Rainbow Basin / Mud hills

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Sandman
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Rainbow Basin / Mud hills

Post by Sandman » Tue Apr 21, 2009 9:25 am

Hello DUSA readers.

Our latest explorations took is to the Rainbow Basin Natural Scenic area outside of Barstow, Ca. We set up a base camp at Owl canyon campground and proceeded to explore the unusual and magnificant geological formations of the Mud Hills. It's springtime and the wildflowers are at peak. The time to get on out and enjoy is NOW!

More on this later..........

Desert Cruiser
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Re: Rainbow Basin / Mud hills

Post by Desert Cruiser » Tue Apr 21, 2009 8:44 pm

Looking forward to it!

Sandman
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Re: Rainbow Basin / Mud hills

Post by Sandman » Tue Apr 21, 2009 11:27 pm

The Rainbow Basin's foundation was formed long ago when the area was under water. Over time, layer upon layer of sediment blanketed the ocean floor that eventually turned into a lush marshy swamp. Animals of the Miocene period on earth lived and died here, including Sabre Tooth cats, Mastadons, camels , ground sloths. As layers of sediment covered them, it preserved the bones which eventually turned into fossils. (DUSA has published articles on the Rainbow basin/ Mud Hills region. http://www.desertusa.com/mag02/may/rainbow.html)

Then came the faulting and tectonic plate drifting which slowly raised the limestone base creating a multicolored snapshot
of the Miocene period of the earth's history. It's spectacular beauty is reason enough for a visit however, we decided to set up a base camp nearby in Owl Canyon, which holds more of the same geology. The BLM has a campground there and the cost is $6 a night. Although it is legal to camp for free and alone on nearby BLM lands outside of the Area of Critical Environmental concern, we chose to stay at the campground as we sometimes like to meet other people with similar interests.

We started our journey with a drive through the loop, a one way road and were amazed by not only the colorful surreal geology, but also at the display of wildflowers that met us wherever we looked. As we were slowly meandering through, I looked ahead and spotted a tortoise along the side of the road. Very cool. We kept our distance and took a few photos and then traveled on feeling very good about the way our day was starting. Our destination that day was to drive a big loop exploring the Opal Mountain / Inscription canyon region and after an hour or so in the basin, we headed back out to Irwin Road and turned off on Copper City Road

We had heard that the military built a big ol fence up near the road that head out to Inscription Canyon and Black Mountain, Soon enough, we reached the fence line and headed west along the D9 super highway until we hit the trail we were looking for. Wildflowers carpeted the desert floor, turning the usual dusty brown into goldfields, hence the name of the flower. We saw a wide variety of different plants and flowers in bloom and the air was alive with the sweet smell of springtime. The day was sunny and warm, with temps in the low 80s and clear blue skies. A gentle breeze kept the day from getting too warm and we slowly meandered out way out to Inscription Canyon which we reached about lunch time...........

Sandman
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Re: Rainbow Basin / Mud hills

Post by Sandman » Wed Apr 22, 2009 12:20 am

Gazing across the Superior Valley, lands lost to public access for yet another vast desert playground for "war games" knowing my feet will never tread the earth there again

The US Army has kicked out both the public AND the turtles. On the drive to Inscription Canyon and the back side of Opal Moutain, we saw another tortoise. It was on the move. Must be springtime! It seemed like this one had a hot date somewhere!

Sandman
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Re: Rainbow Basin / Mud hills

Post by Sandman » Wed Apr 22, 2009 7:33 am

Inscription canyon......at the crossroads of the past and the future, welcomed us with a peaceful serenity as we arrived to find we were alone there on a beautiful Saturday. We parked the truck and had a picnic on the tailgate. The sun was getting quite warm by this time but the breeze had picked up just enough to be enjoyable yet not too strong as it often is in this part of the desert. Located at the base of an old lava flow next to a dry lakebed, Inscription Canyon has been visited by humanity for several thousand years. As we ate, I looked out across the lakebed and tried to imagine what this place looked like 10,000 years ago when the climate was much wetter. The dry lakes of the desert were full of shallow water with marshlands and grassy plains supporting a wide variety of animals that are no longer here. I wondered what life must have been like for those ancient people who left only their mysterious marks in passing and then disappeared. I could almost picture a small group of hunters armed with atatals and spears taking on a wooly mammoth ambushed while grazing from a nearby cliff.........their families butchering the animal with stone knives and the feasting that followed a successful hunt or.........the disappointment when the animal escaped, possibly injuring one of the hunters and shortening his life in this harsh world of survival long ago........

The spell is broken by the arrival of two vehicles full of other travelers like ourselves out exploring and enjoying the amazing places in the desert. Doors open and two families with kids pour out. We chat for a while and then decided to take the road up toward Opal Mountain to do some rock hounding............We locked the wheels into 4 wheel drive and up the rocky hill we went..................

Sandman
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Re: Rainbow Basin / Mud hills

Post by Sandman » Sat Apr 25, 2009 3:43 pm

We headed up the hill in the direction of Opal Mountain and spent a couple of hours kicking rocks around. Once again, this is an area of geological changes with the exposure of sedimentary and metamorphic rocks overlayed with ingeous lava flows. We picked up some fire agate, opal, and jasper specimens while dropping all but the best specimens we found. There are WAY too many buckets of rocks around my place from previous adventures. I've kicked around the idea of buying some
lapidary equipment but so far I have managed to procrastinate taking on yet another hobby to fill my busy days. We saw others out there exploring the Opal Mountain area, always a popular desination on sunny springtime weekends..........A simle and a wave as they passed, but we did talk to some dual sport riders who were on a mission to visit all of the military plane crash sites. Evidently, there is a website that lists them all and there are several in this area where military testing is commonly done. Reading Lee's report, I see that he visited one in the same general area recently........

So much to do, so little time as the sun began to sink lower in the west.......

Mike C.
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Re: Rainbow Basin / Mud hills

Post by Mike C. » Mon May 18, 2009 11:55 am

Been going there for years as this is my favorite high desert destination. I've always gotten a kick out of the dinosauar type formation on the right side of the road. Cool hiking also---bring a flashlight as there are many cave type areas to explore!

Desert Cruiser
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Re: Rainbow Basin / Mud hills

Post by Desert Cruiser » Wed May 20, 2009 3:17 pm

Sounds really neat Sandman. Where is this area. So many miles NE of what town; so I can look it up on the Topos. Thanks....
Don....

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Re: Rainbow Basin / Mud hills

Post by Desert Cruiser » Wed May 20, 2009 10:01 pm

Sandman: My wife (Iggy) chewed me out for not seeing the link at the top message -- I went to it and then opened up my topo program and found the areas you described above --- looks neat! Used to come thru Barstow for years on the way to Yuma for a break from the snow in the Sierra's. Never spent any time there but it looks like it'd worth a look. Thanks again....
Don....

Mike C.
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Re: Rainbow Basin / Mud hills

Post by Mike C. » Sat May 23, 2009 11:44 am

Calico Ghost Town is close by as well. About 50 miles east on I-15 is a coolplace called Afton Canyon. This is where the Mojave River is well above the ground. It can get deep. Go under the train trestle then to the left will bring you to some good hiking in the Cady Mountains. Mike

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