Thursday, July 25, 2019

Ivanpah Tank (After the Rain)

I've posted in the past about hiking to Ivanpah Tank here. This is a man-made dam built back in the days of cattle ranching, long before Joshua Tree National Park existed. It's only about a half mile hike from the Live Oak parking area and the desert scenery and rock formations in the area are interesting. 
Can you spot the dam or "tank"?
Back in the day, I'll bet this dam held a LOT of water. But what you see above is what 99% of hikers see when they visit the area. Over the years, the sand and silt has almost totally filled in the area behind the dam, and it's dry as a bone. These photos were taken in November of 2017. But I've always wondered what this area would look like after a few good rains.

With a little effort and some rock scrambling, you can make your way to the back side of Ivanpah Tank. Here's my intrepid hiking partner, Lilly, checking out the construction of the dam.

And a little later, time for a short break. Gotta love Lilly's purple back pack!

Fast forward to February of 2019. It's been a wet winter with more rain on the way. Lets hike back to Ivanpah Tank to see what it looks like.


WOW!! Amazing what some rain will do. This is what the 1% see. The water won't last long, and most years don't get enough rain to result in standing water.

Not taken from identical spots but... you get the idea!



I guess all kids are required to throw rocks into ponds. Compare this photo of all the water below the dam to photo #3 (above) when it was dry.

A young boy climbing up on the rocks. Very dangerous, although he was wearing a helmet. Not sure how much that would help him if he were to fall.

Lilly and I decided to follow the wash for a while. There was enough water that it made hiking while keeping our boots dry a little bit of a challenge. Lilly wasn't quite able to meet the challenge!



Kind of cute that Lilly likes to bring along a small notebook so she can sketch some of the interesting things she sees. A true naturalist!


Driving home from our hike... Sullivan Road, 29 Palms, CA

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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Mojave Desert Lava Tube

Last week I posted about Amboy, CA. After exploring Amboy, my wife, granddaughter and I continued our journey, hoping to find something called the Mojave Lava tube. We left Amboy and headed north through the Mojave Desert Preserve. The lava tube is about 19 miles SE of Baker (as the crow flies). Exit Kelbaker Road on an unmarked dirt road heading NE (35.155378, -115.790415). On Google Maps, the dirt road is marked Aiken Mine Road. Follow it for about 5 miles to a dirt parking area. It's a short hike up to the lava tube, but the rocky volcanic soil makes it a little challenging. Be sure to research where you are going ahead of time, and perhaps download some waypoints to follow as you drive, and then hike, to the location. I read a number of Google reviews from people who where unable to find the lava tube. Oh, and avoid this area in the summer. Too darn hot!
We were driving a Honda AWD CR-V and made it without any problem. It looked to me like a standard 2WD could make it if you proceed cautiously and avoid soft sand.

Lilly leading the way on a nice blue sky day. At one time, you were allowed to drive up here, but now it's open to foot traffic only beyond the parking area. Somewhere up there is a big lava tube!

Eventually, you will notice a large hole in the ground with a metal stairway leading down to the rocks below.
Going down!!

After descending the stairs, it's not immediately obvious where the lava tube is. The terrain is a jumble of rocks! It turns out there is a low ledge you need to go under (in the shadows so hard to see). No problem for Lilly, but I was down on hands and knees going under the ledge, balancing my cell phone as a flash light and trying to keep my camera out of the dirt.

Lilly, looking a little like the "Creature from the Lava Tube"!!
The main part of the lava tube is large and roomy. It also has a skylight. Unfortunately, we were not in the tube at the right time of day. But I've seen photos posted from this spot where the beam of light shining through the skylight hits the floor. You can stand under it for a very dramatic photo!

Perhaps it was too late in the day, but the shaft of light was coming in at about a 45 degree angle and hitting the wall, not the ground. Still fun to see!


Time to leave the lava tube and head on to our next destination. From Amboy, to the Mojave Desert Lava Tube, to... seriously? Vegas?? Talk about a culture shock!

Lilly went from the desolate loneliness of Amboy, to the rocky, dark and unforgiving landscape of the lava tube, to being pampered in a Vegas hotel room. I must say, she made the transition remarkably well 😉

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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Amboy, CA

Amboy is located on old Route 66 in the middle of California's Mojave Desert. It's more or less in the middle of nowhere, which is a nice place to be. The only thing open in Amboy today is a gas station (with high gas prices, but no other options for miles around). In the gas station you can buy a souvenir or a cold drink. What is much more interesting is all the stuff you can still see that is no longer open, like Roy's Motel & Cafe. Back in the day, this was the perfect stop for road-weary travelers making the cross-country trek on Route 66.
The town of Amboy was founded in 1858. In 1926, Amboy became a "boom" town after the opening of U.S. Route 66. In 1938, Roy's Motel and Cafe opened, which prospered due to its location along the route. By 1940, Amboy had a population of 65. Its growth was tied not only to tourists, but also to the Santa Fe Railroad over which freight trains still run today. Once Interstate 40 opened in 1973, Amboy and many other small towns along Route 66 slowly died.
Looking east on old Route 66
Roy's is very photogenic. A lot of cool angles, definitely has a retro feel to it. I guess you could call it mid-century modern, although it was built in the late 30's. Travelers would check in, maybe grab a burger and cold drink at the cafe, and get the keys to one of the small bungalows. Most would probably spend a single night, and then continue west on Route 66 to Hollywood, Santa Monica, or wherever. Who knows, if you have relatives who traveled west to Southern California in the 40's, 50's, or 60's, they might have stayed at Roy's!

The view SW of Roy's. Amboy Crater is clearly visible. You can hike a trail into the inside of the crater!

Gayle & Lilly inside one of Roy's bungalows.



Amboy School, which is right next to Roy's, closed in 1999 after the last students moved away.


The church at Amboy. Everything here has kind of a minimalist feel.

Lilly and I discovered a bunch of reflecting silver bowls attached to a pole. Like an interesting art installation!

Amboy is also the home of the National Chloride Company of America. Near as I can tell, they create channels of salty water in the sandy soil and let the sodium chloride precipitate out. I'm sure there's much more to it than that, but regardless, it's an interesting area. It's about as close as you can get to being on the surface of another planet without the space travel!

Salt canal at Amboy. Photo credit: Photographersnature (Wikipedia site)
Amboy is an interesting semi-ghost town that is well preserved and very much worth a visit if you are in the area. Probably best avoided during the scorching summer months. Bring your camera!

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