May 6, 2016

Death Valley "SUPERBLOOM" Part 3

“The shelter had been rumored to have been built by a park ranger long ago to stash supplies or even by Charles Manson and his “family” as a last resort to get away from the impending Race Wars that they were trying to incite with the Tate/Labianca murders.”
So, up Warm Springs road we went. On up to Butte Valley and the beautiful Striped Butte.
The next stop was to check out a cabin that was new to us. Let’s call it Mr. Smith’s cabin.

This one sits just outside the park boundary, but up a canyon so far that you start to think there’s nothing to see. If we didn’t know it was there I think we would have turned around and assumed it was a dead end. When you do see it, you realize what a great spot it is.

In this photo you can see the old cable going straight up the mountain. A relic left over from another generation of mining.

The bus, like many of them, had been a target for decades.

We checked out the cabin and noticed that it had some recent visitors. It turns out Mr. Smith himself was up using his cabin so there would be no staying there tonight for us. (Most of these cabins are named after some long deceased caretaker so it’s a treat to visit one where the “owner” is still using it.)

One thing you always see plenty of when exploring the desert, mattresses. The core of them lasts longer than most things out here and it’s not a good shooting target so they last, thankfully.

Well, as awesome as this spot was, it’s time to move on.

We explored some of the side roads around Butte Valley that we’d never had time to run before.
Some remnants of the super bloom were still visible on the hillsides.

The well known Geologists cabin below.

Not a bad view looking down on the entire valley from above.
This next step was something completely different. My brother had done a lot of research, looking at maps/topos and general all around sleuthing to find a fall out shelter we believed to be near Butte Valley. The shelter had been rumored to have been built by a park ranger long ago to stash supplies or even by Charles Manson and his “family” as a last resort to get away from the impending Race Wars that they were trying to incite with the Tate/Labianca murders.
Whatever the truth, we headed out on a hike to see if we could find this spot. Besides waking up an angry sidewinder rattlesnake on our hike, it was absolutely beautiful.

There were wild burros all around wondering why we’d disturbed their private valley.

Well, we found it. Such a benign looking spot. Underneath that pile of rocks was a cement door with a chain for a handle to open it.

Inside was some piping with a water spicket.

Although we were the second folks to ever sign the guest book, it looks like the first may have left an artifact behind.

There were lots of old metal lockers with some random items from Canola oil, soy sauce and other food stuffs.

What does every fallout shelter need? Schlitz Malt Liquor!

There was some spools of much older cable and even a barrel filled with clothing. It’s interesting to note that none of these larger items could fit through the small opening we crawled through and the back of the mine was a dead end. So, why leave them in here and create a tiny entrance door? Only the original architect understands that.

Corduroy jacket anyone? The rats and intense humidity brought on by water seeping into the mine had ruined everything that was once stored here. We were both having a hard time breathing in here. The air was THICK.

Did something just move over there? Rats, I hate rats. That’s enough for me. Let’s get out and hike back to safety.

Enough of that! We decided to go and grab a cabin for the evening! This one’s got a great view and has fresh water from a spring pumped in to boot! Time to relax!

The garden and trees at this one are generally in great condition, but it looks like the watering system isn’t working as it should and everything was fairly dry.

The best feature of this cabin? 2 chairs cemented into the ground on top of the hill with a view.

Our buddy Steve wasn’t messing around when he said that he was cooking dinner for the entire group. We were going to eat well.

4 racks of ribs on the rotisserie. I know that the circumstances can color how a meal tastes, but even with that being said, THESE WERE THE BEST RIBS I’VE EVER HAD! I’ve never put lime juice on ribs and it seemed odd at first, but Steve was right on with this meal.
I am still dreaming about it.

The next day we headed up over Mengel pass and down Goler wash to Panamint Valley.
The pass looked about the same as it always has.

The long wheelbase and low side steps of the FX4 meant it got high centered a couple times. Nothing that jacking up the truck and tucking a few rocks under the tires wouldn’t help.

I can get lazy while driving Goose, he makes short work of most obstacles.

Heading down Goler Wash.

As an interesting development. The Keystone mine is active again. Judging by the fact that these signs say as many scary things as they can, but leave out any mention of Private Property, makes me guess you can still visit the site. We had a lot of ground to cover so we kept moving.

From here to the bottom of Goler Wash the trail is a graded dirt road. The old waterfall obstacle is gone. Several Ford Super Duty mining trucks passed us headed to the mine. It seems like they are hustling to get this mine producing again.
Lots of new to the area, but old, mining equipment around.

From here we drove out through Ballarat and on to Trona and then Kramer Junction. We said our good byes to the rest of the group and Kelsey and I headed towards Arizona. We weren’t ready to head home for another day so we quickly hit dirt and started our solo adventure.

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