Rant n' Rave – Piss n' Moan – rambles and rants of an old man…

June 29, 2009

Charlie Manson and Me – part 8

Filed under: Charlie Manson and Me - part 8 — Tags: — Bob @ 10:43 am


Charlie Manson and Me – part 8

~It’s All Downhill From Here~


Next, we drove slowly by Striped Butte, heading Northward through the valley, looking for the trail to bear to the right somewhere past the middle of this valley we were in.  We didn’t even know the name of this Valley!  As we were told, the trail would eventually take us down into Death Valley.

Butte Valley Rd. facing Southwest toward Manly Peak - 03/27/2005

Butte Valley Rd. facing Southwest toward Manly Peak - 03/27/2005

Trail leading Westward back to Mengel Pass - 10/1976.

Trail leading Westward back to Mengel Pass - 10/1976. Beside Striped Butte, looking Northward, the way we will head.

 There ahead, as in the picture above, the trail started curving around a mountain, heading in the direction we wanted to go, so we went!  The driving wasn’t too bad, just some washboard and some small rocks.  No biggie!  No regular grader passed through there back then, just a trail.

Then we headed in a more Easterly direction and the trail turned into pretty nasty fields of bowling-ball sized rocks.  I had to very slowly bounce over each obstacle, quietly praying that our high-mileage van would survive.  The sturdy I-beam front end was in very good shape, the shocks were fairly new, the tires were fine, and I had rebuilt the steering box about 6 months earlier.  I had also added a hydraulic steering stabilizer to help with the manual steering.  So if I just took ‘er easy, we SHOULD make it jes’ fine, I hope, I hope!

For what seemed like 800 or 1,000 agonizing miles, we bounced and toiled over those rocks, searching for smooth spots to ease the pressure on the van.  I recall that my hands were sore from their death-grip on the steering wheel.  I didn’t want to hook a finger around the wheel, as a sudden bump could have easily broken it!  All the while we were heading East and downhill, so at least we were getting somewhere, whatever THAT means!  LOL

Eventually we passed a talc mine that looked like it was being worked, and then a while later we passed another.  We didn’t stop to look around, as we were more concerned with surviving this leg of the trip into Death Valley than trespassing on someone’s mining claim.  We didn’t see any signs of life other than feral burros, or we would have stopped to make sure we were going in the right direction.

The road surface smoothed out a lot once we went by those mines, as they were heavily compacted by the regular traffic to and from the mines.

I have been looking for pictures of this stretch of our trip, but I haven’t found any but a few of the Warm Springs Mine.  I don’t recall seeing anyplace that invited our exploration, so we kept forging onward and downward toward our next ‘hurdle’, that aforementioned quicksand trap laying across the trail, keeping us from entering Death Valley proper.

Well, as luck would have it, and we obviously were being watched over that weekend, as we approached the top of the alluvial fan near the East end of Butte Valley Rd., we were much relieved to spot a big Caterpillar Grade-All! (Don’t remember if it was yellow or khaki brown.)

Caterpillar Grade-All

It was making its way to the East along the end of Butte Valley Rd. where it meets up with West Side Hwy., so our way was safe and clear.  We drove over the freshly graded trail, eyeing the 2 feet of wet sand moved aside by that wonderful grader!  We most-likely would  have fallen prey to that sand trap if we hadn’t been so kindly advised by the stranger back at the Barker Ranch.

It was nearing noontime, and rarely ever missing a meal, I drove Southeast a bit on West Side Hwy., and found an inviting spot to pull off the ‘beaten path’ and stop for lunch. (You can call me anything you like, but don’t call me late for lunch!  LOL) 


Junction of Butte Valley Rd. and West Side Hwy. - maybe? - 10/1976

Junction of Butte Valley Rd. and West Side Hwy. - maybe? - 10/1976




Charlie Manson and Me – part 9

~Lunch in Death Valley~





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