Date:.............October 17th, 1999 Destination:......Titus Canyon and Beatty area (north of Las Vegas Mileage:..........231 (round trip) Duration:.........Day trip (12 hours) Departure Point:..Westwood Weather:..........Clear and mild Adventurers:......16 (Melissa, Andre, Jerry, Marie, Steve, Anne, Jonathan, Valerie, Lisa, Chuck, Mike, Maria, Joe, Joe, Kevin, Kevin)[Yes, there were two of each on this trip. Vehicles:.........7
It was time to go an a new off road trip now that the summer was over and the weather was getting quite pleasant. The roads into Death Valley were now open for tourist season so we decided to head up to Beatty and pass over into California to head down through Death Valley and back to Las Vegas. Who knows, maybe we might see some abandoned mines, ghost towns, spectacular scenery, and desert wildlife? The miniQuest Adventure Club wasn't disappointed.
Meet at Westwood
The plan was to meet at the departure point (Westwood Studios parking lot) at 8:00am, fully gassed up and ready for travel. Naturally, there was some delay as we milled about and finalized seating arrangements. Fortunately, everyone arrived before the 20 minute rule had to be invoked.
Just as we were about to depart, Mike came up with the idea of hiding a rock somewhere on our trip for others to quest for at a later date. A rock was chosen, but it soon became apparent that there was a problem. Why would anyone want to quest for a rock that was like any other rock hidden in a desert full of rocks. Quests usually entail questing after something worthwhile (in spite of EverQuest's philosophy to the contrary), so the rock must be enchanted with a desirable, oh say, magical property. Magic was in short supply that morning so we decided to just sign the rock instead.
The caravan of vehicles departs northward along US95 northward toward Beatty. Chuck knows the way so he leads. Las Vegas is soon behind us followed shortly by Indian Springs. Off to our right we see the entrance to the Nevada Test Site and home of Area 51 (where the alien spaceships are being studied). [The desert has much evidence of this secret government activity if you know where to look.]
The trip going smoothly until suddenly, in the middle of nowhere, the caravan is stopped by a worker for no apparent reason. Now get this; the road was blocked off for about a mile stretch and there was a chase car that allowed traffic to alternately pass this section but carefully constrained to travel on the west lane only.
As we took our turn to travel this section of road, it was quite obvious that nothing what-so-ever was wrong with the other lane of the road. Suddenly the truth dawned on us. The nearness of Area 51 made it all the more obvious. The government must have been transporting some kind of cloaked alien technology when it fell off the truck and now that cloaked object was blocking the other lane of this road but was naturally invisible to normal sight. Traffic had to be diverted until the object could be properly removed. It all made sense now. After a collective sigh of relief now that the mystery had been solved, we proceeded onward with the journey.
We reach the town of Beatty and decide to stop for fuel and supplies. Beatty is a quaint town with a mixture of the new, the old, and the abandoned ghost town elements. This is where the real adventuring of our trip begins.
The first official adventure was trying to get the vehicles gassed up. It seemed that everyone in the region wanted to gas up at the same time. After much queuing and shuffling, we were fueled up with gas, but it was time to fuel up with snacks too.
Marie and Mike acquired some official tokens of this trip and passed them out. The token grants all the rights and privileges of an official member of the Titus Canyon off-road trip. These tokens were candy necklaces. However, due to their wearable and edible nature, they were soon worn and eaten. Oh well.
Beatty seems to be a happening place (for a little town in the middle of nowhere). The community bulletin board revealed various opportunities such as "gain nrg and lose weight", buy a satellite dish, win a vacation to somewhere else, buy a miniature donkey, hire fence builders, or buy firewood. Everything a town could possibly want
Just as we begin to continue our journey, there it is. A genuine Nevada brothel. How could we pass up the opportunity for a photo shoot? We couldn't, so we didn't. One of the guys said:
"I have to go inside. I'll only be a minute."
-- Joe Howes
We got a chuckle out of that one.
As an added interest, there was a wrecked plane there. Wrecks, of any kind, seem to have a human magnetic quality and this wreck was no exception. We just had to do a group portrait on the plane as well.
After scrambling in, over, and on the plane as well as running around the vicinity for awhile, we notice that Mike and Marie have disappeared. We then seem them strolling back from the brothel with big smiles.
They were only gone a minute.
Off we go! We turn off the paved road and onto a dirt road (the first sign that real off-road adventuring has begun) and head out west toward the famous ghost town of Rhyolite Nevada. There were many buildings in various states of decay scattered throughout the area. It was quite a site!
We park by a remarkably preserved train depot. In fact, the whole area was covered with remarkably preserved ghost town buildings. This was going to be fun.
The first hiking part of our trip began here, so we collect cameras, water, change into hiking shoes and then head out to explore the surrounding ghost town.
Only a few places were fenced off from public access. The rest of the areas were at the mercy of the public. There were signs giving warning about being careful and we were quite willing to oblige.
The old Rhyolite jail is still standing and still quite secure as well. Half of the building was collapsed, but the other half that held the actual prison cells was standing and sealed tight. We could look through the cell bars, but could not go inside. They just don't make jails like they used to.
Just to the south of the jail was the famous Rhyolite mine. Legends have been told about how great this mine is. The entrance was located up the side of a hill, so up the hill we trudge. Trudge, trudge, trudge, and pant, pant, pant we finally make it to the entrance.
When I get to the entrance, everyone already there is milling about with frowns on their faces. Now I know why. The entrance has been chained shut. Oh well, at least we can still peer into the darkness.
The Bottle House
Rhyolite is also famous for its bottle houses. A bottle house is one that is constructed from bottles stacked like bricks. The bottles provided good insulation and the building materials were, apparently, in great supply. Tom Kelly's bottle house is still standing, so we decided to take a tour.
On the tour we learned that the bottles were actually beer bottles. Thousands of beer bottles per house combined with multiple bottle houses -- dang, that's a lotta beer. The implication was that the Rhyolites really knew how to drink their beer. Probably would have put a college frat house to shame with their beer drinking prowess.
One room of the house was furnished in a fashion reminiscent of how it might have looked when it was being lived in.
What makes this bottle house particularly interesting however, other than the fact it was built out of bottles, is that it has a glass-shard menagerie of sorts in the yard. Somewhat bizarre, but with all that beer drinking that was going on, it doesn't seem so inexplicable.
To be more precise, the menagerie was not entirely constructed of glass. It contained quite an assortment of odds and ends. Strange odds and ends. You figure it out.
We depart for Red Pass. The road through Red Pass is one-way and is very narrow. We pass grand rock monuments as the road steadily climbs. Eventually we reach the summit of the pass. It is at an altitude of 4200 feet above sea level.
We stop, park, and get out to explore the area. Parking was a bit tricky since there actually was no room to do so. We used some parking creativity and were finally able to park in such a way that if another vehicle came by, it could pass.
This was a great opportunity to scramble over the rocks and enjoy the view, which is just what we did.
A short distance past Red Pass is the ghost town of Leadfield. This ghost town has an interesting, if somewhat short, history.
We stopped to explore the town, but first, lunch time.
There were several buildings still standing as well as what looked like a mine. Upon closer inspection, we could see that the buildings were made almost entirely out of tin and were empty. A few concrete foundations were also present that indicated the true size of this town -- about 10 buildings.
Examining the "mine" more closely revealed that it wasn't so much of a min as a strange metallic thingie with a whatchamacallit doodad welded in place. It's hard to explain, but you can see the picture and come up with your own answer to the mystery of just what this thing
Continuing down the dirt road we enter Titus Canyon. This is a very narrow canyon with steep and tall walls of rock. Good thing it wasn't threatening rain for it looked like this canyon could become a death trap of raging flood water if conditions were right.
The canyon walls clearly showed bending and twisting. A sign indicated the reason for this.
The canyon walls clearly showed bending and twisting. A sign indicated the reason for this.
The temperature was quite agreeable in the canyon so we stopped and explored a bit. The rock formations were interesting here. Chuck climbed partway up the cliff face to both take a picture and do a monkey interpretation. He was successful on both accounts, but fell while climbing back down. He was uninjured, but there is now a butt shaped depression in Titus Canyon. Lets just say we left the canyon a little more 'buckled' and 'twisted' than when we arrived.
Titus Canyon twisted endlessly until finally we reach Death Valley. The valley stretched out in the distance to the south. The view from this angle showed a bleak, but far from featureless valley. The valley floor contained a mixture of different textures and colors. Something interesting had to be in that valley and we were going to find it.
And find it we did.
The road became paved as we headed south. Chuck was in the lead and we were making good time. Off to the right was a vast sea of sand. Certainly we had to explore this. The exit to this sea of sand was approaching so we must tell the lead vehicle (Chuck) to turn off. Call him up on the radio -- no response. Flash turn signals -- no response. Slow down and wait for him to notice -- still no response. We all turn off anyway. Bye Chuck... see you in Las Vegas.
Just before Chuck disappears out of sight, we see him slow down and turn around. 'bout time. We head off to the sea of sand and then discover...
The Dune Sea
Yes, a sea of sand dunes. Dunes everywhere. The sand was very fine -- closer to dust than beach-sand. The dunes near the parking area had footprints all over them, but just a short distance away, the dunes were untouched.
The sand was soft and only slightly warm, but was pleasantly cool just beneath the surface. Some of us went barefoot. Others wore sandals. Still others wore tennis shoes and waded into the knee deep soft sand areas. One of these groups had serious "sand issues" to deal with.
The dunes revealed tracks of animals. What animals? Jonathan was tracking human footprints and animal footprints. They came together and looked like a scuffle had taken place. Only animal tracks were leading away from that area. I didn't actually see this, but hey, who's gonna argue with someone that can read ancient astronaut petroglyphs.
We guessed that most tracks were from mice, lizards, birds, coyotes, and insects. Following the tracks we discover a living desert denizen. A black beetle, to be exact. Mike picks it up and gets it to pose for a photograph.
Enough sand for now, it is time to head back to Las Vegas. Away we go. Just as we are about to leave Death Valley, we stop for one last time. There is a map of Death Valley here in a little visitor center of sorts. We locate our position. The sun is setting and the moon is rising when we begin the journey home. So ends another successful adventure!
Wait! What about the magic rock that we were supposed to hide on the trip. Well, we hid it. We aren't going to tell you where, but here is a close-up picture of the rock. See if you can figure it out. [If you do find the rock, don't remove it. Add one of your own.]