November 2, 2013
I’ve named this quiet, isolated camp southwest of Death Valley . . . Camp Desert Retreat.
Why the sudden departure after two nights?
Dog food. Lone Pine didn’t have an acceptable brand of dog food and now the crew’s supply is running out. Oh well, having experienced this site and liking it, we may come back some day.
For those of you who like to follow along with your California Benchmark atlas . . .
Turn to page 103. Here’s our itinerary: Route 395 takes us past China Lake Naval Weapons Center, across Indian Wells Valley, past Inyokem and Ridgecrest. South of Johannesburg is the ghost town of Atolia, which sprung up around a tungsten mine.
Somewhere in the Mojave Desert . . .
We come upon an impoverished town (I didn’t catch the name) which is not more than a few dilapidated buildings along Route 395. Its point of interest is a store of used goods, curiosities, and antiques.
You may remember Hinkley’s problems with groundwater contamination.
Hinkley’s problems continue.
“The town of Hinkley, California, located in the Mojave Desert, had its groundwater contaminated with hexavalent chromium starting in 1952, resulting in a legal case against Pacific Gas and Electric and a multi-million-dollar settlement in 1996. The legal case was dramatized in the film Erin Brockovich, released in 2000.” — Wikipedia
I lifted the photo of protesters, dated October 13 of this year, from The People of Hinkley website which explains their woes, past and present.
About six miles north of Kramer Junction, an enormous array of solar panels appears.
Hundreds of solar panels! The sunshine glinting off the panels is blinding. I don’t stop for a photo. A short distance past that area is this big, mysterious-looking structure.
Gas is $3.69 a gallon at the Pilot Station in Kramer Junction, so I fill up the tank. I consider running into Subway for a sandwich, but there are so many tractor-trailer trucks at this busy intersection that I get us on Highway 58 and head east to Barstow.
Barstow . . .
What can I say? It’s Barstow. I’ll leave it at that. I stop at Von’s and stock up on groceries, including the very important bag of dog food. On the way to pick up Highway 247 to go south out of Barstow, I buy propane at U-Haul, the same place where I bought it last year.
Our destination is Sawtooth Canyon Campground.
The crew and I camped there last year for several days. It’s a good, free campground. If we can snag a campsite on this Saturday, great. If not, we’ll camp in the dispersed camping area across the road. I remember how excited I was to find it last year.
Highway 247 (Barstow Road) takes us over the end of Daggett Ridge.
As the expanse of the desert opens up in front of us, my heart sinks. Oh, this is terrible! What a mess! At first glance it looks like the desert is cloaked in heavy fog, all the way to the Ord Mountains. Dust! That’s a cloud of dust! Several plumes of dust move this way and that across the desert, going for miles. Damn OHVers!
Okay, I interrupt this story line for a brief message to a very small segment of my readership.
I don’t care if you love your OHV and you’re offended by the paragraph above. This is my blog and I include my honest feelings. At the sight of the desert air turned into a cloud of dust (and what follows in this post), I am not happy. In fact, I’m disgusted. Those are my honest feelings. So don’t start with the personal attacks.
Having said that . . .
Sawtooth Canyon Campground is full. I go over to the other side of Highway 247 to boondock. I find the area is pretty much ruined for camping. Regardless of the kiosk at the entrance reminding people to stay on designated routes in consideration of the desert tortoises and their habitat, the place has been turned into an anything-goes, OHV playground.
The first campsite I come to has a wonderful, panoramic view of the desert.
It’s been turned into a large, dirt parking lot. Seven trucks are presently parked there. All but one have an OHV trailer hooked behind. Trash is scattered around, including an open garbage bag spilling its contents.
The next campsite is also a parking lot.
The vegetation is completely gone, leaving a large, bare area. One pick-up truck sits there, two American flags sticking up from behind its cab. Four young “men” are on top of the hill of boulders, pushing a boulder and hooting and hollering while the boulder crashes down the the hill (Goblin Valley State Park revisited). I stand next to the PTV, watching and listening. Please, please, boulder . . . Land on their truck.
All in all, they push five boulders off the hill, until finally they become bored with the activity. Gee, watching things fall is entrancing for a baby in a high chair. Time to move on to more complex activities, guys . . . like putting your beer bottles in a trash receptacle.
I don’t drive very far because the road is bad.
It’s a sand box, torn up by OHVs . . . . loose sand about a foot deep, along with deep ruts due to subsequent erosion. I back up and turn around. It’s too late to go looking for another place to camp, so I find a fairly level spot and park. While doing so, I hear several gunshots. What is this? Testosterone gone wild? Engines continue to rumble and whine across the desert, sand flying behind them. I guess Stoddard OHV area isn’t a big enough chunk of the desert for them to play on.
I don’t have any photos to verify what I see. I don’t want to subject my camera’s lens to all the dust. (I’m trying not to think about my lungs.)
I apologize to those of you who read my blog for an escape.
Unfortunately there’s no escaping stupid, destructive behavior, even in the desert.
On that note, I’ll close this post. Long live the desert tortoise!
“REAR VIEW MIRROR”
About this time last year, November 9, 2012, I wrote with great enthusiasm about the dispersed camping available south of Barstow, CA. I’ve added a footnote to that post. Sadly I cannot recommend it for camping any more.
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