Date:..............November 4th, 2000 Destination:.......Ash Meadows Duration:..........Day trip (9 hours) Departure Point:...Westwood Weather:...........Clear and mild Adventurers:.......10 (David, Ted, Angie, Amy, Mike, Andre, Hector, Eric, Colin, Joe) Vehicles:..........3
A current bout of mild weather combined with a forecast for cold weather in the near future, prompted us to adventure forth on another miniQuest while the good weather lasts. As we were researching where to go, we stumbled upon information for Devil's Hole and Ash Meadows. The area boasted of gigantic dunes, desert springs, exotic wildlife, and Devil's Hole. That settled it, Ash Meadows was the destination for this trip.
We head out around 8:30am and go north on US95 till we reach Armagosa. We stop to fill up the gallon or so used to get this far. After the previous trip (13 hours and about 13,000 miles) we were a bit wary of letting the gas tank get below full.
While there we see a small replica tourist trap jail. It is a short few miles from Armagosa to reach the giant sand dunes.
Armagosa Sand Dunes
Here we are approaching the dunes. The dune field is dominated by "big dune" (clearly seen in the left photo. Ted wastes no time in climbing up the dune face. The rest of take the easier path by walking up along the ridge.
The dunes are visible from quite a distance away. The dirt road leading to them is soft and full of bumps. Mike warns us not to get too close to the dunes. It seems on a previous trip, Mike had his vehicle sink into the sand and almost got stuck.
Everyone eventually makes it to the top of the hill. The sun was at the perfect angle to cast long shadows down the slope of the dune.
Ted rushes to the top of the first dune. The rest of us eventually make it to the top as well. Once there, we can see that the dune we climbed is actually one of the smaller ones. A much taller dune is near, but even that dune doesn't approach the height of the big dune in the center of the sea of sand.
Dunes tend to have one steep side. Hector and Mike decide to run down the steep side. I decide to climb the nearby taller dune. On the way up I spot a dune ant. The hike is rough, but once at the top, the view is great. While there, I snap an infrared photo. The effect is creepy with the sand white and the sky black.
As we were heading back to the vehicles, some ATVs showed up and were racing over the baby dunes. The riders were having fun, but it was time for us to continue our fun toward Ash Meadows.
The entrance to Ash Meadows is clearly marked. From the entrance we followed the map of Ash Meadows we had lifted from the Internet earlier. We entered from the west side and decided to follow the roads by turning left at every opportunity.
The first stop was Peterson Reservoir. It is hidden behind some vegetation and is not visible from the road. This reservoir is very large and is covered with reeds and coots.
Hiking further up the shore reveals a true beach. The shoreline we first discovered was actually a thick mat of dead vegetation.
Ted discovered an ancient artifact along the shore. It looked like a rifle bullet to me, but who's to say. In addition to the artifact, Ted also discovers a green shiny beetle bug. It didn't look like an endangered species bug to me, so we continued north toward Fairbanks Spring.
It turns out that Fairbanks Spring is covered with vegetation and the marshy field it fills is quite large. The surrounding area is very mushy. This spring marks the edge of Carson Slough. Imagine reeds as far as the eye could see. That is what it looked like.
The area was littered with the remains of burnt trees and ash. The name Ash Meadows is rather appropriate.
Rodger's and Longstreet Spring
Further down the road were two other springs. These were more traditional of desert springs. They were a hemispherical depression of clear water with sand boiling up at the bottom of the pool indicating where the fresh water was coming from.
These springs were ringed with plant and animal wildlife. The wildlife included plants of one type or another, frogs, insects, crawdads, and birds.
Strange birdlike engraving on a white chalk monolith.
Also near the spring was a stone drawing on a white chalk monolith. The marking was of a bird of some kind. Where did this marking come from? Was it ancient or recent? We may never know, but we will continue to look for clues as the trip proceeds.
Only a mile or two down the road is the ranger station. We stop there to eat lunch and visit Crystal Spring. This spring is obviously the showcase of Ash Meadows. The path to the spring is a boardwalk that ends at a railed observation deck over the spring.
Crystal Spring is large and deep. The outflow feeds a reed lined stream. The water is crystal clear revealing pupfish and algae in abundance.
Beyond Crystal Spring is Devil's Hole. This is a hidden pool that is actually part of a large submerged cave system. The pool was fenced off from access. There also were some strange antennae nearby. I figure the place was under surveillance.
A sign gave a bit of reason why this pool was fenced off from access.
The world's entire population of Devils Hole pupfish - Cyprinodon Diabolis - lives in this small, hidden pool. the pool is actually the mouth of a water-filled cave system. In summer, when nutrients are abundant and when pupfish eggs hatch, there may be as many as 500-600 pupfish here. In winter the population drops to 200 or fewer.
Since we couldn't get close enough to see pupfish, we didn't stay long. After some debate it was decided to head back to Las Vegas by way of Pahrump.
The Return Trip
On the way toward Las Vegas, we pass through Pahrump valley. From there we could see the backside of Mount Charleston. The view of this snowcapped mountain quite majestic from here.
While in Pahrump, we stopped at a fireworks store. It was filled with interesting items. Eric found a couple of very interesting items.
The sun was setting as we finished the journey back to Las Vegas. We were on the lookout for wildlife, but it was getting dark fast.
Fortunately, before it became too dark, we discovered some wild burros! They were undisturbed by our photographic attentions and just sauntered away.
We took their cue and sauntered back to Las Vegas. So ends another successful miniQuest trip.