The Mist

Hmmm – our hill is all enveloped in a thick mist tonite. Good thing 1) Stephen King doesn’t live nearby
2) there isn’t some secret gov’t lab nearby.

Wait… crap – Lawrence Livermore Labs are right down the road. I guess we’ll stay inside until the mist clears.

Trip to Panamint Valley

A few weeks back my buddy Paul and I took the Jeeps down to the desert for the annual “Panamint Valley Days” offroad gathering. Its a pretty long drive from here – we left around noon on a Friday and arrived just about 11pm. Registration/safety check was supposed to be open until 11pm, but folks were tired and we opted to get it all done first thing in the morning. After finding a suitable spot to camp in a large sandy wash, we sacked out for the nite and got a few hours of sleep.


We got up around 5:30am and got the Jeeps ready for the day – took the rest of the camping gear out, took the doors off, tied stuff down, etc and headed off to the registration/safety check. Our trip was scheduled to leave camp around 7:30, which gave us a bit of time to grab some breakfast at the Ruff Rock Run Cafe’ – a great bunch of folks who had food operations set up here in camp.


Off to the first run of the trip, Defense Mine. This region of CA is full of old mining operations, everything from gold to common borax. This particular mine looked to be a variety of stuff, including tungsten, gold, lead, …

Watching a buggy make his way up part of a dry waterfall on the trail up to the mine:



Posing at the lower of the mine entrances. The mine was open, so a bunch of us walked thru it and climbed the ladders to come out at the top some 250 feet above this shaft.


Here’s the ladder system inside the mine. It wasn’t too old, but still we were pretty cautious climbing, cuz it was a long ways down if it let loose.



View from the top shaft. Long walk back down to the Jeeps.


One of the buildings on site had this box of goodies:


From the mine, we took a trip out to Lookout City which is perched on a ridge outcropping that overlooks most of Panamint Valley.


Here’s what’s left of the old general store and a wagon scale.


We made our way down the mountain and back to camp by late afternoon. Used the rest of the daylight to do some tightening of various parts on both Jeeps and then it was off to dinner – a great pit BBQ. Mmmm


On Sunday we opted for one of the more historic (read: easy) trails – the old Death Valley – Darwin Toll Road. This road makes its way thru the mountains on the western side of Panamint Valley thru a number of mining operations and ends up in the (mostly) ghost town of Darwin. Its not really a ghost town – people still live there – population 39 currently. Mostly artists and some older miners.


Yes, this is a koi pond. In the middle of the mountains/desert. This is at China Springs which has a good water supply year round.


One of the remaining buildings in the China Springs mining camp – it was more modern construction and had a solid concrete foundation – probably circa the 40s or 50s.


Paul checking out one of the ‘cash for clunkers’ cars:


Up in the town of Darwin, this weird little scene was set up inside one of the abandoned buildings. Creepy. Like a scene from The Hills Have Eyes.


The old Darwin Post Office (also was a general store/gas station at various times):


After we finished up at Darwin, we split off from the rest of the group and set out on our own for the rest of the day. I took Paul for a side trip up to Wildrose, where there are these old charcoal kilns that were used back in the 1800s to produce charcoal for the various mines in the area:


One the road up to Wildrose, there is a chunk of the old Skidoo pipeline: These folks were really determined to get water into the least accessible places out here – they ran it 23 miles from Telescope Peak to the town of Skidoo which is back up another ridge:


Late in the afternoon on the way back to camp, we found this guy on the road. I helped him off to the side, tho it wasn’t clear he was immediately appreciative:


We headed over to Ridgecrest Sunday nite to get food (and beer/firewood) and camped out another nite since Paul decided he was going to take an extra day off work. A bunch of folks were still in camp when we came back, but they cleared out early the next morning.


We looked at a bunch of trails that nite as possible trips for Monday, and opted to do Pleasant Canyon since we missed doing it on Friday due to our late start. The trail started out in the ghost town of Ballarat (population 1?). There is a general store that is run by the one resident of Ballarat but since he had the flu, we didn’t go visit him.

Here’s a pickup that was used by Charles Manson and his ‘family’ while they were in the area back in the 60s:


Ballarat Jail/Morgue/Motel – take yer pick:


A fixer-up-er along the Pleasant Canyon trail in Clair Camp. The mining operations are still somewhat active along some of these trails and we did have a miner pass us along with road in his beat up truck.


We found this neat waterfall about half way up the canyon. There was tons of vegetation and then poof – a jungle scene with a waterfall:


We finished up the trail and started the long trip back to San Jose. Lisa asked me to bring something back for her, so I brought her this collection of rocks:


Let it snow

We were planning to spend Monday at home anyway, so no worries about driving our road with inches of snow on it. I can’t imagine the County will bring a snow plow out. I don’t even know if they have a snow plow come to think of it…

… Winter Weather Advisory in effect from 10 PM this evening to 4
PM PST Monday above 1500 feet…

The National Weather Service San Francisco Bay area has issued
a Winter Weather Advisory for snow above 1500 feet… which is in
effect from 10 PM this evening to 4 PM PST Monday.

Total snow accumulations of 3 to 6 inches are expected above 1500
foot elevations through Monday afternoon.

We had maybe 3-4″ overnite and got up early to take the dogs out to play:









Visitors from NJ

Catching up a bit on events from the last month here…

My good friend Dawn from high school back home lost her Dad back in Sept to heart failure. Dennis was always a really great guy – funny guy and a great Dad. Very sad to be without him now for all of Dawn’s family.

We invited Dawn and her two boys M & G out for several days to visit and see California a bit. They got an early flight from NJ/NY and with a few stops/changes along the way finally made it out to SFO late in the morning. For getting up so early, to boys seemed to have plenty of energy, but that soon faded:


We stopped off in San Francisco at North Beach Pizza (North Beach is the ‘little Italy’ of San Fran) and got everyone some lunch and a recharge.

After lunch, we made our way back down to San Jose and stopped in at the Winchester Mystery House. For folks not familiar with it, it was bought and built up by Sarah Winchester, the widow of William Winchester of Winchester Rifles. After her husbands death, she bought this farmhouse and her medium advised her to ward off the spirits of the people killed by her husband’s rifles by doing continuous construction on the house. The house is the result of 38 years of constant 24×7 building with no particular master plan and a good dose of paranoia/mental issues.


There were a bunch of these spider-web designed windows in the house:



There is a museum off the side of the house that holds a large collection of antique Winchester rifles and other arms:


The next day, we went back up to San Francisco to visit Alcatraz – note that I’ve lived around here for 12 yrs now and never once managed to visit this. I suck. But anyway, it was a bit drizzly and foggy, but that only made it spookier for the boys, who absolutely loved the place.

Approaching the prison from the ferry:


We thought about putting the boys into a cell, but they were too wise to fall for that:



After Alcatraz, we wandered to a crabbery on Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch where M devoured a dungeoness crab. Very messy, but yet tasty. We wrapped up our San Francisco day by a tour of Coit Tower at sunset and got some good views of the city at nite plus the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges.


The next day we went up to Gold Country to see some of the old towns there plus tour a real gold mine in Sutter Creek. Everyone got to wear a hard hat and we took a mine car down 500+ ft into an operational hard rock gold mine, with a grizzled old miner as our tour guide. This guy was great – his family has been mining in CA since the early days of the gold rush. I need to find the pics I took of him tho – must be on the video recorder. He really fit the vision of an old fashioned miner.


After the mine tour and lunch, we found a back road to another old/small town, Volcano. It had been mentioned as a ghost town, but alas, many people still live there and M & G were noting that it didn’t seem very ghostly.

This is an old hydraulic mining monitor (cannon). They would get water under pressure and blast away at the hillsides to find gold. See the movie Pale Rider for a good example of how bad this practice was. They literally needed an act of Congress to stop it because of the damage it was causing to the environment.


G noting that this rock, call Christmas Tree Rock, is missing the tree, so he decided to play the part of the tree:


We visited the Monterey Aquarium and also toured the grounds/gardens of the Winchester Mystery House and everyone generally had a blast.

But alas, reality set in and the boys needed to get back home to NJ for school: