Thursday, May 25, 2023

Cadiz Dunes Day 2

 I have sand in my camera bag, sand in my hair, even sand in my ears! The dunes are both challenging and fun to photograph, especially in high winds.

Bonus points if you can spot Mitch!

My humble accomodations for the evening. There are more stars visible here than even the most remote parts of Joshua Tree National Park. I would love to return during a new moon and try my hand at some Milky Way photography! One of these days...
Thanks for stopping by!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Cadiz Dunes

 Mitch and I have explored the lonely, desolate railroad outposts of Archer and Chubbuck so far on this trip, but our ultimate destination is someplace called Cadiz Dunes. We are hoping to get some late afternoon "golden hour" photos of the dunes, set up camp for an overnight stay, and perhaps some sunrise shots the next morning. As it turns out, the road into Cadiz Dunes is challenging. The last 1/4 mile is soft, deep sand. Mitch is driving his AWD Subaru, and we are both well aware that if we get stuck, it could be days before anyone else comes along, and there's no cell service in this area. A real nailbiter!
Mitch uses his driving skills to keep his speed up through the soft sand. It feels like we are driving a boat through water! If he were to stop or even slow down too much, we would quickly get stuck. The photo above is the Cadiz Dunes parking area (just before sunrise the next morning). Luckily, the sand firms up a little here and it is save to stop the car without getting stuck. Not sure what we would have done if the sand were deep and soft, like the road leading in.
This photo was taken a few seconds after the first photo, and facing the opposite direction (looking east down the sandy road we had come in on). If anyone reading this is thinking about visiting Cadiz Dunes, don't do it without an AWD Subaru (which has decent ground clearance) or better. Preferably better. My Honda CRV AWD, which is lower to the ground, very probably would have gotten stuck. Best to only come here if you have high ground clearance and 4WD, and ideally with two or more vehicles, since you will have no cell service.
But here's the payoff if you can make it to Cadiz Dunes:
Dunes, as far as the eye can see, and you will likely be all alone. Not another human being for miles! No footprints anywhere. Places like this are getting harder and harder to find. But as we started wandering across the dunes and taking pictures, I couldn't help feeling a little disappointed. The wind was blowing hard which I figured might ruin our changes of getting good photos.
Wind is blowing sand over the tops of the dunes, and all over Mitch and I and our camera gear! But as I thought about it more, it occurred to me the wind might be working in our favor. It makes for much more dynamic and interesting photos. The sand movement on the dunes is fascinating to watch!

I love how the dunes look in B&W!
I come up with the name "sand ghosts"... It's like the sand is alive!
Slow going in the soft sand and wind!

Keeping my fingers crossed that I'm not sandblasting my camera!!
We will be camping here overnight, so I'll share some more dune photos on my next post. Thanks for stopping by!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Chubbuck, CA

 Chubbuck, CA, is another place you've never heard of. Drive about 6.5 miles south from Archer on the old dusty, washboard Cadiz Road, and you will be at what remains of Chubbuck. Unlike Archer, which has almost completely vanished, there are remains at Chubbuck that prove something used to be here.
See if you can spot the small white box, upper center.
Let me paraphrase from Joe DeKehoe's excellent book The Silence and the Sun:
A visitor to Chubbuck today sees only empty desert in every direction, which belies the fact that for 25 years this was an active community of about two hundred people. What remains today are concrete pillars next to the railroad tracks and a few scattered cement foundations. Among the creosote bushes are scattered piles of rusty tin cans and broken plates. A dirt road leads west from the ruins to the limestone quarry, which was the reason the settlement was here. The sun beats own from a cloudless sky, and all is quiet.
Chubbuck was a mining outpost. These large concrete structures are the remains of the limestone processing mill (the Chubbuck Lime Company). For a short period of time, there was a cement plant here as well.
I believe this is the old oil bunker that was used to store crude oil that was piped to the kiln burners. Let's take a look inside.
Surprisingly roomy!
This old barrel heater, complete with store-bought wood, would keep you warm on a cold winter night. Not sure I would want to spend much time inside this dusty structure. Someone has written "Doom Lives Here" on the rafter above the stove. 
Someone with a sense of humor has been here!
Perhaps the same person with the sense of humor had something to do with this grave which is next to the bunker?

My square, my rules!
Remember when I asked if you could see the small white box in the first photo of this post? Well here it is up close. It's an explosives bunker. Explosives would be stored here, and transported up the hill to the limestone quarry. There's a touching photo in the DeKehoe book of mother and daughter going door to door in Chubbuck, selling pies which were carried in a Hercules dynamite box!
Time to leave Chubbuck and continue on to our next destination. One thing I am curious about is if these tracks are still in use. These tanker cars look relatively new. After following Cadiz Rd. for two days, we never saw or heard a single train.
I can see recent areas of repair. Maybe these tracks haven't been used for a long time, but they are getting ready to start using them again?

Desolate outpost. Whatever this sign said has been eroded away.
Mitch & I stop for lunch at the only shade we can find!
A favorite paragraph from the chapter on Chubbuck from The Silence and The Sun:
The men on the railroad shared a kinship with settlers in these small desert communities and did their best to ease some of the hardships. Families living in Chubbuck were obviously poor, but being poor in those years and under these circumstances was not necessarily a stigma. In the absence of money and material possessions, friendships and character were more important. Oftentimes the trains coming north from Blythe, before the days of refrigerated railcars, were pulling boxcars of produce packed with ice. The engineers and brakemen on the train sometimes stopped at Chubbuck to deliver mail or machinery, and they turned their back while the children scampered among the cars, loading their small arms with as many chunks of ice as they could carry. Two blasts on the train whistle was the signal to get back on the ground. If the train was on a tight schedule, it might simply slow to a crawl while they went through Chubbuck and the conductors would slide pieces of ice out the side of the trail. The children, who made a game out of it, would run alongside, clamoring to be the first to touch a piece of ice and thereby lay claim to it.
Thanks for stopping by, and join me next week as Mitch & I continue down Cadiz Road to our next adventure. Hint: If you like sand and wind, you won't want to miss it!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Archer, CA

 Never heard of Archer? Of course you haven't. No one has, because it doesn't exist. But at one time there was a little outpost along a very remote stretch of railroad tracks named Archer. People lived and worked there, kids grew up there, and people died there. Join us while we go take a look to see what's left.
My friend Mitch and I are driving from 29 Palms, going north to Amboy, then east to Chambless (not shown on map), then south through Cadiz and off the map as we follow the old dirt Cadiz Road south. Fingers crossed we don't get stuck in sand or have car trouble, because very few people travel this road anymore.
Undated post card showing Route 66 and the town of Amboy in its prime.
I'm relying heavily on Joe DeKehoe's excellent book "The Silence and the Sun" for historic information about Archer. This little outpost in the middle of nowhere had only one purpose: To service the railroad. Archer had a well and its existence was entirely dependent on the need for water by steam engines. Once the railroad switched to diesel locomotive's in the 1950's, Archer was abandoned. 
About all that is left of Archer today is this old salt cedar tree that appears to be barely alive. You have to get out of your car and walk around to appreciate the incredible feeling of remoteness and isolation out here. There is likely not another human being around for miles.
Look closely to see the remains of an old raptor nest.
There's a photo almost identical to this one in the DeKehoe book. Look closely and you can see the remains of the concrete foundation of the water well (center left). The Ship Mountains are in the background. The pipe coming out of the ground marks where a bunkhouse once stood. 
Archer was probably first occupied in 1910 when Santa Fe records show the well was drilled and the tracks were completed. The population of Archer likely never exceeded more than about 20 people, including children.
There was a one room school house 6 1/2 miles south at a small outpost named Chubbuck (just follow the train tracks). Young children living in Archer would walk 13 miles a day, 5 days a week, to attend school!
Last time I drove Cadiz road was about 8 years ago. I remember posting some pictures of the area on Flickr, and having a fellow Flickr member contact me about an old graveyard somewhere near Archer. He mentioned words like "remote", "unknown", and "fascinating", and I was hooked! He said he may have been the first to discover it and was in the process of contacting BLM to report the find. The thought of that old graveyard had been stuck in my head all these years, and I was determined to find it on this visit. After studying Google Earth for clues, I had a pretty good idea of where to find it.
Can you spot the old graveyard?
The graveyard at Archer, with the Ship Mountains in the background. Probablty the loneliest graveyard I've ever seen. 

I count 9 wooden crosses, only one of which is legible. It looks like poor little Vicente Lopez died at only 5 months of age, on August 30, 1924. Someone must be maintaining his cross because it looks much newer than the others.
I wonder what all these round things are??
Of the few people who travel the old Cadiz Road, fewer still will take the unmarked turnoff and follow the unmaintained and overgrown "road" to Archer. What little of Archer is left today is slowly being blown away by the high desert winds common to the area.
Thanks for stopping by!
Mitch and I will be continuing our journey along remote Cadiz road on next weeks post.
Linking with Skywatch Friday.