor hoofbeat.
I had long known there was a blast site A little more reconnoitering of the area
near Fallon but I’d never bothered to seek it revealed several large drill heads set atop
out. Last October, finding myself nearby with concrete slabs. The concrete was fresh and
a half day or so to spare, I decided to engage the paint on the 12-inch pipe caps looked
in a little nuclear motor tourism. Twenty newly dried. The labels on the pipes indi-
eight years after the blast, almost to the day, I cated the drilling went deeper than 5000 feet,
drove the short spur road to ground zero of well below the 1200 foot depth of the center
Shot Shoal and found…nothing. Well, not of the blast. These, and their tailings piles,
nothing. Everything, in a desert sense: short are the only indication that anything of note
sage brush, cheat grass and rice grass, a happened at the site. An uninformed ob-
high cloud-shot sky, distant brown ranges, server would take them for oil exploration
memories of secret clefts on nearby moun- wells.
tains choked with aspen. But at ground zero In fact, the drill heads are part of a ground
there was only a warm October breeze in the water monitoring effort that has been ongoing
shin-high brush. No crater, no fence, not for the last few years. The wells were drilled

30 The SURVIVOR Winter 2001


Desert Survivors
and water samples taken, and the results of Board of Directors
testing were used to develop a computer
model for the subsurface water activity in the Steve Tabor, President
area around the site. Further monitoring (510) 769-1706
activity just last year added tracers to the StevTabor@aol.com
Janet Johnson, Secretary
subsurface water to aid in the analysis. The
(510) 531-9430
goal of the effort is to predict groundwater David McMullen, Activities Director
flows near the site for the next 1000 years. (510) 841-9757
Given what we have done with the last 30 Jerry Goss, Managing Director
years, do we really have the vision to see a (408) 248-8206
thousand years hence? Loretta Bauer, Volunteer Director
(510) 799-7489
Sampling wells drilled just after the blast Jessica Rothhaar, Communications Director
left “contaminated soil [mixed] with clean soil Jessica@RothhaarCom.com
to reduce concentrations of radioactive mate- Bob Ellis, At Large
rial, and [buried] under several feet of uncon- bobellisds@earthlink.net
taminated earth”. Apparently, this contamina- Dave Halligan, At Large
(510) 528-3360
tion is no longer present at the surface. In
David I. Barr, At Large
the 1970’s, the soil and plants at ground zero w: (510) 622-2313
Shoal were sampled and found to have radio- h: (510) 465-9762
activity no higher than background levels. Paul Menkes, At Large
The same testing was performed in 1996 with (510) 525-9347
similar results. But I wondered what radiation Peter Ruddock, At Large
might still lurk underground. Nearly 30 years bighorn@desert-survivors.org
on, this small slice of the Nevada desert is
underlain with radionuclides harmful for who Desert Survivors Bandanas, Caps
knows how many half lives. and Tee-Shirts Available
You can easily visit this site in a half hour The Desert Diversity bandana sage or terra-cotta ink
diversion on your next trip across Nevada on on natural-colored cotton cloth is available for $7.00
Hwy 50. Take a break from the driving, eat a each which includes tax, postage and handling.
sandwich, wonder at our nuclear past and Desert Survivor Caps are khaki-green with a blue bill
future. There are no gates, no warning signs, and feature the bighorn sheep logo, with the motto,
Experience Share Protect. $12 each plus $1 postage
and there will likely be no other nuclear tour- and handling.
ists about.
Designed by Gregor Nelson, the Desert Survivor tee-
shirts feature the Survivor Petroglyph in rust with navy
lettering on a heavyweight tan all-cotton shirt. Specify
Directions: 32 miles east of Fallon on
Small, Medium, Large, or Extra-Large (men’s sizes)
Hwy 50 take a right on Nevada Hwy 839. and send $12.00 per shirt, plus $2.00 postage and
There’s a Navy bombing range visible to the handling per order.
left as you drive south on Hwy 839. Approxi-
mately 5 miles south of Hwy 50 on Hwy 839
Send Orders to:
will be a well graded dirt road to the west into
the low Sand Springs Range. Take a right. A Desert Survivors
little less than a mile up the road, on the right, P.O. Box 20991
is ground zero Shoal.
Oakland, CA 94620-0991

Winter 2001 The SURVIVOR 31


Thrills and Chills:
Spring along the Upper Escalante
By David Holten

May 2, 2001. It’s snowing in Escalante some drop-off into a 5-star gorge. We could
Petrified State Park, Southern Utah. Four only stand on the rim and view this drop,
people sit in their vehicles, reading, thinking, which was stair-stepped all the way down
meditating, and watching the ice, rain, and with deep, dark, and completely inaccessible
snow accumulate on their windshields. We pot holes of ink black water. We did, how-
have a campsite but haven’t gotten out of our ever, persevere by doing exactly as the trail
vehicles to use it. Since we have all been so guide told us. We climbed a shelf on the
closely associated with one another the past right, to a pinnacle north-northeast of us.
four days, this weather break from each other Next, we sighted on and climbed to a toad-
is really not too bad. So far, we are in good stool-like rock on the slickrock horizon to our
spirits , possibly due to the pizza and salad right, then walked north 50 yards to the lip of
bar lunch we ate in Escalante just two hours another cliff edge. All this to gaze and gasp
ago. More likely though, its because of two at what we saw: Navajo domes, towers,
great overnight backpacks we have just alcoves, and canyons without limit - the
completed. drainage of the Escalante River.
On the first day, we struck out from the Next, a 700 foot drop to the river, across
highway and, in a quarter of a mile, hit a and up another slickrock drainage on the
small dry wash leading downhill to the left. other side: miles of rolling slickrock. Finally,
Shortly, the wash turned right and began to we made camp along a chain of gently slop-
grow deeper. Next, slickrock on both sides, ing water-filled potholes. Walkout the next
and several moderate drop-offs. Then, less day was by another route with even more
than 30 minutes from the highway pavement, domes, cliffs, drop-offs, etc., as we followed
our little dry wash plummeted via an awe- continued on page 25

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Return Service Requested BERKELEY, CA


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P.O. Box 20991
Oakland, CA 94620-0991

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32 The SURVIVOR Winter 2001