Sunday, November 7, 2010

Giant Volcanic Crater??

Just finished up a nice weekend in 29 Palms.  Second visit in a row that we found a tarantula - this one happened to be right outside our front door, and appears to be a "teenager" (not fully grown).  Here's the little guy now, walking in the gravel and measures in at about 1.5 inches.
Lots of bird activity this weekend, and the wife saw, on 2 or perhaps 3 occassions, birds of prey sweep in to feed on the smaller birds.  Once we got a good look and think it was a Cooper's Hawk.  Also frequently see Red Tail Hawks.

We decided to check out a spot on the map called Amboy Crater.  I figured a small volcanic crater next to the road, short 10 minute hike, so let's go check it out.  Well, my mistake:  I didn't do my homework to find out more about Amboy Crater and the length of the hike.  So off we go, heading east on Highway 62, north on Utah Trail, west on Amboy Trail through an interesting, dusty, unique area called 'Wonder Valley'.  Looks like the old west... very hard to drive through this area without stopping to explore!  So, first stop (totally random):  North on a dirt road called Schooler Road.  Lots more Tiny Desert Cabins in the Middle of Nowhere in this area.  Very cool!  And here's one for sale (and cheap, I'm guessing!): 

Not only is this area great for checking out jackrabbit homestead cabins, it's excellent for rockhounds.  Here's an old well (I think??) at another desert cabin in the area.  Check out the great rocks!

From the inside looking out, another cabin:

OK, on to Amboy!  After Amboy Rd. turns to the north, you head up and over Sheep Hole Mountains (more on that later), then follow the eastern edge of 29 Palms Marine Training Center.  Soon your drive levels out and you begin crossing Bristol Dry Lake.  Before long, it appears that there is snow on the ground!  Turns out this is a large chloride chemical mine, with weird mud hills all over the place and dried white chemical everywhere!  This area is great for photography, although a little tricky to find areas to safely turn off the main road.

So, on to the crater!  A short distance north of Bristol Dry Lake you will come to old Route 66.  Turn right to go to the "town" of Amboy (one gas station and a motel being refurbished) and left to go to the crater.

Well, turns out the crater is pretty impressive... very large (you can't miss it!), but about a 3 hour hike that folks finishing up tell us is quite strenuous.  Probably well worth it, but plan ahead with good shoes (you hike over lava), day pack, plenty of water, and early in the day (there is no shade).  Here's what it looks like from the parking lot, which is as close as we got on this day!!

Heading away from the crater, decided to make a quick stop in Amboy.  Here's the motel that's under construction.  Will be very cool (and vintage Route 66) when it is done.

On the drive back to 29, just couldn't resist pulling off Amboy Road on the south facing side of the Sheep Hole Mountains and taking some pics of the "tiny boxes".  These were taken in the middle of the day, but would like to go back around sunset when the shadows are long for some really outstanding pics!

Last interesting destination (back in Wonder Valley now) was a quick stop at The Palms Restaurant on Amboy Road.  It really should be named "The Palms Roadhouse Bar"... talk about the quintessential dusty desert bar!  Looked like one of the guys from ZZ Top was behind the bar, very friendly, and the bar appeared to have been there forever, with all kinds of weird and interesting things on the walls and ceiling.  Seriously cool place with a back room for sit-down diners and a small stage area surrounded by chain link fence!  They evidently have live bands from time to time.  My Telecaster would have been right at home here!!  My only regret is I didn't take my camera inside with me. 

Need to sign off now.  Here's our Jeep that gets the wife and I to all these cool spots, with the Sheep Hole Mountains in the background.


  1. Great pictures!! We had a Cooper's hawk in our front yard early one morning last week with a smaller bird in his claws...they are busy here and in the desert. The day trip sounds like it was more than expected, very imformative....this is the perfect time of year for exploring out there, good observation on seeing those spiders...yikes.

  2. I haven't been to Amboy in YEARS! Will have to get up to Joshua Tree soon...maybe after the next snow storm. We're about an hour away.

  3. I live in the area, and this blog helps me to figure out my next exploration. Great photos and writing!

  4. We have been here and my group went down the crater. We saw some trains passing by, so colorful.

    I enjoyed the Bristol Dry flats. There is a place where there were mounds of dirt, could be salt flats, but we dont know the place.