Late in the depths of Winter, 2010, the Mojave desert began to call out to me! As if by the sheerest coincidence, Dr. Mark Kelm called and stated that he and his wife Sarah were planning to get out to Lavic Siding in the Mojave Desert in late March. So began the odyssey that became "Lavic & Beyond!"
Being as unwilling as ever to leave the planning of any rockhounding field trip completely to someone else, I quickly volunteered to coordinate the trip and find additional sites for the proposed 3 day trip. Mark sounded relieved when he acceded to my offer, which is perfectly understandable for such a dedicated (though adventurous) and hardworking family man.
Through the following months and the genesis of this website, the plan began to firm up. Mark spent good time on Google Earth, and made suggestions that led to the selection of the Cady Mts. northwest of Ludlow as a second day collecting choice. Another "must" was the Garnet Hill in the Marble Mts. north of Chambless & Rt. 66.
Through a storm of obstacles and complications, the trip came together. We booked lodging at the Motel 6 in Barstow, which enjoys a great location just blocks from the junction of Interstate Highways 15 & 40.
This area is chock full 'o fast food outlets, tourist traps (Barstow Station) and ample shopping outlets of all sorts. It's also a fairly scenic area, with mountains and railroad tracks and trains and the Harvey House and ... Well, you get the idea.
After planning the basics, the Event was announced and discussed, and additional folks signed on. First was Richard Mueller of the MinersGallery.com in Alpine. Richard suggested the Paul Bunyan agate deposit in the Calico Mts. northeast of Barstow, and kindly volunteered to lead that trip segment. The Sierra Pelona travertine claim was planned as a trip extra, time permitting.
Finally, in a flurry of weird and wacky complications with which I won't belabor this happy tome, departure day arrived. Amazingly, our clients arrived to gather their children in a timely and jovial fashion, and we were free at last! We pulled out of our driveway at 7 pm, sharp!
The trip down to Barstow was mostly uneventful, with the singular exception of the car windows fogging up when I switched on the heater, outside of Bakersfield. As I switched on the defroster, thinking it was simply a clogged vent, I turned to Laura, my lovely mate, and said in my best Yiddish Grandpa accent, "It's allvays zometink!"
Climbing the western slopes of the Tehachapis, we wound our way through the headlong rush of traffic, which mercifully thinned out after we crested into the windmill ringed mountain valley. The air was cold and dry, and felt good as I cleared cracked the window open for a few moments.
With frequent stops for Pepsi and muscle stretching walks, we sped along to Barstow, making it into town before midnight! The parking lot of the Motel 6 was crowded, but my "parking angel' was on the job, and had held a good spot for us. The night clerk was as friendly as she always is, and gave us what I'm sure is the best room in the house!
We had the room next to the Managers apartment, with soft beds and ample room. Heed my word, always book as far in advance as possible!
The hum of the heater lulled us into a well deserved sleep, and the morning began with Mike Rowe & "Dirty Jobs." I love warming up my attitude with this show before some good collecting!
After a great breakfast at IHOP, we got final provisions, bottled water, junk food and some sandwiches and met up with Richard and his field partner David at the Von's parking lot. Richard greeted us with gifts of (what else?) ROCKS!
I gladly received and tucked away the lively Arizona jasper and unusual "chipboard" magnesite he'd brought for us. After discussing the day's activities and hearing from the Kelm family, we departed for Lavic Siding.
The drive out to Lavic was as scenic as always, and shorter than I'd remembered. After a quick and rather disappointing stop at the Hector Eastbound Rest Stop (Almost better than bushes ... Almost,) we hurried on to Lavic. Departing the 1-40 off ramp at Hecter, we jogged south onto the National Trails Highway, Route 66.
The legendary status of the fabled road was far from our minds as we drew closer and closer to the railroad crossing and Lavic Siding. Richard had done some collecting in the Cady's, but hadn't been south of the tracks to the lower Lavic area. so, I stopped just before we reached the Siding, to show he and David an in situ jasper emplacement right in the washboard road! We resisted the temptation to take our picks to the roadbed, and quickly remounted our vehicles to hurry onward.
Minutes later, we arrived at Lavic Siding!
I'm working on this, more soon! Kris
When we looked closely at the ground, the plants were less spare and small colorful flowers studded the ground. the sparse weedy undergrowth was green, rather than brittle brown. And the birds and small lizards, sunning themselves, were more lively.
Still, the liveliest animal life by far were the rockhounds! Our vehicles had barely come to a stop before we sprung forth, grabbed our tools and sprung forth ourselves to hunt our sedentary prey. After a short discussion of immediate activities, I headed for the top of the hill that overlooks the former siding area, to gauge the lay of the land.
Quiet enveloped me as, approaching the top of the hill, a small monument of previous visitors finds met my eyes. Bemused, I picked up the railroad spike that sat amongst the steel bearings and track "buckles," placed atop boulders with care. The vista was familiar, but far sharper in resolution than Google Earth could ever convey. to the south lay the dry lake, and I could see the signs that mark the boundaries of Twenty-Nine Palms Marine base.
Looking back to the northwest, I saw that Laura, Richard and David were already ranging far afield, heeding the wise words of James Mitchell by seeking the colorful jasp-agate far from the roadside. It seemed a good time to join them.
I'd barely begun collecting when the Kelms arrived, drawing us all back to the siding. After introductions were completed, lunch was hastily eaten and we all headed back out to gather our colorful bounty.
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Knowing from experience that I should take my pictures before beginning the hunt, I descended the hill, grabbed my camera and headed for the train tracks. The singing of the rails lent an eerie note as I stood astride the rails. The wind was the only other sound.
To the southeast, in the distance, the rails appeared to drive straight into a shimmering mirage at the base of faraway mountains. Turning 180 degrees, the same rails ran across the desert toward a closer
civilization, and the Harvey House of Barstow. I took my pictures and returned to prepare for the hunt.
Strolling (well, sorta) out into the field, Laura called out to me to retrieve her already bulging rock sack. Ah, the joys of being "the Man!" She'd managed, in record time, to fill her sack with outstanding material, banded and swirled in colors muted and bright.
With another small cloud of dust, the silver SUV approached and slowed. As the window rolled down and I yelled "Howdy!", the smile of the gentleman within signaled another happy rockhound. His name was Chuck, a RFTF! reader from Prescott, Arizona. He'd made it out earlier in the day and had headed deeper into the Lavic collecting area, finding prime material and even quieter collecting areas. After describing the road down, he headed back south. I went back out to gather the troops and get going to join Chuck.
The road became a little rougher, but still reasonable for our Camry. On the road south, we stopped and spoke to some more rockhounds and "almost" rockhounds who declined to be identified, and soon arrived at the southern portion of the collecting area, with the warning signs of the Marine base in sight.
Ranging far and wide among the volcanic panorama, we found lovely examples of jasper, jasp-agate, and "snakeskin" agate. As the afternoon quickly passed, we trekked northward, finding an area with brecciated "puzzle" jasper, banded in agate. I stopped to rest, and enjoyed the novel pleasure of calling my Mother, back in North Carolina. She shares my love of the Mojave, and it was pleasant to sit and describe the surroundings, bringing her back in her head to the sight of the Pisgah Crater. As the sun went low on the horizon, we lugged our treasure back to the vehicles, and helped (again, sorta ) the Kelms set up camp.
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The same clear silver moon that Mom had described rose over the hills to our east, and we washed our jasepr treasures. The banding, colors and quality of the stone were astounding, and we spoke of what we would cut from this lovely rough. I can't wait to cut a knife blade from this material, which is so silicated that it rings like crystal when the blade is stroked.
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Grabbing the camera as the sun went low on the hill, the wind called me to watch the sunset.
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The tone of the surrounding desert softened and mellowed, and night fell.
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As the evening began and weariness fell upon us, we bade a good evening to our friends, and drove off toward Barstow. Little did we suspect how our plans would be complicated by the hand of cruel fate, and the frailty of machinery.