First Expedition: Mojave Road East to West in a JKUR with an IH Scout

#1
First off I always start by thanking my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for blessing me with the ability to do what I do for a living and for allowing me to enjoy his Creation. I also need to thank a few of the people I have met through Expedition Portal that have made my experiences on Portal extremely enjoyable. Those people are nwoods, for being a general awesome person, Loober and his buddy who is not on Portal for great company on our first night on the trail, and chmura for stepping up quickly an affording me the latest version of the Mojave Road Guide which allowed us to thoroughly enjoy the trip!!!

Day 1 started with a drive out to the Avi Casino. Funny that Avi means Money :D Anyway, we left on New Years Day from Orange, CA and met up with a long time friend of mine Mike Kern. He's an invaluable resource that comes in handy when things get hairy. He's been wheeling nearly his whole life and comes up with creative solutions to complex problems, while laying on his back on nearly any surface, even while being submersed in water, (ok maybe not, but he does perform small miracles). The other, more significant partner in crime, was the world's best wife (I say that because I mean it, not just because she will read this later). We all felt 01.01.2014 was a great starting day for the trip and of course a fitting way to begin what promises to be a phenomenal year. We opted for the 15 to 40 East route ending at the Avi and staying there for the night. We landed a little late in the day for photos of any kind and we were extremely hungry, so we hit the Buffet !!!! While I can not recommend the buffet it seemed to be a decent value at the end of the evening and it left no one bending over in pain, but the majority of the food was average, though they did have a pastry chef that whipped up a pretty amazing Bananas Foster on the spot. After the buffet we dodged the smoke plums throughout the casino on our way back to the hotel room (a 2 queen bed room for just under $50 after tax) which was comfortable enough for the three of us. It was a little loud in to the evening with the fireworks stand just off the property, but that's nothing a set of ear plugs didn't fix.

Morning on Day 2, Day 1 on the trail, came earlier than I would have liked, but we did want to get rolling. A late breakfast seemed more appropriate after the previous night's indulging, so we opted to head in to town to the Safeway for groceries. After groceries we headed back to the cafe at the Avi, only to find it had been closed down after December 1st 2013. Hmm… Mike suggested hitting McDonald's, but my wife and I disagreed adding the pancakes at McDonald's were obviously in the same family as the Goodyear MTR's on my Jeep, so Buffet it was. To Mike's credit, the pancakes at the Buffet were worse than McDonald's pancakes, but there were other items I could suggest, such as the freshly carved Honey Glazed Ham, or maybe the Omelette Bar?? At least the Orange Juice was top shelf. After fueling up our bodies and the gas tanks of our respective vehicles, oh and patching Mike's hand up after he sliced it with his pocket knife helping me mount my Kolpin Spare Gas Tank, I took a few photos before we hit the trail.

Here is the Avi Casino from the East side of the River



This is a view of Fort Mojave (or at the least the area that used to be the Fort) from Mile Marker 0.0



Here are the two rigs for the trip. Mike's 1972 International Harvester Scout II - it has a few mods :elk grin: and my 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited also with a few mods :D (please note the rock pile aka rock cairn on the right marking mile 0.0 - these will note the majority of the route and shall always remain on the right side of the vehicle)



We started the trail of in good fashion and after just a few short miles, I realized I forgot to Zero My Garmin 60CX GPS and my trip odometer on my Jeep which I had zeroed was not exactly keeping correct distance, probably due to the 37's even though I did employ the use of an AEV Procal. At any rate, we were in luck, because Mike had zeroed his GPS so, we could always reference his mile marker, which the book uses extensively in conjunction with a GPS waypoint (something we would use every now and then) to ensure proper navigation. Here are a couple of shots I took shortly after crossing the first few main highways (admittedly they were potty breaks :D )





I have to admit if it weren't for photos / pics to jog my memory, this report would really suck. We decided to veer slightly off the route to check out the Fort Piute and the Piute Creek Area. Here is a photo of me entering what used to be one of the homes on the homestead below the fort, on the road leading to it.



On many of the rocks around the Homestead we found Petroglyphs. This one seems to warn of the Dangerous Centipedes in the area :D



A short hike down to the creek revealed water and this Barrel Cactus



After exploring the homestead, we headed further up the road to Fort Piute. While there wasn't much to it, reading the info board was cook, which details the purpose of the fort and the soldiers that lived there. It also provided an excellent opportunity for lunch.



After lunch we doubled back to continue on our Mojave Road Expedition. After the Piute area we continued in to the Lanfair Valley region. The elevation gain brought a change in landscape and provided a forest of some of my favorite dessert landscape, Joshua Trees and Yucca. Here is a photo of us in the thick of it.



We arrived at mile marker 41.4 where we found the Penny Can (actually a couple of them) hanging off a Joshua Tree.



With the sun setting and the temp dropping we thought this would be a great place to bed down for the night. As we were backing in to camp, Nick and his friend Guss (Nick is Loober on the board), were pulling in to our location traveling West to East. I had sent a PM to Nick advising if they would have me I wanted to join them, but then plans changed and to make a long story short, I told him we would be traveling East to West and to look for my Green Jeep on the trail. When he stopped to say, hi, he jumped out enthusiastically and came up to introduce himself. It was pretty amazing timing. I explained we were getting ready to set up camp, so they decided to stick around with us for the night. What follows are some of my favorite photos of the trip, including my first attempt at long exposure night photos, all shot at the Penny Can (campground)
















More to come tomorrow….
 
#8
Breakfast was tasty…. Now back to the regularly scheduled programming :lurk:

Where was I …. ah yes… Sitting by the fire :REOutCampFire03: was necessary as the temp dipped in the upper 30's prior to retiring to the tent. No one knows for sure how cold it was that night, Mike slept on the ground in his sleeping bag, inside of another sleeping bag, Nick stayed in his super awesome set up in his TRD Yota and Guss stayed in his 4runner. Melody and I use an REI 3 season tent with the REI Comfort Cots a Zero Degree Bag inside of a 40 Degree bag, so we were set. We all woke up throughout the night for one reason or another. We thought we might have been visited by a few animals and I heard a Grizzly that frequented the campsite (or maybe it was just Mike's snoring).

Morning on Day 3, day 2 on the trail, greeted us around 730am with beautiful sunshine and temps in the low 40's. With frozen water bottles as evidence of cold temps overnight at an elevation of right around 4k feet, everyone was excited to continue the Journey. Nick and Guss packed up and hit the road continuing East with the hopes of reaching the Avi by the end of the day. We advised them they were 4 hours out, tops, with all the off-shoots.

Here they are ready to hit the dirt



After we ate pancakes and turkey breakfast sausage with Odwalla Orange Juice, we hit the road. We didn't get far before we came across the intersection at mile 42, Lanfair Road and Mojave Road. There was a monument there and a campground that required reservations :Wow1: haha



Shortly after that intersection (maybe a few miles) on the North side of the road we spotted this gem a rock house that was literally 99 years old and still standing. I was impressed and prime location at the time with the intersection nearby.



As you leave the Lanfair Valley you drop even further down in to the Watson Wash and the Rock Spring Canyon. The trail descending down is pretty fun. Here is a shot of Mike in the Scout handling the off camber articulations. The hill behind him with the deep undulating holes was the most difficult portion of the trail we encountered the entire trip.





There is certainly a lot of history on the Mojave Road, which for a guy like me can be rather boring, however I was intrigued by the stories the book covers throughout the route. For instance, we visited the second of two rock houses, this one was well maintained and was inhabited by a WWI veteran, who suffered from chemical distress in his lungs. The doctor advised him to move to the Mojave climate in order to prolong his life, instead of the predicted 1 year of additional life he made it another 20 something years :D

As you walk up the road toward the house you can see the original meat hanging chain where he butchered the goats he raised



Here is the lay of the land the house sat on



The house was incredible with a fantastic view of the Mojave Road below



Note we were able to go inside the normally locked home as the NPS was there to show some volunteers around - a truly rare opportunity. We were able to capture some photos of the inside of the house to share.







Carl Faber was an artist that used the home much later in time. He would capitalize on the off road adventurers that would come through the Mojave and would sell his painting and other art work to those traveling through.

At this point we were behind schedule. The day before we logged just over 41 miles of a 140 mile trail that we wanted to finish up by Saturday, so with no time to spare but needing to take advantage of the house tour, we hit the road with haste. After about 10 minutes the trail takes a weir bend in order to show you a Ranch, known as Government Holes, that is still in use today, complete with watering hole and windmill water pump. There was evidence of recent Cows in the area (no photos of that) but here is a shot of the windmill water hole and corral in the background.



The next 10 miles after Government Holes are covered on Cedar Canyon Road, a modern graded dirt road that leads to several modern day ranches and homes. The road intersects Kelso Cima Road where the trail transitions to the Marl Springs area, South of the Largest Dome in the world Cima Dome. Marl Springs was our stop for Lunch. As time was of the essence, we didn't take any photos here and the only one of us to explore the area on foot was my wife Melody. After a couple of PB and J sandwiches and a bag of Lunch Pack Fritos, we continued on as our goal for the day was 60 miles. Just about 3.5 miles ahead on the trail you come to the Mailbox. I'm not to sure of it's history, but it is a must stop location for a photo and of course to sign the registry. Registries such as this one, are often used in showing usage to agencies and politicians in charge of allocating funds for maintenance and general open use for trails such as the Mojave Road. We did our part and (literally) signed the registry. We also found Nick (Nickolay) and Guss (Augustus) had signed the book the day before.



Mike had heard rumors of Frogs and Gnomes in the area. We found the Frogs!!



The trail after this area becomes extremely diverse, with sand, sandstone flats and rollers as well as Volcanic Rock from the nearby Lava Beds. The cinder cones are nearly perfect in shape and were truly a site to see. No photos as I was just amazed and wanted to leave something for you all to see in person. After crossing Kelbaker Road, you curve around 17 mile point, which is said to be 17 miles between the two springs in the area (we didn't verify). Instead I stopped to take a photo of the picturesque descent toward the Soda Lake.



Gotta get the Creation Crawler in the shot somehow

 
#10
Hey look more…

There are some mines in the area and a couple of interested buildings and canyons to explore in the area, but at this point as you can see in the photo above the sun was setting and we don't really enjoy setting up camp in the dark. With Nick and Guss giving us the green light to cross the Soda Lake, as they had done it the day before West to East, we approached the start of it on the East end with confidence. The start was rather rutted and it looked abused by off road vehicles that wanted to throw the most corrosive mud known to Californians all over their vehicles. Not really our style so we kept it mellow (4 hi just in case) and cruised across the lake with caution to ensure we didn't run in to a situation of hitting a rut with speed or possible missing the opportunity for a good photo op. Here is evidence of the uneventful crossing.



















After the Soda Lake, we needed to find a place to settle in for the night. We searched the Rasor OHV area, including the Rasor Ranch and ultimately ended up back on the Mojave Road about a half a mile West of Rasor Road. We were a little disappointed we hadn't just stopped in The Granites to camp as it would have been a more peaceful. At this point I was pretty focused on setting up camp and cooking up dinner (corn chowder with cheddar cheese grilled cheese sandwiches), so photos were lacking, sorry. We had more fire wood than necessary, so we burned it big and bright. It was kind of entertaining watching the people rolling in to Rasor OHV area, which is accessed about 6 miles south of the 15 on Rasor Road. We even had a guy come up to us asking if we were in the main camping area. We pointed out the LED flag poles to the South so he could use them as a beacon to the Chaos. At least as 10pm approached the Side by Sides ceased to go flying by and we enjoyed sleep in peace and relative silence (we could still hear the 15 fwy).

Day 4, Day 3 on the trail greeted us with warmth and golden light. The elevation was just about 900 ft, so at 730am we were already seeing temps in the upper 40's. It was much warmer than the night before, which Mike appreciated as he did sleep on the ground again, though he slept much closer to the fire that night. We didn't have much ground to cover the final day, but as it turned out that was nice, because there would be a lot of things to stop and see while on the final leg in to Camp Cady. As we packed up I grabbed a snapshot in the morning light.

Our tent set up, very cozy



This area is known as Soda Springs to Afton Canyon. Shortly after getting over the hump of Shaw Pass (1150ft) we drop down to the Mojave Flood Plain. The sandy trails are marked by old railroad ties from the train route that was washed out by the great flood in 1938 (i think).



If you had an LS engine in a 72 Scout, I'm pretty sure you'd be doing this too :D



At any rate, we continued with very little water to be found in the flood plain. The next area we stopped was on the actual railroad track itself. I could have spent at least an hour here shooting various photos, but instead we stayed about 20 minutes, so I could get the following photos.

Me with my favorite camera-lens combo (7d 24-105mm f4 L IS USM) in hand leaning on the Creation Crawler - photo credit: Melody McCLain Canon Powershot S110 Aperture Priority Raw File Format









Mike giving it his best effort with his point and shoot



The view of Afton Canyon from the mining area



We stopped at the big train trestle for a photo or two as I was told is the customary thing to do



Photo restrictions require a third post :D
 
#11
Afton Canyon was amazing and photo opportunities abound. We decided it would be mandatory to visit Afton Canyon again as a weekend trip to explore more and take some photos that would have better lighting.





As we traveled up the canyon we started seeing our first sign of water. Nick and Guss had mentioned the water crossing was near 36 inches, so I was excited to see it. When we got there it may have receded a little bit, but Mike made easy work of the crossings in his Scout.

This is the second of two crossings and was a tad shallower than the first



The view of the Mojave River basin from the top of the butte after Afton Canyon was colorful.



There was certainly evidence of Deep Water at some point, as you can see by this great shot of the truck stuck in the wash. Check out those 90's graphics!!



And then the end. We finally arrived at Camp Cady.





The monument



It was a truly unforgettable experience. I am very blessed to be able to have shared it with my wife and best friend. I look forward to doing it again. Mike wants to take his 72 year old dad back to do it all over again soon and I always enjoy an outing that includes photo ops and Jeeping. We averaged 12.5mph moving - 4.5mph overall. We covered over 150miles including side trips and scouting camping locations. I averaged 12.5mpg in the Jeep, with Stock 4.10's and 37's (I did have extra fuel, which I did not need to use). Mike averaged 10.5mpgs including the tarmac in to Barstow, he would have finished with just 1.5 gallons of fuel, had he not brought the extra which he did dump in along the way. As a photographer for a living, the saying "a picture is worth a thousand words" really means a lot to me, but on this trip, I was able to truly make that saying apply. I would encourage anyone considering this trip to do it and do it right. The road is not meant to be blasted as if you're pre running the Baja 1000, take in the history and old world charm of the region. Truly enjoy the Creation and call me if you need company along the way.



God bless,

Scott
calledtocreation
 
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#12
Great photos and a nice write-up. It looks like perfect weather down there right now, we'll be running the 'Road ourselves the end of the month.

I'm guessing that Scout has 35" tire? About how deep did the worst of the water crossings look when you were there?
 
#13
Chazz thanks for the comments. The Scout did have 35's. The deepest water crossing was the first of the two in Afton Canyon, directly adjacent to the train bridge and was probably 30" at the most.
 
#14
Thanks Scott. Hopefully it dries out a little more before we get to the crossing, 30" is going to be pushing it for the vehicle we'll be in... :eek:
 
#15
Yeah. Water was just below the bumper on the Scout at the first water crossing. I would say around 2/3rds up the 35" tire. What vehicle will you be in, I'm guessing the Forester?
 
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