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the Survivor The quarterly journal of Desert Survivors • Experience, Share, Protect • Summer 2007,



The quarterly journal of Desert Survivors • Experience, Share, Protect • Summer 2007, 26, 2

Desert Pavement and Dust Poetry and Prose Survivor Tips




Don’t Mess With Virtual Wilderness

[The following email exchange was for- warded to the editor, whose guess is that the facility pictured is a biometric border security station.]

June 14, 2007

Directors and General Counsel:

I am forwarding an e-mail and attachment sent to me by a firm that wants to use a jpg image from the DS website that ended up being archived somewhere on the web. The guy called me and said he was patent- ing a product to be sold to and used by the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. It looks like a jail. The image in the background appears to be a portion of the homepage image of Death Valley that we formerly had on our website (at least somebody likes it!). I told him NO. My response to him is also for- warded.

Steve Tabor

June 13, 2007

Subj:Using your Desert Survivors web image for project

To: President of Desert Survivors,


Per my message yesterday, we would like to use your image as a background plate for a product rendering. I felt your permission would be required before we proceed. Attached is the image and it's use.

For sake of our client, could the use be kept between the two of us? It is for a patent on a new product. Thank you for your courtesy, we appreciate it! Have a nice day.

Sincerely, Tyler J. Dorsey Trial Technology/Graphic Specialist Video Discovery, Inc. Cleveland, OH

Specialist Video Discovery, Inc. Cleveland, OH Image of commercial product superimposed on photograph from

Image of commercial product superimposed on photograph from DS website

June 14, 2007 3:44 p.m.

Mr. Dorsey:

This e-mail will serve as a formal response to your request to use the image you refer to as “RENDER11.jpg” that you have taken from Desert Survivors material that you found on the World-Wide Web. Desert Survivors expressly forbids you to use in publication or otherwise this image or any other image that you derive from us via web search or any other means. Desert Survivors expressly disapproves of the pur- pose for use of this material that you have represented to us. You are hereby ordered to cease and desist any attempt(s) to pub- lish material that you have derived from Desert Survivors for this or any purpose.

I will duplicate this instruction in writing and send it to you by postal mail. Copies of this letter and e-mail have been sent to our General Counsel, as has a forward of the image you have sent to me as the object of your communication.

Steve Tabor


Desert Survivors

Mountain Peak Mishap

October 5, 2007

The caption to the picture found on page 2 of the Spring 2007 Survivor, is wrong. The peak in the picture is Montgomery peak, not Boundary peak, although one can just barely see the northern shoulder of Bound- ary behind Montgomery in the photo.

Richie Schwarz, New York, NY

[Corrected caption is printed below. -Editor]

Judy Kendall
Judy Kendall

Montgomery Peak as seen from Benton Hot Springs

Cover: The Sump, western Nevada; see page 22. Photo by Bill Johansson.



How to Reach Us

(See the new submission instructions in the next column, and the notice at the end of this page.) [See website for curent information] Editor:

Cathy Luchetti

Art Director:

Andrea Young

Membership Information Steve Tabor (510) 769-1706

Desert Survivor Website www.desert-survivors.org

Board of Directors 2007-2008

President: Steve Tabor

Secretary: Garry Wiegand

Managing Director: Loretta Bauer

Communications Director:

Andrea Young

Activities Director: Bob Lyon

Volunteer Coordinator:

Lynne Buckner

Directors At Large:

Neal Cassidy

Judy Kendall

John Moody

Jannet Schraer

Kenneth Logan

T h e S u r v i v o r is printed by My Printer, Berkeley, CA, www.emyprinter.com.

Sur vi vor Deadline Looms

The deadline for the Winter issue of The Sur vi vor is December 22, 2007. Maxi- mum word length: letters-to-the-editor (200), feature articles (4000), trip reports (2000), as well as desert conservation issues, natural history articles, book reviews, gear tips, and backpacking/camping recipes. A new column on desert etiquette is included, written by a mystery member. Also wanted: short descriptions of unusual foods, gear improvisations, or desert-related discoveries. All submissions which relate to the mission of Desert Survivors will be considered for publication, including liter- ary or artistic works inspired by the desert.

Please submit text electronically, with all text longer than a paragraph sent as an attached file. Formats of choice: (in order of preference) Word (.doc), WordPerfect (.wpd), Rich Text Format (.rtf) and text (.txt). Please include your full name, city and state of residence and phone number. Send editorial material to Cathy Luchetti.

For photographs, please identify the people and locations as shown. Digital photos should be approximately 1600 pixels resolu-

tion to be printed the full width of a page (8.5 inches). Please do not submit digital photos with only 640x480 pixels resolu-


tor, Andrea Young.

Send all artwork to the Art Direc-

Mission Statement for Desert Survivors

Desert Survivors is a nonprofit organiza- tion dedicated to desert conservation and exploration. Our members enjoy hiking in and learning about America’s desert lands, and seek to protect those areas for future generations.

Sign up for Desert Survivor E-Mail Notices and On-Line Forum

Desert Survivors has two e-mail lists for members, DSEM (DS Electronic Mail )

Notices and DSOL (DS On Line) interac- tive Forum. DSEM Notices allows mem- bers to receive most regular mailings from the Board of Directors by e-mail rather than paper. Trip schedules, party and meet- ing announcements, alerts – everything except renewal notices and The Sur vi vor arrive in your inbox, often days before other members receive theirs in the mail. You receive 100% of the text contents of the regular mailings (and nothing else). Desert Survivors protects the e-mail addresses of its members fully, never lend- ing, selling or giving them away to others.

DSOL is our interactive Forum, which allows members who sign up to broadcast e-mail to everyone else signed up for DSOL Forum. Recent topics included floods, desert wildflowers, road conditions, and DS service trips. Be careful, though, to not inadvertently send personal e-mail to everyone on DSOL Forum.

Desert Survivor members may subscribe to either DSEM Notices or DSOL Forum by e-mailing tortoise, desert-survivors.org. For the subject use “subscribe regular mail- ings” for DSEM Notices, and “subscribe listserv” for DSOL Forum. Don’t include the quotation marks and do include in the body of the message your name and address so that we can verify your member- ship. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have a completely automated system, and Tortoise can be a little slow, so it might take several days.

New Editor and Art Director

Cathy Luchetti is taking over as Editor, and Andrea Young, who was elected Communi- cations Director at the Annual Meeting in September, is taking over as Art Director. Complete coverage of the Annual Meeting and Board elections will appear in the next issue. Since I had started the Summer issue some time ago, I was given the opportunity to complete it before the new team takes over. Look for major improvements in the future. I would like to thank Desert Sur- vivors for the opportunity to work on The Survivor for the last four years, my prede- cessors, previous editor Jessica Rothhaar and art director Hall Newbegin, for advice and instruction, and especially the many excellent contributors to The Survivor. -Paul Brickett



Desert Pavements and Dust: The Rest of the Story

By Marith Reheis, Golden, CO

D esert Survivors frequently hike across long stretches of desert pavements because they are, in the absence of trails, the easiest ground to walk and are common in the

low-altitude arid regions. When well developed, pavements are composed of interlocking clasts of gravel that can be darkly var- nished on top if the rock type is suitable; desert varnish will not form on rocks that are soluble, like limestone, and does not usually become thick and black on rocks that disaggregate easily, like sand- stone and granite. Other than blessing these pavements when they extend in the direction of travel, many people do not think about pavements or how they form. Many of those who do have mis- taken ideas about how they form, and very few understand how old they can be.


previous article in a Desert Survivors issue described pavements


forming by wind erosion, which winnows and removes fine sed-

iment grains, including silt, clay, and fine sand. These fine sedi- ments are removed from alluvial-fan sediments that were deposited

as poorly sorted mixtures of fine sediment and gravel. In fact,

most pavements form by exactly the opposite process in the west- ern deserts of North America and on other continents as well:

addition of silt, clay, and fine sand to a gravelly fan surface! Many geologists and soil scientists have studied desert pavements and their relations to underlying dust layers, and have used many differ- ent approaches to understand how they form. What follows is a summary of their work; for more information, check out the papers listed at the end of this article.

Fresh fan surfaces are usually very rocky and rough, with bar-and- swale topography and sediment of all sizes at the surface. As a result, these surfaces are very good and efficient natural dust traps; their unevenness creates small vortices and an overall surface roughness that slows the surface winds and causes dust particles to fall out. The dust, if not immediately blown away, may filter down

or be washed down into pore spaces. Then a mechanical process

takes over that in effect is analogous to taking a jar of mixed sizes of nuts, screws, and bolts, and shaking it. The coarsest materials will move to the top of the pile in the jar. A similar thing happens with time in the formation of pavements: wetting and drying events move the fine particles into pore spaces below the surface and a layer of gravel floats on the top of the fines. Over long periods of time—thousands of years of gradual deposition of dust—the layer of fine particles thickens and the layer of stones at the surface stays on top (the surface as a whole rises a little due to inflation by the dust layer). Because the stones are at the surface, they are more affected than stones at depth by mechanical weath- ering that breaks large rocks down to smaller sizes by thermal expansion, wetting and drying, and crystallization of salts in cracks and pores. By such processes, the surface gravel clasts become

Paul Brickett
Paul Brickett

Hiking desert pavement in Palo Verde Wilderness, Nov., 2005

more uniform in size and the clasts begin to interlock, forming the kind of surface we enjoy for hiking.

The basic elements of this story of pavement formation have been documented by several key papers written by Les McFadden, Steve Wells, and others. They used a dating method called cosmogenic nuclide accumulation to estimate the length of time that the sur- face stones have been exposed to cosmic rays at the ground sur- face. And they used ages of the gravel or bedrock (basalt flow) deposits underneath, dated by potassium-argon and uranium-series methods, to show that the age of pavement clasts is the same as the age of deposition of the gravel or bedrock beneath the dust accumulation. Other studies by people like me have shown that the fine sediment, which forms a soil horizon called a “vesicular A” horizon (for its bubble-shaped pores) beneath the pavement, is identical in mineral composition and dominant elemental chemistry to the modern dust now being deposited at the same sites. This shows that the fine sediment represents a long-term accumulation

Marith Reheis
Marith Reheis

Closeup of surface clasts in a pavement; they are beginning to form an interlocking pattern

of desert dust that was deposited slowly enough that it did not bury the pavement. In a very few places, such as the Cima volcanic field downwind of Soda Lake, deposition rates of dust from playas were at times fast enough to bury a pavement; in such cases these dust deposits are called “desert loess”. But mostly, the stone- free dust layers beneath the pavements are no thicker than 15-20 cm.

Marith Reheis

Desert pavement surfaces on the west side of the McCoy Mountains, California. Note the old WWII tank tracks in the foreground.

rainfall zones, the dust is still present, but it is usually infiltrated deeper below the surface and is better mixed with the original sand and gravel. In more arid zones, with normal dust-deposition rates, it takes about 10,000 years to form a fairly weak, patchy pavement, and at least 50,000-100,000 years to form a strong, interlocking pavement with 10-20 cm of underlying dust. In Australia, the desert landscapes are very old, erosion rates are extremely low, and vegetation changes in the past glacial-to-interglacial cycles have been much more limited than those in the western U.S. Aus- tralians call the surfaces with desert pavement “gibber plains”. The gibbers may be underlain by as much as a meter or two of dust-derived sediments—and these gibbers can be as old as a mil- lion years!

So, the next time you step out for a stroll on a desert pavement, (or feel tempted to dig a hole in one, or see someone driving off- road on one), consider how long it took to form and how slowly it may recover from disturbance. Patton’s World War II tank tracks on pavements in the Mojave Desert are clearly visible today.


McFadden, L.D., Wells, S.G., and Jercinovich, M.J., 1987, Influ- ences of eolian and pedogenic processes on the origin and evolution of desert pavement: Geology, v. 15, p. 504-508.

McFadden, L.D., McDonald, E.V., Wells, S.G., Anderson, K.,

Quade, J., and Forman, S.L., 1998, The vesicular layer and car- bonate collars of desert soils and pavements: formation, age and relation to climate change: Geomorphology, v. 24, p. 101-


Reheis, M.C., Goodmacher, J.C., Harden, J.W., McFadden, L.D., Rockwell, T.K., Shroba, R.R., Sowers, J.M., and Taylor, E.M., 1995, Quaternary soils and dust deposition in southern Neva- da and California: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 107, p. 1003-1022.

How long does it take to form a pavement? Many

studies have shown that this varies depending on the climate, climate change, dust-influx rates, and surface slope. Where fans are vegetated by sagebrush and

trees are nearby, pavements either won’t form or will be disrupted by bioturbation (roots, burrowing animals, etc.). In such higher

Marith Reheis
Marith Reheis

Soil beneath the same pavement in the previous picture (the lower part of the soil is oxidized red and speckled with white spots that are calcium carbonate). Soil horizon boundaries are marked by nails along the left side. Gravels are concentrated in the surface pavement layer and below the sign. At and above the sign there are very few rocks; most of the soil sediment is sand, silt, and clay. The upper 8 cm, just below the pavement, has no rocks and is nearly all a pale-colored silt, the so-called Av (vesicular) horizon, consisting of desert dust added to the soil.


These Are the Things I Have Seen Today

By Chris Schiller, Redding, CA; www.schillerimages.com

I’ve been told there is very little time left, that we must get

all these things about time and place straight.

we will only have passed on and have changed nothing.

If we don’t,

-Barry Lopez, Desert Notes

I have seen two snakes mating on the trail today. I’ve seen but-

terflies on horse apples. A mining boomtown reborn. Prong-

horn lambs learning to run. I have seen ravens playing about

a high peak. Snow left from winter’s longing. A curtain of rain stretched across a desert land. I have felt the slight air of heaven upon my face.


The snakes, these two fat rattlers, are dancing and twisting in my path. So intense their interest, they do not notice me approaching. Or they note me and dismiss me. When I coil a length of cord improperly, and then try to use it, there is a nest of knots in the untangling. This is the shape of their sex: knots in the untangling. They seem drunk in their desire, lolling each other nose-to-nose, a slow tilting of viper necks, then flopping to the dirt. Bodies entwined. A shifting of knots, a boy scout’s nightmare, then the passion of vines up an invisible trellis again. I step silently for- ward for a closer picture, and they still do not see any of the world but their own. I look down at my camera settings, and in that second they have seen me. They are sat up like lovers in a spied-on bed. Ahem, they say with forked tongues, facing me. I retreat shamefully and cast a wide path around.

Chris Schiller
Chris Schiller


Butterflies on horse apples

path around. Chris Schiller 6 Butterflies on horse apples Chris Schiller Mating rattlesnakes II Still these
path around. Chris Schiller 6 Butterflies on horse apples Chris Schiller Mating rattlesnakes II Still these
Chris Schiller
Chris Schiller

Mating rattlesnakes


Still these things are in our path. This trail was born by the pas- sage of horses, crossing the creek many times, unmindful of wet boots. The horses drop apples, bake meadow biscuits, leave trail mulching. A hay burners’ unregulated exhaust. The butterflies come in search of salts or perhaps some secret nectar bargained for in a long ago equine-lepidoptera agreement. All butterflies are colorful except for these. Their wings are an inkblot test for their predators, but a wondrous block print for their admirers. If only the world were this simple: float the breeze in black and white, alight upon the compost of travelers, then fill the sky with flutter- ing visions. The butterflies, too, demure when we approach. They lift like a handful of wild coins tossed in the air, then land again, all heads and tails random. A harbor full of painted sails upon grassy waves.


This town died once upon a time in the west. Long enough ago

to have left only weathered boards, crumbling bricks, and tailings

spilled about the hills. The previous boomtown lived at the end of a long supply chain stretching to San Francisco and beyond, perhaps to London or Shanghai. Nothing grew here that people

could eat directly. Gold and silver were born here, and that’s all. The town died when the ore ran out, like the thousand other dusty collections of buildings and mills scattered around the west.

A few hardy loners in rusted travel trailers held on and hid from

wives, previous lives, the law, or maybe themselves out here beyond the reach of civilization. They drove to Tonopah to col- lect checks and at the same time bitched about the government

that fed them.

I helped a broken-down resident of this town about ten years ago, and heard at least his view of his world. This was remote country traveled only by ranchers and a few hikers most of the year, and hoards of hunters for two weeks in the fall. Ten years ago that was. I’ve visited frequently since then, but always traveled other roads. Passing through today there are fresh new houses on the old mining claims. Shiny custom-built houses with materials hauled from Fallon or maybe Reno, hundreds of miles away. How much did each nail cost once it was purchased, transported, and driven into wood? And there’s an even newer church on the hill, let’s not forget that. This is far, far off the grid, and there are tracking solar panels in each yard. Who are these people to build houses out here? Retirees? Californians with ponzi-pyramid returns on house sales? Do they know what the winters are like out here? How soon will they tire of the hour-long drive to Tonopah, and how will they be disappointed in what it has to

The Survivor Summer 2007

offer? Will their satellite TV carry them through? Their supply chain stretches to Saudi Arabia, and is as tenuous as the miners’ supply chain a hundred years ago. But these new boomtown residents take nothing from here but the views. The money comes from elsewhere. If I return in twenty more years, will these houses already be on their way to ruin?

The landscape contracts again as the boomtimes expand again. I can only conjure the patience of the sagebrush here in the heart of the Sagebrush Sea. It will reclaim, like water, this folly of men.

FEATURE Chris Schiller
Chris Schiller

Ghost town

hammer and thunder back there in the empty pickup bed. Wash- board here on the roads of the mortal, and the ravens soar. They do not feel joy, they are joy embodied in a grand dance about the peak. Rising and dipping, they are prophets cycling the summit eddy. Their words come in quorks and hoots; they answer the wind. We fight the fires of our own making, separating dust from flame. We heave the heavy breaths of our burdens, and the ravens soar effortless above. We roll stones from the mountain, and the ravens know where the fresh dead lie. And if the fire crowns, if the smoke and inferno take us, flesh and static and dust, might they find indulgence in us. Take sacrament, take spirit, take flight on a thunderstorm afternoon. Cackle and play on black wings: if only this were our destiny, our journey, our soul. We top out the rise and the radio clears and there is only air there above us now. And whooping black- winged birds below.


You hear the snowfield before you see it. A gurgle where a moment ago there was only the wind. All things on the mountain, even the rocks, seem alive and awake, but the snow left white sleeps on in inert repose. It is an icy momentum of winter, exist- ing still only because it still exists. Smaller patches are long melted. This one thaws about the edges but keeps its center cool. Its dribble of meltwa- ter joins others, is a creek, becomes a river, and then dies a reincarnated death by evaporation in the far salty playa. The snowfield’s outflow will not reach the sea in this life, but downweather, at the extreme edge of hazy vision, lie the ranges which drain to the ocean, and there is a definite intent of storm in the sky this noon.


No, there is more than gold and silver born here. In Antelope Valley (yes, there are about seven of them in Nevada, but I’m talking about this Antelope Valley) nature obliges. A pronghorn which hesitates at the approach of a truck is a spectacle. If the distance from a moving vehicle is less than a hundred yards, they are usually flying over the sagebrush before you see them. And a stopped truck demands even more space. Oh, they are a wondrous beauty when running. Effortless and smooth across the land. As if some force other than legs were propelling them. The deep evolution bestride extinct predators is still large in their oversized hearts. But they start small, like all things. Like storms launched by butterflies. Wars from the flick of a forked tongue. Oceans from the first raindrops of a summer afternoon.

And so the pronghorn lamb appeared from its napping place in the sagebrush. Then another, and its ewe too. A few weeks old, they were still growing their wings and after- burners, so the ewes only trotted as they led, like race cars idling ahead of scooters. They live on this plain, on another plane. What is it to be faster than anything which exists, to be born with one of the few superpowers granted creatures on this Earth? To grow into this legacy of open valleys, to rise wobbling from the shrubs, trot a few weeks and then never be out- raced by anything but the wind?


There, high in the battlements of the glaciated ridgeline, the ravens seek the answers.

Preachers and the holy static over- power truth on the truck radio. These dozen black disciples encircle the wind-blasted pinnacles like a crown. Sunlight flares through the cracked, buggy windshield of the sky. Darkness in the clouds from upweather, and the ravens soar. The mighty Pulaskis of the father

Chris Schiller
Chris Schiller

Rain curtains

The Survivor Summer 2007


FEATURE Chris Schiller
Chris Schiller


High in the Great Basin

This is your dream. In your dream you can fly. You break the promise you made to gravity. There are mountains. You arch your back and you float high above those mountains. Range upon range to the east and to the west, and between the ranges are broad dry valleys. Valleys awash in sagebrush and fawn-colored grass. The ranges are darker, with blankets of trees. Some of the ranges are higher than trees will grow. Above treeline is naked rock, tilted and spilling. You are not naked in your dream; you wear clothes appropriate for flying. Silk, or maybe leather. Cotton, if that’s all your dreams will provide. Something naturally grown. Think Amelia, not Clark.

The sky is heavy with cloud, with gaps torn through to blue sky in places. Other places are darker, bruised. Rain falls. You are so high you cannot tell if the rain reaches the ground. Mottled light is a calico pattern upon the far valley floor. The rainclouds join, one and then another, and the rain from them intensifies. They form a curtain across your dream world. Fifty miles, a hun- dred. A curtain of rain a hundred miles across the mountains and valleys. You can smell it, but in your dream it does not fall on you. Does not follow you. The rain reaches the earth now, heavy and sweeping. The curtain is rippled and fluted and if auroras were made of raindrops instead of naked atoms your dream curtain would be the northern lights conveyed across a hemi- sphere this summer afternoon lit glowing and shaded both.

You find a voice you could only have in a dream, deep and resonant. The tapestry of storms hums, and you sing with it. Some- thing like gospel. What angels might sing.


A choir Thor might direct. The only music Amelia

could pick up across the blank Pacific. Songs of for- lorn propellers at great altitudes. Your body shakes with the harmony. Curtains of rain, come wash me clean. I’ve been in these heights too long. Come wash me clean. The land is dry and the sky too blue. Come wash me clean. Come wash me clean.


Except it’s not your dream, it’s mine. And it’s not a dream, it’s reality. High above treeline on the summit ridge with the storms on a transept across the sky.

If I died here this moment, I would be at peace. No

regrets. The air calm and my head full of light. This is Thoreau’s bequest: live each day as if it might be your last. Some days I am more successful with this legacy than others, but this day finds me complete. My heart

is as light as the white grouse feather caught in the

whiskers of a coyote. Hunger slaked, it trots through

the sagebrush on the mountain flanks below. This is the measure of the breath of heaven: grouse down, whiskers grinning, coyote breathing. Rain falling on the shores of the sagebrush sea. The breath of heaven upon me.


Below, the serpents are making more serpents. They invade the yards of the boomtown, chasing the rodents taking shelter under the new houses. No horses climb this high, but the butterflies per- form perfect ascensions. The ravens are bullets against the blue sky just like the pronghorns are as distant a memory as the trucks. Naked rock cannot burn, and the snow couldn’t extinguish the fire if it could. And in a thousand years of rain, my friend, has a coy- ote followed the ravens up here to chase a feather in the wind? You know where the answer is.

Chris Schiller
Chris Schiller

Deep Canyon The Survivor Summer 2007



A Horse Fable

By Stan Huncilman, Berkeley, CA

M ay of this year, I with six other Desert Survivors climbed Division Peak in Nevada’s Calico Hills. Wild horses were very much in abundance, much to the group’s enjoyment.

In time I began to notice that though most of the horses were in herds of 8 to 12, there were 7 herds that numbered only three. This struck me as unusual. My inquiries at a local ranch came to naught, ditto at the opal mine. Only by chance, when I happened to mention it at a bar, did the barmaid comment “Oh, you sound like that crazy Englishman who wandered through here a few years ago.”

I got enough information from her to eventually speak to one of

the world’s experts on rare horse breeds. Sir Edmund de Vere of the Royal Equestrian Britannia had in fact been the “crazy English- man” wandering around the desert. He was elated at the news of my sightings. He was not entirely surprised with the reappearance of Los Trizillos as bands, apart from the other wild horse herds.”

“Many years ago, there was one band of three, the legacy of Tariq ibn Ziyad,” he said. “But human indifference has been a friend to Los Trizillos. It has allowed them to roam in wilderness areas. And now, the breed is returning.”

“How wonderful. Seven bands! You don’t say.” He sighed. “I had

a chap contact me who was in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco

recently doing location work for the cinema. He was lucky enough to take some photographs of a couple of bands that might well be Los Trizillos and sent them to me.”

“These are most exciting times for the horse aficionado,” he con- cluded. Then he thanked the Members of Desert Survivors and other groups that had done so much for wilderness protection.

When I asked if he planned to return to Nevada, he confessed that the very idea of such “vast empty lands” was a bit hard for him to consider at his age.

I followed up on the name Tariq ibn Ziyad after talking with Sir

Edmund. These horses are descendants of Tariq ibn Ziyad’s Moorish cavalry, whose use of the Los Trillizos, as they came to be known in Spain, enabled the rapid conquest of the Iberian Penin- sula in 711 CE. Each member of this elite Moorish cavalry rode Un Trillizo, a group of one stallion and two mares or fillies.

Los Trillizos were first encountered by the Arabs during their incursions into the steppes of Northern Iran. The indigenous peoples there, primarily shepherds, had little interest in the horses’ unique banding instincts. The historian al Waqidiin, in his book “Kitab al Tarikh wa al Maghazi” (“Book of History and Cam- paigns”) makes what many scholars believe to be the first Arab ref- erence to the breed. He refers to a cavalryman al-Zuhri winning an early horse race that was reputed to last over 28 hours by his use of 3 horses from the land of Hecatompylus. Al Waqidiin does not mention if al Zuhri was disqualified for his innovative tactic.

The Survivor Summer 2007

Tariq ibn Ziyad, one of the greatest horsemen in Moorish military history, first saw Los Trillizos in Mecca during his hadj. In order to finance his invasion of Spain he wagered “everything but his mother” in a horse race with the Caliph of Baghdad to be allowed to use the Caliph’s herd of Los Trizillos for his conquest.

Tariq ibn Ziyad made good use of his innovative cavalry. Some soldiers were reported to have fashioned cots that spanned the three horses and slept while the horses continued with the advanc- ing forces. The two un-ridden Los Trizillos instinctively formed a phalanx in battle making it nearly impossible for the armor-encum- bered Spanish to win–they would have to face two foes simultane- ously.

With the eventual banishment of the Moors from Spain Los Trizil- los fell into decline. The Spanish cavalry remained committed to a heavily armored knight. Los Trizillos are hot bloods, and as such, are physically unable to function as a heavy knight’s horse. The Spanish preferred the warmblooded breeds which were more dis- posed to the steady plod of knightly transport; also one can not discount the Spanish hatred of all things Moorish in the neglect of the Los Trizillos.

Los Trizillos began to disappear. It was only because a few wild bands survived in Spain’s remote Extremadura that a new genera- tion of adventurers was able to recognize their unique qualities. The Conquistadors put purpose before pride and acknowledged the legendary abilities of the horses. The Conquistadors were not knights. They were poor opportunists with minimal social status. These small, tough horses could survive a journey across the sea. They could live on minimal forage. These horses were survivors, not heraldic icons.

History repeated itself in the New World. Los Trizillos carried their horsemen to conquest and were neglected afterwards. Those that followed the Conquistadors, the ranchers and padres, pre- ferred either larger horses that were better at head butting cattle, or the simple burro, long conditioned to the itinerant evangelism of the frugal padres.

Northern European settlers also saw little value in Los Trizillos. Miners preferred burros, homesteaders preferred horses that could pull a wagon or plow. It is odd that the cowboy never took to Los Trizillos, as they were aware of them. The ballad “Just one Sad- dle” refers to the breed. The most likely reason: the now wild bands of Los Trizillos ranged in remote mountain areas and were extremely difficult to round up. However, probably the best rea- son was economics. Cowboys were poor. Few could afford to feed and care for more than one horse. Cowboys also had the Quarter Horse, which is about as close as one can get to one Trizillo. So it seems that:

Nature in her wresting ways does oft have her specials ways, by which that once withered can come anew. perchance the soul doth seed the clay.





Steve Tabor

Castle Peaks Carcamp

April 5-7, 2007, Mohave National Preserve, CA

By Steve Tabor

T his Easter visit to the Mojave National Pre-

three days in a place where Survivors had

serve was a hot and dry one. Ten of us spent

encountered a foot of snow on the same date in 1999. Daytime temperatures were in the mid-80s F, but strong breezes kept us cool and refreshed much of the time. We saw few wildflower blooms in this dry spring sea- son, but the profusion of native grasses was a joy to behold. The Castle Peaks Wilderness was recovering from a century of cattle grazing. Only five years without cattle had worked wonders on the ecosystem.

We met on Interstate-15 at Nipton Road, then drove on Ivanpah Road to a jeep trail just short of the Boomerang Mine on the west side of the Castle Peaks volcanic complex. The Peaks are rhyolite volcanic necks and erosional lava remnants perched above a 1.7 billion-year-old array of metamorphic rocks, schist and gneiss. Our Good Friday hike would be up Willow Wash, through the metamorphics to the ridgecrest in the volcanics. If we could get to Dove Spring on the other side of the ridge, all to the good, but I would settle for the top and a good view.

We started hiking soon after we got to an old homestead showing on the map. We hiked over a few hills, at first following an old railroad grade whose tracks had long ago been taken up. The rail- road dated from a time early in the 20th century when the U.S. Homestead Act encouraged farmers to clear land and lay out farms in Lanfair Valley to the south. That effort, supported by pre-war socialistic designs by the Federal Government and a few

View of the New York Mountains from second night’s camp

years of good moisture, ended about ten years later when drought made dry farming impossible.

Soon we were in Willow Wash itself. We hiked east and stopped to rest in the open wash. It was 84 ºF at 10:40 a.m., unusually hot for this time of year. I remembered the year before when we were snowed on at 3:00 p.m. one afternoon in country just to the south. I also remembered 2000, another hot dry year when the tempera- ture reached 90 ºF on April 28. I had to cancel a fund-raising trip in the Mesquite Wilderness as a result.

Though it was hot and dry, we were impressed by the array of Mojavean vegetation near the rest stop. I did a transect. Cactus and succulents in evidence were barrel cactus, Mojave yucca, Span- ish bayonet (Yucca baccata), buckhorn cholla and beavertail cactus. Shrubs were purple sage, mallow, Ephedra, cheesebush, rabbit- brush, creosote bush, catclaw acacia, desert willow, Prunus Ander- sonii (with tent caterpillars!), Lycium, spiny Menodora, Krameria, a Haplopappus (cuneatus?), Mojave aster, matchweed, and California buckwheat. Forbs were Eriophyllum, desert marigold, Phacelia, pincushion flower, paintbrush, and some kind of burweed. Not many of the forbs were blooming and the ground was dry.


We went farther up the wash to an old water trough near Willow Spring where we ate lunch. High clouds dimmed the light, keeping the temperature in the 80s. The trough was surrounded by squawbush and desert willow. Juniper trees grew nearby, here at 4500', and joshua trees covered the hillsides.

The trough’s pole fence was intact, indi- cating that it was a protected wildlife water source. The little bit of water was sweet and clear, though bright green algae lay on the surface. After lunch we went farther upstream where we found the actual spring. It had been dug out and a spring box had been installed. Water was about four feet down in a concrete tube, well-covered and shaded by huge mesquites. Wheel tracks led up the wash almost to the trough, illegally

Northeastern portion of Mojave National Preserve map


The Survivor Summer 2007



Steve Tabor

TRIP REPORTS S t e v e T a b o r Good grass growth, cholla,

Good grass growth, cholla, catclaw and joshua trees on the south slope of the Castle Peaks

I remembered this place as a lounging area for cattle with troughs

and feeding stations. In 1996 it had been paved over with pulver- ized and fragrant brown cow shit. The cow shit had now mostly blown away but ten years later, the ground was largely barren. Nothing grew except joshua trees and a few large shrubs and minute weeds. Relentless emissions from a cow herd makes for a toxic environment, even after all this time. The place had been free of cattle for at least five years but its condition had hardly changed at all.

We set off on our longest hike of the trip precisely at 9:10 a.m This day was sunnier and hotter. I led us north on easy ground through excellent vegetation. We soon found an old cow trail and used it to our advantage. It felt good to cruise on a trail for a change. There’s something about it; you can look ahead at the scenery without always having to watch the ground, which you usually have to do in rocky or well-vegetated country.

This walk was also a joy because we were in cactus and shrub country that was coming back to desert grassland. Five years with- out cows had made for luxuriant grass growth. Big swaths of gal-

leta grew two feet high and six feet across. Individual needlegrass bolts grew wide across the landscape. Some of the area resembled

a turf of grama grass with grass clumps engulfing the space

inside the Wilderness boundary, running over numerous plants and seemingly making no attempt to avoid them. There were no tracks beyond.

Upstream we took the left fork in the wash, now going north toward the pass above Dove Spring. The bottom became rocky and some of our less- experienced hikers began to have problems. We were now in volcanic rock, the mass that com- prised most of the Castles. Pancake cactus appeared, then more Yucca baccata, grizzly bear cactus and Mojave mound. Bladdersage grew in the gulch bottom. Native grasses were incredible, and quite a surprise in this country, which had historically been subjected to heavy grazing by cattle and sheep.

We rested at a point where we had to negotiate a dryfall, then pushed for the top. We reached it at 3:00 p.m. The pass was nar- row amidst blocky cliffs at 5093'. We had a poor view into Nevada to the northeast. Most of what we could see was more rocky hills and volcanic cliffs like those around us. We looked down toward where Dove Spring should be but could not immediately locate it. We debated dropping down to look for it but reached no conclu- sion. Finally I consigned Steve Lawrence and Eddie Sudol, both of whom exhibited boundless energy, to go down and look for it. They were unsuccessful.

We returned the way we came, arriving at the cars at 7:01 p.m. I had taken people up too early out of Willow Wash and we were forced to go up hill and down dale, but we managed. Radwan Kir- wan and I drank cold beers on the veranda of an old stucco cabin as we watched the sunset. I tried to imagine what the owner’s life had been like, living this close to the old mine, and perhaps work- ing in it. I doubt that the old man did much hiking.

After sunset a Park Ranger came by and told us we were camped illegally. The Mojave Preserve has a rule against camping near old buildings because some visitors have a habit of burning them down. I said we would not build a fire that night. He allowed us to stay, partly because we were Desert Sur- vivors and he knew of our reputation. He said his ter- ritory ranged from the Preserve all the way to the Kingston Range, about 40 miles north. Seems like an impossible job. I think we could use some of the National Guard now in Iraq to police the area; they’d make short work of off-roaders, illegal grazers and people who just burn down cabins for the hell of it.

The next morning we drove south over a low pass to the old settlement of Barnwell, then on a graded road northeast that eventually goes to the huge Castle Mine in the mountains to the south. Where the Castle Mine Road swings south, we kept going straight on a dirt road, really the old railroad grade to Searchlight in Nevada. We were stopped less than a mile later by a massive washout. We back-tracked and settled for a campsite at an old cattle watering place offering large joshua trees and abundant parking.

Steve Tabor
Steve Tabor

Galleta grass, junipers and one of the Castle Peaks near the range crest

The Survivor Summer 2007




Steve Tabor

between volcanic knobs. Farther down we ended up in rocky country, a pediment on the crystalline Precambrians, with lava knobs all around, a story- book landscape. We passed a rock dam in the granite that had been constructed to hold water, for sheep or for wildlife we could not tell. We rested nearby.

Isolated lava pinnacle east of the crest, resting on Precambrian granite

Taylor Spring was just east over a low pass, but a half-mile detour to examine it would put us that much farther from the cars and it was already 3:30 p.m. Instead, we continued downstream, then on an animal trail down to Coats Spring, which proved to be dry. A lot of Baccharis grew in the damp ground there, but we found no water, only

an old tank, ranch junk, rusty pipes and pieces of barbed wire. It was a disappointment.

We continued downstream then up over a hill with a view east to Hart Peak and southeast to the Castle Mine. Down below was a flat covered with creosote and laced with jeep trails. The topo map said there was a game guzzler there. That would be our next objective. We dropped down off the hill and headed over to the guzzler. It was a typical water catchment for birds, a gently-sloping concrete pad, triangular in shape, with a low berm all the way around. An open drain at the downslope apex of the triangle fed rainwater down into an underground cistern made of fiberglass. The cistern, shaded from the sun, was full of clear sweet water. The pool below was thirty inches deep. Only one person other than me would drink it. We suffered no ill effects. There was no date, and no maintenance had been done. Many of these catch- ments were put in in the 1950s. Its fence, designed to protect the water from burros and cattle, was intact.

Topo maps in the area showed several of these catchments. I wanted to check out at least one, for I will be dependent on them if I ever trek through the area. A DS backpack trip here would certainly benefit from the water. I photographed the site and took notes about its condition and location.

In the remaining hours we hiked southwest to the cars on the old railroad grade. The guzzler was barely three miles from the Nevada

between them. The low-growing club cholla also formed a turf; I hadn’t even noticed it ten years before, though we were hiking over much the same ground. What an Easter surprise this was, to see desert grass resurrected after eighty years of purgatory dished out by the hungry mouths of cattle and sheep!

After two miles of bliss we reached a low pass and rested with a long view out over Lanfair Valley. We the took a left and headed along the ridge top toward the Castle Peaks. Grama grass formed

a mat on much of the ridge, and Yucca baccata was sending up

flower stalks, not yet fully opened. The views to the hazy south kept getting better. Near the high point we spooked two deer; one went east, the other west. It was 87 ºF, but we were blessed with a strong breeze that cooled us down. Coming up top was a stroke of genius on this hot day.

We ran out of ridge and dropped down into a gulch alongside where we could lounge under a spreading juniper to eat lunch. We then proceeded northwest in the rocky gulch with views of the Castle Peaks just ahead. The gulch opened up to a wide wash on

easy ground amidst juniper trees, chollas and yuccas at an elevation of 5100', a kind of shangri-la with great campsites and lava pinna- cles all around. I made note of this; it would be a great backpack camp on a longer trip. Even in winter the tent sites would be inviting, a joy. This would also be a destination of mine if I do another Coast-to-Divide trek to match the ones I did in the 1980s,

a major stop-off on the way from Cima to Searchlight to the east.

My original plan was to continue north then west in a loop, but coming this close to the crest we just had to go up to the Castle Peaks themselves. We left our day- packs and one of the hikers under a juniper, then hiked north. We topped out just southwest of the highest point, 5828' (1776.7m). We had a better view this time of the country to the north. A grove of junipers lay just below. Bitterbrush and goldenbush were blooming. We spotted a falcon in the air and a mountain ball cactus, another rarity, on the ground. Eddie and Radwan did some bouldering in the rocks. Then we dropped down to continue the hike east.

The hike in our wash was at first on beautiful coarse sand with catclaw and other plants growing healthy

Steve Tabor
Steve Tabor

The Castle Peaks at the crest. Dove Point (5829') is the high point on the right.


The Survivor Summer 2007



Steve Tabor

TRIP REPORTS Steve Tabor Cactus, junipers and the crest of the New York Mountains the more

Cactus, junipers and the crest of the New York Mountains

the more common single-leaf species, the kind of pinyon found in California and Utah. The edulis also grows separately, but only at low elevations around the base of the range, a hundred miles from its nearest pure stands near Peach Springs, Arizona.

border. The cars were about three and three-quarter miles away to the southwest. Most of the return was a rushed plod on the hard road, which wreaked havoc on my thigh muscles, though a great joshua woods all around helped inspire me. We got back at 8:10 p.m, eleven hours and twelve miles after starting.

This night we had a good campfire. Coyotes called both evening and morning. The happy chatter of a cactus wren, known in this country only in yucca terri- tory, made for a joyful noise as we packed to leave.

For the last day’s hike we drove to Keystone Canyon in the New York Mountains. The forested New Yorks

had made an impressive sight from our last camp. We were soon in the midst of them. An old jeep trail led into the range. We followed it to the Wilderness boundary at 5410', where the desert turned toward woods and chaparral. This would be a different world, a real mountain rising above the desert floor, where Survivors had only deigned to go a couple of times before.

Parts of the New Yorks show a true Southern California mountain ecosystem. Chaparral plants grow here in abundance: shrubs like scrub oak, silktassal bush, wax myrtle, buckbrush, lemonade berry and manzanita. Above are live oak trees (encina), pinyon, juniper, serviceberry, and other plants of the mid-level mountains. High limestone cliffs make for impressive ramparts toward the crest. On north-facing sides are a few white fir, well-hidden from the sun, below cliffs that catch and hold snow in the winter. We saw all but the fir on our five-hour hike, plus other plants that seemed out of place in the desert.

The Mahonia and Pinus edulis can only have come across the desert from the east, a migration that probably happened during a warmer and wetter time, possibly during the Altithermal Period of several thousand years ago. That only would have happened if an Arizona-style monsoon with summer rains dominated the Califor- nia Desert. As yet this phenomenon has been little-studied, but it could be that global warming did bring greater species diversity to this part of the state, a phenomenon knocked down by the cold dry conditions of the present. The long ridge of the New Yorks is elongated northwest to southeast, an ideal configuration for catching monsoon rain coming up from the southeast.

It was long thought that this odd plant regime was left over from the Ice Age. Certainly the white fir, a snow plant wherever it is found, would seem to corroborate this theory. But the range has other anomalies. For example, Mahonia, a hard-leafed shrub with big yellow flowers, is known chiefly from the Colorado Plateau region of Utah and Arizona. It is common just across the Arizona border between the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon. And in Carruthers Canyon on the range’s south side, the twin-leafed variety of the pinyon, Pinus edulis, can be found hybridizing with

We hiked up the deteriorated jeep trail to Keystone Spring at an elevation of 5870'. At the spring we were surrounded by dense woods and chaparral. Large pancake cactus and yuccas punctuated the brush and trees. It was a surreal experience after our walks of the past two days. A small pool of water was accessible amongst the reeds and dead grasses of the small meadow at the spring. This too was good water, in this case a life source for chickadees, scrub jays and band-tailed pigeons instead of coyotes and passing coveys of doves and quail.

Steve Tabor
Steve Tabor

At the bird guzzler on Day Two; hiker at the left is sampling the water

After a short lunch break at the spring we went back the way we came. It was an educational hike, giving us a renewed perspective on the desert. This Easter had been a rejuvenation for sure.

The other hikers were soon on their way back to the Bay Area, to Seattle, and to far eastern Nevada. I drove south into Lanfair, then down to Interstate 40 to continue explorations in Arizona, also featured in this issue. The intensity of these Easter hikes so wore me down that I stopped to sleep by the side of the road to recharge my batteries. Within an hour I was driving fast toward Kingman and beyond, as if to see just where those Mahonia and Pinus edulis had come from. This Mojave trip was a good one, and an inspiration. I want many more, as do most or all Desert Survivor tripsters.

The Survivor Summer 2007




Footloose In Western Arizona:

The Arrastra Mountain Wilderness

April, 2007

By Steve Tabor

A fter I led my Castle Mountains trip in the Mojave National Preserve for Desert Survivors, I drove to Western Arizona for six days of backpacking in the Arrastra Mountains

Wilderness. I knew little about this Wilderness until I began researching routes across the West for more year-long trekking. I sent away for information, got the maps, and was blown away. I liked its possibilities for a week away from the drudgery of work life.

For a California desert lover, this wilderness has several attractive attributes. It’s got a real Sonoran Desert upland ecosystem, it’s only two hours across the border, it’s got a real desert river, it’s got the big saguaro cactus, it’s got bighorn and wild pigs, it’s got plenty of springs, and it’s rough and remote country far from the tourist trade. It also has a higher-level ecosystem of chaparral and juniper on the ridgecrest.

of well-leafed catclaw and palo verde trees, brilliant bright green as far as the eye could see. I was swamped with remembrance of my early years exploring in the 1970s, which always included spring- time in the saguaro. “Sweet life”, I called it! The greenery and chattering birds were always a joy after a winter in Idaho and Utah.

I packed up and drove down the highway toward the Santa Maria River. Much to my surprise, the beautiful two-lane road through saguaros was being converted into a four-lane freeway. A ten-mile stretch had been horrendously dug up and blasted out of solid rock. Large saguaro cactus, protected by law in Arizona, had been replanted in the median strip on bare ground, mineral soil with no structure. They were propped up at weird angles with three-way guy wires staged to hold them vertically as if in a tripod. It’s doubtful that any of them will survive. What a joke! I later learned that this road was being reconstructed as part of the NAFTA Superhighway to service the large international airport already approved for the desert west of Las Vegas at Primm. One of the great desert roads was being sacrificed for the purpose of international relations and cheap junk from Mexico and China.

From the Mojave, I drove east to Kingman to get resupplied, then southeast along that notorious old desert highway, U.S. Route 93. I found a place to camp by my car that Sunday night and awoke the next morning to the chatter of thrashers and cactus wrens. My camp at 2400' didn’t have any large cactus, but it was in the midst

The realignment of the road had closed off my intended trailhead. All access was now blocked by a continuous barbed wire fence. I couldn’t stop anywhere so I had to keep going all the way to the river, the only place to get off. The river would have to be my start point. I drove off to the east and back under the bridge, then found a parking place in mesquite trees on the river bank. I packed up food and gear for a week and headed downstream, my hopes high for a storybook journey.

The river was a beauty! A thin stream of water meandered lazily back and forth across a wide bed of coarse sand. Huge cottonwood trees lined both banks. Like all Arizona rivers, this one is prone to periodic monster floods derived from pulses of winter moisture from Hawaii and summer typhoons from Baja California. The remains of big trees lay across the bed here and there, and swash marks could be seen on the terraces above. The Salt, the Gila, the Blue, the Colorado, the Little Colorado, the Virgin, the Escalante, the Green, the San Juan, the San Rafael, all the desert rivers I’ve hiked

BLM Kingman Field Office
BLM Kingman Field Office

Eastern portion of Arrastra Mountain Wilderness


The Survivor Summer 2007



Steve Tabor
Steve Tabor

The Santa Maria River on the Arrastra Mountain Wilderness boundary; Shallow water on a sandy bed, green trees, lava walls high above

outside the mountain area.

As I ate I watched a vermillion flycatcher darting around, always ending up back at the same tree branch. Orioles flew in and out of the mesquites on the other side. Swallows flew back and forth across the river, and the inevitable ducks flapped downstream. Cactus wrens chattered in the nearby hills. For a desert, this was lush, and not only at this time of year.

I hiked downstream for many hours, past gneiss and schist outcrops and then volcanic layers, which now came down to the river. Treading water periodically, I had to change socks a couple of times. I rested twice in the shade and at Mile 6.9 I camped at the mouth of Peoples Canyon, a major drainage coming out of the Wilderness to the north. I had an excellent bed in soft sand. I feared mosquitoes and rattlesnakes, so I pitched the tent. Then I did a dayhike up Peoples to get water away from the cows and their coliform.

have been a little different, but their essence is the same: big trees, good birds and wildlife, water amidst dryness, unpredictable flow, and a constantly changing aspect, always something new to see downstream.

And on both sides was the desert: low brush, tall cactus, bright green palo verde trees and mesquites, bare rock cliffs! I felt at home, with water to drink and desert to love. Who could ask for more? But all good things attract the worst and this place was no different. The entire sandy bed had been churned by innumerable hooves of cattle. Not a square yard was free of cow flops. Both upstream and downstream, the riverbed had been transformed, and there was neither grass thatch nor flood rise to obliterate what must have been a whole season of trampling. I only saw a few of the ugly beasts and I could not believe that they alone were the culprits. The whole area was grazed, both public and private. They must have just taken the cattle off for the summer.

The aspect of the river was much the same for the next ten miles, a peculiar mix of sublime beauty and degradation. So enamored was I of the river that it consumed more than one-quarter of the photos that I took. Around every bend were more cliffs, more trees, more sand, more saguaros perched on hilltops, and that same lazy stream, plus some- thing new around every corner. Schist and gneiss were the bedrock, but lava cliffs stood high above on both sides of the river; the geology was akin to that of the Mojave. Bedrock often came down to the water, forcing one stream crossing after another. Mesquite and palo verde flowers were yellow and fra- grant, attracting loud buzzing insects.

In two miles I stopped for lunch at the mouth of Black Canyon Creek, a wide sandy bed coming in from the south. It was a popular camp with off- roaders, though there were none here today. The sandbank stood six feet above the river bottom; that was the river’s depth the last time a big flood emptied out of the wash. Black Canyon drains one-hundred square miles of open desert to the south and east,

Fork Spring was only one-half mile upstream, but it was a tortuous half-mile. As in most steep-gradient canyons here, the bottom was clogged with basketball-sized boulders. Flashfloods had washed away anything smaller. Around a bend I saw the trees: two bright green sycamores clinging to a rock wall. The greenery drew me on. A dripping spring emitted from under the trees. Below was a mat of ferns. The water was sweet and fresh, right out of the ground. It was a classic desert spring. Because of all the cattle “sign” in the riverbed, I had to do a dangerous mile-long round- trip over loose and unstable boulders below desert brush and cac- tus to get fresh water. That’s got to be the finest metaphor for modern American industrialism and its imperatives, if there is to be one at all.

A bat flew above the sycamores. Sheltered spots in the canyon protected masses of dry cottonwood and sycamore leaves washed from far above. This bend in the canyon offered a curious land- form: a sharp bend had been broken through, leaving a “perched meander” above and to the west. The canyon used to drain that way but the divide had been overtopped and the old drainage was

Steve Tabor
Steve Tabor

Mesquites and tamarisk on the river bank, saguaro cactus above

The Survivor Summer 2007




Steve Tabor

now bypassed. The canyon now had two half-mile long routes to the river. The one I’d come up is the lower one, therefore the one now favored. I’d seen this in sedimen- tary terrain in the Colorado Plateau but never in this country.

In the morning bright orange light crept down the canyon wall. Doves called first, then cactus wren and flickers. The latter two were seeking mates. A wild horse appeared, then galloped off. I left at 8:00 to continue my journey in the wet sand and over terraces at the wide bends, more tiring work. I stopped twice more to rest, then ate lunch at Burro Spring Canyon, four miles down. The canyon was much the same, except for more grass growth in the sand bed. The cattle damage persisted.

grass growth in the sand bed. The cattle damage persisted. Sunset light on lava rims from

Sunset light on lava rims from Fork Spring in lower Peoples Canyon

At the lunch stop I had a good long look at the riverbed, since I would now be leaving it. It had been my home for the best part of two days, but I would now be entering the desert, going into unknown terrain, apprehensive about what obstacles lay ahead. Several springs showed up on the map but you never know. One showed two miles ahead, but the one after that was eleven miles farther and 2000 feet above the river. The canyon I’d chosen for ascent was rocky and narrow. Dryfalls were always a possibility.

small crystals of blood-red garnet. So nice was it that I did some- thing I rarely do anymore: I took a couple of samples. (They’ll end up in the DS “hands-on box” that we use for fairs and shows.) Farther on were some outstanding outcrops of beautiful red vol- canic and sedimentary rock; photographs of them would accompa- ny this article but we can only print black-and-white. Green cot- tonwoods and cool cliffs made this an excellent rest stop. In this narrows I found mountain lion tracks alongside those of javelina and bighorn. The next day I was still finding lion tracks all the way up-canyon to the crest.

On a quick retreat into the mesquite thicket behind the terrace I spooked a large covey of quail. More than two hundred birds flushed and went soaring and jumping up onto the cliff rock above. They were still clucking ten min- utes later. It was an auspicious sign. I would enter the desert; they could have their river back, at least for now.

Burro Spring Canyon was a narrow trench in volcanic rock. I was dismayed to find a low fall in bedrock at the first corner, but thereafter the bottom was mostly sand and gravel. I spent the rest of the day in the canyon, moving upstream toward the range crest. Like any desert canyon, it had its charms. Short narrows alternated with wide grav- el beds, cool rock walls with warm hill- sides covered with saguaros and teddy- bear cholla. Green mesquites and cat- claw lined the edges of the bed. Burro Spring had a clear location on the map, but it must have been buried by a flash- flood; where it was supposed to be, I found nothing but a rock pile in the wash. After that I found myself looking for a plunge pool at every short tribu- tary.

The Precambrian metamorphic rock was here only thinly veiled by volcanics, mak- ing for interesting contrasts. At one wide spot I found a half-mile-long out- crop of beautiful garnet gneiss, large- grained, granite-like, loaded with big and

Six miles up the canyon I found a small rock pool. I decided to stop early to utilize the water, but no way was I going to camp in the bottom of the trench. The drainage was now a rocky gulch incised in bedrock about 25-30 feet. I needed some desert expanse, so I climbed up the rocks and onto a platform surround- ed by desert hills. The sun had dropped quite a bit by the time I got up, but I still had a great view south to lit-up hills and peaks. As usual in these situations, when

I look back the way I came, I’m amazed

at what I remember passing through, and that from this angle there’s not even

a hint of all that detail. But I have the photos to prove it. I sometimes wonder if anyone would ever believe any of these stories if I did not.

The next morning I followed the ever- narrowing canyon for another threes miles to a pass above its right fork. There were more springs and seeps in the canyon head and cattle tracks appeared. The cows had apparently made their way down from the chaparral country above. The lion and javelina tracks were still there, but no more bighorn. This was rougher country than I’d done so far, and it was quite a strug- gle with the pack, up loose bedrock hill- sides and through sharp cactus and scratchy brush. By lunchtime I topped out at the crest of the range at an eleva-

Steve Tabor
Steve Tabor

A 20' tall saguaro near Fork Spring at Mile 6.9


The Survivor Summer 2007



tion of 3510'. I was in a new world up here, with a view into completely differ- ent country with new plants and a new aspect to the land.

As I ate I noticed that almost all the saguaros were gone. Instead there were buckhorn cholla and pancake cactus (as in the Castle Mountains in the Mojave!), plus Ephedra, hedgehog (calico) cactus, banana yucca (Spanish Bayonet), buck- wheat, grama grass, galleta grass, Vigu- iera, bladdersage, crucifixion thorn, Krameria, fairy duster, fescue grass, Hap- lopappus, snakeweed, and nolinas. Sugar- bush, a chaparral plant, was also evident. Catclaw persisted. This was an upper- level Sonoran vegetational regime I remembered from elsewhere in the state. There is some speculation that such areas had once been grassland with sparse shrubs and cactus but had become degraded through overgrazing by live- stock. I rested a long time looking out to the east, into a high-level valley sur- rounded by 4000' peaks.

Steve Tabor
Steve Tabor

Rock wall in narrows in Blind Spring Canyon

ral, growing here only on hillsides facing away from the summer sun. There were lots of crucifixion thorn, scrub oak, buckbrush and juniper, forming a closed canopy, difficult to walk through. On the sunny sides were the more typical desert vegetation I’d noted earlier, a more open array easy to walk through. No saguaro in sight. Rolling hills stretched away at the next low pass. A rattlesnake buzzed as I approached.

I made my way north to the Wilderness boundary to camp. I’d now crossed the Wilderness from south to north, about twelve miles from the river. To get out of the wind, I camped behind a juniper tree north of the jeep trail defining the boundary. There I watched the sun set over Peak 3726, a lava knob to the north, and Old Grayback, a high granite peak near the town of Bagdad across U.S. 93.

By nightfall cumulus clouds had come over and a brisk south wind came up; looked like a storm approaching. I retired to flat ground beside the road

I made my way down the easy grade to a

old dry cow pond showing on the map, passing through groves of scrub oak and juniper trees. I rested awhile under some cotton- woods, then headed off cross-country to a low pass on the north, also 3500'. This was a hardscrabble rise of about 300 feet, though it seemed like more. On the other side was a new view of cactus and brush-covered hills, much more rounded than what I’d seen so far, no doubt affected more by the soil development that had come with the persistent forest cover of the Ice Age. I could see some high peaks far away, off toward the Aquarius Plateau, some of them above 7000'.

and pitched the tent. The wind stopped at 10:00 p.m., but the clouds persisted. By morning the clouds were all to the southeast. I broke camp and hid the pack and tent. This day would allow me a hike without the pack toward the 4000'

peaks to the southwest where I could get a look at true chaparral and also good views of the desert from on high.

I hiked to Placeritas Spring, about a mile away on the boundary jeep trail. It was a beautiful spring with deep pools in a narrow slot in yellow rhyolite. It was partly fenced to keep out cattle, but they got in anyway. I spooked four young frogs when I passed through. I got a little water for the day, then moved on toward the

I made my way down a switchback trail that

could barely be seen, then down to a gulch

running east.

loose, no place for a sprained ankle. Deeper into these hills, I found more different plants. There were more junipers and more beautiful

sugarbush, which gives the best shade in the country, but there were also sagebrush and serviceberry, plants of the Rocky Mountains

and the Great Basin, two ecological provinces

a long way from here. At the bottom where

the canyon forked, I rested under a sugar- bush, then turned north toward the next

major water, Placeritas Spring.

This old trail was rubbly and

The way north was on beautiful trail, obvious- ly kept open by cattle. Large pancake cactus blocked the way, but most were knocked down. The trail went high on the hillside to avoid the rocky gulch, and I got a good look at a new ecosystem, broad swaths of chapar-

Steve Tabor
Steve Tabor

Shadowed narrows in upper Blind Spring Canyon; Mesquite trees are in sun- shine on the right side

The Survivor Summer 2007




Steve Tabor


From the spring I did a 5.5-mile loop, starting south then moving clockwise back to it, top- ping out at an elevation of 3807'. Most of this was through juniper trees in the gulches and flats and scrub oak and mountain mahogany on the hillsides. Most brush was easy to walk through, kept open by cattle that have a habit of smashing their way through. Other plants were various grasses, nolina, mesquite, catclaw, pancake cactus, buckwheat and Haplopappus . Where I topped out I got an awesome view down into the steep canyons to the south that tumbled down to the river. My view of the vast desert country farther out was hazy and obscured, not even clear enough to allow a photo.

Peak 3726 in sunset light, in chaparral country near the north boundary

by droplets and the wind. I reached the spring by 3:30 pm and replenished my water, then hiked rapidly east on the road. By the time I got to the pack an hour later, the storm had largely passed; the threat of rain was over.

I ate behind my juniper tree, then pitched the tent on open ground. I moseyed around my “desert garden” for awhile before nightfall and discovered a few more species that were new to me. One was a thorn bush. Yellow ants with big black eyes on stalks were just coming out of their hole; when I blew hot breath at them they went back down. I also saw two new kinds of birds. Occasions when I slow myself down and just wander are the best opportunities for discovery, not when I'm moving fast, as I had for most of the day.

Some of this day was “skywalking”, hiking a narrow ridge with steep slopes on both sides, good views both ways. At one point I had to sidehill for almost a mile around a big peak; it may have been easier to go over the top. At my farthest point out I was exposed to a stiff southwest breeze and thick cumulus clouds com- ing from the west again. It even looked like it was raining in that direction! I had no rain gear, only a wool shirt and long johns. When I saw the clouds coming, I cut the hike short and headed quickly down into a drainage leading north. If I got caught in the rain, I didn't want to be on top. So much for internet weather reports!

My descent was careful but quick. I chose the shallowest gradient


a half-hour I was in the flats, going from bank to bank of a sandy wash, following a good cow trail. I was in a juniper woods almost devoid of cactus, cruising amongst the trees and the scrub oaks, with occasional Mahonia . The wind was chasing me and some rain drops fell. I wasted no time, pushing north as fast as I could go. At a bend I followed the trail up onto a rise heading toward Placer- itas Spring. I lost the trail but continued over the top, still chased

to avoid sliding, dodging cactus and spiny brush as I went.

In the chilly morning I backpacked east along the boundary road, then turned south on an old jeep trail toward Sycamore Spring. There were actual Wilderness signs and a rock barrier where the road turned. Intriguing hoodoo rocks rose across the way. The old road, now a trail, went south over a low pass, then one more mile to the spring at the head of a narrows. Two tributaries con- verged at the narrows, forming Peoples Canyon, which I'd encoun- tered on the first day far down by the river channel.

Steve Tabor
Steve Tabor

Prickly pear, cottonwoods and yellow rhyolite at Placeritas Spring


Sycamore is one of the finest desert springs I've ever seen. It occupies a narrows between high rhyolite cliffs for almost one-half mile. At the top is a fenced enclosure with a corral under huge sycamore trees forming a canopy. Leaves litter the ground as they would in an English woodland. Somebody left the gate open and cows got in, leaving the ground under the trees a mass of pulverized cowshit (now dry), but other than that it's a little bit of heaven.

A loud zone-tailed hawk let it be known that he did not appreciate my presence. A pere- grine falcon looped overhead. I saw several other birds in amongst the trees, including one with a yellow neck and belly that I could not identify. I watched an Empidonax flycatcher for awhile. Other birds whistled and called high in the trees, much too high for a sighting.

The Survivor Summer 2007



Steve Tabor

TRIP REPORTS Steve Tabor Scrub oaks and juniper in the foreground, dense chaparral on the hills,

Scrub oaks and juniper in the foreground, dense chaparral on the hills, on the ridgecrest near Arrastra Mountain

there was a deep plunge pool below. I looked at the east side and saw no way around the chock on the lava ledges there, but the right side showed some promise where a series of ledges rose above me on my right. I snooped around, looking at the situation from various angles. Below I could see loose but passable ground sloping downhill, though some nasty cliffs along- side provided what the mountain climbers call “exposure”. Despite the danger, that appeared to be my only hope.

I decided to climb (with pack) up on the ledge

above on my right to access the sloping ground. Now six feet higher I could see that the slope was more dangerous than it seemed from below.

I decided to climb (with pack) up onto another

This was certainly a watery oasis for birds in this dry country.

Beneath the trees a stream with deep pools trickled amongst and over the sycamore roots. Cottonwood trees, large sprawling mesquites and what looked like hackberries grew in the shady grove. Frogs jumped into the pools. Sycamore leaves lay in thick masses on top of the water. I watched more birds for awhile and soaked in the ambience of the place, then backpacked downstream between the high walls.

six-foot ledge; I had to destroy a catclaw bush to do it. But up there was an animal trail, clear as day. The knowl- edge that some animal other than myself had been able to get through gave me hope. I angled down the sloping ledge toward the drops I'd seen before (the slope was about 20 degrees) until I came to a narrow part blocked by two large cacti, one a buckhorn cholla, the other a pancake. No way a deer or even a bighorn could get through there; this had to be a javelina trail. Things looked bad again, and by now I was in a position to view the other side and definitely determine that there was NO other way to go.

I had to slip and slide over tree roots and around large rocks. At times there were trails on terraces through the trees. Around a corner my idyllic stroll was interrupted by a huge chock stone blocking the channel between high walls. I slid over backwards and managed to catch myself on a tree root, then angled down over more rocks to a lower level. There was more boulder-hop- ping lower down, and I just missed stepping on the coils of a large rattler that was laying partly under a large rock. A few hundred feet further, the canyon turned another corner and opened out. I stopped to eat lunch in the shade of the last rock wall. Beautiful firecracker Penstemon and a large purple-flowered Penstem on grew at the edge of the trees near the opening. I peered out at the sunlit desert, so unlike my home of the past hour and a half.

By noon I was off again with the pack, moving downstream (southeast) in the main trunk of Peoples Canyon. Some of the bottom was sandy but most was rocky and littered with large boulders. A few drops here and there created obstacles where flashfloods had carried away every- thing loose, leaving only bedrock. The bot- tom was wide, but flashflood hydraulics had left an awesome mess. Lava walls and pinnacles rose high above.

For more than a mile I negotiated the rocks and drops. Then I came around a corner and was stopped by a huge fifteen-foot chockstone that blocked the whole channel. Sliding down it was out of the question;

I slid down to the cacti and tested them with one foot. I pushed against them to see if they'd “give” and found myself pushing harder to see if I could break branches. I pushed harder still, grip- ping the rocks beside me for support, and kept doing it until I'd smashed each cactus into but a meager portion of its former living self. Parts of each were still standing by the time I'd stopped kick- ing, but there was now enough room for me to negotiate the ledge without danger. I tiptoed around the remaining cactus, hugging the rock, then eased down the loose material below. The rubbly part ahead was an uphill, allowing me good traction there above the worst exposure. Then I followed the rest of the ledge, now on

Steve Tabor
Steve Tabor

Rocky bottom and lava pinnacles in Peoples Canyon below Sycamore Spring

The Survivor Summer 2007




a wide terrace, downhill to just above the bottom.


Looking ahead at the bed (now that I could raise my eyes above anything other than the next few feet of ledge), I could see more boulder bed and another large chockstone at the next corner, probably also impassable. I decided to stay on the high terrace and follow more animal trail along the cliffs and then up over more ledges and around the corner. When I got over there, I saw the trail dropping down again to more bedrock and a beautiful pool sheltered by short green cot- tonwoods. That shady spot would be my next rest stop and my next waterhole, where the extreme tension of the last 30 minutes would melt away into a renewed appreciation of the desert's beauty, as it had so many times before.

Steve Tabor
Steve Tabor

Lava rims and saguaros in the hill country above Peoples Canyon.

ken pancake cactus and even the catclaw had been trampled. This was still the Upper Level Sonoran where thorny brush and spiny cacti were the rule, but the bovines didn't seem to mind.

The rest of the trip was an empty-pack eight-mile amble back to the river, mostly downhill. I stopped at Negro Ben Spring to get water. It was impacted by cattle, but I managed to crawl back into the rocks to a wholesome source pool. I crossed several gulches and ridges carved into crystalline granite; most resembled the rock knobs of Joshua Tree, but they were orange instead of white. I traversed a long, broad, upper valley loaded with huge six-foot high, ten-foot wide creosote bushes. This was lower country, grown also to tall saguaros and large buckhorns, even blooming brittlebush.

Moving out of this valley, I hiked up to a high ridge that would lead me down to the river. On this ridge was a wide band of pure white quartz, the kind that holds gold and silver, if someone would ever be able to find it. Palo verde trees, chollas and saguaros began to dominate, here on dry open ground. I followed this long ridge for three more miles, dropping 800 feet to the river. It was anoth- er mile to the car and I hiked the riverbank slowly, reluctant to leave so early. I stopped to birdwatch again, and spotted two more vermilion flycatchers and a pair of lazuli buntings, both classic Ari- zona birds that I'd seen before. I'd never seen either in California, so I lingered long.

I spent a good twenty minutes decompressing

and relaxing by the water. Suddenly I felt hungry after my action-packed ordeal so I ate a little snack. The map showed more problems downstream toward South Peoples Spring, and I'd about had enough. It was late Friday and I had only one more day to get to the river and my car. I looked at the map and

charted possible ways out of the canyon, now 400 feet deep and getting deeper. There were four more miles of boulders and chockstones and god-knows-what between me and the river, so I decided to take my chances crossing gulches and hills in higher country to the east where I'd have more room to maneuver.

Moving downstream again, I came to a fork, then followed an obscure old hardscrabble trail directly east up sloping lava layers. It was all bare rock veneered with loose pebbles, but if cattle and deer (and javelina) could do it then so could I. Views down into the lower part of Peoples Canyon, now deeper and narrower, con- vinced me of the rightness of my decision. I kept hiking uphill to the crest of a peninsula, then veered left and rose higher up until it looked like I would run out of room to move. I crossed the next gulch to the east and went higher still, finally topping out 400 feet above the channel. In the maze of gulches and peninsulas I'd lost track of my position but I got out the old GPS and marked the map. I'd gotten clear of the deep stuff and was now home free. Rolling hills and an easy descent to the river were all that remained. There were seven gulches and as many ridgelets to cross, but these would be an annoyance more than a danger, and I now had the time to move more deliberately with an empty pack.

Getting to this high pass and out of the troublesome canyon gave me a sense of accomplishment. Not only that but at almost 3000'

I now had a magnificent view. White limestone plateaus alternated

with black basalt ones across the Santa Maria to the east in country

I hadn't yet seen, and for once the sky was clear, not hazy and

murky. Seeing new country was an inspiration. I waited and watched almost until the sun went down, then hurried east until I found a good camp on another ridge with a lousy view but a good flat surface.

The country up here was badly damaged by cows; the animals had barged through cacti, knocking them over. There were lots of bro-

But all things must come to an end, so after dodging a few more cows and crossing the river a few more times I arrived at my car. It had been a great six days, a whirlwind tour through some of the most amazing desert I'd yet seen. Visions of leading a Desert Sur- vivors trip here began to dance through my head. I mulled over the possibilities. After taking the note someone had left on my car and reading it with dismay, I packed up quickly and headed out of Dodge, away from the river and back to my American reality. Who needs “reality TV” when you can live it in person. I drove quickly back home on my last free Sunday. Home to the job, home to Desert Survivors.


The Survivor Summer 2007



Steve Tabor
Steve Tabor

Looking down into the rough country in lower Peoples Canyon. High lava rims and narrow shaded bottom; more rims are beyond.


The note on my car is worth quoting in full:


You are parked on private property. You failed to make eye contact to say hello on your way down the river. You probably trespassed on our Peeples Canyon property. May even have camped. This may be customary for Californians but to us it is impolite and rude. In the future I would confront the rancher first or expect to have your car towed. Erik Barnes Santa Maria Ranch

There was no No Trespassing sign on either of the two gates I

drove through to get to my river trailhead, though on the first gate below the freeway there was a sign reading “Please close the gate”,

which I did, both times.

place as part of a “ranch”, though there was some construction paraphernalia back against the freeway, used by road crews. The “Santa Maria Ranch” referred to was a house on a hill about a mile upstream on the other side of U.S. 93. In the crazy-quilt of public and private land that is most of Arizona, there was nothing here to indicate that this parcel was associated with any other that may or may not have had a habitation.

No structures anywhere near marked the

I concluded from this that the owner probably thought so highly of his own importance that he had in his own mind laid claim to all the land in the vicinity, so why bother posting any of his actual legal parcels? And of course it never occurred to me to go walk- ing up to someone's house to say “Hello”, especially a house a mile away, when what I really wanted to do was park my car away from any house. My assumption would be that the resident would pre- fer to exercise his privacy rather than encounter every stranger who drove down the road, especially now that that road is a NAFTA Superhighway.

The Survivor Summer 2007

In California, a private parcel's prop- erty line has to be posted with No Trespassing or equivalent signs every one hundred linear feet to have legal protection from entry. I don't know the law in Arizona but I doubt that it requires visitors in country featuring adjacent federal, state and private land to go knocking on the doors of near- by houses to find out who owns the land, but I should research this. I've heard that is the custom (if not the law) in the State of Texas.

I remembered some kind of dispute about the Arrastra detailed in High Country News awhile back so I did an internet search. I located an article dated February 18, 2002 that described the problem. It seems that Mr. Barnes had bought the Santa Maria Ranch in 1990. With it came a forty-acre parcel centered around

South Peoples Spring, which is a short distance southeast of where I left Peoples Canyon on my hike. Mr. Barnes wanted to build a road in to the spring so he could run more cattle, perhaps eventu- ally to establish a resort. But the Arrastra had been made Wilder- ness in 1990, shortly after Mr. Barnes purchased the land, and the

Wilderness Act forbids the building of a road in Wilderness.

The Arrastra was actually established as a Wilderness Study Area (WSA) in the 1980s, long before Mr. Barnes bought the land. Even as a WSA, the land was protected from development; Mr. Barnes should have known that. Actually, he should have been informed of that fact by the seller(s) of the property and their real-estate agent(s), and by his own agent(s) and lawyer(s).

According to what I read in the HCN article, as a “rancher” Mr. Barnes is more or less a wanna-be, having come from Alaska after a career of outfitting trips on public lands there, so he should know better. I'm glad that his persistence has generated commit- ted adversaries, as described in the article. Southern Arizona Wilderness has a lot of healing to do, and that's not going to hap- pen if the BLM gives in every time people want to build a road to their inholding.

For more information on this con- troversy, check out the February 18, 2002 High Country News arti- cle at


cle?article_id=11020 . An earlier article in HCN dated February 16, 1998 covering the more general

topic of Wilderness inholdings may be found at


cle?article_id=3946 .

Arizona javelina 21 cronkite.asu.edu
Arizona javelina



Exploring the Eastern Sierra and Nevada

July 6-10, 2007

By Bill Johansson, Stockton, CA


W e began our trip at 4 p.m., leaving Stock-

ton, in the Central Valley, on Highway

88. We were too late to go in the visitor

center of Indian Grinding Rock State Park, but did see the outside grinding holes. We ate at 9 p.m. at Kirkwood. We passed Carson Pass and followed Highway 88 all the way to Minden, Nevada, Gard- nerville’s sister city, right next to it to the north- west. The following day I spent a short hour at the Carson Valley Museum research library in Gardnerville. I plan on ordering reprints from the Central Nevada Historical Society Photo Collection located there, mostly of places where I have been.

Our First Adventure

Bill Johansson
Bill Johansson

Searching for Carters Springs in the Pine Nut Mountains

On our way once again, we headed south on U.S. 395. Our goal was to find Carters Springs. The map showed a water tank oppo- site the springs. We found the water tank, but no springs close to the road on the other side, nor the two roads to the springs. We hiked towards the hills, found a draw of sorts and followed it for a little while. There was some evidence of water, plants that were a light green. I thought there could be surface water under the trees. We had thought once we were near the spring it would not be dif- ficult to find, but we were wrong. Perhaps we were on the right track. We hiked some 45 minutes. We weren’t prepared to spend more time hiking as we brought little water nor did we wear hiking boots! It was a hot, sunny day. Later I looked at the maps and I realized a mine, the Veta Grande Mine, and its tailings were up from the springs. On the internet I read the mine was abandoned and somewhat of a hazard to nearby wells; however not as much as years ago, as the rain and snow melt has percolated and rinsed the tailings. Also, on the internet the springs are listed as being at 6,600 feet and Carters Station on the other side of Highway 395 is listed at 5,680 feet. I wouldn’t have thought there was such a dif- ference in elevation, we didn’t hike up much on our search. I imagine we might not have been any closer than just the general vicinity. I enjoyed the hike. It was getting kind of wild. Explor- ing was fun!

We followed U.S. 395 further south with a stop at Topaz Lake for a swim, then to Bodie, a ghost town in arrested decay, now a State Park; it is high off the highway about 25 miles. Continuing on 395 we passed Mono Lake and spent the night at Lee Vining. The next morning we reached the beautiful ski resort of Mammoth Lakes and rode a shuttle down 1,500 feet to the Devil’s Postpile and San Joaquin River. Late this third day we reached Big Pine where a serious fire was blazing high above in the Sierra: this would have stopped our progress the day before, as U.S. 395 had been closed south of Bishop.

Stuck On The Desert Trail

As part of “my day” to do something I specially liked, exploring Nevada, I planned a visit to my favorite place, Lida Summit, and untried unpaved roads, to be away from civilization. We had already seen the touristy places Bodie and the Devil’s Postpile, so we headed east from Big Pine, past Westgaard Pass and Gilbert Summit, up to Lida Summit, which I have now visited twelve times. I call it the Lida Summit Adventure.

After a picnic lunch at this pristine summit we headed back west

and turned north through Dyer and Fish Lake Valley and on to see The Sump. I had heard about this place but didn’t know where in Nevada it was. I had passed close to it on Route 773 in 1997 and

1998. This first time we didn’t observe it from the bottom, but

did drive north of it on an unpaved gravel road. It is an impres- sive sight, looking down on the eroded hoodoos or the like from the upper viewpoint. We drove on and soon joined the Desert Trail, which was coming in from the south. We followed the grav- el road on to an electronic site. The 7.5 minute map of the area is not precise, as I thought the 4WD road we were looking for began from this installation. There seemed to be a road headed out from here - we tried it briefly but this road (if it was one) had not been driven on in a very, very long time! However we could see to the east the road we wanted going down the rolling hillside. We finally began descending the 4WD road in our Ford Explorer SUV, rejoining the Desert Trail. Roger Mitchell from the SUV trails

book series, had reassured me our car could make it. We were not long on this road before the sand became deep. We tried turning around but got stuck! The car dug itself in and wouldn’t move.

Bob Lee, our driver and friend, “volunteered” to walk back to the main road to get help – with his cowboy hat on, hiking boots and bottle of water. It was 4:15 in the afternoon. It was hot! Mean-


The Survivor Summer 2007




Bill Johansson
Bill Johansson

while we tried to phone 911 and dialed several numbers to try to get help but it was futile. The only cell phone that works in this area is a Satellite cell phone. To me it seemed like an hour passed, but it was more like three. At the end it was finally cooling down. I looked to the west and two cars were coming down the 4WD road picking up dust. Bob Lee was with the Esmeralda County Sheriff and friends. We found out it took Bob Lee an hour to reach the main road and another hour for the first vehicle to pass

The Sump

by, a FedEx truck that didn’t stop! Bob told us three vehicles passed by before he reached the main road, but he was too far to try to flag down these cars. The car that did stop went to Dyer to bring help - friends of the sheriff. They came to rescue us and got stuck themselves once they reached us! With shovels, they dug out the sand and bled air out of our tires for better traction, and we pushed. We didn’t need chains. At the main highway we had to replace the air; but the compressor only filled it half way, which required our backtrack- ing to our new friends’ homes for a better machine.

Finally, we were off to Montgomery Pass, then thankful that the Benton gas station was still open at 10:00 p.m. We filled up, and called June Lake to save our two motel rooms. As we rode on highway 120 in the dark, a grown fox, baby fox and 4 rabbits crossed our path. We dragged in at our motel at 11

p.m. for a grateful rest and refreshing shower. We came back through Tioga Pass high above Yosemite National Park.

The Sump is a worthwhile visit, but beware of the sandy 4WD road! This part of the Desert Trail would be better hiked in the spring.

How To Extricate A Lone Car From Sand

By Leonard Finegold, Philadelphia, PA

I read with sympathy the exploits of Craig Deutsche on freeing

a car, in the Spring 2007 Survivor. After helping a friend extri-

cate his car from Mojave sand some years ago, I asked a group

of outdoors people for advice, and the following is a distillation of their replies.

1. Keep calm, walk around car, look at it. Start drinking water.

2. Ensure 4WD is engaged and that the hubs are locked (if applic-


3. Reverse out of trouble if possible.

4. Engage a reasonably high gear if you can.

5. Stop as soon as the wheels start spinning.

6. Dig out the sand from each wheel and put anything solid under-

neath (wood, stones, dead camel skulls, spare wheel

7. Rock the car violently from side to side so compressing the sand

underneath each wheel.

8. Lower the tire pressure little by little until you can move. Use a

tire gauge, because if you lower too far, the tire can come off the



The Survivor Summer 2007

9. Jack-up the back of the vehicle using the spare wheel as a jack- support, then put material under the wheels or just drive off the jack and repeat (this can gain you nearly 2 feet at a time). 10. Wait for the sun to start going down, the air temperature to cool and the sand to become more dense.

TIPS Paul Brickett
Paul Brickett

Incident on departure from Kingston Range, April, 2003




Miss Cactus on Manners

[Editor’s note: This new column was submitted by a long-time member of Desert Survivors who wishes to remain anonymous. Opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of the Board of Directors, although possibly they should be. See page 3 for submission informa- tion.]

Dear Miss Cactus,

I recently went on a DS trip to central Nevada. The trip leader carpooled with my friend and me. After the first day of hiking, my friend and I realized that the pace was too slow for us, and we wished to leave. The trip leader seemed a bit miffed when we arranged another ride home for him, but he gamely offloaded his gear, and we left after the second day’s hike.

When we arrived home, we discovered that he had forgotten to take his sleep- ing bag. We heard that he only discov- ered this after the others had retired and that he spent a chilly night. Now he won’t respond to emails. I am afraid that we have hurt his feelings. What can we do to make things up with him?

Yours truly, Bailing and Wailing

Dear Bailing and Wailing,

Miss Cactus feels that accidentally leav- ing with the trip leader’s bag is one of those things that happens and that you do not need to apologize. However, Miss Cactus feels that it was very rude of you to bail out of the trip because the hike is too slow. You agreed to go on the trip and the trip leader took you at your word. You took a spot on the trip that someone else may have wanted and then you abandoned the trip. Miss Cactus suggests that you apologize for your behavior with an offer to assist in a future trip as a co-leader in charge of responding to trip participants who cre- ate hassles. Your trip leader should be amused and very grateful.

Yours truly, Miss Cactus


Associated Press Article Quotes Desert Survivor

Experts doubt Steve Fossett still alive

By Martin Griffith, Associated Press Writer

September 11, 2007

RENO, Nev. --As the search for Steve Fos- sett dragged into its ninth day Tuesday, experts said they doubted the millionaire adventurer could have survived more than a week in the rugged desert since his plane vanished. While the resourceful aviator could scratch water, food and shelter from the desolate Nevada landscape, experts said his first order of business would have been signaling rescuers.

“There’s no news of him signaling for help and that’s a problem,” said David McMullen of Berkeley, California, a leader of the hiking group Desert Survivors, whose members frequently venture into some of the country’s harshest terrain. “He’s either so injured he can’t signal or he’s perished.”

“Shelter from the sun would be just as important as water to Fossett had he sur- vived the crash,” added McMullen of the Desert Survivors. McMullen was stranded with a severely sprained ankle for three nights in Death Valley National Park in September 2001. He hunkered down in the shade of a fig tree before he was res- cued by a military helicopter, with the help of a detailed itinerary he had left his wife. “You’ll lose water faster than you can absorb it in heat, and that’s why a shelter is so important,” McMullen said.

He and other survival experts faulted Fos- sett for not filing a flight plan, which might have allowed searchers to focus on a small- er area. “The itinerary I filed for my 2001 hike saved my life,” McMullen said. “They knew where to look for me.”


Darrell Hunger
Darrell Hunger


Three Haiku Poems

Kangaroo Rat lies Dead in the road; deserves a Proper burial.

Datura blossoms Bring thoughts of Moon medicine And nature spirits.

Morning breeze speaks while I remove cholla spines from My shoes – with pliers!

Jeff Parker, Carson City, NV

Darrell Hunger
Darrell Hunger


The Survivor Summer 2007



My own flawed quick notes Are not like those Of the singer who sang of Beowulf, Nor the Bard who graced blue Avon’s shore. No. The poet whose work is most like mine Chipped stone, rubbed rock, And worked a wordless tune on granite’s face, In caves or in the desert’s emptiness; Or scratched a feather dipped in dragon’s blood Across a drying autumn leaf, And flung it to a nameless wailing wind Whose passage brought it to my door.

Mimi Merrill Feb. 2, 1986

Catherine O’Riley
Catherine O’Riley

Vision Fast Poems


Between the wind’s breaths

I hear the beating

Of the earth’s heart.

Petroglyphs, Wadi Rum, Jordan

To Dine at the Table

Tonight I dine at the table of the Beloved.

I have but water to drink.

The table, a feast set before me. Dirt, rocks, pines, juniper, sage scattered about. Dead trees for table ornaments All arranged beautifully on this earthen tablecloth.

The Survivor Summer 2007

Illuminated by sun and sky, Clouds both light and gray. My water transformed to the wine Of the Divine Presence. The food served to nourish my soul’s hunger. I am the guest.

Wisdom #2

Wisdom is all around us and Inside of every being. Silent like a drumbeat Determined to be heard. Only you can hear yours. Medicine for the whole planet!

One with Spirit

Let everything I see Let every sound I hear Let every sense I feel Let every thought I have Let every move I make Let every breath I take Be One with the Spirit Be One with the Spirit.


Oh spirits from the South, the West, the North, the East come dance with me. Come share your medicine that we can be in Harmony.

Oh people from the South, the West, the North, the East Come dance with me. Come share your medicine That we can be in Harmony.

Oh grandmother earth, grandfather Heaven Come dance with me. Come share your medicine That we can be in Harmony.


Mountains to the Clouds:

Come closer that we may experience the shade of your great span And the coolness of your breath on our warm bodies.

Clouds to Sun:

Oh sister sun, your gaze is so intense. We came to provide some shade So your children do not burn up in their desire.

Pinion to Juniper:

Together we share and celebrate each season in the Inyos. And wait to greet our brothers and sisters Who come to visit.

Roger Appelgate, 2006



Death Valley Dreamin’

By Marith Reheis, Feb. 2001, Pacific FOP (Friends of

the Pleistocene), Death Valley

Tune: California Dreamin’ by the Mamas and Papas


All the mud is brown, and the salt is gray,

I went for a walk across the playa today.

Should be drinkin’ beer and watchin’ palm trees sway,

Death Valley dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.


Waded through a lake that lay across the way,

Lord, I sank up to my knees, and I began to pray,

“You know I’m stuck here in the salt, please don’t send

rain today!”

Death Valley dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.


There’s scarps at Mormon Point, so most geologists say,

If we weren’t the best of Friends, there’d be hell to pay.

“It’s not a fault, it’s a beach, as any fool can see.”

Death Valley dreamin’ Pleistocene geology.


Slept upon a fault near Furnace Creek last night,

Well the earth began to shake, I had a terrible fright.

Strain accommodation on several intersecting splays,

Death Valley dreamin’ could be a nightmare today!

Repeat 1.

All the mud is brown, and the salt is gray,

I went for a walk across the playa today.

Should be drinkin’ beer and watchin’ palm trees sway,

Death Valley dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.


Antioch Dunes Service Project

By Karen Rusiniak, Berkeley

R einventing ourselves is an ongoing process. As time shifts

the circumstances in which we find ourselves, people as

well as companies and organizations need to reinvent

themselves to be optimally effective and successful. On Septem- ber 11th the Desert Survivor Board of Directors decided to allow local trips on the regular trip schedules. This is a change that reflects, I believe, two trends in our current world: the increasingly busy lives we lead that often prevents us from driving the 8-10 hours many of the desert trips require and the increasing concern over the use of a non-renewable oil resource to get to our beloved desert.

I look upon the Board’s decision in two positive ways. Firstly, the local trips can really be considered conditioning trips for our longer desert outings. What better way to get and keep in shape for our desert car camps and backpacks! Secondly, there has been

a local project in the back of my mind for years that I always

thought would be a great fit for a Desert Survivors service project:

helping out at the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge has sand, many plant genera we are familiar with from the California and Nevada deserts and has been known since the 1930s as an entomological hotspot that attracts large and colorful insect species with desert affinities.

Located right in our back yard, just 38 miles from Oakland City Hall, is the first and only wildlife refuge in the country established to protect endangered plants and insects. This 67 acre refuge was created in 1980 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect three endangered species: Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly, the Contra Costa Wallflower and the Antioch Dunes Evening Primrose, which are only found in or near the refuge’s boundaries, and twelve species designated Federal “species of concern.” Today the refuge exists as an isolated inland riverine dune system, all that is left of

an isolated inland riverine dune system, all that is left of Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly ( Apodemia

Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly (Apodemia mormo langei)

The Survivor Summer 2007


www.fws.gov/cno/refuges/antioch/CCP.pdf Antioch Dunes location and site maps the dunes that used to stretch for two miles
www.fws.gov/cno/refuges/antioch/CCP.pdf Antioch Dunes location and site maps the dunes that used to stretch for two miles

Antioch Dunes location and site maps

the dunes that used to stretch for two miles along the river. It is bordered on the north by the San Joaquin River, and on the other three sides by industrial development: the Burlington Northern/- Santa Fe Railroad on the south, the Fulton Shipyard on the west and the Georgia Pacific Gypsum Plant on the east.

The scope of this service project will be to remove invasive species such as Star and Russian Thistle and Ripgut Broome in the winter, plant about 400 plants of buckwheat that the Lange’s Metalmark needs to survive in the spring, and then place larvae of the butterfly (that are being bred in two separate laboratories) on the buckwheat also in the spring. Additionally, volunteers will be needed in the spring/summer months to take surveys of individual plants and butterflies to quantify the populations.

plants and butterflies to quantify the populations. Contra Costa Wallflower ( Erysimum capitatum angustatum )

Contra Costa Wallflower (Erysimum capitatum angustatum)

The Survivor Summer 2007


California Native Plant Society conducting a survey

USFWS Photos
USFWS Photos

Prescribed burn used for nonnative weed control

So if you are interested in rolling up your sleeves and helping out on this project, please contact Karen Rusiniak or sign-up for the DSOL listserv so you can be notified of the upcoming work parties. The first one is scheduled for November 17th. When I and three other Desert Survivors visited this place in May we were all struck by how fragile an environment it was and we could easily see the work that needs to be done in removing inva- sive species. Won’t you join me in helping to save these species from extinction? And stay tuned for a more in-depth article on this project in the next issue of The Survivor.

Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge
Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge

Antioch Dunes Evening Primrose (Oenothera deltoides howellii)


DESERT SURVIVORS Non-Profit Organization   U.S. Postage P.O. Box 20991 • Oakland, CA 94620-0991





U.S. Postage

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


Berkeley, CA


Permit 648

Mail this form to: Desert Survivors, P.O. Box 20991,

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28 Experiencing, sharing and protecting the desert since 1978

In This Issue


Don’t Mess With Virtual Wilderness 2 Mountain Mishap 2 How to Reach Us (Revised!) 3 Survivor Deadline Looms 3 Mission Statement for Desert Survivors 3 E-Mail Notices and On-Line Forum 3 New Editor and Art Director 3 Desert Pavements and Dust Marith Reheis These Are the Things I Have Seen Today Chris Schiller 6



Castle Peaks Carcamp, Mojave NP Steve Tabor 10 Western AZ’s Arrastra Mountains Wilderness Steve Tabor 14

Exploring the Eastern Sierra and Nevada Bill Johansson 22 How To Extricate a Car From Sand Leonard Finegold 23


AP Article on Steve Fossett Quotes Desert Survivor 24 Poetry:

Haiku Poems Jeff Parker 24 Vision Fast Poems Roger Appelgate 25 Song: Death Valley Dreamin’ Marith Reheis 26 Antioch Dunes Service Project Karen Rusiniak 26

On Manners Miss Cactus

A Horse Fable Stan Huncilman

The Survivor Summer 2007