The quarterly journal of Desert Survivors • Experience, Share, Protect • Winter 2006/7, 25, 4


Desert Survivors History Bighorn Logo Mecca Hills

Desert Survivors History: The Bighorn Logo
By Gregor Nelson, Healdsburg, CA, t the risk of tarnishing my small place in Survivors folklore with a more mundane (if factual) account, here’s something on creating the DS logo, and a rather interesting coincidence.

Bruce Nelson photographing petroglyphs, Coso Range, 1946

Sheep canyons. I had never seen prints made from these negs, and put them away for another twenty years. In 2005 I ran across them again, and this time looked more closely. The very last neg featured a large horizontal rock with over a dozen bighorns, at least three dogs, a shield and medicine bag and, right in the center of the action, a rather familiar silhouette. It is published here for the first time.

In 1981, while a graphic design major at San José State, I developed an identity for Desert Survivors to replace the hokey clip-art cow skull-cactus-lariat version that Doug Kari had commissioned for our shirts in 1980. While we hadn’t actually seen petroglyphs or bighorn sheep on that trip, it was a natural concept to explore. I found a weighty volume in the SJSU library with hundreds of rock art field drawings from the California and Nevada deserts. Very few of the bighorn glyphs had the right sense of charging resolve I felt the Survivors needed. But I finally found one sturdy fellow, and noted with satisfaction that he was found in Inyo County. With very few alterations, it was perfect. A few years later, my mother gave me a packet of about forty 4x5 negatives she had shot in 1946 around Wild Horse Mesa, in the Coso Range just south of the Inyos. My father was stationed at the China Lake Naval Weapons Center at the time, helping develop what became the Sidewinder heat-seeking missile. Weekends were spent exploring and photographing the surrounding desert areas, including the rich troves of drawings in Renegade and

The Survivor Bighorn at home, 1946. Photos ©2007 by Gregor Nelson, all rights reserved.

Cover: Palm oasis, Anza-Borrego State Park. Article to appear in the Spring, 2007 issue. Photograph by Patrick Dunn. 2 The Survivor Winter 2006/7

Doris Nelson

Doris Nelson



I was one of four members of the 17-day Solstice 1980 Expedition from Owens Valley to the Inyo crest, the first trek under the (then tie-dyed) banner of Desert Survivors. It was there we first encountered a former BLM employee and his ill-conceived scheme to cut a road along the crest to the old Keynot Mine, destroying pristine bristlecone groves in the process, and using much of the available water for a cyanide leaching system on-site. Very quickly the focus of the Survivors shifted from lighthearted exploration of the high desert to serious environmental protection.

How to Reach Us
[See website for curent information] Editor Paul Brickett (408) 279-3129 Membership Information Steve Tabor (510) 769-1706 Desert Survivor Website Board of Directors President Steve Tabor Activities Bob Lyon Communications Paul Brickett Managing Loretta Bauer Secretary Deborah Schreiber Volunteer Lynne Buckner At Large Directors: Jannet Schraer Judy Kendall Patrick Dunn Dan Seneres Nick Jedenoff General Counsel Alan Siraco

Contribute to T h e S u r v i vo r ; You’ll be Glad You Did
Deadline for the summer issue is June 21, 2007. Submissions (with maximum word length) may include letters-to-the-editor (200), feature articles (4000), trip reports (2000), desert conservation issues, articles on desert natural history, book reviews, backpacking/camping recipes, member announcements and original art. All submissions which relate to the mission of Desert Survivors will be considered for publication. All text must be submitted electronically. Please send text longer than a paragraph as an attached file. Formats currently accepted (in order of preference) are: Word (.doc), WordPerfect (.wpd), Rich Text Format (.rtf) and text (.txt). Please include your full name, city and state of residence and phone number with the submission. For photographs, please identify the people and locations shown. Digital photos need to be approximately 1600 pixels resolution to be printed the full width of a page (8.5 inches).

bers to broadcast e-mail to everyone else signed up for the listserv. Recent topics included floods, desert wildflowers, road conditions, and DS service trips. Be careful, though, to not inadvertently send personal e-mail to the entire listserv. Desert Survivor members may subscribe to either DSEM or DSOL by e-mailing tortoise, For the subject use “subscribe regular mailings” for DSEM, and “subscribe listserv” for DSOL. Don’t include the quotation marks and do include in the body of the message your name and address so that we can verify your membership. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have a completely automated system, and Tortoise can be a little slow, so it might take several days.


Steens Mistakes April 16, 2007 Just some comments regarding the Steens Mountain Carcamp article in the Fall, 2006 issue: The picture you have as viewing Kiger Gorge is actually Big Indian Gorge. Also the area that they are viewing from is only about 500 yards from the Russ Pengelly Plaque, founder of the Desert Trail, but apparently no viewing this or mention. The area viewed from is probably the best of the Big Indian and near two good campsites. The view you have listed as View down into Kiger Canyon is actually a view from the East Rim to the Alvord Desert below. It should be noted that after what they have called the Shepard’s Cabin, they had to cross the upper Cirque of Little Indian Gorge before dropping into the Little Wildhorse Gorge and Lake area. The Little Indian was the first route of the Desert Trail before the Big Indian was bought out and land exchanged by the BLM. No mention of this. Ross Edginton, Lake Oswego, OR

Mission Statement for Desert Survivors
Desert Survivors is a nonprofit organization dedicated to desert conservation and exploration. Our members enjoy hiking in and learning about America’s desert lands, and seek to protect those areas for future generations.

Desert Survivor E-Mail, Listserv
Desert Survivors has two e-mail lists for members, DSEM and DSOL. DSEM allows members to receive most regular mailings by e-mail rather than paper. Trip schedules, party and meeting announcements, alerts – everything except renewal notices and The Sur vi vor arrive in your inbox, often days before other members receive theirs in the mail. You receive 100% of the text contents of the regular mailings (and nothing else). Desert Survivors protects the e-mail addresses of its members fully, never lending, selling or giving them away to others. DSOL is our listserv, which allows mem-

The Sur vi vor is printed by My Printer, Berkeley, CA,
The Survivor Winter 2006/7


Incredible Desert Event Tops Off Desert Survivors 25th Year
n December 3, 2006, Desert Survivors topped off its 25th Anniversary year with an event billed as “The Incredible Desert”. It was a party that will go down in history as unique and exciting, a celebration of the group and its twenty-five years of desert exploration and appreciation. Impresario Gerry Fait put together an excellent crew of dynamic performers, all of whom offered original works of entertainment. Like all creative endeavors, these involved a lot of labor, but the show went well and the crowd was pleased. We will always remember it.

Maureen Grabowski



had to make up their answers as they went along. After the questions, Alan made his choice and the gong sounded. He chose Number Three, Craig Osen. Wrong! It was Number One, the real Doug! Alan, you did alright. Everybody answered with such deadpan truthfulness and such a sense of suspense that it was all very convincing, up there with the best of TV game shows. Doug, Craig and Brian Rawlinson did a great job. It was lots of fun. Next came “The Saga of Desert Survivors”, a re-enactment of the long multi-day “dayhike” that led to the founding of Desert Survivors. Using information from an in-depth telephone interview with Doug, Joanna Kumik wrote a poetic narrative about the experience Doug and his friend Jim Morrison had as young men on Keynot Peak. Joanne narrated the story while Darrell Hunger and Jannet Schraer recreated through mime their interpretation of that long, dry hike. Peter Hadreas and Stan Huncilman provided music with piano and bongo drums respectively. This was real theater, effectively performed and original, like a Japanese Kabuki piece. What better way to portray the founding legend? Joanna’s narrative accompanies this article. Next up, Judith Rosen took the stage and asked past and present Directors, leaders and presidents to stand up an be acknowledged by the crowd. Meanwhile a band began to assemble behind Judith composed of Neal Cassidy, Jerome Rainey and Stan. Marta Perry appeared in a wonderful Afro-wig looking like a strange parody of Tina Turner. Judith, Jannet Schraer, Jean McAneny and Maureen Grabowski were posed as backup singers. No doubt, this was going to be something! President Steve Tabor was called up on stage and honored with a short introduction. Asked to make a very, very short speech, he proceeded to acknowledge the tribute when suddenly the band broke in on his oration with a loud refrain of, “strollin’, strollin’, strollin’ in the desert”. The song, played to the tune of Credence Clearwater’s “Proud Mary”, was entitled “Proud Steve”. Steve never finished his speech. Instead he joined the dance to the raucous beat and even sang a few verses on the chorus. The original lyrics, penned by Gerry Fait, were about Steve’s metamorphosis from warehouseman and antiwar activist to obsessive desert hiker. The band was tight and solid; we’ll have to make it our house band. Tabor was not in the rehearsals and didn’t know what to expect. For once he was not the center of the show, but it’s hard to be humble when people write songs about you. The crowd gave a great ovation to the performers. Following the music, Darrell Hunger presented a slideshow of desert scenes, entitled “Edward Abbey’s Advice to Park Rangers”, reading from
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Throughout its course, the event exhibited real creativity, a quality that Gerry insisted on. The event began with typical socializing around the tables while slides of desert scenes and facts about desert geography and natural history ebbed and flowed on the front wall. At 4:00 pm the event moved to its first performance. Founder Doug Kari had come up from Los Angeles to appear in Desert Survivors first-ever contest of “To Tell the Truth”. Picture three middle-aged but healthy-looking men on the stage each at his own microphone. When asked his name, Number One steps forward to his mike and announces, “My name is Doug Kari”. When asked his name, Number Two steps forward and announces, “MY name is Doug Kari”. Number Three does likewise. To the group’s old-timers, this was a funny thing, for Doug is well known, and was Desert Survivors first celebrity. It was a strange moment, but the suspense continued from there. Alan Katz had volunteered to be the questioner. He knew none of the three men, so this contest was real. Alan had developed a series of questions about DS’ founding event, the multi-day attempt of the founders to climb Keynot Peak in 1978, led by Doug. None of this had been rehearsed; the two “non-Dougs”

Steve Tabor with Judith Rosen on stage, Neal Cassidy with guitar 4

Abbey’s works and illustrating each of his points with a slide. Many of the scenes were hilarious photos of Desert Survivor members posing for the camera. The crowd’s apparent favorite slide was that of Jannet holding a devining rod over a hot tub to illustrate the need for Park Rangers to have the skill and ability to find water in any situation. The Abbey quotes were familiar, since so many members had been brought up on “Desert Solitaire” and other works by the old desert sage, who died unexpectedly in 1989. Abbey’s words define a lot of what we have to say about desert issues and our sensibility about desert protection. Thank you, Darrell, for the inspiration.
Maureen Grabowski

leaders and activists, this will be a comprehensive portrayal of what Desert Survivors is all about. Dan hopes to show it on cable TV, perhaps on NPR. It’s a work in progress, but looks good already. It was an appropriate part of our 25th Anniversary celebration. There was barely enough food for the ninety-four attendees. We ate it all. Recorded dance music followed, a fitting finish to a glorious night. There are rumors that several DS personages were caught on film as they bounced around the floor. There’s even been talk that President Tabor was photographed dancing all alone in the disco cage as that sparkling disco ball revolved ‘round and ‘round, reflecting off his bifocals. That one is hard to believe. A good time was had by all. Karen Rusiniak chose the tunes. Thank you, Karen.


Steve Tabor took the stage again, this time to introduce by name the past and present Directors, trip leaders and activists present, asking them to stand, missing only a few (sorry, Jessica). Then Gerry Fait (foreground) on the dance floor By 9:00 we were ready to relax. the band assembled for another What was left of the crowd spilled song, “I’m a Survivor”, a parody of the 1966 hit by the Monkees, “I’m a Believer”. The lyrics, by Neal out onto the sidewalk on Broadway. Broadway Studios in San Francisco with its stage and dance floor was a good place for a Cassidy, tell the story of an unassuming American who goes on a party. Will we do it again? This one will be hard to top, but there first DS trip and learns to love the desert. He/she is thereby are those who say we need a party like this one every year. The transformed. The crowd was urged to sing along and did so, at least to the chorus. This was another original, and more great fun. originality of Gerry Fait and the gang will not be easy to duplicate. This was indeed one of a kind, but who knows? Some of us want The lyrics are printed below on this page. The song was a great to not even try, to savor this party as the unique and irreplaceable set-up for the catered dinner that followed. Through the dinner, performance that it was. Dan Seneres screened a short version of his film on Desert Survivors. Dan had edited the film down to fifteen minutes, but the We’ll see about next year or the year after. finished film will be much longer than that. With footage from Gerry Goss’ Saline Valley trip, other trips, and interviews of trip

I’m a Survivor
By Neal Cassidy, Oakland, CA To the tune of “I’m a Believer”, by Neil Diamond, 1966 I thought deserts more or less were all the same: Seen one wash or dune – you seen ‘em all. I was into forests, mountain fields and streams. I liked places cool and lush and green. Chorus: Then I took one trip; now I’m a Survivor! I just flipped; I’m feeling sublime. I’m in love! Oohh, I’m a Survivor; I feel aliver in this clime. I thought I had humped a heavy pack or two. Forty pounds or more just warmed me up.
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Then I added water – a gallon plus a day. And I felt my knees begin to sway. Chorus: But I made that trip, now I’m a Survivor! I feel whipped, but tough as can be. I’m in love! Oohh, I’m a Survivor; I feel aliver, yessiree. Now I know the desert is a livin’ thing, Full of wondrous sights for those who seek. But you’ll never see them ‘til you leave the road, And get a little lost, as I was showed. Chorus: When you make that trip, you’ll be a Survivor. Take my tip, and make yourself proud. You’ll be one (oohh) of the Survivors, not just a jiver in the crowd.

The Saga of Desert Survivors
By Joanna Kumic, Oakland, CA n the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada lies a spectacular valley rivaled by none in its beauty. Bordered by the Inyos to the west, the Saline and Last Chance ranges to the east, and high passes to the north and the south, the Saline Valley offers solitude and a feeling of being very far away. It was in this rugged land in May of 1978 that Desert Survivors was founded. The saga goes something like this.

Thirsty….. Water, water! Melt snow, soothe dry throats! In the moonlight they stuffed snow, twigs, dirt, bugs, and all into an old two gallon metal canteen they had found at the Keynot site and used it as a cooker to melt snow. Calm descended over them as their bodies warmed and thirst abated. Overhead the sky shimmered with starlight. The moon was full. From a perch high above them, an owl gazed down and quietly hooted as if to say “you did well, boys!” At daybreak, they began their descent. Exhausted and overwhelmed by the vastness of the landscape, they realized how deceptive distance is. Ridges can turn into rock faces, gentle slopes can end at sheer cliffs. It was important to read the land carefully, to keep cool and not panic or get hurt, to talk about the route and make sensible decisions. If only they had marked the trail on the way up! Stumbling, rocks slipping away under foot, losing the route, retracing steps, finding it again, the descent continued. Down, down they went discussing the importance of carrying extra water, food, a daypack with emergency supplies, a flashlight and compass, extra clothes. 36 hours later, weary but so much wiser, Doug and Jim reached camp and found their companions had gone to seek search and rescue help. The next day they descended to the valley floor and waited until a helicopter appeared. Triumphant, they refused it proclaiming themselves to be “desert survivors!” And that, my fellow Survivors, is how it all began!



One sunny hot afternoon, four long shadows suddenly appeared across the desert floor. Seeking adventure, the young students had come to the valley to climb up to the Keynot Mine. They quickly set out climbing. Higher and higher they scrambled, finally reaching a mine tunnel a day and a half later where, luckily, they found water. The following morning, inspired by the magnificence of the rising sun and fueled by an intense desire for discovery, Doug Kari and Jim Morrison set out for a day hike. Dressed in shorts and t–shirts with two quarts of water between them, they maneuvered upward. Morning soon gave way to afternoon, while adventure turned into struggle. In their excitement and innocence, they forgot the first code of the desert, be prepared and carry a lot of water. Exhausted and thirsty they reached the summit of Keynot Peak at sunset. Darkness fell, freezing temperatures enveloped them, and they were out of water. It would be a long, cold, sleepless night. How to survive until daybreak was the only thought on their minds. Shivering….. Oh, the unbearable cold! Make a fire, get warm!

T he Incredible Deser t, A Desert Survivors 25th Anniversary Event: Credits

tains) by Bob Ellis Lighting design by Ed Anderson. Proud Steve Music by John Fogerty Lyrics by Gerry Fait Moderated by Judith Rosen Performed by Jerome Rainey (guitar, voice), Neal Cassidy (guitar, voice), Stan Huncilman (bongos), Maureen Grabowski (voice, tambourine), Jannet Schraer (voice), Judith Rosen (voice) and Marta Perry in the part of Tina Turner Tina’s costume design by Marta Perry. Edward Abbey’s Advice To Park Rangers Read and interpreted by Darrell Hunger Slides designed and photographed by Darrell Hunger Projection by Ed Anderson. I’m A Survivor Music by Neil Diamond Lyrics by Neal Cassidy Performed by Neal Cassidy (guitar, voice), Jerome Rainey (guitar, voice), Maureen Grabowski (voice, tambourine), Judith Rosen (voice), Jannet Schraer (voice), Marta Perry (voice) and Jean McAneny (voice). Film Preview: Documentary Of Desert Survivors Written and directed by Dan Seneres Filmed by Jim Grannato and Yun Shin. Dancing Music selection by Karen Rusiniak.
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onceived and directed by Gerry Fait Special thanks to Cathy Luchetti, Stan Huncilman and Broadway Studios for providing rehearsal space and artistic support.

Large Visual Presentations Desert Facts by Gerry Fait; Slides of the Namibian and Californian Deserts by Judy Kendall Slides of the Coso Petroglyphs by Li Miao Lovett Slide projection by Ed Anderson To Tell The Truth Moderator played by Gerry Fait Contestants played by Craig Osen, Brian Rawlinson and Doug Kari Panel Member played by Alan Katz. The Saga Of Desert Survivors - A Re-Enactment Of The Day Hike That Led To The Founding Desert Survivors Written and read by Joanna Kumik Mimes played by Darrell Hunger and Jannet Schraer Original improvised music by Peter Hadreas (piano) and Stan Huncilman (bongos) Set design (slide of Inyo Moun6

Thank You To The Organizers Of Our 25th Anniversary Events
esert Survivors 25th Anniversary events in 2006 were a great success, thanks primarily to those who conceived of and organized them. As with all of our endeavors, we are dependent on volunteers to get things done, and done right. On April 14-17, Craig Deutsche led six Survivors on a rigorous four-day backpack from Saline Valley to the crest of the Inyo Mountains. This trip was Steve as go-go dancer designed as a re-enactment of the founders’ epic journey to the Inyo crest in 1978, the subject of our “Founders’ Legend”. See the Summer 2006 Survivor for the story. Thank you, Craig. In the Fall, Karen Rusiniak organized the 2006 Benton Bash (September 2224), a three-day encampment at Benton Hot Springs in the Eastern Sierra which also served Jannet Schraer and Neal Cassidy as the group’s Annual Meeting. Eighty-seven people attended; fifty stayed for the meeting. With such a large membership present and with many sub-events (hikes, a treasure hunt, a sing-along) to keep track of and details to consider, Karen had quite a challenge but came through strong. Benton was a watershed event for the group, unlike any other. It sets a standard for future Annual Meetings, and we plan to do it again this year. See the Fall 2006 Survivor for the story. Thank you, Karen. On October 27-29, Gerry Goss led an anniversary trip to Saline Valley, Desert Survivors’ spiritual home along with the Inyos. Members visited Saline Hot Springs, plus canyons in the Inyos and the Cottonwood Mountains. To those who attended, these were inspiring hikes Ed Anderson at the controls to some of the
The Survivor Winter 2006/7

Maureen Grabowski

Gerry Fait conceived of our “Incredible Desert” event on December 3 and carried it Linda Ryan through to success. With everything planned from scratch, dependent on pure creativity, this highly original event demanded acute attention. It was unique. Read the story on the event in this issue. Thank you, Gerry, for that phenomenal evening. It was a surprise and a joy for everyone. Year 2006 was a bold one for Desert Survivors. No telling when we’ll again reach this level of outstanding events, but we hope it’ll be before our 50th Anniversary. Watch these pages for future events like these. We’re already planning another Benton Bash for next Fall and an Issues Conference in November 2007. We’ll need your help as volunteers. Contact Volunteer Coordinator Lynne Buckner if you want to help with future events or Odessa Schraer modeling part of Tina have ideas for events Turner costume of your own. Her phone is (415) 824-5454 ..

Maureen Grabowski


amazing places where it all began. Thank you, Gerry, for this tribute to our heritage.

Maureen Grabowski

By Mimi Merrill Feb. 2, 1986 My own flawed quick notes Are not like those Of the singer who sang of Beowulf, Nor the Bard who graced blue Avon’s shore. No. The poet whose work is most like mine Chipped stone, rubbed rock, And worked a wordless tune on granite’s face, In caves or in the desert’s emptiness; Or scratched a feather dipped in dragon’s blood Across a drying autumn leaf, And flung it to a nameless wailing wind Whose passage brought it to my door.

Maureen Grabowski


Maureen Grabowski


Desert Survivors History, 1995-2006
By Steve Tabor esert Survivors histories have been written for the period 1981 to 1989 by Don Falk (1990), and for the period 1990 to 1994 by Steve Tabor (1994). This article brings that history up-to-date, 1995 to the end of 2006. The history of DS’ issues involvement is too complex to be included here. Watch for an “Issues History” in the next issue of The Sur vi vor.



Pahrump Valley, was boundary-marked almost entirely by Desert Survivors. It was a novel situation. The group also began to get calls to perform service trips. There were boundary signs to put up, old roads to obliterate, springs to restore and trash to be removed. Most leaders refused to perform the latter task, but the former three were attacked with enthusiasm. It felt good to be wanted, also to make positive connections with many Wilderness Specialists and Volunteer Coordinators, all of whom we found were good people. We also found the hard edge of many a Field Office Manager (the head man in the office) blunted. Our concerns about wildlife and Wilderness integrity were now treated with respect. Several “bad apples”in the agencies went on to other things, perhaps in states more redneck or cowboy than California. In March of 1995, Desert Survivors membership reached an alltime high: 1,101. It was never to exceed that figure again. Interest in the desert on the part of the general public (and the hiking public) began to wane after the Protection Act was passed. The antagonism of the gonzo Republicans in the House of Representatives, their rabid rejection of environmental safeguards and Wilderness protection, may also have been a factor; as they seemed to cast a strange voodoo on the public. Though the DS trips program was expanding, with 1994 totals the highest ever (46 trips with 545 participants), people stopped calling to join and new member totals began to drop. Neither trip participation nor membership totals have ever been as high again as they were then. (See the graph of membership totals over time on the next page.) Since then, Desert Survivors has retained most members from year to year. Membership renewal rates regularly top 70%, and typically, 30-40% of those renewing endorse the groups’ efforts through additional donations sent in with their membership checks. After the big fall-off in 1995 and 1996, membership figures stabilized at 750 to 850 for many years. Only recently has membership dropped to 700. Service trips of the type described above have become a feature of the Desert Survivors trips program. The group usually offers 1015 each year; five or ten are actually performed (some service trips do not generate enough member interest to justify the leader’s showing up at the trailhead). Desert Survivors has signed a cooperative agreement with the BLM at the new Black Rock Desert/High Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, enabling members to obtain reimbursement if they show up at an NCAscheduled volunteer project. Proximity to the SF Bay Area has created a demand for volunteer DS labor. The group has a good rapport with NCA managers. Desert monitoring trips have also become important. DS trip leaders are often asked to go into an area, usually a Wilderness, and report back to land managers about abuses they observe, usually off-road vehicle and grazing abuse. Reports are given, either verbal or written, once the place has been examined. Several good-quality
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With the passage of the California Desert Protection Act (CDPA) on October 31, 1994, Desert Survivors and the rest of the desert protection activist community entered a new era. For the first time the U.S. Congress recognized the value of the California Desert by protecting, all at once, millions of acres as Wilderness, National Parks and a National Preserve. Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Monuments became National Parks and a new Preserve was created in the East Mojave Desert. Sixty new Wilderness Areas were created on Bureau of Land Management land, and a dozen more were formed in the National Park Service properties. It had taken eight years of struggle; the CDPA had been introduced in 1986. But to those of us who had worked long and hard for desert Wilderness, the victory was a sweet one. Celebrations however were short-lived. After the 1994 election, Republican Party leaders, who had fought hard against the bill, sought its revenge by trying to repeal it. They also tried to shortcircuit the new Mojave National Preserve by cutting its funding to $1.00 per year. The Clinton Administration supported the Preserve by finding money elsewhere in the Interior Department budget, but it was clear that environmentalists, and especially public land protection advocates, were in for a long fight once again. But with the passage of the CDPA, Desert Survivors suddenly found itself an ally of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) instead of an adversary. For years, the group had been battling with the BLM for more protection of Wilderness Study Areas and wildlife, and demanding control of mining, grazing and off-road vehicles. The group’s relationship with the agency, mildly described as “at loggerheads”, was legendary in the community. In fact, antagonism with various BLM operatives had come to define Desert Survivors’ reputation as we found, again and again, that the BLM had allowed one and then another outrageous action by this or that rancher, prospector or vehicle junkie. In 1995 that all changed. DS Directors and leaders began to receive calls from BLM land managers asking us to help protect it and to monitor degradation of resources. Part of this was budget cuts by the Republican-controlled Congress, but part was also due to a curious role-reversal. The attitude seemed to be, “well, now that you’ve got your Wilderness Areas, you’ve got to help us manage them”. In 1995 and 1996, DS was besieged with requests from rangers on the ground to help do boundary marking of the new Wilderness Areas. We developed healthy relationships with several BLM ground men. So strapped for cash was the agency that offduty fire crews, prisoners and environmental groups were being asked to survey and mark the new boundaries. One of the WAs,

out. The objectives were reaffirmed in 1997. They have governed the group’s actions ever since. While promoting grants and a professional management stance for the group, Rochelle conceived of a Desert Art Show and Raffle as a fund-raiser in late 1994. This art show was a success, with 22 volunteers, more than one hundred attendees, and lots of art on display and up for auction. The event raised $4,200 for the group in raffle money and art sales (16% of the DS budget for the year), and it had a great impact on Desert Survivors’ public profile. Art shows were also held in 1995 and 1996, bringing in $3,100 and $1,700 respectively. Logistical difficulties and a drying up of both raffle prizes and art for auction ended the art shows after ‘96 but there is now talk of resurrecting them. The Year 1995 brought yet another innovation, the establishment of a Desert Survivors presence on the Internet. Members Jeff Mick and Nick Jedenoff introduced this idea in 1994-1995 and the Board moved to create the Petroglyph listserv as a result. By enabling members with e-mail addresses to broadcast e-mails to the whole list, the listserv linked members directly with a large array of others. In 1996, Director Richard Bone became pointman for Petroglyph, and in subsequent years Peter Ruddock became Keeper-of-the-List. One big advantage of the listserv is that it allows the President and other Directors, as well as individual member-activists, to broadcast issues alerts to a large number of members so as to amplify our weight when land agencies ask for comments on specific proposals or plans for the desert. With the Internet, we can do this without having to send paper mailings on the spur of the moment, a time-consuming and expensive task. The Internet also allows for the propagation of complex documents like Notices of Proposed Action (NOPAs) and management plans; both can be bulky when sent through the mail. So important has issues communication been to us, then and now, that we’ve kept on-line expenses in our budget as an Issues line item. We could not do without on-line communication nowadays. Soon after developing Petroglyph, Desert Survivors tackled the problem of how to establish a website. Member Neil Ratzlaff did most of the work in the early years. Some Directors were wary of this new form of communication, being hesitant about revealing fragile and sensitive desert places to the untutored millions who may just be looking for places to ride their bikes, for petroglyphs to vandalize, for arrowheads to steal. In time, however, websites evolved into a primary definition for groups like ours. Web development came a couple of years after Petroglyph. All through the late 1990s, the Desert Survivors Issues Group functioned as the major group’s forum for issues work. Discussion of issues moved away from Board Meetings, which were held every two months, over toward the Issues Group meetings, which were monthly. Stances and tactics on issues were usually worked out at Issues Group meetings, attended by eight to twelve of the most involved members, then sent to the Directors for ratification, either at a regular meeting or by phone or e-mail.


Membership totals 1988-2006

monitoring reports complete with color pictures were generated in 2003, 2004 and 2005. These were considered state-of-the-art by all who saw them. The addition of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology has added considerably to the efficacy of this monitoring work. Also in 1995, Desert Survivors became interested in getting grants to enable a greater activity level. One of the founders, Jim Morrison, had introduced this idea back in 1990 but received no backing from the Board. In 1994, Volunteer Director Rochelle Gerratt resurrected the idea and called for the Board to take it seriously. One thing needed was a Mission Statement, a unifying concept that would serve to define the group and its goals. No grantsman would fund a non-profit without a Mission Statement on the masthead of its publications. Rochelle organized a Board Meeting that would be led by a facilitator in February 1995. This facilitator, from The Management Center in San Francisco, guided a group discussion in which Directors gave their views on what the group was and what it was trying to do. Out of this all-day session came the slogan, “Experience-Share-Protect”, which is now part of the DS logo, along with the bighorn sheep icon and the words Desert Survivors. The new logo began appearing on the trip schedules and The Sur vi vo immediately afterward and was placed on Desert Survivors teeshirts and hats in 2001. The slogan is a succinct representation of what we do: experience the desert (through visitation), share our experiences with others (through trips and publications, slideshows and street fairs), and protect the desert (by using our communications to get members and others actively involved in issues work). The Desert Survivors Mission Statement reads as follows: “The mission of Desert Survivors is to experience, share and protect the desert, a beautiful, fragile and threatened environment deserving of respect and requiring constant vigilance.” Three more meetings were held in March through May 1995 in which a series of objectives for subsequent years were hammered
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Desert Survivors Service and Monitoring Trips, 1994-2006
Year/ Month 1994 Aug 1995 Apr May May Oct Oct Nov 1996 Mar Mar Mar Apr Apr Apr Jun Sep Sep Oct 1997 Mar Jun Jun Sep Oct Oct Nov 1998 Mar Apr Jun Aug Nov 1999 Mar Jun Oct Nov Nov 2000 Feb Mar Apr Apr Oct Location Bodie Hills fencing San Benito Mountains Blue Eagle (NV) Wilderness signing Owens Peak WA trail maintenance Inyo Wilderness road survey San Benito Mountains Nopah Wilderness boundary signing Desert Tortoise Natural Area (DTNA) Pahrump Valley Wilderness signing Pahrump Valley Wilderness signing Joshua Tree NP trash removal Quartz Spring (DVNP) fence removal Diablo Range (San Benito County) Bodie Hills fencing Inyo Mountain road survey East Sierra native plant restoration DTNA fence removal DTNA fence maintenance Bodie Hills fencing Sheldon Wildlife Refuge fence removal Steamboat Rock (BRD) trash removal Massacre Rim fire break Eureka Valley native plant survey DTNA fence maintenance Desert Tortoise Natural Area (DTNA) Rainbow Talc Mine monitoring Bodie Hills fencing Bodie Hills fencing DTNA fence maintenance DTNA signage, clean-up & site survey Massacre Rim Wilderness signing Fish Slough native plant restoration Nopah Wilderness boundary signing DTNA signage, clean-up & site survey Palen-McCoy Wilderness road restoration DTNA signage, clean-up & site survey Rest Spring Wilderness boundary signing Black Rock Desert boundary signing DTNA signage, clean-up & site survey Leader Dickes Ellis Ellis O’Riley Goss Ellis Tabor McMullen de Bellis Tabor McMullen McMullen Ellis Holten Ellis Tabor McMullen McMullen Holten Tabor Ellis Tabor Ellis O’Riley McMullen Tabor de Bellis Tabor McMullen McMullen Holten Tabor Deutsche McMullen Tabor McMullen Deutsche O’Riley McMullen 2001 Jan Mar Apr Apr May May 2002 Jan May Oct 2003 Mar Mar Apr Apr Sep Oct Nov Nov 2004 Jan Feb Mar Apr Apr Apr May Jul Sep Sep Oct Nov Dec Dec 2005 Jan Feb Mar Apr Apr Apr Apr Sep Dec 2006 Feb Apr Apr Nov Little Marias Wilderness road restoration Selenite Wilderness boundary signing DTNA signage, clean-up & site survey Black Rock NCA Volunteer Training Black Rock NCA Leave No Trace training North Black Rock Range monitoring Mecca Hills Wilderness road restoration Carrizo Plain fence removal DTNA signage, clean-up & site survey Calumet Water Search (monitoring) DTNA signage, clean-up & site survey Golden Valley Wilderness monitoring Bighorn Mtns. Wilderness monitoring Black Rock Desert Service Trip Steam Wells (Golden Valley) fencing Sheephole Mtns. Wilderness monitoring Sheephole Mtns. Wilderness monitoring Clipper Mtns. Wilderness monitoring Piutes/Little Piutes Wilderness monitoring Carrizo Plain fence removal Kingston Range RS2477 road survey Bright Star Wilderness road concealment Woods Mtns. WA RS2477 road survey Black Rock Desert road concealment Little High Rock Wilderness monitoring Little High Rock Wilderness monitoring Black Rock Desert Service Trip Piper and Sylvania WA boundary blockage Algodones Dunes ORV monitoring Darwin Falls WA road concealment Little Picacho Pk Wilderness monitoring Bristol Mtns. Wilderness monitoring Piute Mtns. Wilderness monitoring Old Woman Mtns. Wilderness monitoring DTNA signage, clean-up and site survey Coalinga Mineral Spgs. trail maint. El Paso Mtns. Wilderness monitoring Surprise Canyon monitoring (DVNP) Black Rock Desert road concealment Horsethief Roundup cleanup Picacho Peak Wilderness Monitoring Bright Star Wilderness road concealment Mecca Hills Wilderness monitoring Inyo Mountains Tamarisk Removal Tabor O’Riley McMullen O’Riley O’Riley Ellis Tabor Lyon McMullen Tabor McMullen McMullen Tabor DuPertuis Dickes Tabor Tabor Tabor Tabor Deutsche Lyon Deutsche McMullen DuPertuis Tabor Tabor Lyon Deutsche Tabor Deutsche Tabor Tabor Tabor Tabor McMullen Lyon Tabor McMullen Lyon Deutsche Deutsche Deutsche Lyon Lyon

Director Helen Wagenvoord, a veteran of the National Parks Conservation Association and other non-profits, became directly involved in the Issues Group starting in 1996. Other strong activists were Bob Ellis, Dave McMullen, Dave Halligan, and Janet Johnson, the Chair. From 1993 through the Issues Group’s demise in 2001, Janet chaired the meetings at her home and produced reg10

ular minutes that became the bible for members following our issues work. The Board of Directors used them to set priorities, members used them to lobby politicians and agency personnel, and they became a public record of what was happening in the desert for that whole era.

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When members stopped showing up at meetings, Janet kept up the work as an Issues Chronicle for awhile, then discontinued it. Li Miao rejuvenated the Issues Group in 2003, but since then sporadic in-line communication and actions by the President and Board have been substituted. In the environmental community generally, on-line blasts have become the substitute for face-to-face meetings in issues work. What this portends for the future of our movement in this age of SPAM is an open question. In 1997, another attempt was made to get grants for Desert Survivors. Helen Wagenvoord and Steve Tabor managed to get a grant from San Francisco’s Peradam Foundation in the amount of $10,000. This was originally given as seed money with which to hire a staff person or two, both to build the group’s membership and do issues work. Over the course of a three-year period, 19971999, Steve and Helen wrote three major grant proposals and a series of minor ones in the hope of increasing the budget by $20,000-30,000 per year. Except for a couple of minor amounts, one for $1500, another for $3500, these efforts were unsuccessful. In 1999 the Board of Directors released the Peradam funds to pay for issues work instead of organization-building. Much of our work on the Bodie RV Park and other campaigns were funded with this money. Almost all of Desert Survivors work down through the years has been funded by membership dues and donations. With the end of the dot-com boom, foundation funds for environmental work become harder to get and further DS work in grants has been shelved.. The Year 1997 also saw an utterly new focus to Desert Survivors activities, the Desert Trail. The Desert Trail, or Desert Trail Corridor, was designed as a continuous hiking route, in the desert, from Mexico through the Sonoran, Mojave and Great Basin Deserts into Oregon and eventually to Canada. The route uses existing foot trails, jeep trails and cross-country travel to get from point to point. The way is shown with compass bearings and GPS readings. In 1997 Steve Tabor mapped out the route in California and Nevada and began proving out individual segments using hikes on Survivor trip schedules as the test. Fall and Winter hikes were used for California routes, while Nevada routes were done in Spring and Summer. From May 1997 to September 2000, Steve led forty reconnaissance trips on the Desert Trail route in the two states. From time to time he would fill in the blanks on private excursions. Meanwhile member George Huxtable led eight private trips to map the route in Death Valley. Almost all of these were threeor four-day backpack trips from point-to-point, complete with map tracings, elevation records and (later) GPS positions. It was a unique, challenging and ultimately satisfying endeavor for both. Steve and George gained an endorsement of the California route at the Desert Trail Association (DTA) meeting in May 1999. One year later, Steve, Bob Ellis and Ol’ Creosote (a.k.a. D.W. Tomer, former head of the California DTA) gained approval for the Nevada section in May 2000. Since then Steve and George have documented the routes in both states in published guidebooks. The Desert Trail routes have gained publicity through numerous newspaper and magazine articles, putting the Desert Trail “on the
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map” as a unique and exciting route for long-distance trekking. Desert Survivors organized a Desert Trail Relay on the first twelve segments in California in January-March, 2001. Each segment had a different leader listed in the trip schedule and new members would gather at each trailhead to continue the next part of the journey. A celebration was held at end of the Relay at Kelso Dunes. In the fall of 2001, another relay was performed on the last fourteen California segments, from Kelso through Death Valley to the Nevada border. Similar relays were done for the Nevada segments, the first half in 2004 and the last half in 2005. Thus the Desert Trail was proved out as a viable route for backpackers. Dispatches from the relays made for some of the most exciting trip reports of those years. A relay on the northern routes in Oregon is now contemplated. Starting in 2000, Desert Survivors received an intense recharge from the advancement of Jessica Rothhaar to the Board of Directors. Jessica devised a membership survey in that year, the first for Desert Survivors since 1993. The survey produced many new volunteers for the group. Jessica became Membership Director at the 2000 Annual Meeting and promptly devoted her considerable energies to the first Desert Trail Relay in early 2001. Through her publicity efforts she managed to get a couple of newspaper articles printed. She led one segment in the first relay and two segments in the second relay in 2001. At the 2001 Annual Meeting, Jessica was elected Communications Director. Along with Art Director Hall Newbegin, they changed The Sur vi vor, Desert Survivors’ quarterly journal, from a brown paper magazine to glossy white. The heavy white paper would allow for good photo reproduction, allowing for pictures at good resolution to enhance the text. This change was expensive and, as is often the case with new things, was resisted by several Directors. But the new Sur vi vor was a “smash hit”, receiving much positive feedback from members. The desert’s wide landscapes are tailormade for photography, and the inclusion of people in the pictures personalized trip reports as nothing else could. Jessica and Hall edited and did layout for two years. Since then, current Communications Director Paul Brickett has continued this process. The Sur vi vor is now one of the group’s most impressive offerings, giving much joy to members and non-members alike. In 2002 Jessica initiated a new format for the Desert Survivors Annual Meeting. The 2001 meeting was almost a disaster. It was held on a rainy December Saturday less than two months after the 9/11 attacks and lacked a quorum. Some quick phone calls brought more members in so the meeting could proceed, but these difficulties were a wake-up call. Jessica’s plan was to replace the traditional meeting in 2002 with a Desert Conference. Presentations would be made by desert protection activists, and workshops would be held afterward. The actual business meeting (bylaws amendments and the election of officers) was relegated to an hour and fifteen minutes. The idea behind this was to give the membership a stronger reason to attend. In the process, interest in desert issues would be rekindled, and more member involvement would be fostered.



The new plan worked. The first desert conference/annual meeting in 2002 drew 56 members. Speakers included Paul Brink of the BLM’s Sacramento State Office, Chris Roholt of the BLM’s Desert District Office in Riverside, and Brendan Cummings of the Center for Biological Diversity, plus DS’ own Dave Halligan (speaking on military expansion) and Bob Ellis (speaking on off-road vehicle damage). The speakers were followed by workshops in which members explored how to get involved in various issues. Out of this came a rejuvenated Issues Group led by Li Miao. We continued the format in 2003, 2004 and 2005, with more speakers, plus a “Desert Jeopardy” game, and dancing in the evening. In 2003 we had Steve Tabor with an explanation of the California Desert Protection Act, Helen Wagenvoord (Wild Spaces) with a overview of the vast array of threats to the desert, and Byron Kahr (California Wilderness Coalition) on the RS2477 threat to the desert pursued by off-roaders, followed by Dave Lefevre (BLM Winnemucca Office) on the new Black Rock Desert National Conservation Area. In 2004, speakers were Phil Klasky, who spoke about his community organizing against off-roaders in Wonder Valley and the Twenty-nine Palms area, and Gerry Goss, who gave a demonstration of GPS technology and how to use it in the desert. Speakers in 2005 were Paul McFarland of Friends of the Inyo, who spoke about several issues in the Eastern Sierra, and Jon Harman, who gave a presentation on the digital enhancement of photographs in archaeology, especially petroglyphs. At all three conferences, speakers were followed by a potluck dinner and contra dancing to the tunes of The Cactus Huggers, a live band. By 2003, it was clear that the Desert Survivors website needed some improvement. Jessica, as Communications Director, called a meeting to get feedback on what was needed to make the website more representative of the group and more informative to the general public. Out of this meeting, attended by ten members, Dave Launchbury emerged as the new webmaster. He redesigned the DS website and maintained it regularly from 2003 to 2005, at which time it really came into its own. Websites always need rejuvenation, so ours is currently undergoing yet another revision at this writing. The URL is . Also in 2003, Desert Survivors amplified its Desert Survivors Electronic Mail (DSEM) capability. This service was conceived and directed by Director Peter Ruddock in 2001 and 2002 and is still maintained by him. Members can sign up to discontinue paper copies and receive Desert Survivors mailings via e-mail, thus saving both paper and expenses for the group. In excess of 120 members, 17% of the membership, now receive their mailings, except for The Sur vi vor, in this way. To sign up for this service, send an e-mail to tortoise, with the subject line “subscribe regular mailings”. Put your name and postal address in the body of the message. In 2004 Desert Survivors began accepting payments for dues and teeshirt/hat sales via credit card, using the payment service “PayPal” through the group’s website. For many members this has become a convenient way to pay bills. The group pays for the service on a per use basis, so no extra funds are taken from the member’s credit card except as stated. You get what you pay for. We

hope more members will use this service, since it saves us a lot in paperwork and check clearings, especially for renewals. To use this service, go to click on the Renew Membership button, and then click on the PayPal icon. Down through the years, Desert Survivors has kept up its outreach program and its trips program, two key methods in which the group makes contact with the outside world. For many years, Steve Tabor did slideshows at backpack shops and meetings of environmental groups, reaching thousands of citizens with the message that the desert is beautiful and worth saving. The group has staffed tables at environmental fairs since 1990, most notably the old San Francisco Chronicle Outdoors Fair from 1991 to 1996, the Contra Costa Earth Day Fair from 1991 to 2000, the Solano Stroll in Albany from 2000 to present, and the Berkeley Earth Day Fair from 1991 to present. At these fairs, members have handed out some 10,000 pieces of Desert Survivors literature and have spoken directly to several thousand persons. These efforts have made our group well known to those interested in desert protection in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our liaisons with other environmental groups statewide and in Nevada have added to the group’s reputation for excellence in desert education and protection outside the area. Further work has been done locally in educating folks about the desert through our Technical Seminar and Beginner Backpack Seminar. From 1991 to 2003, the group held a Technical Seminar each summer to familiarize members with aspects of conducting trips in the desert. Anywhere from ten to twenty-four members gathered in a local park to study trip planning, first aid and mapand-compass. Originally designed for potential trip leaders, this soon became a way for ordinary members to learn how to design their own trips. Starting in 2000, trip leader Bob Lyon began teaching his Beginner Backpack Seminar at the annual Summer Picnic. Bob focuses on equipment and techniques designed for backpacking in the desert, especially on how to travel light and easy. The Beginner Backpack Seminar is now held every year. The Technical Seminar, discontinued since 2004, will be brought back in 2007. Through all these years, Desert Survivors has also continued its trips program (see Trip Statistics on following page). From 30 to 45 trips have been conducted each year, about evenly divided between carcamps and backpacks except for years when we’ve done Desert Trail Relays, which are heavily skewed toward backpacks. Since 1989, the group has led 675 trips with some 5900 participants. These trips have concentrated on desert Wilderness Areas and Wilderness Study Areas, both BLM and Parks, mostly in California and Nevada, with a few trips in Utah, Oregon, Arizona and New Mexico. A host of leaders have designed and led these trips. This has been the “retail” side of Desert Survivors activities, and it has been tremendously successful. A major part of Desert Survivors’ reputation is due to the incredible range of exploration conducted by members on these trips. These explorations are unsurpassed both within and outside the environmental community. Other groups and BLM and Park Service personnel themselves come to us when
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Desert Survivors Trip Statistics, 1989-2006
Desert Survivors has offered and conducted an impressive number of backpack, carcamp and service trips in its history. Below are the statistics since 1989. Participant totals from 1989-1993 are incomplete. In general carcamps have been better attended than backpacks. Offerings have been about evenly divided between the two. Desert Trail Relays trips in 2001, 2004 and 2005 were heavily weighted toward backpacks (51 to 3), so statistics overall are somewhat skewed toward backpacks. Participation was low on these backpacks, lowering the overall per-trip percentages. This has been compensated by deleting Desert Trail Relay trips in the third section below, which gives better data.

they need information on specific areas. The trips are fun, but they also bear witness to the land, its beauty and the need to protect it. DS has been a shining light when it comes to knowledge of the desert. In 2006, Desert Survivors celebrated its 25th Anniversary with several events. In April, Craig Deutsche led a multi-day backpack trip to the Inyo Mountains on the route used by Founders Doug Kari and Jim Morrison on their initial trip in 1978. It was out of that trip that Desert Survivors was founded. Craig’s group got water at the same spring and stayed at the same cabin used by Survivors in the early 1980s in their classic explorations of the Inyos, Desert Survivors spiritual home. This trip was followed in October by another classic, Gerry Goss’ carcamp to Saline Valley, another DS haunt from the early days. Gerry is a long-time member from those early days and he knows Saline Valley and the Inyos well. He served on the Board of Directors for many years. A major Anniversary Celebration was held September 22-24 at Benton Hot Spring. This three-day affair drew 87 members. There were hikes, hot tub soaks, a campfire sing, and addresses by founder Doug Kari and the current president. On the last day we conducted the 2006 Annual Meeting. With 50 members present, this one was much better attended than the one at the Desert Conference in 2005. Seven brand new Directors were elected and new ideas for rejuvenation of the group were introduced for action in 2007. It was a new beginning for the group. Organizer Karen Rusiniak has agreed to head the committee for next year’s meeting at the same place. Perhaps it takes a hot tub to get a Desert Survivor to a meeting. We’ll see if it works again. The last 25th Anniversary event of the year was Gerry Fait’s “Incredible Desert” party held in San Francisco in December 3. Attended by 94 people, this event was a celebration of the group’s past, its long history. Featured were original songs performed by a live band of Desert Survivor members, a retelling of the Survivors founding legend by Joanne Kumik, a “To Tell the Truth” skit (“Who is the real Doug Kari?”), a slideshow by member Darrell Hunger with a narration of quotes from Edward Abbey, and a preview of Dan Seneres’ new video on Desert Survivors. A catered meal and dancing finished the show. It was a great event, not soon to be matched. A lot of work went into it, all volunteer, in keeping with Desert Survivors tradition. With its 25th Anniversary over, Desert Survivors faces an uncertain future. With the 2006 election there is new hope for public lands protection, but as usual most of the work will have to be done by volunteers. It’s a lonely struggle sometimes. Other environments are easy to love, as one can see by looking at the megabucks mailings that come past one’s mailbox year after year. By contrast, the desert is hard to love, except by special people. It’s a special place needing special consideration and special efforts to preserve it and to help it and its special plants and animals along. We in the leadership look forward to working with you in this special organization called Desert Survivors. The next twenty-five years of Desert Survivors beckons. We dare not fail the desert.


Trips 1989-1993
Estimated* Type Total Pct. Participants All Trips 128 100% 1300 Backpacks 75 59% 700 Carcamps 53 41% 600 * Participant totals for 1989-1993 are incomplete.

Trips 1994-2006
Participants Type Total Pct. Participants Pct. Per Trip All Trips 547 100% 4659 100% 8.5 Backpacks 285 52% 2073 44% 7.3 Carcamps 195 36% 2134 46% 10.9 Service Trips** 67 12% 452 10% 6.7 **Regularly-scheduled Service Trips; does not include Monitoring Trips.

Trips 1994-2006, minus Desert Trail Relay trips.
Note: The Desert Trail (DT) Relay Trips in 2001, 2004 and 2005 were heavily skewed toward backpack trips and were lightly attended. This table gives a clearer comparison of the ratio of backpacks to carcamps and more accurate participant percentages for 1994-2006. Participants Type Total Pct. Participants Pct. Per Trip All Trips (nonDT) 493 100% 4393 100% 8.9 Backpacks 234 47% 1862 43% 8.0 Carcamps 192 39% 2079 47% 10.8 Service Trips ** 67 14% 452 10% 6.8 ** Regularly-scheduled service trips; does not include monitoring trips.

Total Trips 1989-2006
Estimated* Type Total Pct. Participants Pct. All Trips 675 100% 5959 100% Backpacks 360 53% 2773 47% Carcamps 248 37% 2734 46% Service Trips ** 67 10% 452 7% * Participant totals for 1989-1993 are incomplete. ** Regularly-scheduled service trips; does not include monitoring trips.
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A New Beginning For The Carrizo Plain
By Craig Deutsche, Los Angeles our hours south of the Bay Area and a million miles from our civilization - this is the Carrizo Plain National Monument. It is, indeed, a desert receiving between 4 and 8 inches of rain a year. It is home to 22 threatened and endangered species. It offers the best and most visible evidence of movement along the San Andreas Fault. It has a cultural history visible in Chumash rock art paintings and in abandoned machinery and buildings from a more recent past. Desert survivors may know the plains from service trips that removed or modified fences for the benefit of resident antelope. Other Survivor trips may have walked the hills and canyons of the Caliente Range. Bird watchers flock to the plain year round, and photographers record a wonderful array of wildflowers in years of sufficient rain. It is an extraordinary place.

Craig Deutsche



updated management plan was being formulated, stresses in this structure became apparent. Grazing was the principal issue of contention. The stated purpose in the proclamation which created the monument was, among other objectives, to preserve the threatened and endangered species, and to insure the health of the natural ecosystem. Cows are neither endemic nor are they obviously helpful to these goals. On the other hand, the proclamation rather specifically indicated that existing grazing rights would remain. The matter appeared to be resolved in a plan that was drafted in 2005 and which was given a limited circulation for review. The proposal, which received the endorsement of a citizen’s advisory committee and a number of environmental groups, proposed ending the traditional grazing policy which granted ten-year permits with minimal government oversight. These were to be replaced by “ephemeral” leases that could be regulated carefully by the BLM. In years of low rain, there might be no grazing permitted at all. In other years grazing might be permitted only for short periods and in specific locations to help control non-native plants, to reduce fuel and fire hazard, or to remove litter that might hinder native animal species. Grazing was to be a tool of management, not an intrinsic right belonging to local ranchers. The plan received the full support of the monument superintendent, Marlene Braun. Quite obviously such a policy creates an economic handicap for ranchers, and most were quite unhappy with such a prospect. Soon after circulating this plan it appeared that upper levels of the BLM had revised their views. A new field manager for the region rather openly opposed these ephemeral grazing leases and differed sharply with Marlene on the level of environmental review that should accompany the planning process. The draft plan was withdrawn, obvious disagreements among the cooperating agencies appeared, and shortly thereafter Marlene Braun committed suicide. An investigation into the circumstances of the death followed, and the planning process came to a complete halt. Perhaps it is true that time heals old wounds. Late in 2006 the BLM announced that they would reopen the planning process. They agreed to prepare the full Environmental Impact Statement which they had previously declared to be unnecessary. They have actively solicited public input into the planning process and the goals for the monument. The monument advisory committee whose term had expired was reinstituted, and the field manager who presided over the withdrawal of the earlier plan transferred to a new position in Washington DC. Hearings for public comments on the future of the monument are promised, and one of these is currently scheduled for May 5 in California Valley at the north end of the monument. As these changes in policy were being announced a coalition of environmental groups, headed largely by the Wilderness Society, gathered to begin a push for habitat protection within the monument. The issues that are likely to be dominant will certainly center on grazing. Decisions about which roads are to remain open and which will be closed will probably be next
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Although created by presidential proclamation in 2001, the process of creating a management plan for the monument has been prolonged, contentious, halting, and even tragic. As planning efforts are now being revived, there is an opportunity to protect this remnant of central California grasslands into the future. The area is huge - 250,000 acres; much of the habitat is undisturbed; the plain is still largely unknown to the general public; and the existing roads are primitive. The goal will be to preserve the monument into the future much as it now exists. It is the Bureau of Land Management that administers the Plain in cooperation with the California Department of Fish and Game and with The Nature Conservancy. This rather unusual arrangement of responsibility arose because each of these agencies owns lands within the monument boundary. As dryland farming failed, The Nature Conservancy bought up properties in the valley and then conveyed most of them over to the federal government. A number of other parcels are properties of the State of California. These were all included in the monument boundary when it was created, and for several years the cooperative method of management appeared to be successful. With time, however, and as an

Behind the Goodwin Ranch 14


Perhaps the most unique opportunity of all is the chance to nominate the Carrizo Plain as a World Heritage Site. There are 800 such sites world-wide, there are 22 in the United States, and there are two only in California: Yosemite National Park and the Redwoods National Park. Nominations for such a designation are possible this year, but are then closed until 2017. Sites having outstanding biological, geological, archeological, and/or cultural significance are eligible and designation is ultimately made through a committee within the UNESCO organization. The designation places no requirements upon management of the site, but almost universally the publicity helps raise money, from both private foundations and from government, for management and maintenance. The nomination process for the Carrizo Plain is being led by the Wilderness Society and is being supported by a rather broad array of environmental groups, government agencies, business groups, and individual citizens. The outcome of this effort remains to be seen.

Craig Deutsche

in significance. Decisions about visitor management will become increasingly important as the monument becomes better known how many visitors are to be accommodated, what kinds of facilities will be provided (if any), where visitors might be encouraged to travel, and what activities should be permitted. After these matters will come fire management strategies, hunting restrictions, and procedures for purchasing the few private properties that remain within the boundaries. The opportunities to at last “do things right” are exciting.

Desert Survivors removing barbed wire

The story is not yet over, but the possibilities are exiting. Desert Survivors are invited to visit this hidden piece of old California, to participate in the public planning process, and to even help remove barbed wire fence. The Carrizo Plain has the chance to become a people’s monument, one that we have all helped to build. Information about the Carrizo Plain can be found at: and Information about nomination as a World Heritage Site is available at: (and then click on Carrizo Plains at the left margin).

Early Spring in Carrizo Plain
By Elaine Schwimmer, Berkeley Marching men in identical trousers loop along the hills over mountains their wire appendages dispatch electricity to the dozen doublewides scattered around arid acres of the prairie. Earth slit open jagged cleft unfolds for miles San Andreas roams right angled to the ferrous soldiers. Each wrought of epic energy one harnessed the other a remnant of explosion in deep tissues of earth.
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At first glance seems there’s not much else but badger burrows scratched by steel gray brush and tiny ground holes veiled with spun silk sheltering subterranean tarantulas they wait for the swell of sun to fade before emerging fur paws first. Small shifting shadows follow ravens flight while great humpbacks float grey blue forms along the land. Lizards dart under rocks so fast you’re not quite sure you’ve seen them. Frogs announce their green and fat flying beetles whiz around like huge drunken bees.

I have not fallen flat on my face but am admiring low growing five petal flowers whose perfect symmetry clings close to the earth. Tule elk move in the distance. Pronghorn, aware they’re being watched stand motionless in the foreground. Soda Lake dry and choked lies mirror flat salt devils hover little white tornadoes whirl up and disappear while yellow bellied birds sear the air with song and juniper bushes heavy with blue berries silently wait for rain.


The Metamorphosis of a Leave No Trace Master
By Catherine O’Riley, Grass Valley, CA I started attending the Burning Man (BM) Festival in 1993. At that time, there were slightly over a thousand participants, tents were scattered randomly about on the Black Rock playa, vehicles were allowed to roam freely through the event, there was a drive-by shooting range, The Man stood on the ground with a rope attached to raise and lower him and there were no theme camps, generators or RVs. Anarchy reigned! As the years went by and the event grew, with more impacts to the playa, it became apparent to me that there should be better environmental awareness at the festival. In 1997 I approached the “Mistress Of Who Can Put Up A Sanctioned Structure At BM” and told her of my environmental idea. She informed me that environmentalism did not fit into the philosophy of Burning Man. I then went to Larry Harvy (the founder of the event) and expressed my idea to make a large free standing collage depicting on one side the destruction of the desert and on the other the protection of the desert. He agreed. The project was well received but not embraced by the Burning Man planners. The following year I returned with my collage and message and it was then that I met Mike Bilbo, Recreation Planner for the BLM and the new overseer of Burning Man for the agency. He had come to do a 1800s Reenactment but no one at the event had prepared for his presentation. Since I was “one of those environmental types” he was assigned to me. Thus began an enduring friendship and my introduction to Leave No Trace (LNT). By now BM was becoming big (relatively speaking) and the impacts on the playa were being noticed by the BLM who informed BM that if they didn’t clean up their act they would no longer be granted a permit to hold their event on the Black Rock playa. Burning Man’s answer to this was to form the Earth Guardians, the environmental conscience of BM. In the meantime, Bilbo started to teach Burners the concepts of LNT during backpacking trips in the mountains surrounding the Black Rock playa. This is where I first became aware of the LNT wilderness ethic. Even the person who originally nixed my collage idea was on the bandwagon. The Earth Guardians grew and became more of a presence at the event. They now have eight LNT Master Educators and numerous teachers and conduct LNT training and outreach throughout the year as well as during the event. FYI: This year’s theme for BM is “The Green Man”. I would highly recommend anyone interested in promoting environmentalism in the desert to get involved with the Earth Guardians at BM this year.


Catherine O’Riley in the Galiuro Wilderness

Fast forward to March 2007. I decided that this was the year for me to become a LNT Master Educator so that I could more effectively train others in the ethic. The day before I left for Tucson for the week long training it started to snow at my house. By the next morning I was hoping I would make it to the airport. “At least it will be warm in Tucson,” I thought. Little did I know! National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) put on the course which was a five day backpack in the Galiuro Wilderness area, a two and one half hour drive north east of Tucson. The wilderness is called a “sky island” because it is one of many small mountain ranges that protrude from the desert floor. It is a classic example of fault-block mountains in Arizona’s Basin and Range Province. Predominately volcanic in origin, there are stunning gray and pink cliff faces and strange rock formations. The wilderness is 4,000 to 7,000 feet in elevation with flora consisting mostly of pinon, juniper, oak, manzanita, and a few cactus and succulents. Not long before the backpack Tucson had a nasty storm and was now experiencing unseasonably cold temperatures. So much for being warm! Not only was it well below freezing at night (evidenced by our frozen solid water bottles) but on the north facing steep slopes we were hiking through snow and ice hoping we would not fall to our deaths. The shorts and T-shirt I brought along never saw the light of day.
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There were two instructors and seven participants on the trip. Except for me, all the others were affiliated with the BLM, NFS or nonprofit environmental groups. During the five days (besides working very hard to keep warm) we not only learned the seven principles of LNT in great detail by coming up with clever and sometimes funny or even profound ways to demonstrate the principles but also how to most effectively train others as well as the necessary administrative requirements involved in teaching LNT. It was a great experience with an interesting and eclectic group of people. Most of all, it was fun, as well it should be! On March 24, 2007 I submitted my LNT Education Proposal at the DS Trip Leaders’ Forum. Following are excerpts from my proposal: Why Teach Leave No Trace (LNT) to Desert Survivors? We should always be seeking ways to further minimize our impact on the environment. Despite what you might imagine, there is much to be learned by even the most experienced outdoor enthusiast. Continuing research is constantly changing the ways we look at how to best protect the Earth while in the back country. Everything you learn in the course can be passed on to someone else and eventually we can make a difference. Desert Survivors is an environmental organization with a mission to protect the desert. LNT fits directly into this conviction and should, in my opinion, be part of the organization’s ongoing education of desert ethics. LNT is big right now and is certainly the way of the future. The government agencies are training their recreational rangers and personnel so that they can then train each other and the general public in LNT. Private non profits are taking the course so that they can help educate the public within the regions of their interest. Having a coordinated LNT ongoing training class and possibly an outreach program could bring more members into DS and also could be beneficial when applying for a grant. What is LNT, anyway? LNT is a National Wilderness Ethics program. Their Mission Statement: The mission of the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics is to promote and inspire responsible outdoor recreation through education, research and partnerships. In their own words: At its heart Leave No Trace is not about a uniformity of behavior or even of thoughts. It is about
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a convergence of values. The principles of LNT are ethics, not rules that are never to be broken. Many situations require common sense and sometimes compromises need to be made. Proposal: All Desert Survivors Trip Leaders should be trained in LNT so that they can pass the principles on to their trip participants. I will offer ongoing Desert Survivors Trips to teach LNT to both the trip leaders and the members at large. I offer to run LNT Awareness Workshops. This is a formal LNT presentation that is one day or less in length. It could be a stand alone workshop or incorporated into an ongoing seminar. The course would be run in the Sierra Foothills and the backpack would be into the wild and wonderful North Fork American River. I choose the Sierra Foothills because this is about learning LNT not driving long distances into the desert. This will be more convenient for all involved and we will have more time to concentrate on LNT. However, the course will be geared toward the desert environment. It is my hope that this article generates some interest in my plan to pass along the incredibly important concepts of Leave No Trace. For more information on LNT: How much do you know about Leave No Trace? Can you list the seven principles of LNT.? Number one must be a specific principle. After that the order doesn’t matter. For each principle list at least three examples of how this goal can be obtained. (Answers on page 23.)

Campsite in the Galiuro Wilderness 17

Catherine O’Riley


A Short Road Trip Loop Through WestCentral Nevada
October 12-15, 2006 By Bill Johansson, Stockton, CA e headed east from Reno. My photos show the yellow/ brown and rocky hills through which the Truckee River flows, with its occasional green trees.

A ways south of Fernley we stopped at White Sage Flat, the vegetation here more brown than yellow. I had visualized a hike by the drainage to the southeast. The sign on the fence read: “MUSTANG RANGE A FIREARMS TRAINING CENTER LTD. Keep Gate Closed November-May.” When I returned home I checked the internet and found that a shooting event had taken place, in fact I remember reading about machine guns and the like! We stopped next at Fort Churchill State Park. To the north, the rocky outcrops made me think of Indian Country. This park protects the crumbling walls of what was the fort, built in 1860 to protect travelers and settlers from Indians. The Pony Express went through here also. The Carson River flows nearby to the south. The visitor center was open, but nobody was there to sell the few books, shirts, etc. on display. We were too late for that, but we did read a lot of information in the exhibits, in fact, it wasn’t overwhelming, and I think I read most of it.

Wilson Canyon

In Yerington, we were disappointed that the Lyon County Museum was closed when we arrived. North of town is the Yerington Indian Reservation, and farther to the east is the Walker River Indian Reservation. As we drove, we saw the greenery of this area of Nevada, the Smith and Mason Valleys irrigated with water from the Walker River, though not a lush green. Yerington is in the Mason Valley. On the other side of Wilson Canyon is Smith Valley. Off in the Pine Nut Mountains to the west of Smith Valley is the Burbank Canyon Wilderness Study Area. This is an exquisite riparian area. Wilson Canyon is impressive; the rocky hills crowd in on the West Walker River and the highway. Later on the internet I found out that off-highway vehicles are abusing and causing damage that will require decades to repair. Would a new park here help protect the area? We tried to find petroglyphs that were supposed to be by Desert Creek. We drove 3 miles south on an unpaved road. The terrain seemed different than expected, not like the 1960 book described it. Needless to say, we didn’t find the petroglyphs which were said to be alongside the river that we reached. Circling back to Reno, we stopped at Double Spring Flat, to explore Double Spring. I took several photos. Nothing had changed since our previous visit in September of 2002. We spent some time at the Carson Valley Museum in Gardnerville, a good place to do research. Our trip was short, but it will keep us going until another adventure. We must experience the desert for its solitude and all its other restorative properties.

Bill Johansson

Near Double Spring Flat, by U.S. 395, looking west 18 The Survivor Winter 2006/7

Bill Johansson



Chuckwalla Mountains Wilderness Carcamp
November 24-26, 2006, southeastern CA By Steve Tabor he Bureau of Land Management’s Corn Springs Campground in the Chuckwalla Mountains is a convenient base camp for great desert hiking. The campground is centrally located on a cherrystem road leading into one of the range’s major valleys. Desert Survivors had explored the range with backpacks before, but we’d never taken the time to hike its canyons without packs. The canyons we hiked presented pleasant surprises. For the first two days, I chose two canyon complexes for our explorations, spending a day in each. I had hiked both canyons on my year-long trek across the West from the Pacific Ocean to the Continental Divide in 1981. I remembered only vague features, as that was a long time ago. And I was heavily laden with water and full backpack gear, since my route from Desert Center to the town of Palo Verde was 66 miles. That was in mid-May in a hot drought year with daytime temperatures of 95 F. The water at Corn Spring made this a vital spot for both resupply and relaxation on my way to the Colorado River. On the third day we finished the trip with a drive to Chuckwalla Bench, a major botanical area to the southeast. A group of Survivors met at Desert Center the morning after Thanksgiving, then hastened to the campground where six others were waiting. They had secured the best campsites for us the day before. The camp was sparsely populated, though other groups were scattered up the canyon to the west. After a brief meeting, we started hiking west toward a side-canyon off to the north in rugged hills. Our goal this day was a rock pool showing as a spring on the Desert Center topo map. That pool had been a important water source on my 1981 trek. It has an easy ingress from Desert Center, barely three miles from the freeway, but, being Desert Survivors, we would go the hard way: up over the hills and down into the canyon, then back out. This would be a chore, but also an adventure. As explorers of old would say, “we dare not fail”, but the route would not be so bad, for I remembered, vaguely, that a trail led up out of the canyon. The trail would help us out. The use trail west from the camp soon ended. Then we hiked the graded road west toward the canyon’s main fork,. We stopped at a prospectors’ cabin about a mile from the camp. It was largely intact, with a good roof and floor and even a screened porch. It
The Survivor Winter 2006/7

was neatly swept. Someone had been keeping it up, and it showed no signs of vandalism despite (or because of) being right on the main road. This cabin was a marvel; so many other desert cabins have been vandalized or burnt in recent decades. In some cases the BLM or National Park Service will remove such a cabin, especially in Wilderness. This is a controversial practice, since most such cabins predate the fifty-year cut-off of the 1906 Antiquities Act and it is therefore illegal to remove or otherwise disturb them. We’ve found however that laws often enforced against regular citizens are declared null-and-void for government agencies. After the cabin, we headed west, now in a wash. I pointed out several of the Colorado (Sonoran) Desert plants to the trip participants. We found palo verde trees, ironwood trees, smoke trees, teddy-bear cholla and barrel cactus. Only a few of the plants could be associated with the Mojave Desert to the north; most were of the southern deserts. Most of the plants we saw would be just as at home in Mexico, south of the border. The natural scene was marred by a few wheel tracks in the wash. Though much of this wide canyon was not Wilderness, the whole area is “designated routes only”, thereby forbidding vehicular travel except for the road. Loose sand kept the damage to a minimum. The sand soon ended and we turned right to go north. When the small tributary became rocky and was blocked by spiny catclaw branches, we hiked up onto easier ground above. We soon picked up a faint trail that led us where we wanted to go, a low pass at the ridgecrest. The ground was remarkably easy; no wonder I had largely forgotten the way from twenty-five years before. We reached the pass at 1:30 pm. There was still quite a distance to go to the spring so I called a council of war. We looked at the maps and laid out the options. To go down to the spring and back up, then to the camp, would occupy all of the daylight hours. We had a fair chance of making it back to the sandy wash and the road before full dark. If so, we’d be able to walk that with headlamps. But there were no guarantees.



Cabin one mile west of Corn Spring Campground 19

Steve Tabor

Half the group decided to go back to the campground. Much to my surprise, the other half did not. I led the other half down the trail and into the trench going north to the spring. I hadn’t expected that many people to go with me, but they were apparently in it for the adventure and the discovery. I thought perhaps I was leading them down a primrose path, since I really didn’t recall much about the rest of the route, but I did know it went through with no impassable dryfalls, so that was a positive. We dropped quickly down the footpath on firm ground. There were even switchbacks on the well-graded trail, indicating that this had been a prospectors’ route built for mules. Once at the bottom we followed the drainage east. Along the way we passed a Nolina, a relative of the yucca not often found in the Sonoran Desert, except in well-shaded places. The bottom had sandy stretches interspersed with long runs of boulder jumbles. The walls were solid gneiss, well jointed and streaked with desert varnish and quartz veins. All of the canyons in the Chuckwallas have been scoured by flashfloods for the last ten thousand years, floods caused by periodic hurricanes coming up from the Gulf of California during our present time of global warming. The floods have removed every loose rock, i.e. all rocks smaller than basketballs or microwave ovens. The Nolinas date from the pre-flood era, the much colder Ice Age when Mojavean vegetation invaded from the north and grew south to the Mexican border. During the 11,000 year-long Ice Age, pinyon pines and Nolinas grew on the desert floor. After a mile of rocks the drainage turned north again and sank down into a narrow slot cut in bedrock. The rock had been worn smooth by sand grains washed down from above in the very occasional flash floods that sweep through these parts. Several potholes had been drilled into the bedrock. One of these had held water when I’d come through in May of 1981; all were now dry. I began to wonder about this spring. Below the little slot was a dropoff. The whole drainage plunged into a bedrock pool twenty feet across. The pool showed a three-foot bathtub ring above water at least six feet deep. There was no evidence of a spring, which means flowing water, but here was a floodwater pool of great size, probably permanent, or at least multiyear in age. The picture accompanying this story is impressive. Oddly, I don’t remember this pool from my 1981 trip. I’d come right up this canyon from Desert Center on my way to Corn Spring and I don’t know how I could have missed it. The only picture I took here shows a small pool with a cattail growing out of it, a pool less than six feet across. It served as an adequate resupply but was nothing like twenty feet across. What I photographed must have been in the slot above; the large plunge pool must have been dry. After photographing the large pool and marveling at it, we returned the way we came. Bouncing up over the

boulders and striding through the sand patches, we moved as fast as we could so as to beat the sunset on these short days. We stopped below a side canyon where Spencer Berman had spotted some water tanks. Sure enough, a “game guzzler” was tucked back up in there, put in to support bighorn sheep. There was some water. After our rest we hurried on, found the steep trail up to the pass and got to the top at sunset. We hurried down the trail in the twilight and got to the sandy wash at full dark. We eventually got up on the road and hiked back to the cars under starlight, returning at 6:30 pm to the campground where our friends were already nestled around a neighbor’s hot campfire. We enjoyed a great meal and a campfire of our own on this chilly night. Much thanks to Ron Cohen, who provided me with a gourmet dinner. It is so gratifying to be a leader and not have to cook your own meals afterward. I think I may institute a practice of requiring trip participants to feed me on trips from now on! This will give great benefits, especially on backpacks. The next morning we were off on a longer hike up a canyon to the base of Pilot Mountain. A couple of the hikers who wanted to relax remained in camp. We started with a short stroll downstream to a set of petroglyphs just below the palm grove. I remembered these glyphs from my 1981 trip. At that time there were fresh signs of vandalism on the rocks; persons unknown had wedged off blocks with glyphs on them and hauled them away, perhaps for lawn ornaments. We got some good photos despite the sun angle, then started up the canyon to the south. It would be a long day. On my 1981 trek I had rested for a day at Corn Spring, then replenished my supply of water. I’d loaded my old aluminumframe pack with gear and water, three gallon jugs across the top shelf. My remaining ten days of food was slung across the top of the pack in a burlap sack. I had another two and one-half gallons of water as well: a half gallon in a bota-bag around my neck and a gallon jug in each hand. Since I couldn’t use my walking stick with my hands full, I’d strapped it on the back of my pack for later use. Then I bounced on up the canyon, hopping from boulder to boul-

Twenty-foot rock pool found on the first day’s hike The Survivor Winter 2006/7

Steve Tabor



der for the next three miles. I estimated my pack weight at 95 pounds. It was some of the hardest hiking I did on the entire 1628-mile trek. By contrast, this day would be easy. The unstable boulders and short jump-ups were still there, but all we had was a half-gallon of water each, plus lunch and wind-breaker. We spent our time investigating metamorphic textures and watching for birds instead of desperately trying to stay upright, as I had to do in 1981. Still, it was rough going in Wilderness. If it hadn’t been, there would be a road here. One of the frustrating things about hiking in the desert these days is that all the easy canyons have been preempted by a road or marred by wheel tracks from ORVs. Only the rough stuff has been left alone for hikers seeking pristine country and solitude. By 11:00 am we’d reached the saddle between the Corn Springs drainage and that of Ship Creek. Directly above loomed the 1800-foot climb to the top of Pilot Mountain (4214’). While resting on the flat low pass, we had another discussion. We could do the easy thing, which would be to drop down a mile to Ship Creek and explore its sandy bottom, or we could do the hard thing: go to the top of Pilot Mountain for its amazing view. The first seemed too easy, the second too difficult. In 1981, I’d backpacked to this point in the morning, climbed Pilot and come back down in the afternoon, then backpacked down to Ship Creek and camped at twilight, but that was in mid-May with much longer days. If we tried Pilot now, we’d probably get to the top before dark, but have to tumble back down the boulder canyon after nightfall, not an inviting prospect. The group was split. Looking at the map, I saw a different option. We would hike across the north flank of Pilot to the head of the next canyon to the west, then descend it to the camp. Though deeper, this canyon was no longer than the one we’d come up and was probably similarly bouldered. But the last bit to the camp would be on the road, and if we got caught in the dark, the last of the hike could be done easily, even without headlamps.

Besides, this would be new territory. It was a double-header, two canyons for the price of one! As well as vintage DS: real exploration, since none of us had ever been there. Moving west we picked up another old single-track trail, faint but easily walked. We crossed the flank of Pilot for about a mile, then stopped at the opposite saddle. After a leisurely lunch we crossed a deep trench, then clambered up the other side for a look down into our exit canyon. It was a steep drop down and we could see a boulder bottom, but we couldn’t see around the next corner and down. Nothing for it but to go, and to trust our abilities. We scrambled down the slope and into the boulder bottom. We moved a short way downstream and took another rest. Hikers commented that several of our compatriots were missing. After ascertaining that they were not behind us, I concluded that they must have gone ahead, so I declared that they were off the trip. I hoped we would find them again somewhere. I also hoped we would not have to go looking for them, especially when it turned dark. Starting again, we turned the next corner in the canyon and came to a dryfall. Someone shouted that they saw our lost hikers ahead up in some rocks. We found a trail on the right that bypassed the fall and clambered up onto a flat with rounded hoodoo rocks nearby. Our lost hikers came down off the rocks and told us that the trail went northeast along the canyon wall, staying out of the boulder bottom. I breathed a sigh of relief, both for our regained prodigals and for the easy trail ahead. The latter would save us from a mean chore. It was going to be a good afternoon. We hiked the trail down the canyon side. It was of excellent grade and well switch-backed. The views down-canyon and into the canyon bottom were amazing! This was definitely a prospectors’ trail, a major thoroughfare in earlier times, still preserved from the era predating the automobile when miners lived here and used burros and foot trails to get from one town to another. This one probably linked Blythe and Niland during the boom days of the Imperial Valley between 1900 and the 1930s. After leading for a while, I set loose my pack and allowed them to run ahead. I could see switchbacks far down the canyon and I needed people in my photographs of the trail to provide scale. In the waning afternoon light, shadows accentuated the rock, giving good perspective on slopes. With the trail this well-established, I had no doubt that it went all the way down the canyon to Corn Spring. It was joy to walk. Boulders in the bottom to our left were even larger than the ones we’d encountered in the other canyon that morning. More joy when I realized that. I was happy to be up here and not down there. Closer to the bottom we passed inscriptions on desert-varnished slabs, right on the trail. There were several. One was marked “W.S. 1907”. Another was marked “1904”. “W.S.” had apparently come back in 1935, or so it was alleged by another glyph

Steve Tabor

Teddybear cholla on Chuckwalla Bench The Survivor Winter 2006/7

pecked in the rock farther down. There was no appreciable difference in the appearance of these dated glyphs; apparently it takes more than twenty-eight years for nature to alter desert varnish (called “repatination”). We rested at the bottom after this exhilarating trail walk. The trail continued across the canyon, then engaged a high terrace on the north side. We followed it farther north, in and out of gulches, until we got to the road near the old cabin we’d checked out the previous day. We arrived at Corn Spring at sunset and rejoined our friends. It had been a fantastic day’s journey. We stayed up late around the fire that night. In the morning the bulk of the group piled into cars and broke camp. We drove out to the old paved frontage road and east to a dirt road (“Dupont Mine Road”) that led southwest to Chuckwalla Bench on the other side of the Wilderness. This would be just a morning hike, but it required a long drive just to get there. I’d driven this road back in 1975 on my first trip to the California Desert and again in 1989 on my first Thanksgiving trip for Desert Survivors. All of the remaining cars on today’s excursion were four-wheel drive, a good thing because the road was sandy and high-centered. We’d had several passenger cars in 1989 and I don’t remember any knuckle-crunching problems with undercarriages or oil pans. Nowadays however I wouldn’t recommend this road or any other non-graded desert road for cars. The 4WD boom that has come with affluence has wrecked many desert roads. Big tires have churned up the formerly firm surface, leaving big rocks, high centers and sand blowouts. The 4WD crowd has thus modified roads that only they can now drive. Even two-wheel drive pickups now have problems, mostly because of loose sand. In this way the desert has become less accessible, not more so, unless you’re willing to shell out $20,000-60,000 for a big rig with 4WD, high clearance and fat tires. By 9:30 am we’d driven to the east edge of the Bench at the Wilderness boundary. We’d come 10.5 miles from the pavement. I wanted to show the hikers the excellent assemblage of large desert plants that the Bench is known for. We parked and walked west with lunches and a little water. This would be a short morning hike on flat ground. We walked west on the sandy outwash plain, marveling at the plants. Already here at this eastern edge of the Bench we found great specimens: large ocotillo, small groves of really fat teddy-bear cholla, large ironwood trees, barrel cactus, desert senna, Mojave yucca, silver cholla - great Sonoran Desert vegetation with some Mojavean mixed in. There are better plants to the north and west closer to the mountain front. I remembered even larger specimens from our 1989 trip, especially of ocotillo. I have a photo of one member craning

his neck, looking up at a huge ocotillo, fifteen feet high with a fifteen-foot span at the top. My 1981 trek came right through here on the third day out of Corn Springs. I did a plant survey on this part of the Bench and counted twenty-two species. My camp that night was close to where we parked the cars. I was awakened the next morning by wind, cold rain and lightning - on May 25! When I’d researched precipitation for the trek in the S.F. Public Library, the data showed nothing but zero averages for May for the entire region. When I saw the lightning, I jumped up to take a picture. When I got the film back after the trek was over I was amazed to discover that I’d gotten a lightning flash on the slide, on my one and only shot! Unfortunately I’d been sleeping naked because of the heat the night before so I was shivering when I snapped the shutter. The slide has a surreal jump-cut quality as a result. We hiked about two miles up the broad open valley, then south to climb a small hill to eat lunch. From the hill we had an amazing view east and southwest. To the southwest was the head of the valley where an easy walk gives access to the range’s south flank and the Chuckwalla Bench proper. The BLM has designated that as its “Chuckwalla Bench Area of Critical Environmental Concern” (A.C.E.C.). That part might make for an interesting backpack someday. To the east a wide expanse slopes gradually out to merge with the hundred-square-mile Chuckwalla Valley, home to a maximum security prison and the possible future site of corporate schemes for solar electricity panels. That’s yet another desert issue we will face in coming years as the hoopla about “global warming” heats up. I crossed part of the valley on my 1981 trek, then headed south over the hills toward Chuckwalla Well and Chuckwalla Spring. On the way I searched out a patch of conglomerate rock I could see on my geology map. I hoped to find water there from the previous night’s showers. I thought there might be boulders eroded out

Looking east over Chuckwalla Bench to Chuckwalla Valley from the lunch stop peaklet. Little Chuckwalla Peak is far in the distance on the right, about 15 miles. The Survivor Winter 2006/7

Steve Tabor


of the conglomerate where water might catch. Sure enough there was water there, but not in eroded-out spaces formerly holding boulders. It turned out that the boulders in the conglomerate were harder than the matrix, so it was the space between the boulders that held water. I slept that night below the water, which was up on a terrace. During the night a very angry kit fox came around, barking loudly. He doubtless had the same idea that I had after this very unusual shower. We made it back to the cars just after noon. It had been a pleasant morning’s jaunt under bright skies. The temperature was 76° F. I’d enjoyed the plants and the openness of the Bench, also the reminiscence, which gave me the opportunity for some storytelling. We then drove out to the highway on the bumpy road. We waited for the last cars but they didn’t come. Ron Cohen and Natasha drove back on the road to see if there had been trouble. It turned

out that one of the cars had had a flat tire. Fifty miles on, Lena Gogoleva and I also had a flat. The Dupont Mine Road is a rough one on tires. This Thanksgiving trip was a lot of fun. It just goes to show that carcamps can offer inspiring and rigorous hiking in the right circumstance. Most inspiring to me about the trip were the unexpected trails, still intact and easy to follow after more than one hundred years. I’d like to go back and hike them again. I’d especially like to backpack the second day’s trail in reverse, to follow it west to see where it goes, perhaps all the way across the range to the Salton Sea, to hike in the tracks of the old single-blanket jackass prospectors, to travel as they did, on foot. Someday I will do that, perhaps on a Desert Survivors trip. Watch for that trip in a future trip schedule. Perhaps you too can share in that upcoming orgy of discovery. Pack out TP or use “natural” TP. Do not burn TP. Proper use of soap – do not put in water sources. 4)Leave What You Find Preserve archeological and historical artifacts Leave natural features undisturbed. Avoid spreading nonnative plants and animals. 5)Minimize Campfire Impacts Use of stoves instead of fires. Use of fires: Use only dead and down wood. Keep fire small. Use existing fire rings in impacted areas. Remove signs of multiple rings. Use fire pans, mound fires, nonflammable material under fire. Build on gravel bars and beaches. Manage the campfire properly: Burn out to white ash. Scatter any remaining coals. Never leave fire unattended. Do not burn trash. Restore the area to its natural setting. 6)Respect Wildlife Observe from a distance and don’t startle. Never feed wildlife. Store food and trash properly. Keep camp clean. Control pets on a leash. Don’t camp near water sources. 7)Be considerate to Other Visitors Discuss campsites with other groups if necessary. Do not make too much noise. Wear colors that blend with environment. Be cooperative and courteous. Yield right-of-way to equestrians on the downhill side. Take breaks and camp off the trail.


LNT Answers, from page 17.
1) Plan ahead and prepare. 2) Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces 3) Dispose of Waste Properly 4) Leave What You Find 5) Minimize Campfire Impacts 6) Respect Wildlife 7) Be Considerate to Other Visitors 1)Plan ahead and prepare. Obtain knowledge of the area ahead of time. Avoid situations where safety may be jeopardized. Tell someone your itinerary. Have proper equipment for conditions. Repackage food to avoid waste. Know the limits of the participants. Be prepared to abandon the trip if there are problems. Have adequate first aid knowledge and supplies. Have a contingency plan. 2)Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces In impacted areas: Stay on trails. Choose durable campsites. Camp away from trails and water. Leave site cleaner than you found it. Don’t increase the size of the campsite. In pristine areas: Disperse when hiking and stay on durable surfaces. Avoid making new trails. Short camping stays on durable surfaces. Naturalize the campsite when leaving. Avoid cryptogams. 3)Dispose of Waste Properly Dispose of food-related garbage properly. Check campsite carefully when leaving for your and previous campers’ waste. Dispose of human waste so that it decomposes rapidly.
The Survivor Winter 2006/7


South Turtles Backpack
December 22-24, 2006 By Steve Tabor ver Christmas Weekend I finally got to backpack the southernmost part of the Turtle Mountains Wilderness. I’d put this trip on the DS Schedule several times before but had to cancel, either for an anti-war demonstration or because I had to work or because not enough people signed up. This time I had some solid participants, I had the time, and I really needed to get away from work for a change. Besides, even the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition wasn’t going to call a demo on Christmas Eve. The southern reach of the Wilderness had always intrigued me. My first two DS trips were in the north and central parts of the Turtles, so I’d had my eye on the south for quite some time, in fact since 1989. But I’d always considered the hiking distances a problem. The entire south boundary of the Wilderness is miles away from the mountain front, and access is blocked by the Los Angeles Aqueduct, which runs right along Highway 62, and by sandy ungraded roads impassable to passenger cars. There would be a long approach from the southwest, then a long exit to the southeast. We had three long days, so I decided to do it. I had to be back on Christmas Night at 11:00 pm to start work, but I figured I’d drive all day and take a little nap just before reporting in, then try to bull it out at the refinery until the end of the shift at dawn. The desert was too important to pass up. I met my participants on Friday morning at Cadiz Road on Route 62. A good thing I got there early because Cadiz Road was hard to see. The words “Cadiz Road” had been painted on a large boulder fronting the highway; a good thing it was done in red. My group consisted of two lovely Survivor couples: Rochelle Gerratt and Roger Applegate from Tucson, Arizona and Spencer Berman and Lois Grunwald from Ventura County, California. All but Roger were veterans of many DS trips; Rochelle had been a trip leader for six years. Roger, Spencer and I set up a car shuttle farther east on Highway 62 at the old airway beacon halfway between the ghost town of Rice and the truck stop at Vidal Junction. An hour later we returned to the ladies, whom we’d left behind some bushes out of sight. At 11:00 am we left the intersection with full packs for three days and a couple of gallons of water each. There was no sure water on the route and no possibili24

ty of any until we got to Horn Spring on the other side of the mountains. Even that showed as dry on the newer topo map, though you can never be sure about such things, as we would see. Our task this day was to hike six and one-half miles to the mountain front, then camp. If we could do that we would be able to cross the range to Horn Spring on the second day, then do the ten miles out across Vidal Valley to the cars on the third. We’d have to move fast on these short days, but that was nothing that we hadn’t done before. The valleys on both sides would be easy walking on flat ground with few rocks and little sand, unlike, say, Death Valley or Saline Valley, each a torture chamber of loose rocks close to the mountain front. We started out under Altocumulus and Cirrocumulus clouds. It was cool and breezy. Small cells with drooping rain (virga) were scattered all across the sky. The weather would be kind to us, I thought. After just a mile and one-half we stopped for lunch. The first mile had been sandy and firm, easy hiking. Vegetation was typical of the broad valleys down here in the Sonoran Desert: creosote bush, burroweed, cheesebush, with some smoke trees and galleta grass, what I have come to call “The Bare Minimum”. Only the hardiest plants grow this far out in the valley, away from the peaks and canyons. The flora is kept impoverished by the blazing sunshine of Spring, Summer and Fall. The next couple of miles we ran into more stones and rocks. These had been brought down by occasional flashfloods boiling out of the canyons. Even four miles from the mountain front we found remnants of flooding, some of it fresh. Most clay and sand had been carried downslope at this mid-level; the stones and rocks had been winnowed out and left behind. We soon got out of the rocky area by emerging onto a terrace of desert pavement. The last three miles to the mountain front were

Laboring up the first pass, South Turtle Mountains The Survivor Winter 2006/7

Steve Tabor



over pavement: a mosaic of dark stones, heavily enameled with black desert varnish. At Mile 5.0 desert pavement extended both north and south as far as the eye could see. It was a shocking scene because none of this had been visible from the road. On a carcamp I’d once crossed desert pavement on flatter ground at the southern tip of the range, but looking up the fan from below, pavement had not been visible. The whole area was a eerie moonscape of black stones, riven here and there by rocky gulches where floods from the canyons had cut into the pavement from time to time. Drainages showing white and grey rock were now incised into the pavement in a series of wash cuts. On top of the terraces between them the wind blew unmercifully across barren ground with hardly a bush to break it. That was in winter; in summer it would be the sun beating down on hot ground with no shelter available. The pavement made for good walking, like a city sidewalk only easier because there were no tree roots to trip over. By 3:15 pm we’d reached the mountain front where we settled down behind some rocks for a rest. The previous hour had been chilly. Cold winds blew down from the north and we’d had to put on windbreakers and zip them up. Cloud shadows came and went, making for strange photography: bright while clouds in the distance over dark shadows in the foreground. Weeping clouds could still be seen in all directions. It was still light so we continued on into the first canyon over more pavement. We rose to a cutbank where the canyon turned, then dropped into the wash cut below where I thought we’d be able to get out of the cold wind. It was 4:15 pm; we’d done well to get this far: 7.5 miles. The sun set a few minutes after we got there. Our view was of high walls of gneiss, solid rock heavily jointed. The gneiss was 1,700 million years old, a remnant of a very old collision of an India-sized continent drifting up from the south. The gneiss was the root of a Himalayan-style mountain

range, all that was left of it. Everything above had been worn away. The same rock can be seen elsewhere at his latitude from Joshua Tree National Park to Las Vegas. We settled down to eat, then the wind came up again, changing direction. Now it blew from the southwest, right through camp. I ate first so my stove was not affected but the others pitched their tents first so they had to take shelter farther down the gulch to cook their meals. The wind stopped during the night, then came up again toward morning. The others got little sleep in their flapping tents. I slept soundly in my bag by pulling it up over my head. The low temperature was 44° F. We cooked as best we could, then broke camp. Now we were backpacking north in a wide canyon that led to a low pass before turning left. This canyon was mostly sandy with few rocks, but we saw great metamorphic textures on the walls, plus some granite with large pink feldspar crystals, and lots of aplite dikes. We rested a short while below our first pass, then hiked up to it on a faint trail. The rise was 400 feet in about half-a-mile. The trail made it easy. We made the top by 10:35 am. Now we were getting somewhere. At the top we enjoyed a good view. We could see all the way down the canyon to near our camp, 730 feet down in two miles. Out beyond we could see farther south across Rice Valley to the Little Maria Mountains south of Highway 62, another BLM Wilderness that we’ve visited several times. To the north we looked directly down into another drainage. This one came in from the right, draining southeast. The drop to it was only 125 feet in two-tenths of a mile, an easy go. Such are the anomalies of these desert ranges. I recalled my first trip to the Chuckwalla Mountains back in 1975, when I’d hiked eleven miles up Ship Creek for a whole day only to find a short drop of 300 feet at the head of the canyon, down to a mine. These southern ranges can be a strange and asymmetric world with lots of surprises. Going north in the next canyon we passed a flood-battered desert willow (Catalpa), a Mojavean plant in a strange place, much farther south than I would expect. A little more than a mile from the pass, we came upon an old mine site. A concrete well was up against a terrace at wash level. Unfortunately it had filled in with sand. It shows up as a dry well on the old 1954 Rice 15-minute topo map. On the terrace above we found piles of rusty old tin cans, some wood, and an old shaft in terrace gravels, now caved in. The trace of a jeep trail was also nearby; this shows as a dirt road on the old topo. There was no sign of anything you would call mineable minerals or ore. Not unusual for claims under the 1872 Mining Law.


Steve Tabor

Spencer Berman dropping down on steep ground off the South Turtle Mountain We turned the corner and ate lunch crest (the last pass) before continuing east to the next pass. It The Survivor Winter 2006/7 25

was Noon. Besides the day had really turned out nice with sunny skies and 63° F. temperatures. Winter in the Southland! We sprawled out on the gravels and relaxed and ate. None of us had much of an urge to explore the surrounding hills, though the old topo showed several old mines nearby. In the afternoon we hiked east to the crest of the ridge. We started up a narrow canyon loaded with mineralization. There were plenty of reds and yellows, signs of iron, along with some purplish manganese and lots of quartz veinlets splashed through the bedrock. Oddly, we found no sign of any mining here, but I guessed that similar mineralization, the remains of hydrothermic (hot spring) fluids coursing through the rock, probably lay up on the hills near the shafts showing westward on the map. We skirted a dryfall, then ended up in another drainage ‘way off course. Discovering my error I led us southeast to the drainage we wanted. We rested, and then headed east again. With careful map work we got into a line that would take us to the crest at a slope we could use to get down the other side. On the way we found Mojave yucca and agave growing in the hills, also Ephedra, snakeweed and bladdersage, three more Mojavean plants. Fescue grass, a favorite of bighorn sheep, grew in the gulch. By 3:00 pm we stood on the crest. Horn Peak (3860’) rose higher on the ridge to the north. Once again, on these short days none of us were inclined to “do” the peak, though things may have been different if it had been on the Desert Peaks List as a named destination. Our main accomplishment on the remainder of the day would be tough enough: to get down off the ridge to Horn Spring 600 feet below without breaking our necks. Already shadows were growing long, the sun was dropping rapidly. I’d chosen a place with no cliffs below but the whole slope was loose and rubbly. I chose Spencer to drop down initially so I could get a picture of him with the rough stuff below, then I dropped down past him and led the way. A short way farther I saw a nice ramp all the way to the bottom, but we’d have to traverse below some cliff rock to get there. Picking our way carefully and easing over small ledges we got to the ramp in short order. From there we dropped down about 300 feet to easier ground, being careful not to dislodge the loose stones under our feet. The whole way down we had excellent views of the shadowed hills below and of the wide sunny plain far across the valley. Toward the end of the drop, long needle-like shadows from the peaks began to extend far across the plain, causing us to hasten so as not to get caught in the dark. It was another exciting end to yet another DS winter afternoon. I hoped we could get to a flat spot to sleep before we were caught in

the dark. We rested briefly on the last flat ridge, then scrambled down to Horn Canyon. Where we encountered the bottom it was smooth enough for tents. Instead of pressing on to Horn Spring I decided not to take any more chances. The sun was already down and we’d had enough. Horn Spring and its mining camp could wait until morning. We had a cold camp in the dark canyon trench but at least it was out of the wind. A colorful meteor, a great fireball, streaked across the sky as we finished dinner. The morning was quiet with no birds or burros. We packed and left early, for we still had a long way to go. We reached Horn Spring before 9:00 am. A few tamarisk grew in the wash and in a side-canyon. Going up on the terrace on the south side of the drainage, I found another concrete-shaft well just like the one the previous day. This one was overhung by a huge palo verde tree. About 20 feet down it had water! The water was dark and murky however, perhaps contaminated by a dead animal. It was too far down for us to sample it, we had no means to bring any up. Spencer, as usual, ranged all over the area, looking for artifacts. He found a damp place in the wash and dug for water in the shallow sand. Some seeped up into his diggings as we watched. Though the spring is labeled “dry” on the recent topo map, it shows as an actual flowing spring on the old 1954 map and on the old BLM Parker-Blythe Desert Access Guide dated November 1989. The old topo shows three buildings still intact, indicated by three black squares (empty squares signify abandoned buildings). Going higher on the terrace we found hardly anything left of these. There were three bare concrete foundations but no wood, no

The Wilderness boundary on the southeast side of the Turtle Mountains Wilderness. No BLM signs, no barrier, a pitiful rock wall. An invitation to abuse the land. The Survivor Winter 2006/7

Steve Tabor


from the cold winter wind we’d known two days before. We continued on after lunch, now moving southeast. The jeep trail became very sandy and loose, making for tiring hiking. In a mile, I led us away from the road, out onto the open plain, which was not churned up by big tires, so our hiking would be easier. In an hour we rested again under some ironwoods, this time huge trees far out on the outwash plain. We were making good time, doing 2.53.0 miles per hour with almost empty packs. It was just the kind of hiking that I like on the way out, on easy ground, in warm sun, with a blue sky above limited only by the horizon. In the last stretch we aimed more to the east, searching for a revetment that defined a break in the aqueduct. Such breaks are found every mile or two along the canal, which is otherwise impassable, a deep concrete-lined river. Ahead ironwood trees Looking back (north) at the Turtle Mountains Wilderness from the revetgrew down the wash at the break, where the aquement near Highway 62. Horn Peak in right-center is twelve miles distant. duct was temporarily routed underground. We soon metal, no human tools or artifacts, only a few rusty nails. There came to the revetment, then walked along on top of it to the were not even any ashes; a fire would have shown some evidence. break. Standing above the canal, we were back in industrial civiWhat happened to those buildings is a mystery. A rusty old car lization, watching the water flow to L.A. to fill fountains and golf body below, circa 1930s, was mostly obscured by mesquite branchcourses and air-conditioners. es growing through it. We left reluctantly, but we had to move on. We still had ten miles to go before nightfall. A jeep trail led east out of the canyon onto the plain. A single set of wheel tracks imprinted the sand, thoroughly illegal, almost three miles from the Wilderness boundary. The rest of the day was a quick march out onto the plain, mostly on old jeep trail, with ever-widening views of the valley to the south and east. We passed an old truck cab, completely removed from its chassis and axles, simply left to rust in the desert. We enjoyed views back up Vidal Valley to the north, toward the isolated edifice of Castle Rock, which we’d visited on trips before coming from Mopah Spring. To the east were the basalt ridges of Negro Peak, flanked by a curious white patch of rhyolite tuff. Ever-changing views, always moving, moving as we marched. At Mile 16.9 we came to the Wilderness boundary, a fork in the road. We found the main Wilderness sign to be misplaced; instead of being placed across the road, it was alongside it. A person without a map, or merely with criminal intentions, would think the boundary was along the west side of the road from there to Horn Spring. Spencer built up a low barrier across the road with small rocks; there weren’t many big ones to choose from out here in the valley. We continued south on the fork that led in that direction. At Mile 17.9 we passed a prominent rock knob with a wide parking spot for cars. Continuing farther south we stopped for lunch amid a sparse grove of ironwood trees. We were well away from the mountain front now but still five miles from the road. It was a pleasant spot in warm sun with a sense of openness and light, a very nice place to relax on a winter afternoon. This was a far cry
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Steve Tabor

From there it was a short walk to the road. Spencer and Roger went to get the cars at the airway beacon while the rest of us waited. By 4:30 we were on our way back to Cadiz Road. From there Roger and Rochelle went back to their motel at Blythe, while Spencer moved on in his truck to the KOFA Game Range on an extended vacation. Lois and I hurried home so we could get back to work. Our Christmas present for 2006 was over. I was favorably impressed with the southern part of the Turtle Mountains Wilderness. It lacks the colorful volcanic spires of the northern and east-central parts, but the classic metamorphic textures and the old mine sites partly make up for that. There are other routes on the west side that I want to try. Long valley approaches lead northeast from Cadiz Road to places like Johnson’s Well and Martin’s Well, and to other canyon complexes that allow for in-and-out loops. Routes cross the range from west to east could also be mapped, though those entail a long shuttle and may require four or five days to effect. Water would always be a problem, but I recall an unmapped seep in an obscure canyon in the center of the range when we crossed it on our 100-mile trek in 1994. Not much water for our group of nine, but the bighorn were using it. There is also a dead grove of tamarisk somewhere flanking Vidal Valley that we discovered in the Spring of 2000. Water once flowed there. Maybe it still does. Exactly where these places are, I won’t say. If you’re interested in finding them, you’ll just have to go out there and look. Maybe you’ll stumble upon find them, maybe you won’t. However that turns out, you’re bound to discover a whole lot of other things anyhow, things you maybe never imagined. Such is the nature of exploration.

Three Reflections on the Mecca Hills Christmas Carcamp
December 23-26, 2006

ecca Hills is the perfect place to experience discovery for discovery’s sake. Not knowing anything about Mecca Hills, we approached the trip without any preconceptions. Leaving the desert town of Mecca Hills, south of Palm Springs, we found a dirt road which would lead to our campsite. The road headed past smooth, chocolate mud-covered hills and turned up a canyon. The hills grew closer, towering menacingly over our car, and the road disappeared as it snaked around each bend. The hills finally receded a little as the road ended in a broad wash, which was to be our campsite, between high canyon walls which blocked the sun every day after 3 pm. Each day we took a hike up one of the broad washes near our campsite: Little Painted Canyon one day and the next Skeleton Canyon, which starts where the road first turns into the hills.


Diane Koehler reaches for the fruit of a Native California Palm at Sheep Hole Oasis

Each canyon eventually narrowed, or offered an offshoot, to a smaller wash or slot. Exploring each slot was like exploring different worlds. Each slot was different in size and shape. Some slots narrowed to a squeeze-through-it-sideways adventure. Some slots became blocked above or below by rock, which turned into a crawl-under or rock-climb-over adventure. Some close slot walls touched overhead, blocking out all light and forcing a headlamp adventure. The group’s exuberant participation in exploring Mecca Hills, not knowing how far the slots remained passable or where they led, allowed us to unleash our innate curiosity and love of adventure. Narrow slots, leading in unknown ways to unknown destinations, gave us easy-to-follow paths and the permission to explore for the sheer joy of exploration and discovery. Our Mecca Hills gamble paid off with the jackpot!

More Than Slots
By Lucy DuPertuis, Albuquerque, NM The slots in the Mecca hills are great, but even greater payoffs await the adventurous. Big Painted Canyon, which starts form the campsite, immediately offers layered, marbled, and mosaic colored great high walls. After a few minutes an unpleasant-looking climb over an enormous rubble-pile which appears to block a side canyon leads in fact into that side canyon, a dark, forboding narrowing route between high black walls which ends, as such canyons usually do, in an impassable dryfall. Except there’s a wooden lashed-together ladder leaning against it. You clamber up that only to find another dryfall with another, more rickety ladder. Pretty soon you get why it’s called Ladder Canyon. Ladder Canyon eventually leads to the top of the mud-colored hills, from
The Survivor Winter 2006/7

Lucy DuPertuis

Ralph Hawkins wriggles out of one of the Grottoes 28

Lucy DuPertuis


Jackpot At The Mecca Hills Slots
By Diane Koehler, San Francisco and Ralph Hawkins, Norco, CA

peppers, and zucchini garnished with freshly grated parmesan. Accompanying the pasta was a huge salad full of assorted vegetables and lettuces with a choice of dressings served in an elegant bowl fashioned out of a gallon water container. And there was plenty of wine to keep everyone feeling merry. Finally the deserts! Lucy’s famous and delicious homebaked cranberry bread, chocolate truffles, and a giant chocolate chip cookie cradled in a black tray and decorated with a Merry Christmas banner and fluffy frosting covered with sprinkles. Later we sat around a roaring fire, bellies full and our hearts aglow, and watched the skies for Santa Claus and his reindeer. The next day being Christmas, we had to have another feast. So out came the rest of the hummus and olives, more wine, and another sumptuous meal of Szechuan spicy noodles, delicious fried potatoes with apples, and two more huge salads in special salad bowls. Now these Upper Big Painted Canyon weren t just ordinary salads, they were loaded with fresh fruit, avocados, and tons of red bell peppers picked which you can peek down into a maze of other canyons. If you fresh that day just outside the entrance to Painted Canyon in the follow the use-trail a ways you eventually find a route down into Mecca Hills. It seems the area around there grows three things, the upper reaches of Painted Canyon, full of smoke trees and an dates, oranges, and acres and acres of red bell peppers. Just pull occasional ocotillo on the canyon rim against the sky. A few miles over to the side of the road and there are peppers lying about and another ladder or two and you’re back at camp. everywhere just waiting to become part of a Survivor salad. Another feast for a king followed by the remainder of the deliOur other hike, to Hidden Spring Oasis and the Grottos began a cious deserts. few miles to the north of the area where we camped. Here we followed obscure trails up and down along mudhill ridgelines until Later that evening around the fire under the stars a few of us dropping down into a canyon with an oasis of native palms. The broke into song and struggled through Christmas carols we had a next canyon over had grottoes, which involved more wriggling on hard time remembering the words to. Is there any other way to the belly, slot-canyon style, into gloomy, cramped caves which led spend Christmas and have so much fun, good food, good companowhere. It was nice to crawl back out into the warm sun for a ny, and an authentic Christmas setting? I think not. How about a lunchtime snooze. It was so warm we almost forgot it was the repeat next year? dead of winter, but we couldn’t quite forget, because we just had to celebrate . . .


Lucy DuPertuis

A Feast Fit For A King
By Joanna Kumik, Oakland Twas the night before Christmas and out in the desert Survivors were busily preparing for a big feast. Vegetables were being chopped and sauteed, pasta was cooking to al dente, shrimp were on the thaw, salad fixings were being gathered, carefully wrapped sweets and goodies were put on display, and bottles of wine were uncorked. Alas, it was to be a feast fit for a king! (The one thing I’d always admired about Survivors on trips was how well they ate. And this Christmas Eve was no exception.) And what a feast it was! Appetizers included shrimp cocktail, garlic hummus with veggies, and assorted olives. The main course was a spiral wheat pasta with pesto topped with loads of sauteed onions, red bell
The Survivor Winter 2006/7
Lucy DuPertuis

Slot canyon entrance in Little Painted Canyon 29

Dessert Issues
By Steve Tabor

helicopter, under the pretext that the sheep will die of thirst once they’ve become dependent on the water source. Thus the project becomes a set-up for interminable vehicular trespass in Wilderness, which is illegal, as is the construction. The guzzler proposal is being pushed by the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG). That agency uses volunteer labor and financial grants to do the construction. The fact that bighorn are not in danger, that there are now thousands of bighorn sheep inhabiting dozens of mountain ranges in the California Desert seems lost on the agency, which keeps using pretext of a “water emergency” to justify more building. CDFG seems to have an “edifice complex” about these “guzzlers”; about all that agency does now for sheep is build guzzlers and issue hunting permits. Otherwise the sheep pretty much fend for themselves. Due to Wilderness protection of sheep habitat, the re-introduction of bighorn to the deserts of the Southwest has been phenomenally successful. Guzzlers already built are quite enough to support the population. Wilderness advocates’ efforts to propose temporary watering troughs inside or outside the Wilderness to ameliorate any socalled “drought emergency” have been ignored, so we are at it again. Our compatriots on this latest effort are the California Wilderness Coalition, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, the Desert Protective Council, the National Resources Defense Council, the Wilderness Society, and Wilderness Watch.

Lucky Green Mine In The Whipple Wildern e s s To B e C l e a n e d Up
The “Lucky Green” is an abandoned copper mine four miles inside the south boundary of the Whipple Mountains Wilderness south of Needles. In 2006, the Needles Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management proposed cleaning up the mine site to remove hazardous materials. A review of the proposed clean-up is revealing because of the nature and magnitude of the problem. This is what happens to mines on public land when owners are simply allowed to walk away from the problems they’ve created. The mine area is so large that trucks, trailers and a front-end loader will be necessary for the work. According to the Wilderness Act, the use of mechanized equipment inside a Wilderness Area is illegal, but since this is a hazardous site under the National Contingency Plan for Hazardous Substance Response [40 Code of Federal Regulations 300.425(b)(2)], the cleanup project is exempt. Hazards include: the exposure of wildlife to toxic materials, possible migration of toxics through soil, the release of asbestos particles into the air, potential contamination of drinking water, and the presence of physical fall and entrapment hazards for both wildlife and humans. A licensed hazardous waste removal firm will be brought in to remove asbestos from the upper crushing mill and other structures. This is estimated to take twenty hours, two trips into the Wilderness by vehicle. About 200 cubic yards of tin cans and other habitation debris would have to removed in the trucks, requiring at least six trips by vehicle. Any of this might also be hazardous, so multiple trips to a licensed toxic waste dump may be needed. Once all toxics are removed, the front-end loader will be used to fill in the leach pit. The size of the pit is not given in the Notice of Proposed Action, but it is estimated that 250 cubic yards of existing mill aggregate (“mill tailings”) will be needed to fill it in. A well with a fifty-foot reach is upstream from the processing area. This would have to capped to avoid contamination. It was not stated in the Notice whether or not water could be reached through the casing
The Survivor Winter 2006/7

Lynne Buckner; Sagebrush Venacular with clouds


S h e e p h o l e Va l l e y Wilderness Guzzler Proposed For The Third Time
For the third time in seven years, the Bureau of Land management is promoting the construction of another game guzzler in the Sheephole Valley Wilderness near the Southern California town of Twentynine Palms. Once again Desert Survivors and other groups have written a strong comment opposing the plan. The “guzzler” in question is proposed for a gulch just inside the Wilderness boundary less than a mile from Amboy Road, a paved connector between Routes 66 and 62 on the Wilderness’ west side. In 2004 a consortium of four groups appealed the BLM’s approval of construction to the U.S. Department of Interior’s Board of Land Appeals. BLM withdrew the proposal as a result, but has now brought it back. These “guzzlers” are concrete pads upon which rain sometimes falls. Water is supposed to be collected in water tanks for long-term use by bighorn sheep, but rare and scanty rainfall in the California Desert is seldom enough to keep the tanks full so they are then filled with water by truck or


or if the well was dry. When I first heard about this project, I was opposed to disturbance of the site. Old mine sites in the desert are some of the few interesting historical human artifacts that we find when we roam the country. Upon discussion with the BLM operative responsible for the cleanup, I discovered that the hazmat made the cleanup a priority that was going to be done, regardless of any opinion I might have. I suggested that the last owner of record should pay for the cleanup, not the taxpayers, since any activity, hazardous or not, was the responsibility of that owner in our free enterprise system of private property. The BLM operative said she would look into that. I regret that I was not able to hike into this site before it was sanitized. A similar site at the old mining town of Wonder in Nevada north of U.S. Route 50 was similarly “cleaned up”. All structures were removed and the tailings piles were “contoured” into barren nondescript hills of gravel. Something of the character of the land is lost when this is done. To many of us these old mines are evidence of human failure, an important condition of industrial man that sometimes occurs, one that should not be eradicated every time it’s encountered. Human failure is as much a part of the Wilderness as the plants, the sky, the birds and the weather. Probably the presence of asbestos is what doomed the “Lucky Green” historical site to extermination. A pity, but even more a pity is the failure of the failed mining company to clean up its mess. Instead, you and I will have to pay for that. Remember that the next time you read about a mine, a grazing structure, a military expansion, or some other development on your public land. Unless you’ve got the political power to stop the development, get ready to be shafted.

of Fernley has always been a bit of a joke. Like many old Western towns, Fernley was once a real town, then debilitated into a main street of abandoned store fronts anchored by a freeway exit or two with a truck stop and gas stations. Just to ride through the downtown was depressing (or liberating, depending on your point of view). Not any more. Now it has a warehouse district surrounded by brand-new subdivisions. Now it’s expanding. It even has drive-in cappuccino bars for the blearyeyed commuter. Now it needs water. A company called “Aqua-Trac” will be happy to oblige. The company has filed more than 100 permits to drill for subsurface water in adjacent Pershing County. Many of these are below Granite Springs Valley where the company wants to pull out 88,000 acre-feet per year. Others are below Kumiva Valley, intended for 30,000 acre-feet. Both are remote and seldom-visited valleys known to Desert Survivors as main features of the Desert Trail Corridor. Both valleys provide vital water sources for Trail hikers, springs that would likely run dry once the water table starts dropping due to the deep drilling contemplated. Fernley’s new expansion is one destination for the water, which will sell for $15,000 per acre-foot, but there is talk of exporting the water beyond the Fernley city limits to other places. Reno, Dayton, Gardnerville and Honey Lake are mentioned in news reports. Observers doubt there is enough water in the basins to feed such a large area, but with the Truckee River already allocated, with limits placed on it by prior water rights and agreements to protect Pyramid Lake and the needs of its Paiute Tribe, water has become a scarce commodity in Western Nevada. Wasteful California-style subdivisions are still being built in the driest state of the union, and there’s not much in the way of resources, except cheap money, to support them. The City of Las Vegas has already laid claim to subsurface water below several counties in the

eastern side of the state. It looks like a similar water grab is on the way in the west. Vegas with its hip cachet is one thing, but Fernley? One truth lost in this scenario is the same one supposedly learned in California in the 1930s through 1950s and in Arizona in the ‘60s and ‘70s: When subsurface water is drawn down, the land sinks because pore space in the aquifer below collapses. Parts of California’s Central Valley are known to have dropped twentyseven feet in as many years. When that happens, no more water can sink down to collect; the aquifer is ruined. Any water taken out is water that accumulated in much wetter times during the Ice Age, when rain and snowfall were heavier. The process of deep-drilling is known to geologists as “mining the water”. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. The lessons of deep-drilling have been learned in California, apparently not yet in Nevada. But after all, Granite Springs and Kumiva are “just worthless desert” compared to Fernley and environs. It’s that sick attitude that makes a scheme like this possible. It’s an attitude Desert Survivors has been fighting all along in many localities on many issues. We still have a lot of education to do. So far, only farmers and ranchers in nearby Lovelock have raised an alarm about this. They’ve been spurred on by a publication called The Nevada Rancher ( We’ll report more on this as we learn more.


To old hands roaring down Nevada’s U.S Route 50 on their way to the Stillwaters, the Desatoyas, the Clan Alpines, Middlegate, Great Basin N.P. or Utah, the small town
The Survivor Winter 2006/7


Dan Seneres; Two Buck Bighorn

F e r n l e y, N e v a d a E y e s Wa t e r U n d e r G r a n i t e S p r i n g s Va l l e y

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Members of Desert Survivors become part of a nation-wide network of savvy desert hikers and activists. Benefits include: • Four more-or-less quarterly issues of The Survivor . • Over 40 free trips per year to explore desert locations. Trips range in difficulty and include backpacking and dayhiking/carcamping. For a copy of our current trip schedule, call (510) 769-1706 or go to • Social events including potluck parties, picnics and slideshows. • Opportunity to participate in all aspects of Desert Survivors, including preservation campaigns, hands-on desert conservation projects, and directing the organization.

In This Issue
Desert Survivors History: The Bighorn Logo........................2 How to Reach Us...............................................................................3 Contribute to The Survivor..............................................................3 Mission Statement for Desert Survivors.........................................3 Desert Survivor E-Mail, Listserv....................................................3 Letter: Steens Mistakes.....................................................................3 Desert Conference November 3.....................................................3 Incredible Desert 25th Anniversary Event...................................4 I’m a Survivor (song).........................................................................5 The Saga of Desert Survivors..........................................................6 Organizers Of 25th Anniversary Events.......................................7 Petroglyphs (poetry)..........................................................................7 Desert Survivors History, 1995-2006..........................................8 Service and Monitoring Trips, 1994-2006...............................10 Trip Statistics, 1989-2006.............................................................13 A New Beginning For The Carrizo Plain.....................................14 Early Spring in Carrizo Plain (poetry............................................15 The Metamorphosis of a Leave No Trace Master......................16 A Short Road Trip Loop Through West-Central Nevada..........18 Chuckwalla Mountains Wilderness Carcamp...............................19 South Turtles Backpack..................................................................24 Reflections on the Mecca Hills Christmas Carcamp........28 Desert Issues....................................................................................30

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32 Experiencing, sharing and protecting the desert since 1978 The Survivor Winter 2006/7

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