East Mojave Heritage Trail mini report

MountainBiker

Experience Seeker
This is a mini report, to help educate people on this little known route. I'm calling it a "mini" report because there won’t be many pictures, as I’m more of a mental snapshot person!

The East Mojave Heritage Trail was pioneered by Dennis Casebier and “Friends of the Mojave Road” circa 1990. This 4x4 trail takes a giant loop around the east Mojave region, taking much less traveled routes than the Mojave Road. In general, I consider this route to be a bit more difficult and rougher than the Mojave Road. Dennis broke the trail into 4 segments, link to the 4 guidebooks and paper updates. You can download the GPS track, but using just the track without reading at least one of the guidebooks would be a shame, as Dennis has collated a great deal of history and geology into the books. Any errors in my account below are mine alone, and not Mr. Casebier’s.

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MountainBiker

Experience Seeker
Logistics/planning:
I ended up having 7.5 days to experience this route, which I picked up where the CCW loop crosses I-40 at Ludlow heading southeast. That was not enough time to complete the route, as I would’ve needed at least another day to finish it, including the designated side trips, along with a few side trips and hikes that I added. I was usually rolling from camp around 9am and stopped at camp around 4:30pm. During the day there wasn’t any downtime, just side trips and hikes. I also took all the “hard” options except for the section that takes off Southeast from Sunflower Springs road, as the author of the recently written supplements (to the books) stated that the route often disappears into the rocks, and multiple foot recce’s would be required. When driving, I tend to move at a fairly good pace (to the consternation of my travel buddies!), and my travelling “group” for this trip was 1-2 vehicles throughout, which allowed us to cover a lot of ground each day. If I were to do it over again, I would break up the route into at least 3 segments and travel them at different times. This would also allow timing for the weather, as the Northeast section is much higher altitude and too cold for me to enjoy in December (but I did it anyway!) I’m providing all this information to help folks plan their trip.

Minimum vehicle requirements, IMO:
High clearance 4WD, and good traction control or a locker required if travelling solo. I can’t tell you how high your vehicle should be, but I will say that my 2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD (110” wheelbase) with a 2” lift and 32” tires made it, and is probably the minimum amount of ground clearance required for the current conditions. I had no aftermarket armor except for sliders, and the OEM skids took on a little bit of damage. That was with a driver with a decent amount of driving experience. I have some experience driving a stock 2015 JKUR on dirt, and I believe that particular vehicle would take an expert driver and rock stacking to make it through without dragging it on the ruts and rocks. The JKUR had the OEM tire size for that year, I think measuring about 31.5", but I could be wrong.
 
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MountainBiker

Experience Seeker
And finally, the report:
The first section I travelled (before and after EMHT Mailbox #3) is one of the few opportunities in the Mojave desert to drive on the actual route of the original National Old Trails Highway that was in use in the early 20th century, before Route 66 was opened up on it’s current parallel route through this region in the 1950’s. I thought that was pretty cool, and it was a great section to start on to enjoy the history, as well as the abundant relics left along the side of the road from the decades of early 20th century (unreliable) automobile traffic. (Note that Route 66 through this area is erroneously signed National Old Trails Highway.)

Here is picture of part of that grand old highway, note the stacked rocks to build the shelf road, and it is still in great shape! This picture is a few miles South of mailbox #3, where the route goes around Dish Hill to the site of Trojan.
Old Road.jpg

More in a day or two.
 
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Ace Brown

Retired Ol’ Fart
Familiar with this route thanks to Billy Creech. I hope to do the loop or some of it one day. Looking forward to the rest of your report.


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MountainBiker

Experience Seeker
Another structure of unknown origin, this one is concrete. It would make a good windbreak for a campsite, and you could even sleep inside if you wish. Provides a great vantage point for the area around Amboy Crater.concrete structure.jpg


Just after crossing under I40 at 34.71616, -115.74271, the track was obliterated, making me wonder if I was in the right place. After a recon on foot, I found that it was navigable (but overgrown) by staying far right (east), driving next to the Levee just north of the freeway (if you don't do this, you end up in wilderness)
 
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MountainBiker

Experience Seeker
This appears to be from the 19th century, then called Twin Springs, now called Budweiser Spring on the USGS topo layer in Gaia. "Modern" rock art is usually near first nations rock art, but I didn't find anything older than 1894.1894 rock art.jpg
 
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MountainBiker

Experience Seeker
End of Day 1, camped within sight of Kelso Dunes. 70 miles, 7 hours rolling time.

Day 1 was actually my second day on the trail, as I drove on the EMHT about 45 minutes from Ludlow before setting up the first night's camp.
 
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MountainBiker

Experience Seeker
Day 2, Kelso Dunes to EMHT Mailbox #4
I forgot to mention that I passed the EMHT Mailbox #3 on Day 1.

I really wanted to hike Kelso dunes, but the number of people there was astonishing! I guess with all California hotels and official campgrounds shut down, everyone was dispersed camping, and half of them were at Kelso Dunes! So I saved the hike to the top of the dunes for another day, and drove on. I checked out the large pit that was the Vulcan Mine. Afterwards, I decided to drive the powerline access road that parallels the official EMHT route, which follows the pipeline road. I think the powerline road is the more interesting route over Foshay Pass. Anyone reading this can easily find this route on maps and on the ground.

Next up was Bonanza King Mine. Pretty cool remains, and people were camped at the cabin that is there.Bonanza King1.jpgBonanza King2.jpgBonanza King3.jpg
 

MountainBiker

Experience Seeker
Day 2 continued

I had read somewhere (Not the EMHT books) that the ~1.4mile round trip hike to the nearby Silver King mine (no legal vehicle access) was worth it. I walked up the sandwash to the mine site, but didn't see much there. It was worth it for the desert hike, not so much for mine remains. I didn't even bother taking pictures, but perhaps I was looking in the wrong place?

Interesting side trips nearby that I didn't do are Mitchell Caverns and Hole in the Wall hike, as I've done those on other trips. If you want to explore the caverns, make sure they are open, as I believe you need reservations to go in these days.

I went off the route cross grain across the bajada in order to fill up with gas in Fenner. While in the area, I checked out the WW2 airstrip near Fenner (34.76757, -115.22299) mentioned in the guidebooks. Not much to see but dirt and decomposed paving for the runways. I then went back to where I had left the EMHT.

The EMHT bisects the Piute Mtn Wilderness, and here I had to slow way down. My 4Runner is quite new to me, and has (had!) a nice factory paint job, but this section of the route made me cringe as the creosote and other brush has grown over the trail and was loudly scraping the paint. After getting out/in the vehicle several times to trim the bushes as I traversed the route, I finally parked the rig and hiked for the next mile or two to trim the creosote. It was pitch black by the time I got back to my rig. The worst overgrowth was near the high point of the road, and the photo below was taken before I started my creosote trimming hike.

I could've set up camp at the summit, but the wind was blowing very hard, so I drove along the route ~45 minutes until I got to EMHT Mailbox #4, and camped there. sunset after trimming.jpg

End of Day 2, 77 mi., 6:15 rolling time
 
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MountainBiker

Experience Seeker
Day 3, EMHT Mailbox #4 to American Eagle Min
I had some actual raindrops overnight, here are some scenes from the morning.

At the end of the rainbow... a mailbox!
pot of gold.jpg

Double rainbow in the Mojave desert! This looked better in person, trust me!
double rainbow near EMHT Mailbox 4.jpg

Somewhere on this leg, a person can find pictergryphs and pettrogliphs, but I won’t talk about the details. I ask that other forum members that know of these sites also keep them quiet.

Near a Sunflower Springs homestead:
car.jpg
 

MountainBiker

Experience Seeker
Day 3, continued

The guidebook sends you on an out and back trip to Brown's Camp and Lost Arch Inn. I prefer taking a loop you see below that skirts the Turtle Mountain Wilderness boundary on the way to the Inn.Lost Arch Loop.jpg

Browns Camp graveyard:
graveyard.jpg

Brown's Camp:
browns camp.jpg

Mill near Brown's camp:
mill near browns camp.jpg

Leaving Brown's camp, heading North, you will come to an articulation section that will challenge some vehicles. Luckily you are going downhill in this direction. Had I been driving up this section, I probably would've needed traction control assistance on my 4Runner. I purposely took a bad line going down it, and I was able to suspend diagonal tires ~5" off of the ground. That provided a great opportunity to measure the articulation I get out this new to me vehicle.

At this point the vehicle was balanced, and I could shift the weight from left-rear to right front with a slight push on the quarter panel. This gave me a good indication that the springs and KDSS system combination is too stiff for how I travel, as I could not get the front bumpstops to come into play. Adding a winch would probably rectify that situation!
articulation.jpg
 

MountainBiker

Experience Seeker
Day 3, final

After Lost Arch Inn, and you return to what I believe is called Sunflower Springs Road. Shortly thereafter, you have to make a decision: turn right (SE) and do several foot recce's to find a route through rocks (per the addendums available MDHCA), or stay on the graded road (NE) and take it to 95. I chose the easier route, and this is the only easier bypass I took on the whole EMHT.

The wind was present on this trip from Day 2 onward. Typical Mojave desert! To find some shelter, I saw (on my USGS Topo layer in Gaia) that there was the American Eagle mine south of the EMHT, so I decided to head there to hopefully find a wind break. Lucky for me there was a bowl shaped area around some old foundations, and the wind was not very strong there.

Note: the road into American Eagle Mine is a little challenging with off-camber sections. At least it was a bit nerve wracking for me, as it was pitch black, and I didn't know what was ahead!

After setting up camp the moon rose, setting up this shot of a headframe with the nearly full moon:
headframe and nearly a full moon.jpg

End of Day 3, 80 miles, 6:20 rolling time
 
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MountainBiker

Experience Seeker
Day 4, American Eagle Mine to Goffs

Today I was going to try to meet up with my good friend Driller (I was solo to this point.) I had planned to meet him somewhere between Needles and Goffs. I connected with him via text (there was Verizon text service for probably 70% of the EMHT), and found out he was running late due to a snow storm. The sprinkless I had each night had been moving east and became snow, slowing his progress. I knew we wouldn't meet in Needles, because I'd have to hang out there for several hours to wait for him. To avoid a long side trip to Needles for gas, instead a I took a short side trip to the town of Havasu Lake and filled up.

I had a few more conversations with Driller in the early afternoon, and realized that he wouldn't arrive until a couple hours after dark. The new plan was for me to head north of Goffs, find a wind protected campsite, then send him my coordinates via InReach or text.

Much of this day's route was on powerline roads or pipeline roads, so while it was still beautiful, it was somewhat uneventful. There was the fenced in (and well marked) West Well Petroglyphs right by the side of the EMHT.
west well petro.jpg

intersting canyon.jpg

The Goffs Schoolhouse Museum was closed, so I continued on the EMHT until I found some decent shelter from the wind at the Leiser Ray Mine. I had signal, so I talked to Driller and awaited his arrival. This may have been the windiest night, but we were somewhat protected.

End of Day 4, 103 miles, 6:30 rolling time
 
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