1,100 Miles and 10,000 Years: Reno to the Grand Canyon Offroad Tour

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Mr Sleazy, Jul 25, 2008.

  1. Mr Sleazy

    Mr Sleazy Been here awhile

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    March 23 to April 5, 2008. Trip report. A lot happens.....


    “You’re going out to do what? Go to the bar and hang out with some guys you met on the internet?” I believe in my heart my wife has never questioned my sexuality, but stuff like this might push her over the edge some day. After posting a long planning thread on advrider ( http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=283859 ), I was still looking for riders to come along on a desert rampage down in Nevada. Someone who would not mind poking around in rattlesnake caves looking for ancient American Indian artifacts. Someone who would camp out freezing nights in the desert and not bitch. Someone who shared my view that because of its high alcohol to weight ratio, hard liquor was critical to the success of any off-road trip.
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    That&#8217;s why I was heading out to a local sports bar (one of the most manly hang-outs I could pick) to meet up with Dave and Scott (ScottBC here) and see if we could do a long off-road trip together. We could start in Fallon, Nevada, where a fellow advrider (bobzilla) was going to let us park a truck for a few weeks of riding. Honestly, they did not take much convincing and I found myself with two committed riding partners.
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    Where would we end up? Here, goddamit:

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    What would happen on the way? What didn&#8217;t! Some amazing riding through the most desolate landscapes I have ever seen:

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    Also some of the most challenging:

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    This trip report has been a long time coming.

    Not long before leaving, I had applied for funding through my work to cover the expenses of this trip. Yes that&#8217;s right you haven&#8217;t read wrong, and amazingly they agreed. I teach archaeology and anthropology at Kwantlen University College up in British Columbia, and my idea was to trek around in the Great Basin desert on my bike (a Husky TE510), and look into some of the fascinating archaeological sites in this area. I vowed to use photos and experiences from this trip in my classes (and I already have thank you!), so the powers that be agreed it was a worthwhile way to spend my professional development fund. Yeah!
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    Originally, I had hoped to completely circle the Great Basin desert (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Basin ), with stops at both known and unknown archaeological sites. Original planned route map:

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    What we ended up riding was about half the projected route:

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    I have posted a GPX file to this report of our tracks, and all our fuel waypoints. Download and ride!

    The trip ended up covering about 1,100 miles of 95% off road terrain between Reno in NW Nevada and the Toroweap Overlook at the Grand Canyon north rim. Why did we pick the Great Basin desert? Well, as an archaeologist, I have always been fascinated with the earliest peoples to come into North America, the distant ancestors of today&#8217;s Native Americans. As far as questions in North American archaeology go, this is the big one. How long ago did people arrive in this continent, and by what route?
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    The northwestern Nevada portion of the great desert at the end of the last ice age about 12,000 years ago was very different from today. Those were the days when hundreds of square miles of land east of Reno were underneath a large glacial lake called Lahontan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Lahontan ). This lake had mostly disappeared by around 9,000 years ago, but during its existence would have been an attractive place to the people who first inhabited this area. People like the man who died about 10,000 years ago and was buried in Spirit Cave on the shore of Lake Lahontan.
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    Video link here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xppOQnAAIZA
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    Spirit Cave man had been buried in a shallow cave and then mummified, along with his burial shroud, by the dry desert air. Excavated by Sydney and Georgia Wheeler in the 1940s and placed in the Nevada State Museum in Carson City, the person buried in Spirit Cave lived during a time which is not very well understood by archaeologists, mostly due to lack of evidence. The Spirit Cave mummy, however, is currently the subject of a full blown legal dispute between scientists who wish to study his remains and the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone, who consider the burial to be one of their ancestors (which is entirely likely) and want to see him reburied in a respectful manner (http://www.friendsofpast.org/spirit-cave/ ). The Spirit Cave site itself is not under dispute, however, and I wanted to see this spot that had opened up such a big can of worms over archaeology and heritage.
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    Plus the Great Basin has some hella good riding!
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    Enough preamble - lets get it on!


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    Day 1. March 23. Vancouver to Nevada. Hammering down the interstate.
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    There are not too many cities in North America wetter than Vancouver, and more deserving of a getaway to sunnier, drier climates. I met up with Dave and Scott at a Tim Hortons on an absolutely gross morning; driving horizontal rain with an hour&#8217;s ride to meet up with the boys and the truck. Probably the most dangerous riding of the entire trip, but it was great to start off that way because it made me appreciate very much the fact that IT DOES NOT RAIN in the southwestern US.

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    We blasted down I-5 as fast as we could and made the crest of the Sierras in Northern California about 11:00 the first night. That&#8217;s when the wet weather finally gave up and we came into the rainshadow of the mountains. Pulled off the road into the manzanita and pines at a beautiful Sierras campsite just as we could not take the driving anymore. I slept under the stars while Dave and Scott threw up the tent for the night.


    Thats enough to get started. Pull up your chairs for the long haul. I will be away camping tomorrow, but will start up again on Monday.

    Hasta la Vista.


    Here is our track and waypoint file for the entire trip:

    Attached Files:

    #1
  2. Mr Sleazy

    Mr Sleazy Been here awhile

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    OK I lied I have time for another post before I head off for camping.



    March 24. Finish the drive, load up and find Spirit Cave. The desert makes an impression on us.


    Some of the writing in this thread is done by Dave Sawatsky, who rode his KLR to hell and back. So far he hasn't got his own username here, so his writing is shown like this:

    Dave Sawatsky (DS):
    After a long days drive we stop at Approx. 23:00 hrs.and set up camp with head lamps at what seems to be a decent enough place just off the main road. Waking up in the morning we realize we found an excellent spot. Creek nearby and plenty of fresh mountain air to rejuvenate the mind as we eagerly look forward to riding the desert. Day #2 and Brian already earned his first nickname “sausage boy”.

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    Photo: Dave Sawatsky

    [FONT=&quot]DS: Waking up after our 1<sup>st</sup> night camp, 2 degrees,sunny and eager to git goin![/FONT]

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    Photo: Dave Sawatsky


    DS: Loaded truck at the summit of the Sierras:

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    Photo: Dave Sawatsky

    Now back to me -

    BP: Pulling into Fallon brought us into the Great Basin proper, and down to the former Lahontan lakebed. Our fellow advrider, bobzilla, calls Fallon home and was going to give us a place to park the pickup and trailer during our ride. Peace of mind! We quickly packed up gear, stocked up on food and fuel, and spent a bit of time going over maps with bobzilla, who knew all the trails for miles around. What was bobzilla’s sage advice?
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    “Be careful out there, if you’re gonna be stupid you better be tough.” Fair enough!

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    Photo: Dave Sawatsky

    Left to right here is Scott (ScottBC), myself (Mr Sleazy), and Bob (bobzilla), posing in Fallon, Nevada.

    Bobzilla, you have a truly big heart, thanks for all your help and the friendly reception!

    Walmart provided us with all the necessities of life. Dehydrated food, junk food, water. Then we rode out into the desert and made a very concerted attempt to leave both pavement and reality behind. Here is our first night’s camp in the dunes just inside the Stillwater National Wildlife Reserve, right out by Grimes Point:

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    We started exploring this area, which had several very significant archaeological sites. Spirit Cave is in the general area, along with another cave called Hidden Cave which has several thousand years of history packed into it, and a very special rock art site. I wanted to find Spirit Cave that evening, so we started poking around the backroads in the area of Grimes Point. This is when we discovered my bike has suicidal tendencies:

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    Photo: Dave Sawatsky

    The personalities of all our machines would emerge and be revealed as the trip progressed. My Husky started off by taking a dive off the kickstand on a flat bench where we had parked to scout the terrain. The Husky ended up on its right side, drooling fuel out the tank vent and putting more scratches on top of other scratches on my helmet. Its personality was emerging. Sort of like a slim, sexy woman who loves fast living, but is a bit unstable and high maintenance.
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    It became clear that the combination of a heavy load of camping gear, about 11 inches of rear suspension travel, and a really awful kickstand design put the poor Husky over the limit and the slightest puff of wind could blow it over. The Great Basin desert is not known for slight puffs of wind, and consistently mustered much more than that. This led for a constant search for “leaning posts” for me – trees (damn few of those around), boulders (lots), fenceposts (yup got those) or other bikes (pretty well always around).



    Will be continued ............ Hasta la Vista.
    #2
  3. brad21

    brad21 We have a pool... and a pond.

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    Long anticipated and so far worth waiting for! :thumb

    :lurk
    #3
  4. scottbc

    scottbc advanced lurker

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    Awsome start Brian!

    Brians wife was not the only person questioning the sanity of embarking on a significant trip into the unknown with strangers. Dave and I spoke a few times " What if he turns out to be a nut " well two on one I guess, we can always take off on our own if neccesary. Fortunatly the three of us were a compatable group. Each of us with our own idiosyncracies but thouroughly commited to making this a memorable trip for all.
    Dave and I have been riding together since about 2001. Mostly street, but we have both caught the dual sport bug and now both favor it over street riding. This was our first off road trip of more than four days and the anticipation was huge.
    I will try to post my two cents as the trip report progresses. Hopefully I can add a different perspective to things.

    ScottBC
    #4
  5. GB

    GB . Administrator Super Moderator Super Supporter

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    Awesome :thumb

    :lurk
    #5
  6. bobzilla

    bobzilla Dirty Old Man

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    Lost & Found again in the Great Basin
    Finally!!!!!!!!!!!

    After meeting this group for literally only minutes in person , I was bummed that I could not make this trip here in my back yard. Other plans and limited vaca.

    The boys were spotted in town as I drove past and a quick meeting was had. We met up later at Casa Zilla to wish them off.

    Couple of weeks later and they show up late , COLD but with smiles a mile wide and just a glimse of the tale to come. Burgers and beers were enjoyed. An offer of warm beds turned down and they were off again to the cold north.

    Been watin boys:ddog
    Lets hear the story so I can be jelous.. If you come this way again I will join for sure.

    Brian you never told me your were a dirt siffter..... I would have been more forthcomming about the caves. Sorry

    Bob
    #6
  7. Django Loco

    Django Loco Banned

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    Hope you guys got to ride in the Soldier Meadows area, Double Hot Springs and the great Playas of the Black Rock? The area east of Minden has some INCREDIBLE riding. And as long as you were in the California Sierra .....well, more mind blowing trails and fire roads up into the high country.

    Fall is best for the Black Rock and Sierra. Great ride guys! Very original route that almost NO BMW clowns on this site would ever do. My first try was in 1988 ..... on a GS! Never again. :rofl

    Black Rock Area .... a MUST SEE for Nevada
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    #7
  8. bobzilla

    bobzilla Dirty Old Man

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    :lol3
    I must be on of the few clowns :lol3
    Ive done the Fallon to Feilds or Denio Or route more than a few times and twice on a Beemer. At least on the Beemer I didnt have to carry 2 galllons of gas to cover the 175 miles between fuel. Some absolutly amazing terrain changes in that trip. Love to camp at Onion and have a fresh fish dinner.

    I may have run into you once when I was on a older Husaberg broken down south of Soldier Medows. A few guys from the bay area stoped and gave me a beer and offer of camp that night.
    #8
  9. Mr Sleazy

    Mr Sleazy Been here awhile

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    Hey Scott - glad to see you on here. I just got back from riding up to Boston Bar, checking out some pithouses, then riding back home again via Kookipi and Big Silver. Very nice ride! We should do a bit of a tour in mid-August, I have some ideas!
    #9
  10. Mr Sleazy

    Mr Sleazy Been here awhile

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    Hey bobzilla, glad to see you on this thread too. Now you can get the whole scoop, sorry it took so loooooong to get organized. Its been busy...... Yeah I guess I could have told you I was an archaeologist, but sometimes us dirt sifters aren't too popular!

    Someday I would like to do some serious archaeology down your way, a dig perhaps or a larger survey.
    #10
  11. Mr Sleazy

    Mr Sleazy Been here awhile

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    Hey Django - I had initially planned to ride across the Black Rock playa and was (still am) looking forward to it. We just did not have time! On our way home we did camp briefly on the playa up there, until the wind dislodged us (almost literally) about 4:30 in the morning.

    BP
    #11
  12. Mr Sleazy

    Mr Sleazy Been here awhile

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    March 24 - still out at Grimes Point

    Here we go again!

    After some time exploring, a map in an archaeology report from the 1970s finally led me to the location of Spirit Cave. Before I go on to describe the site itself, there are a few ground rules to lay out about archaeology sites, and Spirit Cave in particular, so I don&#8217;t have to repeat them again.
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    • Sites where people have been buried are cemeteries, and should be treated as such. Doesn&#8217;t matter if its 10,000 years old or 10 years old.
    • It is NOT KOSHER to publicize the location of archaeology sites, except for those that are already advertised publicly. Spirit Cave is unknown to most people, and should stay that way.
    • It is also NOT KOSHER to take stuff from archaeology sites.
    Why these ground rules? Well, literally thousands of archaeological sites, including those containing human remains, have been damaged or desecrated over the years, sometimes by people who just did not know any better, and sometimes by people who did know better but carried on regardless. I have had first-hand accounts of people going into caves with ancient aboriginal burials, lighting a fire with preserved burial box wood (we would call them coffins) and starting to party, then burning the bones in the fire along with smashed beer and liquor bottles. Nasty stuff!
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    That said, I can go on to explain Spirit Cave itself. After some time scrambling and exploring, and several locations that we thought was the cave but turned out to not be, we hiked up a hill and found the entrance to the spot where the Spirit Cave mummy had been found back in the 1940s. It is a shallow cave with very distinctive limestone features called tufas above and inside the cave. The 10,000 year old burial had been found inside the cave, wrapped in a mat made of local rushes (tule) that had been preserved by the dry climate. Although there was no sign left of the burial, which was long gone, this site is still a very special spot.

    Here is the entrance of Spirit Cave, with 10,000 years of history inside it:

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    DS:
    This was an important find for Brian. My feelings about being here are mixed due to the significance and controversy surrounding this location and what it represents. Certainly will remember this for a long time.
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    BP:
    Looking out from the cave across the dry lakebed, I could imagine the view that people would have seen here 10,000 years ago. A vast, shallow glacial lake spreading out to the horizon, with rich marshland surrounding the shoreline of the lake. 10,000 years is a long time. Native Americans often say they have been in North America since &#8220;time immemorial&#8221;. Well, 10,000 years is literally time immemorial, and in Spirit Cave we were confronting those 10,000 years directly. Places like Spirit Cave are part of the thin filmy web of human history stretching across North America from this early period.
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    This one is inside the cave, the burial would have been excavated out from behind where I am. Look ma, no helmet!

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    (I believe Dave took this photo)

    Even though the Spirit Cave burial itself was gone, there was ample evidence of use of this area in the distant past. Obsidian (volcanic glass) and chert flakes were found in abundance near our first camp, right on the old shoreline of Lahontan. Looking across the landscape from up in the hills, we could see the succession of shorelines where the lake had receded over the course of several thousand years. During Lahontan&#8217;s existence, huge mammals like camels and ground sloth were present here, but are now long extinct.
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    The desert is harsh down here, no water anywhere, so everything alive protects itself with countless spines, spikes, and prickles. Even the reptiles are prickly:

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    Commonly called a horny toad, this little fellow is not a toad at all but is a lizard. Horned lizard is the other name for his species. He was hanging out on a dark basalt boulder soaking up the radiant heat that the sun had baked into this rock during the day.
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    DS:
    This toad was the first creature that really caught our attention, difficult to spot with its ability to blend in with its surroundings. Other inhabitants of the desert like the jackrabbit are abundant. Brian says ``if you see one run it over&#8221; I&#8217;m thinking he wants to cook it over a camp fire.
    #12
  13. Mr Sleazy

    Mr Sleazy Been here awhile

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    Idiosyncracies?? Idiosyncracies? Me? No way!

    BP


    #13
  14. Mr Sleazy

    Mr Sleazy Been here awhile

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    Day 3 March 25. Fallon to Rattlesnake Summit near Mina. Mechanical problems surface.
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    bp:
    Next morning we trekked through the petroglyph area at Grimes Point, a well known and public site. Petroglyphs are rock art, but not painted. Literally thousands of images or designs were painstakingly pecked into the very hard basalt boulders at this one specific location by pecking out small flakes of rock with another stone.
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    [FONT=&quot]<!--[if gte vml 1]><v:shapetype id="_x0000_t75" coordsize="21600,21600" o:spt="75" o:preferrelative="t" path="m@4@5l@4@11@9@11@9@5xe" filled="f" stroked="f"> <v:stroke joinstyle="miter"/> <v:formulas> <v:f eqn="if lineDrawn pixelLineWidth 0"/> <v:f eqn="sum @0 1 0"/> <v:f eqn="sum 0 0 @1"/> <v:f eqn="prod @2 1 2"/> <v:f eqn="prod @3 21600 pixelWidth"/> <v:f eqn="prod @3 21600 pixelHeight"/> <v:f eqn="sum @0 0 1"/> <v:f eqn="prod @6 1 2"/> <v:f eqn="prod @7 21600 pixelWidth"/> <v:f eqn="sum @8 21600 0"/> <v:f eqn="prod @7 21600 pixelHeight"/> <v:f eqn="sum @10 21600 0"/> </v:formulas> <v:path o:extrusionok="f" gradientshapeok="t" o:connecttype="rect"/> <o:lock v:ext="edit" aspectratio="t"/> </v:shapetype><v:shape id="_x0000_i1025" type="#_x0000_t75" style='width:3in; height:162pt'> <v:imagedata src="file:///C:/Users/BRIANS~1/AppData/Local/Temp/msoclip1/01/clip_image001.jpg" o:title="P4011269"/> </v:shape><![endif]--><!--[if !vml]--><!--[endif]-->[/FONT][​IMG]

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    Most of the designs, like the pits and lines shown above, are abstract and we have no real way to determine what they meant to their creators. Even if we don’t know exactly what they meant, we do know that they were very important to the people who carved them out of solid stone possibly as long as 8,000 years ago. Other designs at the site show animals such as snakes, sun or stars, and spirals. Interestingly, small pits like these pecked into smooth boulders can be found on rocks all up and down western North America up into the Alaskan panhandle.
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    After the rock art we decided it was time to get some miles under our belts. I had routed out the entire trip on Mapsource, using the US Topo 2008 base maps. Every rough and tumble bit of two-track in the desert shows up on these maps, including historic trails like the Pony Express:

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    Photo: Dave Sawatsky

    DS:
    Wow we’re actually riding on the pony express route. Deep sand made riding interesting and slow. I’m sure the ponies were faster than we were.
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    BP:
    The GPS works like a charm. You will come up on some wind-blasted bit of two-track branching off into the middle of nowhere, just point the front wheel along the track, and off you go. No hesitation at intersections wondering “hmm… are we here? Or maybe here? Definitely NOT there…..” etc. That was the bad old days of backcountry navigation. Of course, it all depends on the quality of the base maps and the pre-trip planning.
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    We have attached the GPS track for the trip, done in Garmin .gpx format, to the very first post. Also included are the waypoints for fuel stops, in some places few and far between. Welcome to download them and follow them; for 99% of the trip these are the actual tracks ridden, and so are quite accurate. However, here are some caveats if you use the GPS tracks:
    • Please don’t ask me for help with formatting, loading, importing, overlaying, etc. I am sorry but I don’t have the time.
    • Use at your own risk. Users of these tracks may die, be eaten by a python, run over by a truck, or ride their motorcycle off a cliff. Not my problem!
    • DO NOT just plop these tracks into your GPS and go out into the wild blue yonder blindly following them. Check them over. Plot them on paper maps as a backup. Scope the entire route out on Google Earth. This is some very remote riding, so be careful.
    • I did not really route out the pavement sections, such as through Vegas. If you can handle riding this route, you should be able to figure your way around Sin City. You are on your own there.
    Fallon to Mina is the first “crossing” between fuel stops, and all the tracks have been organized that way. For GPS we used a Garmin 60Cx with a RAM mount on the handlebars. I didn’t bother with a hardwire to the bike, its got enough wires already without adding more. Two AA batteries, and we kept a handful of spares as the batts would last about 3 full days of riding. Here is the control centre on the handlebars of the Husky. ODO and GPS is all you really need; speedo comes in handy on the highway I guess so you don’t get a ticket, but the husky never really wanted to go that fast anyways.

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    I have used these particular units for archaeology fieldwork on many occasions, and they are tough as nails. Also, on a recreational-grade unit, these ones seem to have the best ability to punch through interference and collect signals even under tree cover.
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    Occasionally, the GPS would shut itself off because the batteries were vibrating around. This only happened on the highway and the buzzy speeds of 90-100 kph. Off-road, did not happen a single time.
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    Back to the Pony Express, this trail is a very famous route which was put together to deliver transcontinental mail in 1860 and ’61 when there was no telegraph wire connecting the eastern and western US. Riders and fresh horses (“ponies”) waited at waystations many miles apart from each other. When a tired rider and his pony arrived at a waystation, a fresh rider would take the mailbag, saddle up a fresh horse, and head off to the next waystation. Mail times were 10 days to two weeks with this system. The system worked well, but as soon as a telegraph wire was strung across the western desert in 1861, the waystations and trail were abandoned. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pony_Express.
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    The trails make for great desert riding today, however. DS: Coming out of a sand dune area onto more solid stuff makes you want to “let er rip”

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    BP:
    The photo above was taken just after we had made it through our first difficult section of the trip. Deep, steep sand. Not really any such thing in our local riding areas, and we all began to get worried about how much more of that kind of riding would be ahead. Scott had just made it through the sand dunes out onto the hardpack and was very relieved to ride stuff that when you pointed your handlebars, that’s where the bike went.
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    The Pony Express trail led back to pavement at Lee Hot Springs. Desert hot springs are fascinating places. Water seeps deep into the ground to contact red hot volcanic rock pushed up through faults relatively close to the surface of the crust. When the water is superheated by the underground volcanics, it pushes its way back to the surface and emerges as a spring. Some are only tepid, while others, like Lee Hot Springs, are literally boiling as they emerge from the ground. The springs, even if boiling, are a great place to wash up and keep clean:

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    DS: The main spring in the fenced off area was boiling. Actually rolling boiling right out of the ground! This was a rare opportunity to wash up (sort of)
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    BP:
    We had to run the pavement for a short section to avoid dummy bombs falling on our head in one of the many military ranges, then cut east into the Walker River Indian Reserve. Mostly fast gravel road running through this area, with the exception of a salt pan crossing that will live in my mind forever.
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    The Great Basin Desert is full of salt pans. Some are huge, and well known, such as the Black Rock Playa where the Burning Man festival is held. There are also countless smaller ones. These salt pans offer one of the most desolate landscapes on the planet.

    [​IMG]
    Photo: Scott Borrows

    DS: Looks like snow doesn’t it? You get a weird feeling like your going to sink and get stuck. Blasting through these salt flats is the only way to go.

    [​IMG]

    I live and ride mostly in the Pacific Northwest. Maybe the greenest environment in North America, and sometimes in springtime you almost feel like you can SEE the plants growing. Stay too long in one spot and you will green up yourself pretty quick. The Great Basin is a shocking contrast to this, and no more so than in these salt pans.
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    The salt pans are water basins (“playas”), and many do fill up at least partially during wet times. Alkali salts from the ground in the surrounding drainage area ends up in the surface water runoff, and drains into the playa. Then, when the water evaporates, the alkali salts are left on the salt pans, and each successive time the playa fills up with water, the salt concentration increases. No way for it to wash away, because the basins have no outlets. Since the alkali salts create an environment too toxic for any plant life, that explains the desolate salt pans. Ironically, one of the moister locations around in the desert, but because of that its too toxic for the plants!
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    They can be treacherous places to ride across for a couple reasons. The salt crust on the surface can hide nasty deep mud underneath. Problem is, you might not notice the mud right away, and keep riding on top of the crust until you finally break through. By that point you are a mile or so into the mud with no easy way to get back out again. The other dangerous aspect of the salt pans is just how exposed to the sun you are. They tend to be in low-lying locations, so are therefore very high temperature spots. And there is absolutely no shelter from the sun for miles and miles. Heat comes not only from the sun overhead, but reflected back at you from the white ground surface. Nasty! This beef was one of the unlucky ones trying to cross a Great Basin playa:

    [​IMG]
    Photo: Dave Sawatsky

    That afternoon we headed out of the playa zone and up into the mountains for our first taste of snow. We had been wondering about where the snowline was sitting, and this was the spot where we found out! Rhyolite Pass is just north of Mina, Nevada, and patchy snow was present at about 6500 feet. No problems, just enough to get our tires wet. Zipped downhill to a bit of pavement and into Mina, first gas stop after Fallon.

    [​IMG]

    At Rhyolite Pass was where the first bike troubles started, as the clutch action on my Husky got squishy, then non-existent. Oh no!! I was hoping that I had just gotten air into the system somehow, and that maybe a good bleed would bring it back to life.
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    The Husky has a hydraulic clutch, which is very sweet when it works well. Not tiring on the hand at all, smooth and in general, except for its “Achilles Heel”, very reliable. But the Achilles Heel of the system, an o-ring down in the slave cylinder, was prone to failure. If it fails, clutch fluid will force its way past the o-ring into the bottom end of the engine.
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    See http://www.thumpertalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=517010&highlight=clutch
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    It was still rideable, but if I went for 15 minutes or so without using the clutch lever, the system would lose all pressure and need to be pumped up. Not good at all! We rolled into Mina, and I grabbed some ATF fluid at the little fuel station to try and bleed and re-fill the clutch system. I was hoping that the system just had some air bubbles in it, which is not a serious problem.
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    Mina also had a great little bar (Willy’s I believe it was) with an old-timer behind the counter telling us stories about ranching and the rodeo circuit. He had no idea where we hailed from until we mentioned the Cloverdale rodeo, which perked him right up as he had ridden in that rodeo at one point.
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    I bled and re-filled the clutch system in Mina, but shortly out of town my clutch lost pressure again and I knew I had bigger problems. It was likely the o-ring. And did I have a spare? No way! We still had about 150 miles of very remote riding to go before the next town, which was Bishop over in California! Camp that night was perfect, up in the high country with junipers and pines, but I was stressed out about my clutch.
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    The first of many great campfires, there is only enough trees for firewood when you get into the high country:

    [​IMG]
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
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    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    Hasta la Vista!

    BP
    #14
  15. shelden

    shelden Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2004
    Oddometer:
    257
    Location:
    Arkansas
    very interested in this thread. Great job so far!
    :D
    #15
  16. Mr Sleazy

    Mr Sleazy Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2007
    Oddometer:
    120
    Location:
    Vancouver BC
    Day 4. March 26. Rattlesnake Summit to Bishop, California. Troubles in the snow.




    In the morning I broke out the tools again in the hopes that a meticulous bleed of the system would cure the trouble. Pushed all the bubbles out of the slave and the clutch line, and refilled with ATF:

    [​IMG]

    Photo: Dave Sawatsky

    ATF is not normally recommended as clutch fluid, but its all that could be found in Mina, Nevada. I knew that in Bishop, 150 miles to the southeast, I could probably get some real clutch fluid, and maybe parts to fix the problem. Fifteen minutes into the riding that day I knew that bleeding was not going to solve this problem. It was the o-ring. Oh well, a clutch is not essential for riding, right? As long as I stop on a hill, I should be OK. In hindsight now it seems like not a really big deal, but the clutch had me sweating and worrying, because we were riding through some very remote country a long long way from help.
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    We climbed up from camp at Rattlesnake into the Excelsior Mountains in western Nevada. Pinyon pines and snowpatches, but the elevation never climbed over 7,000 ft so we were OK. We dropped down afterwards into some wild, narrow granite arroyos heading southwest to Teel’s Marsh:

    [​IMG]

    In the flats south of the Excelsior Mountains we ran through the ghost town of Marietta, with a handful of very well built stone structures still partially standing:

    [​IMG]
    Photo: Dave Sawatsky

    This rock-work is called dry-set masonry, and requires considerable skill and expertise. The walls are all that is left of F.M. “Borax” Smith’s store in Marietta. Borax and salt were mined out of the flats at Teel’s Marsh starting in 1867, and the town got going 10 years later in 1877. Marietta is commonly cited as a very rough town where the stage coach (the only scheduled access to the town) was robbed 30 times in the year 1880. The town was mostly abandoned by the early 1900s as borax and salt mining moved south to Death Valley.
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    DS: The suicide bike keeps falling over again and again. It won’t stay unless Brian secures it with rope. Here it gets some emotional and physical support.

    [​IMG]

    We blasted past Marietta, across a corner of Teel’s Marsh, bound for California. Crossing the Excelsior Mountains brought us out of the Great Basin proper in into the basin and range territory of the northern Mojave. We had another mountain pass ahead of us – Truman Meadows.
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    Truman Meadows is famous to archaeologists in this area as a major source of obsidian (volcanic glass) for thousands of years and hundreds of miles throughout the Great Basin and up and down the eastern Sierras. People would come up into the mountains here, dig the brown glass nodules out of the lava flows, then work them into razor sharp cutting edges. Obsidian, as far as prehistoric stoneworking was concerned, is the best there is.
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    DS: Discovering pieces of volcanic glass worked by man who knows how many years ago was an awesome experience. These pieces are razor sharp. Really wanted to take some home but this is another NOT KOSHER thing to do so we left everything where we found it, where it belongs.

    [​IMG]
    Photo: Dave Sawatsky

    It just looks like broken beer bottle glass when you first see it, but its real character comes out pretty quick on closer inspection. The flakes like the one above all have a bulge at one end, which is where it was struck to remove it from a glass nodule in a lava deposit. Typically, people working with obsidian would use a piece of deer antler as a striking instrument, because just using a plain old rock as a hammer would often shatter the glass instead of flaking it predictably.

    [​IMG]

    We climbed up higher and higher to Truman Meadows. The top of the pass is at 7600 ft, which is higher than we had been yet. This is alpine meadows and pine country, with great views south to Border Peak.

    [​IMG]

    We started to hit patchy snow around 6500 ft, and it progressively got thicker and more continuous as the altimeter crept higher. Snowriding is not easy on two wheels, especially with gear. I know why snowmobiles were invented!
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    DS: Why do we cheer when we go down? It’s not really a great accomplishment we were doing it on a regular basis.

    [​IMG]

    The snow covered the trail, and the sage was mostly too thick on each side to go around. So we bulled our way through, and came just to the top when we hit very deep snow, not with a dirt trail underneath but a deep flowing stream. No traction to be had there!
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    DS: Truman meadows deep snow – she can’t take much more of this, captain!! Brian rides on to scout out how far the nasty stuff goes on for. “A couple of miles” he reports so as a result this is one of the few times we had to turn around.

    [​IMG]
    Photo: Dave Sawatsky

    The Husky had enough power that I could paddle along with the back wheel dug in and the bellypan sliding across the snow, making slow progress until I hit the section of trail with water running underneath the snow. After that, I started to crash my way through the sage beside the trail to try to find a way around.
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    The worst of the snow was sitting in the lee of the slopes in the north side, and was just too much for us. No way to get the bigger bikes through here without some serious pain and suffering. Back we go to the highway, really the only time on this trip that our route just didn’t “go”. The GPS track follows the trail ahead and west down to the highway. Because of the snow we did not get to ride this portion, so caveat emptor as they say.
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    We headed down gravel roads towards Bishop in the Owens Valley. If I could pick somewhere in the US to live, this valley would probably be it. Sagebrush, wandering trout streams, hot springs, and the massive towering wall of the eastern Sierras overlooking the whole valley.
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    ds This road leads to Bishop. A town full of tourists, rock climbers and now three smelly dirty dual sport bikers. A good hot shower, Mexican dinner and bike issues had to be dealt with. While getting sheared in one of the local barber shops, I discovered that the barber’s is the best place to learn what’s going on in the area. The barber knows everything from local housing prices to what people think of Governor Arnold. What’s new in town and where to go to do what.

    [​IMG]
    Photo: Dave Sawatsky, pavement outside Bishop

    In Bishop we grabbed a noisy hotel room and pigged out on Mexican food. Camp cooking is fine, but makes you appreciate the delights of town. Next day I had plans to hit up the Yamaha dealership to see if they could address my clutch problem, and Dave wanted a haircut!
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    We are about 350 miles into it now.
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    #16
  17. gothamAlp

    gothamAlp happy to be here

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2005
    Oddometer:
    805
    Location:
    flagstaff and/or tucson, az
    awesome! great pix and writing. looking forward to the rest :thumb
    #17
  18. Mr Sleazy

    Mr Sleazy Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2007
    Oddometer:
    120
    Location:
    Vancouver BC
    Day 5 March 27. Bishop to Bishop. Down time, haircuts, and parts supply.



    First thing in the morning I had the bike into the Yamaha shop. No Husky dealer for miles around, but I was hoping the o-ring would be a fairly standard one and a Yamaha part might work in a pinch. No such luck! Got the professional opinion from the shop, yes the o-ring was toast. No they don’t have a replacement. No problems with the clutch itself, but the hydraulic control system was shot.
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    About 300 miles to go until Las Vegas, across some of the remotest parts of Death Valley and the northern Mojave, and my clutch could fail at any moment!
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    I changed my oil after the clutch servicing:

    [​IMG]



    After the diagnosis from the shop, I hit the internet to see if I could find a dealer with the clutch slave cylinder in stock, and lucked out with MotoXotica in Northern California. They had one in stock, and for the low low price of $160 would send it to me to the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas. We did not want to wait around in Bishop for the part to show up, so we decided to have a go traversing Death Valley with a dodgy clutch in my bike. I provided my Visa, and looked forward to having the part waiting for me in Vegas when we rolled into town in four days time.
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    While I was phoning and dealing with the shop, Dave and Scott went exploring in the Owen’s Valley. Very beautiful area, and it was good for those two to have some “alone time”!!
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    DS: Mr. Sneezy (scottBC) is named. We think all the desert plants only add to Scott’s allergic sneezing situation. We actually can hear him sneeze while he’s riding his bike:

    [​IMG]

    Photo: Dave Sawatsky

    Take that, this thread even has a "gross-out" factor.

    Dave also hit up the auto parts store with the aim of increasing our fuel capacity. With my main tank (3.4 gallons) and an MSR waterbag filled with gas as an auxiliary (1.5 gallons), I had a range of 250 kms (150 miles). Dave and Scott could both do better than that just on their main tanks, but my Husky was the gas pig of the bunch. One hundred and fifty miles was right at the limit for the longest distance between fuel, so we figured a bit of extra capacity would be a good idea, and would let us do a little exploring on the way.
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    DS: We think we’ve got our fuel situation under control now. It worked great on our test run until we ran into rough riding and crashed a few times and crushed the cans, at least they were empty at the time. Later on when we really needed them we bought more and I drove real easy.

    [​IMG]
    Photo: Scott Borrows


    No progress on our route today, but provided we can make it across Death Valley with a dodgy clutch, things are looking up on the mechanical front. Spooky thing was, we were riding through Death Valley the long way (north to south) and not east-west. Remote country ahead!
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
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    #18
  19. Mr Sleazy

    Mr Sleazy Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2007
    Oddometer:
    120
    Location:
    Vancouver BC
    Day 6 March 28. Bishop to Upper Warm Springs. More archaeology. A backcountry soaker tub.
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]-->


    <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    An early start got us out of Bishop and into the desert on the east side of Highway 395. This was where I had my first get-off of the trip, fortunately well ahead of Dave and Scott so they didn’t see! Loose sand and silt with ruts was the culprit (well in addition to pilot error!), but the full armour I had chosen seemed to do the trick and I was no worse for the wear.
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    Ranch roads and trails wind their way through the sage until we hit the pavement again at Big Pine, our last fueling stop before the kick-off into Death Valley. Dave had started to notice a really significant bog with his KLR, and we traced the problem to dust build-up in the airbox. The KLR’s airbox has a few spots that seem to vent directly from the rear tire area, which of course is full of dust, especially with the type of silt on the ground in the Owen’s Valley.
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    While we stopped for fuel, Dave cleaned his air filter and worked to block the holes from the tire well with zip ties, duct tape, and scraps gathered from the gas station. More and more the bikes’ individual characters were beginning to show. Scott’s bike had not a single hiccup. The DRZ is legendary for reliability, and that legend seemed to pan out on this trip. The DRZ was like a faithful dog. Not flashy or fast, but would never ever let you down.
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    You have all seen the Husky’s character so far – sexy high maintenance two-timing redhead. Well the KLR was showing a character most like a donkey. It wasn’t fast, slim or flashy, and could be very stubborn. Sometimes it did not want to go where its rider pointed it. Eventually, however, with enough coaxing or even pushing, it would go through pretty well everything. It would carry a huge load, survive off the nastiest fuel, and when it got stubborn, all it needed was a little bit of attention and it would be off again.
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    This would not be the last time the KLR had breathing problems.

    [​IMG]


    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    From Big Pine we headed east up Hwy 168 for a short stretch, then turned off onto the road that leads to Saline Valley from the north. It was paved for a stretch, then the dirt started again. This road leads to a turnoff for Eureka Dunes and the northern edge of Death Valley NM about 30 km out of Big Pine. Fast riding on graded gravel. It was in the mountains just out of Big Pine that the joshua trees started appearing.
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    You could keep your speed up about 90 kph on this gravel road if you wanted, leaving a massive plume of dust behind you. Loose gravel is spooky at that speed, and Scott found out why. Skating along the gravel at high speed his bike started to wobble, and would not quit intil he rode off into the ditch. Bike stayed upright, fortunately, with Scott in the saddle where he belongs. This is known as a “Holy Sheet Moment”.
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    The road deteriorated as we entered the national monument, and travelled south to the Eureka Dunes. These dunes are an incredible wind-formed (aeolian) formation at the north end of the monument that the naval jet pilots from the China Lake range to the south use as a navigational marker. At the dunes, these jets, with their accompanying assault of sound, repeatedly flew over at low elevations. Shock and awe!


    [​IMG]


    The sand predominating here meant that the riding changed from cruiser gravel to typical loose sand riding, with all the technique that entailed. As far as technique goes, we didn’t have any! Keep your weight off the front wheel! Look ahead! That was about the extent of it. For loose sand, there really isn’t any up here in BC. Loose rocks and slippery boulder riding? Hell yeah, plenty of that. Dry desert sand? Nope.

    [​IMG]



    It didn’t take long til we had parked the bikes and started to explore the dunes. Hot as hell! We Canadians pretty well wilt in the head down here. The Yanks around us are complaining of the cold, and here we are in late March sweating and worrying about heat stroke.



    [​IMG]


    Even this desolate location is not free from evidence of ancient human habitation. When the ground is so scoured by wind and weather, and no plants or topsoil obscure the mineral soil, its very easy to pick out the artifacts as long as you keep your eyes on the ground. Obsidian and chert flakes, rounded and weathered by the sandblast wind, were scattered over the ground near the dunes. The obsidian may very well have been packed in here from Truman Meadows, but of course there are also many volcanoes in Death Valley that could have provided the glass.


    [​IMG]


    After spending some time hiking around in the dunes, we worked our way back to the bikes. We needed to make time this day because we were aiming to camp out at the hot springs in Saline Valley, still about 80 km of rough riding away. On the way back to the bikes, Dave kicked a small rock out of the sand which immediately looked a bit strange to me. I picked it up, and discovered that he had kicked a rim fragment from a basalt stone bowl:

    [​IMG]

    Photo: Dave Sawatsky

    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]-->This is the fragment of a fairly large ground basalt bowl, or mortar (as in mortar and pestle). The fragment is from the upper rim of the bowl, with the inside of the bowl facing towards the camera. Here is a photo of a smaller complete one, also from California:

    [​IMG]
    from: http://www.cabrillo.edu/~crsmith/mortar.jpg

    You can tell the Eureka fragment is an artifact (something made by humans) because of the texture of the surface of the inside of the rim, and along the edge of the rim itself. Very smooth from the constant grinding of another stone inside the bowl, and in a shape that does not occur naturally. These mortars were used, probably starting about 8,000 years ago, for grinding seeds, acorns, and also for making what seems to me a fairly disgusting meal – a paste of small mammals and insects, such as desert rats, mice, or grasshoppers. Bleh!
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    I can’t really imagine what people would have been processing in the dunes. Most of these mortars were used for making acorn flower, but of course there are no oaks growing in these desiccated valley bottoms; they prefer the higher mountains where there is more water. The bowl could be very old, dating to a period several thousand years ago when the eastern Sierras were much wetter than they are today.
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    All the artifacts were left where we found them, as should always be done when visiting these sites.
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    The plants in the Eureka Dunes were fascinating to me. Everyone knows of the classic desert cacti, but the dunes were too dry and unstable even for cacti to grow. There were some hardy grasses, and many of these desiccated shrubs, which I am guessing is a saltbush:

    [​IMG]


    All the plants seem like they are dead, but as soon as some moisture gets to these organisms, they green up very quickly and throw all their energy into flowering and reproducing. Makes sense, because of course when it rains in the desert, a dry spell is bound to occur not long after, and plants must get their reproductive “chores” finished before they run out of available water.
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    Gearing up again, we needed to traverse the sandy valley bottom and start the climb through the wash up to Steele Pass. The donkey (KLR) was a handful in the sand. Dave, who is an excellent rider, went down a few times in the sand. He would be riding along, just fine, then the front wheel would get away from him and that was the end.
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    This would not be the last time that loose surfaces gave us trouble!

    [​IMG]

    The sand seemed to go a long way, but eventually the ground grew rocky and we started to climb up into the hills, first on a bunch of terraces, then into a large wash. The wash issued from a the very narrow Dedeckera Canyon which snaked up into the Saline Range to the south.

    [​IMG]

    Slickrock steps and loose gravel sections lay at the bottom of this deep and narrow canyon. Not where you want to be when thunderstorms hit the hills above.

    [​IMG]

    Fun riding in here, just enough challenge to keep it interesting. After a few km in the canyon bottom, the wash opened up into Steele Pass itself, and the upland desert took over. We were back into the land of cactus and joshua trees.
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    DS: barrel cactus – these plants say “don’t f**k with me!!” They look innocent enough, don’t they? You would not believe how spiny and tough these plants are.

    [​IMG]
    Photo: Scott Borrows

    Both Dave and Scott were keen to mess around with all the prickly plants. The cactii, of course, have to protect the significant water reserves they maintain, which explains the spines. About half the plants out here are so prickly they would send you to the hospital or the morgue if you crash into them. They are a good reason to stay on the trails!
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    The riding went well up and over Steele Pass, nothing too challenging, and we started the descent into Saline Valley in the late afternoon. There were several hot springs ahead – Palm Spring and Lower Warm Spring, both having official campgrounds and the accompanying zoo-like atmosphere, and a spring that just sat by itself on the map – Upper Warm Spring. THAT was the one we were aiming for! Its easy to see the springs from a distance, because it’s the only place for miles around with any significant greenery.
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    Pulled into Upper Warm Springs, and Dave, riding the donkey, immediately befriended one of the wild donkeys that hang around the springs.
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    DS: This wild donkey was willing to accept an apple core in exchange for allowing us to camp on his turf . He kept a close eye on us from a distance while chasing around some of his female companions. Any animal that can make a sound like they can is “worthy” The KLR gets named the “donkey.” I’m just not sure if I can call it “worthy”:

    [​IMG]

    Photo: Scott Borrows

    BP:
    In terms of bike personalities, I had already mentioned the Husky seemed like a slim, sexy redhead that was a bit unstable, liked fast living, and might two-time you if you didn’t pay her enough attention. The KLR? It was a donkey, pure and simple. Not sexy in the least, but it could carry a crapload of gear. Would it complain about it? Hell yeah! Was it stubborn? You bet! But at the end of the day, that KLR, just like a donkey, would get you pretty well anywhere you set out to get to. Maybe not as fast as some other machines, but you would be there. Scott’s DRZ was fully living up to its personality as a faithful dog. No problems whatsoever.
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    The springs were absolutely perfect, with the exception that all of us were male. Female company would have definitely been welcome. The bottle behind Scott’s right shoulder is full of vodka.

    [​IMG]

    Photo: Dave Sawatsky

    DS: Upper warm springs with vodka! Can’t think of a better way to end a difficult days ride. Natural hot springs, a real piece of paradise in the desert.
    <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>
    BP: All of us started to hit the bottle a bit at this point, too. Dave was packing the vodka, some kind of flavoured concoction, and I had a good half litre of spiced rum. Can’t beat soaking in a warm spring with some fine alcohol to settle you down. The hard liquor is best on a long trip, because it has a high alcohol-to-weight ratio. Very efficient!
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    If you can make it into a place with beer, its just not an adventure yet.

    The dividing line between an “outing” and an “adventure” is defined by the type of alcohol that can be carried.
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    Now about 450 miles in!
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    #19
  20. canpile

    canpile Trail User

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2006
    Oddometer:
    639
    Location:
    High Desert, So. Cal
    Nice!! Keep up the good work!:clap
    #20