26-Jan-2013 -- As I was in southern California working for 10 days, I thought I should practice what I am always preaching, namely, "get out into the field". While I had a lot of work to do in the office, I considered that (1) The work would be there when I returned in the afternoon; (2) It would not be healthy to work all weekend in the office; and (3) Years from now, I would remember the confluence hike and not whatever project I was working on during this day. Thus, after waking up at 4:44am, I set out in the dark, driving north on I-15 out of the Redlands area. Dawn appeared as I began driving east on I-40, and I was pleased to, at this beginning point of I-40, see the sign to Wilmington North Carolina, indicating that the distance was 2,500 miles. This sign is a geographer's dream! Knowing that towns and fuel stops are few and far between out here in the Mojave Desert, I made a short visit to Ludlow, purchasing some breakfast items and water for my journey as well.
The weather had been rainy for several days in southern California, and at times, even out here in the desert, the visibility was reduced to 75 meters or so as I periodically drove through fog. I was simply hoping that when I arrived at the confluence, I would not be in a similar patch of fog, or the photographs wouldn't be as interesting. Up on the high point on I-40, the alternating clouds and sun made fascinating patterns, and I was glad I was here.
My spirits sank a bit as I descended from the high part of I-40 into the Goffs area: It was raining again. I exited I-40 at Goffs and arrived in the town of 26 residents about 20 minutes later, along with a long train filled with cars of liquids and gases of some sort. The clouds lifted. I turned northwest on Lanfair Road and looked at the interesting museum to my left and a few of the other buildings in Goffs. It seemed odd, but I passed three people walking on the road with a dog, way out here. I imagined the travelers during the 1930s at the time of the Dust Bowl passing through here on US Route 66 for their westward dreams to come true.
On Lanfair Road, I parked underneath the powerline running northeast-southwest. At first I thought it was raining again, but then realized, as identified by prior visitors, that this was the sound of electricity in the wires above me. I had not experienced such a loud powerline before. I gathered supplies and began hiking, with the GPS receiver indicating 12 miles to my destination and 3 hours at my current pace. At times like these, I wish I had a mountain bike with me like my friend Shawn Fleming often has. I had walked along about a mile, or 15 minutes, when I realized that the powerline road, at least up to here, was passable in an ordinary rental car. After a few more minutes, I turned around and walked back to the vehicle. Surely I could save some time here by driving as far as I could down the powerline road. As I jostled along it in the rental car a short time later, the only thing that worried me were the washes that I encountered after another mile. If it began pouring rain, those washes might make it impossible for me to return to Lanfair Road. I would have to keep a close watch on the sky, I decided. Meanwhile, only a few places on the road made me a little nervous with their ruts and sand, but I was glad I had decided to try this.
After a few miles, I looked for the next road that angled off more toward the northeast. I saw nothing despite it being marked on the satellite image and the map on my phone. After a few hundred meters I stopped under one of the towers where one could turn around without too much difficulty. I then began hiking, winding through the desert vegetation, keeping an eye out for snakes as I tacked to the north. After finding my desired road that was on the map, I realized why I had missed it earlier. It was not really a road at all, but a barely perceptible trail that had at some time in the past, been driven on by a four-wheel drive vehicle. It was perfect for my purpose, though, and on it I made better time than winding through the brush, and getting less scratched in the process, and best of all, angling nearly straight for the confluence. I descended and ascended a few more gullies but generally rose in elevation, and the weather seemed to hold. This area is a rock hounds dream. I noted numerous black volcanics, white-as-pearl quartz, hornblende, mica, and other wonderfully beautiful stones scattered everywhere. With about 700 meters to the confluence, I took a wide wash to the north, scrambled up a small ridge, and hiked due north to find the confluence near a Joshua tree that was about waist high.
I arrived at the confluence in the late morning on a rather wet day in the desert in January. The temperature was about 55 F and the humidity was surprisingly high. I saw a few birds but no animals except for one jackrabbit that had darted on the main trail I had departed from about 20 minutes earlier. It was a beautiful spot with excellent views in all directions, particularly to the east, toward the Colorado River and Arizona. The view to the south was partly blocked by the low ridge the bordered the wash beyond it to the south. The ground here was about half barren and half covered by Mojave Desert vegetation. I could sense that to be here in the summer would be beastly hot. But today was perfect; maybe not as bright and clear as I had hoped, but wonderful and peaceful.
I had stood on 35 North several times, from California on the west to North Carolina on the east, with points in New Mexico and Oklahoma in between. However, this was only the third time I have stood on 115 West, and only in California and Nevada have I done so. I now have just about all of the confluence points in southern California behind me. After only a short time at the point, I hiked out the way I came, making certain that I did not leave anything behind. Wanting just a little variety, I left the trail a bit early, tacking to the south and then followed the powerline back to the vehicle. It actually was lightly sprinkling now and I decided that being underneath a high voltage powerline in the rain might not be the smartest place. Besides, with the rain I doubly needed to get back to the pavement. Therefore, I bid farewell to the confluence site and drove southwest underneath the powerline. The road seemed a bit rougher but I emerged unscathed on Lanfair Road a short time later.
The total round trip hike time, including my 2 miles at the beginning before I retrieved the car, came to 7.75 miles (just under 12.5 km) and about 3 hours total hike time. I rated this as moderate in terms of difficulty, though it was easy compared to hikes my colleagues have done around the world. The gravelly surface requires some care to hike on but the steepness is not a factor as it is on some confluence trips. Getting here was the most time consuming part. After reaching Lanfair Road, I then drove back through Goffs. I briefly toyed with the idea of visiting 35 North 116 West on the way back, but I didn't want to chance the road in the rain. I made it back to Redlands and was able to put in some quality hours of work on some needed GIS education projects. A great way to start the weekend -- in the desert!