So, where to ride when you're completely surrounded by dirt, if you can get to it? Most everywhere close we've already been to many times. Where could we go that we didn't need to trailer, we wouldn't mind seeing again and we would stand a high probablility of seeing something we hadn't seen before?
For us, this season, it was up into the Tule Desert (pronounced too-lee). Yes, if we weren't going to trailer we needed to start the ride with the standard (and at least comparitively speaking: "tiresome") ride up and over Flat Top Mesa, and yes, we then had the "long and arduous" washbords of Toquop Wash; but this is offroading we're talking about!
[A free Google Earth file of this route is available at: Offroading Home: Toquop Gap.]
There are two trails up to the top of Flat Top, both are graded dirt roads, and both are quite steep but doable. The gates at the top are a bit unnerving to negotiate on the incline but easier if you have someone to share the duty with.
We decided that as long as we were on top we'd take a quick circumlocution of the mesa and see the views – which are vast, panoramic and plentiful. You can see almost everyone's house and why many trails don't go all the way through. All the washes create quite a jumble of badlands.
Almost 350 degrees around the mesa and another road drops down through a steep-walled canyon into the Toquop Wash. We headed north up the sandy wash and expected the usual washboarding which easily loosens your bridge-work. This time however, either the wind or rain or something had flattened them out. What a relief!
There usually is a little water there but not much. Camp Road splits off to the left (west) toward the petroglyphs I mentioned but we turned to the right along Tule Springs Road. You come to Tule Springs in but 500 yards from the junction which makes one think that Abe and Tule may be names for the same place.
Joshua Trees as far as you can see, and you can see pretty far. The trail runs straight to the far mountains and our GPS units showed that the Wells Cargo Mine, which Gorden has so often talked about, was directly ahead. However, one must always think in terms of the "round trip" and it was too late to engage in that much of a drive.
At Tule Wells road (the first one on the left) we turned west to skirt around the back side of the mountains. If you're following along on the free Google Earth map you can see where we jogged a tad into a cattle corral where a rancher from St. George was attending to his herd.
The grazing lease had been in his family for years so I finally got to ask the question that has plaqued me for years: "What do these things eat?" He merely chuckled at my naievty and said "son, there's a bale of hay under ever bush." After he left, I could see that indeed there is a lot of grass around the bushes if you look close enough – but, it was still there! Looking like the cattle either couldn't get it or didn't want it!
We knew that the ol' "Rainbow" road went through a pass southwest of the one we wanted so began looking for a passage back east. The next one we saw was Wade Camp Road and we took it, finding ourselves running through another cattle operation then into Toquop Gap. At the gap we found a very large tank, complete with the logo of the mine it had been "appropriated" from, placed to water the cattle. So I can tell Gordon that I saw at piece of the Well's Cargo Mine.
Through the gap we met Camp Road again and knew that if we turned northeast it would put us back at Abe Spring so we could retrace our tracks back down to the trailhead – it did and then we did. A good day off road!
Learn A Little More
I don't have a clue how they do it, BUT there seems to be a new fad where they can take a persons normal speech and match it to a piece of music so that it appears the person is singing his words in tune with the music. Go figure!
It makes for some interesting capabilities which some people of a scientific bent have turned into what they call "the symphony of science" and produced several pieces.
In this very interesting tune, the likes of Carl Sagan, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Stephen Hawking and others explain what science is and does; and how it improves our lives. [Sorry, the idiot commercial at 30 seconds is not mine, just click the 'x']