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Monday, November 5, 2012

Fremont-Kramer Desert Wildlife Management Area 2012 Camping

In October, 2012 a friend of mine invited me to join him for a camping trip to a stretch of desert not far from the Randsburg mining district. This area is north east of the junction of highways 395 and 58, roughly west of Barstow, California. Many folks think that the Mojave is simply empty land but it is home to a wide range of wildlife: the Mohave Ground Squirrel, California Jackrabbit, rattlesnakes, desert tortises, bats that roost in abandoned mines and the smallest owl in North America, the 10 inch high burrowing owl. Although the Mojave desert vegetation is mostly shrubs such as saltbush and creosote, the Mojave Fish-hook Cactus (Sclerocactus polyancistrus) is a rare but interesting sight with vividly hued flowers. The tiny Barstow Wooly Sunflower (Eriophyllum mohavense) grows nowhere else except here but only lasts 3 weeks if they have the right amount of winter rains. Speaking of rain, the creosote bush can survive up to two years without rain and give off a distinctive smell that I associate with great camping trips.

On this trip we kept our campsite in one spot and set up various antennas to experiment with radio communications and also to eavesdrop on the aircraft that ply the R-2508 flight area for Edwards Air Force Base and China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station. http://www.edwards.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-070103-052.pdf

We had some great views from our camp site!

Mike showed up in his new "work" clothes and set up the comms gear along with the antenna mast and foldable solar panels.

At one point we were treated to a graceful flyover of the all-black B-2 stealth bomber as it headed into a landing at Edwards AFB.

On Saturday Mike and I went on a short hike to the top of Fremont Peak, about 900 feet of  rugged elevation gain. We followed an old mining road part way up and then hiked up through the rocks to the right of the peak.

At the top I was able to access a VHF mountain top repeater that was 102 miles away! The handheld I am using is a 5 Watt Datron Guardian.
Photo by Mike

Mike hiked up with and operated an extremely compact HF radio station that fits in a small Pelican case and drives a simple end fed long wire antenna.

Sal kept an eye on the comms gear and worked on firearms proficiency while Mike and I were hiking.

This area is riddled with numerous mine adits and extremely deep vertical shafts.

There are a variety of artifacts laying about such as this short but burly iron spike.

Before too long it was time to pack up and get ready to roll out across the desert roads.

On the drive out we saw a sign that might explain a lot of racket that we heard late at night. The noise was a cross between an out of control stamp mill and a large group of crazed monkeys on drums and bongos.

Maybe it was some sort of Christian clandestine spiritual meeting that night? From the top of Fremont Peak Mike and I had scanned the area with binoculars and could not spot any encampments near by us. Maybe it was the ghostly echo of the old stamp mills that used to occupy the site...?

Thanks for coming out to the beautiful Mojave desert with me again! I hope that you have enjoyed the story and the pictures!

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