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By David A. Wright
Recently, I’ve been going through my old VHS video tapes and digitizing them to DVDs. These tapes contain my travels and explorations between 1995 and 2009. I thought I’d start releasing some video shorts of my early travels on this forum.
The back story for this particular video is as follows. On March 30, 1996, I made a short hike of about a mile and a third up the lower third of Surprise Canyon, on the western slopes of the Panamint Range, Inyo County, California. This canyon is just outside of Death Valley National Park. This canyon has running water running year round through the stretch shown, fed by substantial Limekiln Springs, and the canyon is a water wonderland. For those not familiar with the area, refer to the two maps. The first one shows the canyon in relation to the region, the other a close up of the canyon and the ghost town of Panamint City. The blue line in the close up image shows the route that was taken.
I made the trip with author/publisher Alan Patera, of Oregon. I had been this way several times previous, but this was Alan’s first time. Alan publishes the WESTERN PLACES series of monograph publications, centering on the history of locations now ghost towns. He and I have collaborated on several published historical writings over the years, and have traveled to and have camped in many historical locations.
On this hike, we drove up and parked at what is shown on the topo maps as Chris Wicht Camp. Chris Wicht was a colorful character, businessman and prospector who lived in the region in the late 19th century and early 20th century; who was a barkeep at Ballarat, now a ghost town a few miles away on the Panamint Valley floor. He is buried in the nearby community of Trona. At the time of the hike, Chris Wicht Camp was inhabited by father and son George and Rocky N.; George has since died and Rocky has since been operating the seasonal general store down at Ballarat. Alan and I then hiked upstream, through an increasing flow of water, topping out at the top of what is locally known as the falls, about a third of a mile below Limekiln Spring. At that point, there are found in the copious overgrowth of willows mining equipment and a vehicle or two. Above this point, the road the remaining way to Panamint City has been left alone by the elements and is still in drivable shape but now out of bounds. Since Alan and I weren’t prepared and it was too late in the day to continue up to Panamint City, we returned back to my vehicle.
Believe it or not, this byway used to be a maintained road, accessing historic Panamint City, one of the region’s early mining booms, founded in 1873. The remains of Panamint City are high up the canyon, at an elevation of about 6,350 feet. Though Panamint as a town was a ghost town by the 20th century, a few hardy souls have often lived in one or other of the structures that stood up there thereafter. There was always some mining activity going on up there, thus Inyo County kept the road maintained. Severe flashfloods of 1984 totally destroyed the road in the lower canyon. Inyo County didn’t have the funds, nor did the few who worked their prospects and mines and who lived in one of the few shacks provide the tax base to undertake such a major rebuild.
The route above the high point that Alan and I reached is still in very good shape and could be taken by most vehicles. The route that we walked was the goal for hard core off road enthusiasts with extremely modified rigs and big winches to about the year 2000, when a large environmentalist group sued the U.S. government and the road has been closed to vehicles since. Protests and lawsuits were made by land owners and those who had patented claims at Panamint City, without success.
At the time Alan and I walked the road, there were still occasional groups who made it up this canyon with their vehicles, as the closure was still about four years in the future. There were owners of patented mining claims who drove as far as they could then hiked in to do their annual assessment work. Death Valley had changed from National Monument to National Park status the year previous.
Alan and I didn’t make it to Panamint City that day, which is several miles further on up the canyon. But we did make a hike up there the following year and camped overnight, along with two other people, which is another video I’ll add in time.
In the days I took this video, I was using a Sony Hi-8 video camera. In those days, most of my video editing was simply dubbing video off the camera and onto the VHS tape in the VCR, using the pause button on the VCR to edit out unwanted video. This particular tape was edited using a complex, cumbersome, old style video editing system, which utilized the camera, a monitor, a VCR and a box that contained an archaic computer. All editing took place by archaic and hard to use on screen menus. That is why the video begins with some graphics and text indicating some of the details of the trip.
This video segment is just over 10:38 long. Put on your waders and enjoy!
NOTE: There is a blank section midway that is about five seconds long and doesn’t show anything. Don’t worry, the video will come back and continue.
Surprise_1996.xmp [Note: This file is a corresponding file to the video file above and will not do anything of its own if clicked.]
UPDATE: A retry of the original video, plus the same video in two other formats attempted to see if I can get any to work. This will also help me to determine what video file format works best on this board.
By David A. Wright
My next series of videos will be based on a trip in 2000 that I took with Lew Shorb. Lew is a board member here, as well as owner of the popular website http://www.ghosttownexplorers.org/ghost.htm
In breaking with my past habit of culling out historical sites and ghost towns and creating short videos dealing with these, I decided to keep the exploring part of Explore Forums in and create videos of each day of my travel and exploration, including our camps. Scenery, travel, camping ghost towns and wide open spaces.
Part one of this series, as well as subsequent videos, will all appear here within this same thread. Part I will start in my garage, where I was finishing up with the packing my truck. The following day, after work, I begin my travels to meet Lew Shorb at Rhyolite, Nevada ghost town.
Our three day, two night travels prowled about the "Nevada Triangle" section of northeastern Death Valley National Park; and will include such sites as:
1. The Las Vegas & Tonopah Railroad
2. Gold Bar
3. Phinney Mine
4. Strozzi Ranch
5. Currie Well (LV&T RR)
6. Mud Springs Summit (LV&T RR)
7. Happy Hooligan Mine
This video, that of March 30th and 31st, will start off this series; and is brief, only being 3:28 long. Nevada-Triangle_Shorb-2000_Part-1.wmv
So, below is my narrative of part one of this series to give full context of what is seen in the video. It will probably take longer to read than the video is long.
Exploration Field Trips
March 31-April 2, 2000
Into the Nevada Triangle with Lew Shorb
Lew Shorb, of southern California, and I had been corresponding by email for quite some time, yet we had never met. Early in the year 2000, we finally did, when I went south to spend a couple days with a friend and his wife while he was recuperating after suffering major health problems. Since Lew and I both were avid history and off-road exploration fans, we started planning a trip together somewhere. Plans came to fruition March 30, 2000, when we met at the Red Barn in the ghost town of Bullfrog, Nevada. We planned to travel the "Nevada Triangle" of Death Valley National Park, using Lew’s GPS and THE EXPLORER’S GUIDE TO DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, by T. Scott and Betty Tucker Bryan, to navigate through some interesting and historic countryside for the weekend.
Below is an account of our trip, based upon my transcribed verbal notes on microcassette.
Day 1 - March 30, 2000
Packed my truck after work. I lived in Ridgecrest, California at the time. Plans were still a bit sketchy, a meeting in Beatty, and dinner there was sort of the way we were going to start. Our trip itinerary was to visit the ghost town of Gold Bar in the Bullfrog District, Phinney Canyon Mine in the Grapevine Range, possibly go south to Carrara, then maybe into Death Valley and visit the site of Schwab in Echo Canyon. Lew was going to email me his final prospects that night. Due to technical problems with my ISP, I could not retrieve email.
Day 2 - March 31, 2000
I attempted to retrieve my email early in the morning. Technical problems persisted, no email. Was Lew still coming, or would I be alone in the night in Rhyolite? So I decided my plan was to meet Lew [hopefully] at either at Beatty or Rhyolite after I got off work at the borax refinery in Trona, California. Things went downhill that morning before work while undergoing final preparations. While putting in final items into the back of the truck, I find that my air mattress, which had been pumped up a week before to check for leaks and had held air fine all week, was flat. My 5-gallon water jug, which had held a mix of water and a light dose of chlorine to clean and check for leaks for the past couple days, leaked out its entire contents overnight and made a big mess in the back of the truck and all over the garage floor. In my mind, the big blow would come this evening after work and driving to Rhyolite, and finding Lew would not be there; and that his email stating so was locked in the big machine of my ISP who was not giving me my email for the past two days due to their technical problems.
At 5:45 P.M. I left work and left for Rhyolite. In case of another water jug failure, I purchased a few 1-gallon jugs of drinking water and ice before leaving Trona, as well as refilling my water jug. Not knowing the final plan on where to meet Lew, if he was to be out here at all, I started to call out for Lew periodically on my FRS two-way radio when I left Trona, just in case he was somewhere around waiting for me to get off work. The FRS was a new purchase specifically for this trip, and it has been a welcome tool since. Lew and I had already agreed on which channel to use for the trip.
North winds were brisk leaving Searles Valley and advancing darkness made it colder. The winds died down when I entered Death Valley. Forecasts were calling for decreasing winds for the weekend. The temperature at Stovepipe Wells was a balmy 70º. Climbing out of Death Valley, my high beams suddenly went out, the daylight driving lights on my 1996 Chevrolet S-10 came on. I switched to low beams and they worked just fine. I reached for the headlight switch and found it was very hot. Great! No confirmation, no air in the mattress, no water in the jug. Now this.
Topping Daylight Pass, I radioed once again for Lew. And I got an answer. Relief! Lew was waiting for me at the Red Barn in the Bullfrog townsite. He brought his son with him, plus a friend of his son. Though FRS radio manufacturers state that generally a radio range of two miles is maximum, Lew and I were chatting clearly at eight miles distance.
Lew and I met at about 7:45 PM, then we drove a couple miles west and found a camp spot atop the Las Vegas & Tonopah Railroad grade. We both set up camp amid the blackness of the night and the chilly northern breeze - Lew and the boys would sleep in Lew’s Jeep Cherokee, myself in the back of my truck. Our vehicles were T-boned into each other on the railroad grade. I blew up my air mattress with my 12-volt compressor with hopes it might hold air at least for the night. I made me a meal of canned chicken, instant split pea soup and instant mashed potatoes with wine - relished while sitting on the tailgate dressed in a hooded sweatshirt with a jacket over it. Lew and the boys had hot dogs. Conversation to the light of several Coleman lanterns ran the gamut from history to finalizing our travel plans to GPS units. Lew showed me the remains of his favorite type of GPS - an old 486 laptop computer running Windows 95 and DeLorme Street Atlas USA, with a Garmin GPS unit plugged in. The CPU on the computer blew that afternoon, so Lew allowed the boys to have fun with the .22 rifle. Lew had picked up the pieces and bagged them for disposal later.
It was a chilly night. At 10:50 PM I had enough for the day and turned into my camp within the bed of my truck. I had my oversize bag plus my wife’s sleeping bag opened and laid over mine for extra warmth. I’m glad that I had it. But I had forgotten my pillow. The chilly night and no pillow made for a night of tossing and turning and little sleep.
By David A. Wright
Northern Nevada, Southwestern Idaho
(and a Blip of Southeastern Oregon Thrown in for Good Measure)
June 19 - 28, 2001
This is the trip that I consider to be my favorite trip I have ever undertaken. It had been in the planning stages since the previous December. Originally, quite a number of people were invited and had semi-committed themselves to come along. Over time, however, eventually the number of people whose semi-commitments became firm commitments to this trip narrowed to four. And I was one of them.
Between June 19 and 27, 2001, I undertook a trip throughout northern Nevada, southeastern Oregon and southwestern Idaho in search of ghost towns, adventure and to enjoy the wide open spaces that the Great Basin is known for. Beside myself, there was Alan Patera, of Oregon; Graham, of the California Bay Area; and Gil, of southern California. Since we were coming from different points on the map, we elected Midas, Nevada - located in the far western side of Elko County northeast of Winnemucca, as a meeting point. Gil was originally going to drive to my primary home, then at Ridgecrest, California, and ride with me. However, at the last minute, he changed his mind and drove his car the entire trip. Graham and I chose to meet at Hawthorne, Nevada or at Mono Lake, depending on the circumstances of our first morning travels. Alan was to meet Graham and I in the evening at Midas on our first day out. Gil planned to meet us at noon the following day at Midas.
My 4x4 rig at the time was my 1996 Chevrolet S-10. It was bone stock, with standard suspension. It was powered by the 4.3 liter V6 with the higher power option; a 5-speed manual transmission; standard, lever activated 4x4 transfer case. The interior sported the LS option package, which included upgraded interior materials; but the truck still had manual crank windows, no tilt steering wheel; and had an aftermarket cruise control installed. Other options were bucket seats and console. The truck had nearly 100,000 miles on it when we started. It turned over the century mark during this trip, on a dirt road in the wide open spaces of north-central Elko County.
Graham drove a 1990 Chevrolet ¾-ton 4x4 pickup with a low profile, pop-up camper. The truck is scarcely optioned, running a 350 cubic inch V8 and a 5-speed manual transmission. Graham has equipped the truck over the years for expedition and is well equipped to tackle everything. However, his truck became problematic over the course of the trip.
Alan Patera drove his bone stock 1997 Ford Explorer. It's the most stripped Explorer I've seen, virtually no options. It's well used off road and the lack of fluff has suited this rig well.
Gill tagged along in his 1990 Pontiac Grand Prix. He slept in it, ate in it and drove it over miles of dirt roads. The car would have escaped unscathed, if not for his hitting a deer on the dirt road between Tuscaurora and Midas after he split from our group on the last day we all were together. He continued to drive his wrecked car for a couple more days, until he stopped to visit friends in Reno.
My camera at the time was one of the original Sony Mavica digital cameras, with a resolution of 640x480. For storage of photos, it used standard floppy disks. The Mavica was in its dying stages at the time, I had owned it about three years. It started acting up on the second day of the trip; completely quit, inexplicably began working again, then died completely on the last day of this adventure. I took a 35mm Pentax camera along as a backup, but had taken along a roll of old film. None of the photos I took with the Pentax came out, I had shot one roll. When processing the many disks of digital photos, I found that about ten or eleven disks had been corrupted by issues with the camera, so that I was not able to extract the images from the disks, loosing around 200 images. Many of the lost images were of ghost towns, such as in the case of National, Nevada; so that I have no images whatsoever of that location, others few.
My written documentation for each day of the trip will be in a rather paraphrased format, but includes all travel and most experiences. You can gather the rest of the trip from the video and photos. I will break the six plus hours of edited video taken and cut down to videos for each single day, along with a photo slide show at the end. This thread will contain all content from this trip from start to end.
In a break from my past custom when presenting video on this forum, and due to the volume and number of ghost towns visited, I will not write up a history for the ghost towns or historic places visited. That is far too time consuming and labor intensive. There are plenty of written and web resources if one wishes to pursue their quest for knowledge of these sites.
Below, a list of historic locations we visited – in the order that we visited them:
1. Bodie & Benton Railway, California.
2. Stillwater, Nevada.
3. White Cloud City (Coppereid), Nevada.
4. Unionville, Nevada.
5. Midas, Nevada.
6. Spring City, Nevada.
7. Paradise Valley, Nevada.
8. Buckskin, Nevada.
9. National, Nevada.
10. Delamar, Idaho.
11. Silver City, Idaho.
12. Rio Tinto, Nevada.
13. Pattsville, Nevada.
14. Aura, Nevada.
15. Cornucopia, Nevada.
16. Edgemont, Nevada (from a distance – on private property)
17. White Rock, Nevada (from a distance – on private property)
18. Tuscaurora, Nevada.
19. Dinner Station, Nevada.
20. Metropolis, Nevada.
21. Charleston, Nevada.
22. Jarbidge, Nevada.
I remember reading in Nevada Magazine about the history of Steven's Camp, Nevada. I searched online and could only find a completely different story by the Black Rock Explorers Society, but the story was nothing like the story I had read in Nevada Magazine. With some searching, I was able to find the real history that I read about in Nevada Magazine about the property being owned by a somewhat famous Country Music star who went by the name Tennessee Ernie Ford.
Here is a link to that article for anyone interested in reading it
Seems the first link about Steven's Camp makes the claim that, "It was built primarily as a rescue cabin on BLM land without BLM permission by winter hunters, primarily for winter hunters who might get stranded in the Nevada snows. It has been maintained so well by people who take advantage of its existence that the BLM has given its blessing. Even still no one officially maintains it." You can read that article here.
Unfortunately the first link that comes up when searching for Steven's Camp Nevada is the link with the false information. Let's see if we can get this post to show up first when someone searches for it.
My husband and I stumbled across this cemetery on a drive through the log truck trails near our home about six months ago and intended to return. We went back this weekend and the property has been fenced and posted "No Trespassing". I am going to attempt to get permission to roam around. We spoke to somebody else who was in the area and they informed us that there is an entire ghost town out there and that some of the grave sites date back to the 1800's. So, cross your fingers in hopes that I will be able to find the owners of the property and that they will allow us to explore.