Mojave National Preserve

Even though we visited the southern California desert last month, there were still locations I wanted to visit so I embarked on a solo trip to the Mojave National Preserve. In my research with Google Earth I had located a number of mines and mine cabins.

The Evening Star mine was the first one I stopped at and I was amazed at how good a condition it was in. I suppose this is due to the mine being active during 1939—1944. It was the only producer of tin ore in the Mojave Desert.

Evening Star mine

J. Riley Bembry filed a claim on the site as a copper prospect but sold it before developing it. My next stop was at the Riley cabin. Riley Bembry was a long-time resident in the area.

Riley cabin

There are several mining cabins in the area. Riley’s has been refurbished and is available for overnight stays. While I was looking around a couple of park service folks stopped by for a sort of inspection. One of them was the guy who did much of the refurbishment. I followed them around as they visited other cabins in the area. It was interesting to hear them talk about what has been done and what is yet planned to be done.

Below is a photo of a cabin that will be refurbished to give an indication of how much work it will be. The site has already had most of the trash removed, but there are certainly a lot of structural repairs required.

Interior of a cabin to be refurbished.

Out by Ivanpah I stopped at the Goldome Mining complex which shut down less than 40 years ago. It’s a fairly modern gold ore processing facility that seems to have been systematically stripped of anything small enough to carry away. It’s also a superfund site—I assume because of cyanide contamination.

Just a small part of the Goldome complex

I stayed in Barstow so I went out Mule Canyon in the Calico Mountains. I again tried to find some nodules that might contain fossilized insects. I did find some concretion-like nodules, but it remains to be seen (after some lengthy acid dissolving) if they contain any fossilized insects. I also checked out the old Borax mining area (Borate) and hiked along the old railroad grade. The trestles would have been impressive, but when they stopped mining in the area they disassembled everything and took it to a new area in Death Valley.

The Harvey House (Casa del Desierto) is a nicely restored remnant of the bygone era of rail-travel.

Barstow Harvey House

I also did a short hike in Rainbow Basin and tagged along with a small group of college students on a geology field trip. The colorful rock layers are tilted and in some places jumbled. The photogenic syncline (a V shaped structure) was clearly revealed.

Rainbow Basin syncline

I have researched a few aircraft crash sites, and so far haven’t been able to reach any of them. A Piper Navajo (twin-engine) near the abandoned Hart airstrip was easy to get to. It’s not the first crash site I have visited, but it is the first I found just by perusing Google Earth.

Tail section of a Piper Navajo

After that I explored around the Hart site and saw a few more interesting things before calling it a day.

Mojave Desert, March 2017 gallery

Red Rock Canyon State Park

We left Lone Pine and headed for home, but first drove out Pine Canyon to see if I could find the crash site of the “Wild Child”, an Aero Vodochody L-39 jet. Just a little way up the canyon I encountered a locked gate so I went back to the nearby Jawbone Canyon visitor center. Apparently, all the property back there is private and now off limits.

We then drove on south and stopped at Red Rock Canyon for a short hike. Because of the recent rain, the colors were nice and bright.

Red Rooster area of Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon, February 2017 photo gallery

Lone Pine Area

Before heading out to the Alabama Hills, we made a stop at the Alabama Hills Café so Karen could get a morning munchie. I miss being able to eat there, but such is the result of celiac disease. We took Movie Road and passed up all the neat stops for arches and views of the Sierra crest.

Lone Pine Peak on the left, Mount Whitney in the center back.

I was looking for the location where the scene of the Jericho missile demonstration in Ironman was filmed. I had some GPS coordinates for the area, and I found it fairly easy to match the background mountains, but I couldn’t match up the foreground, which means I wasn’t finding the camera location used in the movie. Here’s a clip from the Ironman movie, followed by my shot. I couldn’t find the foreground rocks behind Robert Downey, Jr.

Clip from Ironman

My shot. Background matches, but the foreground doesn’t

If I go back, perhaps I can find the right camera location and take a selfie with coat and tie.

Then we drove out east across the Owens River to the location of the movie set for Bad Day at Black Rock. There is nothing left—it’s even difficult to see where the old Southern Pacific railroad bed was. I approximated one of the scenes, although I should have been farther away from my truck.

Scene from Bad Day at Black Rock

Main Street still exists, but no buildings or railroad

After all this, we drove out to the Reward mine area. I think we saw about half of the complex, so a return trip is in order.

Part of the Reward Mine

Before returning to our motel, we spent some time at the Manzanar visitor center. The displays have been expanded since we were last there. It is still a sobering reminder of how we can mistreat people in times of crisis.

Lone Pine, February 2017 photo gallery