Day 200: Giant Arrow for our Milestone

On this, our 200th day on the road, we decided to track down another giant concrete arrow in the desert.  We said goodbye to our hilltop perch overlooking Afton Canyon:

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Here’s the view of the campground below.  It turned out that it was a good move to move up here Friday afternoon.  On Shabbos, I walked down to the campground and met several members of Boy Scout Troup 486 from Glendale, CA.  Our location was definitely more laid back.

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B photographed some of the jewelry that she made for her American Girl doll:

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We packed up and drove partway out to the highway, then pulled off the road and started hiking.  The arrow was about 1.2 miles to the North of us.  It was nice to see wildflowers as we walked:

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Wild asparagus?

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From the saddle we climbed over, we could see the hill with the arrow ahead of us:

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Trish and B enjoy the view:

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The hilltop is very small, so the tip of the arrow is right at the edge of the precipice:

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M sits on the tower supports.  Like our last arrow, this arrow’s light tower was scrapped for the war effort in the ‘40s.

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Looking to the rear, this pad may have once housed the control building:

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Panorama looking down.  The arrow is on the left, the light tower supports are in the center, and the control shack pad is to the right:

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I noticed this pair of beetles running around.  The one on top was hanging on for dear life:

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After returning to the car, we drove East towards Las Vegas.  On the way, we passed the Ivanpah solar plant.  Thousands of mirrors reflect and focus the sun towards the tower, which glows from the heat.  This heat converts water into steam, which is used to drive turbines:

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Today we drove to Las Vegas, and we will probably be here until Wednesday.  See the trip map for details.

B gets her own blog!

Going forward, we will refer to our kids by their first initials.  Our daughter is “B”, and our son in “M”.

B started working on her own blog this week, called On the Road Again.  I’ve added a link to it in the Menu.  It’s a great way for her to share her photography, as well as practice her writing and photo editing skills.  Please stop by and leave an encouraging comment on her first post!

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Day 198: Spooky Canyon and Abandoned Mines

One of the interesting things to see in Afton Canyon is the slot canyon called Spooky Canyon.  We tried driving there from the campground, but we found we would have to cross the Mojave River which is 40 feet wide and 14 inches deep here.  We met a BLM truck on our way back to the campground, and I asked about getting to Spooky Canyon from the Eastern entrance to Afton Canyon.  The BLM guys said they would drive us over there to show use the way.

20 minutes later, we were at the entrance to Spooky Canyon:

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Spooky Canyon starts out fairly wide with 200’ walls:

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After a bit the top of the canyon closes in, and flashlights are necessary to continue:

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Looking way up, the canyon rim can only be glimpsed in certain locations from the bottom:

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Eventually we reached a 30 foot waterfall.  Conveniently, a rope had been placed there to aid in climbing.  After giving it a couple test falls to make sure it was well secured, our son and I headed up:

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After another 30 feet, we reached a 150 foot high climb, which we decided to forego:

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Heading back down, the kids explored a side canyon:

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Looking across Afton Canyon, we decided to explore the Southern rim:

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The stone here is much softer, but there were some slot canyons here too:

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On our way back to the RV, we passed a train:

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We found an abandoned mine as well.  A plank road had been built though the mine:

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The BLM guys told us that the signage was incorrect, and that only the canyon area is restricted for dispersed camping.  Rather than stay in what might be a crowded campground for the weekend, we hitched up and drove a half-mile to the canyon rim for dispersed camping.

Good Shabbos from Afton Canyon, CA!

Day 197: Roaming Charges May Apply

Today we left the Walmart of Barstow, CA at 8:30 in order to arrive at Fort Irwin at 9:30 for our tour of the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex.  After clearing security at Fort Irwin by showing drivers licenses, registration, and proof of insurance, we had to do the same thing at the NASA checkpoint.  Goldstone is entirely surrounded by Fort Irwin, so I’m not sure why we had to be checked again.  For security reasons, they insisted that we not take the RV into Goldstone.  By the time we had unhitched, Leslie, our guide for the morning, had come to meet us.  Goldstone is operated by a contractor hired by JPL, and part of the contract is to provide interpretive staff for visitors.  There are two tours a day, and today it was just us and Leslie.

We followed Leslie’s car for 15 minutes or so into Goldstone, and eventually arrived at the Mars Antenna.  It is 230 feet across and like all the Antennas at Goldstone, it’s used primarily to communicate with NASA probes.  Mars was expanded to it’s current size to support the Voyager missions:

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The outbound signal from the Mars Antenna is 250,000 Watts in strength, and it can receive back signals from Voyager which are one-billionth of one-billionth of a watt by the time they reach Earth.

Next to Mars was the 34-meter diameter Uranus Antenna:

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After visiting these antennas, we were taken to the visitor center:

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Aiming the antennas in the ‘50s wasn’t exactly rocket science:

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The visitor center is adjacent to the Echo Antenna, which like Uranus has a 34-meter diameter:

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After our tour, we had lunch in the RV.  Outside our window, an armored column of 50 or so vehicles thundered by:

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We headed into “downtown” Fort Irwin to visit the museum there.  The tanks outside carried OPFOR Russian livery:

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There was an exhibit dedicated to Hi Jolly, whose grave we saw in Quartzsite:

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From Fort Irwin, we drove to the BLM campground at Afton Canyon, the “Grand Canyon of the Mojave”.  We are overnighting here for $6 because I’ve read that dispersed camping is not allowed in the Afton Canyon BLM subdistrict.  I’ll be calling the BLM office in the morning to confirm.

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See the trip map for driving details.

Day 196: In a NASA holding pattern

We decided to stay at the Walmart of Barstow, CA for another night, as our visit to a NASA facility in Fort Irwin is available tomorrow morning, but not today.  We got in a full day of homeschooling, and watched baby videos of the kids before they went off to bed.

He we are at Walmart with a bit of company:

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It’s possible that our son had had enough by the time we got to Arduino class:

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Tomorrow morning, we will be heading into Fort Irwin for our visit to the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex.