Salton Sea and Bombay Beach

Lightning and rain over the Salton Sea, and a few interesting homes in Bombay Beach. I particularlt like the vertical bent airplane fuselage. Note the stairway to go inside!

The end! Much more to see in Slab City, so don’t stop here for too long.

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Slab City and East Jesus

Where do I start? Rain and lightning over the Salton Sea, and a few hours wandering around. I would characterize it as a cross between Mad Max, a homeless camp, and a decent trailer park. Some bits of each…

Due to Covid, the Library was closed. I believe The Range, with the open microphone stage, is only on saturday nights. East Jesus just closed again, due to people not wearing masks…

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Salvation Mountain

Way down, near Slab City…

That’s the highlights! Next post is Slab City and East Jesus.

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General Patton’s Iron Mountain

My blog posts are much less frequent before…it’s not that I’m doing fewer interesting things. It’s that sitting down at my desk is a chore! I’m going to do less text, and let the photos speak for themselves. I’m also trying this from my phone, for the first time!

This area is not difficult to find, but don’t try to go in from Power Line Road. Leave the pavement at the above historical marker. High clearance is not required, but the sandy patches would make me very nervous in a 2WD vehicle!

The Catholic altar is one of two remaining things to see (plus a smaller Protestant altar, that I did not see)

The other site is where the flagpole used to be, plus this 3-D relief map, now behind a fence. I believe it’s a map of this camp.

Done! My first post from my phone! That wasn’t hard, was it?

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Baltimore Town, and Old Man Mountain (Yuba Gap area)

A friend, who moved from Santa Cruz to Grass Valley a few years ago, pinged me with a backpacking idea. It sounded much more reasonable than some of the crazy bushwhacking adventures he had been known for. It wasn’t!

We met at the Blue Lake trailhead versus carpooling, as this is the “year of the COVID”. It was a reasonable hike, with our 30 pound packs, up a gently inclined trail, to our campsite, near Baltimore Lake. We had started at 11AM, so the plan was to crash there, then get an early start on a day hike to Old Man Mountain.

(The red baggy thing is his sleeping bag, in an oversized stuff bag. He’s a novice backpacker, so I encouraged him to locate a better stuff bag, and shift some of the weight up higher.)


The view to the west, where we came from. I was VERY happy to see granite and alpine lakes much closer than Tahoe or the Eastern Sierra. The Yuba Gap area is where Highway 20 meets I-80, about 25 miles west of Donner Summit. NO PERMITS OR RESERVATIONS NEEDED!


Below is the un-named pond, just south of Baltimore Lake, as viewed from our campsite.


Our plan for the next morning was for an “easy” off-trail morning hike to Old Man Mountain, via a lake with a small island. We’d then return to camp, grab our packs, and head back to the car.

Below is an old mine shaft, noted on the USGS Topo maps. That’s as close as we got!


There’s Old Man Mountain, with the further lake, in it’s shadow. We had no idea what we were in for.


We got down to the shore, and found a nice gathering circle, made of arranged rock and a fire circle.


Below, my friend swims about 100 feet to a small island. Why? Geocache…


After Dan’s swim, that “easy” morning hike became quite an ordeal, with a few dangerous spots. We proceeded around the right side of the lake, only to find a very fresh rockfall of 10 foot boulders, going straight from a cliff into the water. We carefully scrambled over and under the boulders, hoping that they were setttled into their permanent resting places.

We then started uphill, to the trailless summit, through the thickest brush I’ve ever seen. Dan was ahead of me, and knew I wasn’t happy when I asked if he was interested in turning around. We eventually found a clear “path” to the summit, pictured below.


From the summit, we studied our downloaded USGS Topo maps, and decided to make a loop around the other side of the lake, to avoid the rockfall. It looked fine, until we found ourselves peering over an edge, looking down at treetops. The 50 foot gradients on the map seemed to have hidden an impassable 75 foot drop. (I wasn’t taking pictures at this point. It was getting late, and I was not happy…)

We circled back the way we came, and instead of climbing over and under the rockfall, Dan suggested swimming across the lake! It would be safer, as well as saving at least an hour. One problem: Phones, electronic car keys, and my DeLorme InReach. Solution: one holey ziploc, and float them across on a log, that kept wanting to roll my stuff into the water. We made it. Below is a picture of that log, which barely had enough buoyancy.


After the successful swim, it was just a looonnnggg slog to the campsite, to grab our gear, and head back to the car. Below is the one photo that I managed to take on the way. Probably the only time I noticed my surroundings.


We got back to the cars at 10PM, after 15 hours of hiking! I would happily go back that area again, but with a bit more time in the schedule, and less reliance on topo maps to show us new rockfalls and impenetrable dropoffs!

11 miles and 2130 vertical feet to camp, on the first day:

5 miles and 2239 feet, roundtrip, to the Mountain and back to camp. 8 hours slogging time, whereas we had planned on 2 or 3 hours!

9 miles and mostly downhill, from camp to the cars:


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Dana Plateau (Tioga Pass area)

Does anybody read my blog? Yes, actually the WordPress statistics show 4300 visitors, so far, in 2020. A few years ago it was about 3 times that. I like the blog because I can pull-up photos and a short story quickly, using a Google search.

About a month ago I spent a few days camping off of Tioga Pass Road, outside the east gate of Yosemite. (Yosemite currently having heavily restricted capacity, requiring reservations.) I did a bike ride part way up Tioga Pass Road, followed the next day by a very nice day hike, with two friends, up to the Dana Plateau.



The below picture is mirror-flat Tioga Lake, at the beginning of our hike


Lotsa flowers, though we were not in the correct location to see the elusive Skypilot.


The western edge of the Dana Plateau has a big dropoff, and gorgeous views of Mono Lake. We rested for awhile, then headed back.




The Dana Plateau, at around 11,600 feet, is called a “sky island”, which means it was not under glaciers during the last Ice Age, as was most of the surrounding area. As a result, the geology is a little different, and there is a greater variety of plants.


Additionally, it’s relatively flat, vety high up, with year-round water from snow-melt.


…which so just happens to be perfect habitat for Ptarmigans! We stumbled-upon this pair, which we didn’t see until we were within 10 feet.


It turns out that we were in the best spot to see them on the West Coast! I did a bit of research, after I got home. They were introduced to the area a few decades ago. Colorado and Canada have quite a bit more of them.



That’s about it! Here is the Strava track, including our starting point at Tioga Lake

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Incredible Views from Mt Tamalpais

Has it really been 9 months since my last post? Anyway…I hiked Mt Tam a few days ago and took some incredible photos. I don’t get a huge audience reading this blog, but it’s a convenient place to park my photos, for future sharing and reference!

My route: 12 miles and 2159 feet, starting from the “White Gate”, which is a bit shorter than starting at the beach.

This was #5 of my 2020 ixpack of Peaks Challenge

Here are the pics, completely unedited, from my iPhone Xr.
















IMG_9913That’s all Folks!


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Cerro Gordo Ghost Town – Go! …before it changes!

Way up on a mountain, between Death Valley and Lone Pine, is the ghost town of Cerro Gordo. It’s a privately-owned site, which recently changed hands to a pair of businessmen. They have plans to preserve it, while adding lodging or retreat facilities. Those plans seem to be off to a slow start!


If you see this when you leave the pavement, you’re on the right track!\

Locate “Keeler, California” on your map, and head up “Cerro Gordo Street”.


Up we go! 5000 feet up the hill!

There is a narrow canyon near the bottom, then the road widens considerably. It was easy in a Wrangler and an Outback.

The caretaker said he gets all sorts of vehicles up there, including sports cars and rental cars. Last week, he had a Maserati, an Alfa-Romeo, and a Land Rover up there. The two Italians did not break down…


The Owens Valley below, and snowy peaks in early June


I see old wooden buildings!

Cerro Gordo got alot of press last year, when it changed hands.


The entry sign



Just above the town

The first building we stopped in, and caught up with the caretaker, was the Assay Office.


My friend put down his iPhone to test his typing skills…


A pneumatic drill…not an anti-aircraft gun!


Assaying equipment, to the left


Bottle collection


The wooden ore carts, with a metal liner, were lighter and easier to ship than the all-metal ones


Workshop or storage

Robert, the caretaker, says the new owners seem to be a bit slow in their planning for the place…I also got the feeling that it’s a bigger task than they expected! There’s no water, and the best building, the American Hotel, is listing to starboard and needs alot of structural work.


The American Hotel – the most impressive building!


The bar, in the middle of the ground floor

This was very much a “hands-on” tour. We went behind the bar, touched a few of the bottles (to be sure they were empty). Robert kept telling us “this is not Bodie”, referring to the State Park, with similar old buildings, where you can only peek through the windows! (Bodie is ~175 miles north, just above Mono Lake. It’s larger, but alot less personal than walking around Cerro Gordo! )


Paul, does your brother really drink this brand?


The wonderful caretaker, Robert. The wall behind him has a bullet hole, and a blood stain on the floor. 


A few of the necessities of mining!

Robert was great! We showed-up unannounced, and joined another small group he was showing around. We brought him a few gallons of bottled water, made a donation in the big jar, and bought one small ore sample from the dusty old gift shop.

One thing we forgot to ask about is the cemetery…I read about it after I got home!

Cerro Gordo will be changing…unless the new owners get cold feet. Perhaps you should consider visiting on a not-too-hot (or snowy) day.

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Crowley Lake Columns – close to 395 and Mammoth Lakes, but it takes some effort!

Conveniently located, just off 395, between Bishop and Mammoth Lakes…

I had heard mention of the “Crowley Columns” from someone…possibly my friend Sam. Then, sometime last year, I saw more details at I added it to my Eastern Sierra “to do” list. This past week I made a whirlwind tour of the Sierra with a friend from Ohio. He was driving a rented 4WD Wrangler, and I was in my Outback, so off we went!


I was in charge of navigation, so the above picture is likely on our way out! Using the coordinates of the Columns, at the easternmost bend in the lakeshore, plus the instructions in the link above, we only made one wrong turn! It was quite helpful to have an AT&T signal, for a satellite map…

At one point, we reached a steep downhill, which looked like my (I-wish-I-had-bought-the-6-cylinder) Outback might have a problem coming back up. We were less than an mile away, and the weather was great. We parked and walked from there.


How did these come about? Excellent question! They were completely unknown and invisible until a few decades ago. This article is hard to paraphrase, so take a look for yourself:


It’s definitely accessible by canoe or kayak. We saw some water skiiers, as well, out on the lake.




If you decide to go, note that there are no signs, no water, and it can get very warm here! It is not an official tourist attraction…yet!

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Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park

Waaayyy out in rural Tulare County is a former town, which was founded, owned, governed, and entirely populated by African-Americans, around 1910. It’s now a State Park, with about a dozen nicely restored buildings, and a handful of others. Camping is available, too.

Worth a stop, if you’re in the area. It’s just off Highway 99, between Visalia and Bakersfield. I was headed from San Jose to Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, and it was a small detour.


Entry sign, and one of the smaller buildings. (About 20 buildings total)


This tells the story!


Colonel Allensworth was the highest ranking African-American soldier of his time. Unfortunately, the town failed due to being bypassed by the railroad, plus farming difficulties (lack of water and/or pool soil)



Inside the small Visitor’s Center


The Schoolhouse, which is the most prominent building


A peek through the window, There were no docents that day, to let me inside.


About the skool


The Colonel’s house. It was a kit, which arrived by rail, like many homes of the day, including “Craftsmen” homes


A peek inside the house


About the house


One of 2 or 3 stores. Odd architecture, but hard to miss!


The store


Barber shop. Most buildings are wood, This is concrete


A peek inside


About the barbershop

That’s about it! I recommend a weekend, or one of their periodic special events, to get a better feel for the place. On a June weekday, it was just me and a maintenance guy! A nice stop, way out on the country. Plan ahead for food, water and gasoline. There’s none nearby!

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