Saturday, June 5th, 1976. I left Whittier, California, at 9 AM. A late start, really, and met my buddy Larry in Riverside, California. Thats where we sometimes meet, as he lives in San Diego, California. Then we caravan out to our destination, using CB radios to talk to each other on the way out and back.
This time we would be out on the high desert for six days. Our destination was an abandoned small plane airstrip near the townsite of Barnwell in the New York Mountains, pretty near the Nevada/California border. For the most part we were on Interstate 15. From there, we left the freeway and travelled on asphalted roads, and finally dirt road. After seven hours (255 miles), we arrived on site at the old airstrip.
We were surrounded by Joshua Trees, bushes, and dry grasses. I’d never camped on an airstrip, so it felt very unusual. We drove the whole length of the airstrip and took some compass readings. The strip was aligned with Las Vegas and toward the South, to a VOR station. It looked like it hadn’t been used in years. There were no buildings on it and at 4,576’ elevation, we surmised it was probably connected to the site of Hart, five miles to East.
When gold was discovered at Hart, (named for one of the discoverers, Jim Hart) it soon transformed the area into a fair sized city, with several large buildings and a two story hotel.
Water was supplied by the “pumping station” shown in one of my pictures.
A pipeline is shown on the topographic map, feeding Barnwell, as well as the Hart area. A note of mine said the pumping plant looked in pretty good shape to us in 1976, but by July of 1981, the pump wheel and walking beam, were almost all gone. I’m not sure there is anything left by now. Perhaps the storage tank still exists, but that was 21 years ago.
But, I digress. The afternoon we arrived was spent in making camp, having supper (beans and hot dogs), followed by retiring to our campers and sleep.
Sunday morning started cool (low of 58 F ); a high of 86 F would be reached, and by breakfast time, it was 63 F with a wind of 7-9 MPH from the Northwest. What a pleasant day it was. We broke out the chaise lounges and put them under the Joshua Trees. There we made a big discovery.
While ensconced, reading, I felt individual drops of water falling on me about once a minute. Looking up to the Joshua Tree, I saw a drop of water being formed at the end of an unopened flower pod!! Larry observed the same. When the water drop got heavy enough, it fell!
Just looking at the Joshua Trees, they appeared more dead than alive. Who would have guessed they had water to spare!
After servicing the motorcycles, we had creamed tuna on muffins for supper. It was still too windy to have a camp fire; I lit my faithful Coleman lantern. The next day, Monday, would be a busy one, and so to bed.
Monday: The wind woke me at 1:26 AM. Other sounds, like mice outside. I always enjoy the sound of wind on the desert. With lots of Joshua Trees about us, the wind sounded like ghosts. I soon drifted back to sleep until our usual get-up time of 7:30 AM. A quick check of the thermometer showed a low for Monday as 60 F. It would show a high of 87 F for the day.
After breakfast, we leisurely got our gear together for a long exploratory by motorcycles over the old railroad grade to Searchlight Nevada. Securing the camp, we got astride our iron horses and off we went.
From the elevated railroad grade, we had a great view of the surrounding desert. We passed Hart Peak on our right, then the site of Juan, at the Nevada border. The railroad grade ran almost straight Northeast, crossing the Piute Valley and eventually arrived in Searchlight itself where we topped off the motorcycle gas tanks and had a cold drink at the gas station.
Coming into Searchlight, we passed a large number of old mines and buildings. The residential population keeps down vandalism thus there was still much to see, although one cannot wander through these buildings as they are on private property. After riding around Searchlight a bit, I took a photo and we headed back across the railroad grade and to our camp, some 25 miles away.
After the 55 mile roundtrip, it was good to sit down in Larry’s camper and enjoy a spaghetti dinner with wine and salad. A curious rabbit came into camp and the coyotes were singing. Finally off to my camper bed at 11 PM. I had no trouble sleeping that night
With the sun coming through after our lunch, we prepped the cycles again and explored the new campgrounds (Mid Hills) many miles South of us at the Cedar Canyon road and the Black Canyon road. A really nice camp, if you are into camping near other people.
Back at the Barnwell/Hart Mine airstrip camp we had supper and sat out enjoying the ¾ moon. It was still mildly windy so we were unable to have a campfire this trip. We decided we had just about explored the most interesting areas on our limited time. The days riding racked up 74 miles. I felt a little “saddle-sore”, as I tottered off to my camper’s bed around 9 PM. Tomorrow we would move to a different area.
On Wednesday we broke camp and headed for Clark Mountain via the Cima road. Crossing the I-15 freeway, we kept heading Northeast until we came to a large power line that crossed the road. There, leaving the paved road, we rode onto the power line service road. That was quite an adventure as the “road” was poorly maintained with dips and washouts. It was slow going, but we finally reached another dirt road to our Northwest and headed off on that road until we reached an abandoned airway beacon site just big enough for our two campers. It was 3:10 PM. We had arrived on Mesquite Pass. Stunning scenery and gusting winds. Here we made camp, admired the view and made an early supper of chow mien with tuna and Champagne! Wind at the site ranged from 20-30 MPH. This whole trip was windy! It finally stopped at 8:30 PM!. Good, just in time for bed.
Thursday was our final day of this trip. After breakfast, we rode our motorcycles back to the power transmission service road and headed Southeast into a canyon on Clark Mountain. Larry’s motorcycle died on him. It stubbornly refused to start. He coasted part of the way back to the camp, and I towed him into our site.
This had been quite an active trip. Very enjoyable, but the weather was deteriorating and Larry decided to leave early for home in San Diego. He left at 1:30 PM. I stayed onsite until 4:30 PM before I left for Los Angeles.
A note for high desert visitors: Cactus & wildflowers in bloom in June; temps: 60 F to 85 F.
July the temperatures were 100 F to