My Solo Wanderings of the West

kennyj

Explorer
Continuing west then north, I stopped in Ridgecrest to resupply then turned east toward Trona. I turned south off 178 to go out to the Trona Pinnacles.




After the rough washboard drive I drove up to a potential campsite where the van suddenly died and wouldn’t restart, just like it had way back at Cadiz after the rugged Mojave crossing.




Thankfully it had died in a good spot so I made the best of it and enjoyed the location.




The next morning the van started just fine! In reading the manuals I had, I realized my problem could well be a clogged fuel filter. I carried a spare filter but I would need to go back to Ridgecrest for a flare wrench to get it changed.
With all these fuel issues I decided to take the opportunity to cut a fuel pump access in the van floor. This is a pretty popular mod in the Astro community and when I was done I smiled knowing I should never have to drop the tank again.




I stayed out there a few days and enjoyed riding around the Pinnacles area on the bike. There are lots of great trails to ride.




My original plan in going to Trona had been to continue up 178 to the Panamint Valley along the west side of Death Valley. I wanted to visit Ballarat and take the bike into some of the canyons, especially Goler Wash to Barker Ranch. I also wanted to pick up where I left in November and go up to Wildrose and then up toward Telescope Peak.
However, with the van acting up I decided to stay close to 395 until I knew it was okay. After returning to Ridgecrest and changing the fuel filter in the Home Depot parking lot, I decided to take a relatively short ride west on 178 to the campground at Walker Pass. It felt good to be in mountains and piney woods after many months of the desert!
Walker Pass on the Pacific Crest Trail turned out to be mainly a hiker camp, and with only 2 pull-in sites already occupied I headed back down the mountain.




The land between the mountains and highway is mostly BLM with many two-track roads; I turned south from 178 and found a nice spot overlooking Inyokern. I decided that the next day I would go north on 395 to visit Fossil Falls.




Next update; Fossil Falls, Nine Mile Canyon and Chimney Creek…
 

Buddha.

Lurker
Bad luck with the breakdowns. I also drive a well used Chevy so I feel your pain.

It must have taken a steady hand to cut through floor and not hit the fuel lines.
 
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jerryg

New member
Kenny have read all of post really enjoy them, there are a lot of people following you and not posting. I check every day for update, best of luck to you. Reading and dreaming.

jerryg
 

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chet6.7

Explorer
Thanks for the update.
Cutting the floor for a door is a nice touch,the manufacturers should have designers work on the vehicles they design. My current rig is such a PIA to change oil/fuel filters on,for the first time in my life, I am having a mechanic do it.
 

kennyj

Explorer
Bad luck with the breakdowns. I also drive a well used Chevy so I feel your pain.
What is most frustrating is the van is really solid with a great motor and trans, but that the little drivability issues can leave you totally stranded. I do get it worked out eventually, in a future update.

It must have taken a steady hand to cut through floor and not hit the fuel lines.
I was nervous about it and had fire extinguisher at hand. But, before I made the cut I loosened the straps lowering the tank about an inch. Then I fed a sopping wet towel over the top of the fuel pump and tank. Then I stuffed my tortilla griddle in there as a shield on top of the fuel lines. I still went really slow, dousing my cuts with water as I worked.


Kenny have read all of post really enjoy them, there are a lot of people following you and not posting. I check every day for update, best of luck to you. Reading and dreaming.

jerryg
Thanks so much, jerryg!


Thanks for the update.
Cutting the floor for a door is a nice touch,the manufacturers should have designers work on the vehicles they design. My current rig is such a PIA to change oil/fuel filters on,for the first time in my life, I am having a mechanic do it.
Thanks, Chet. That gave me a funny thought; the engineer whose idea it was to put the fuel pump in the tank, stranded on the side of the road with, yes, a dead fuel pump. :)
 

kennyj

Explorer
Going north on 395, about 10 miles miles north of Pearsonville, is the Fossil Falls BLM area with a nice, somewhat primitive camping area in the middle of a lava field.
Fossil Falls was formed when the now dry Owens River flowed through the basaltic lava flow, carving and polishing the black rock into sculpted shapes.




There was an upper and lower falls with a total drop of 100 feet. The old river course continues into Indian Wells Valley, with the sheer lava wall on the east side extending for miles.




East of the lava fields are dry lakes. here I was following a BLM signed route that crosses the playa. Beyond the dry lakes to the east is China Lake.




My campsite at Fossil Falls among the lava outcroppings.



 

kennyj

Explorer
I had decided to venture up to the mountains. As I headed up County J41 the sky was looking ominous and I questioned whether it was a good day to go up.
J41 climbs up Nine Mile Canyon then leads to Kennedy Meadows after which the road was still closed for the winter. Beyond is the Kern Plateau and Sherman Pass over to the west side of the Sierras. I drove the route in the summer of 2013, camping up near Monache Meadows.




The road is a steep climb all the way from the valley up to 7,000 feet.




Looking back down Nine Mile Canyon at the valley below.




At the top I turned into the Chimney Creek area and descended down a twisty gravel road to about 5,500 feet. My destination lies in the valley seen here.




Chimney Creek is a BLM campground, spread out over several miles of road. Not far from the entrance is the Pacific Crest Trail and a lot of hiker campsites. That day and night I was the only person there. The cloudy weather broke and I enjoyed looking around the area on the bike. Again I really enjoyed being up in the mountains with tall trees around. Daytime in the sun was quite comfortable, but it got pretty chilly overnight at that elevation.




Later the next day the weather turned and I decided not to spend a cold rainy night so I headed out.



 

kennyj

Explorer
Heading back down Nine Mile Canyon.




A crazy sight on the drive; where the Mojave meets the Sierra the desert turns up steeply and meets the mountain tops. Joshua trees grow all the way up the steep sandy slope.




The stormy weather up in the mountains turned into strong desert winds down in the valley. I drove a few miles to the south to Short Canyon which promised some shelter from the wind. The canyon cuts into the south Sierra with mountains on 3 sides and granite peaks at the end.




I found a level clearing to camp on an old mining landing, nearby was an old timber ore loading platform. That night the canyon offered little protection and high winds rocked the van all night.




The next day I would continue my meanderings back up 395 north past Fossil Falls.
 

RangerRocket

Observer
Thanks again for sharing your adventure Kenny. This weekend my wife and I decided to pull our retirement ahead by ~one year until sometime next year (2017) -- between April and October depending on how much our house brings us, as well as having a comfortable amount of money in the bank that we can get to if needed. Your thread is one of the reasons we decided to do so. We have a Unicat and Jeep Wrangler that aren't doing us much good just sitting in the driveway so it is just about time to sell everything and get out on the road full time. Hopefully our paths will cross one day.
 

Vanaroo

Observer
I thought you cut an access hole when the fuel filter went out in Yosemite?
Having just found the thread a couple of weeks ago, this is fresh in my mind. Basically he was outrunning a storm over the Sierras (Tioga pass IIRC) when the fuel pump went out (part way over the pass, natch), so there was no time for "extras." (As it was I was impressed that he managed to drop the tank and replace the pump in the chilly weather at the side of the road under pressure.)
 

zb39

Adventurer
Kenny, Love that lava field. A few years ago we were at Craters of the Moon NP. The lava tubes were cool. I love to see your posts. Always good pics and a great description. Also think its great your doing it in a normal vehicle and not some 300k over lander special. Always love your up dates......thank you for posting.
 

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Heading Out

Adventurer
Kenny, if you're not past it yet, don't miss the Bristle Cone forest outside of Bishop, right up your alley, you'll love it.

Godspeed
 

Sunstone

New member
Hi Kenny
I too would like to tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog and seeing your photos. I have been following along since almost the beginning of your travels. You have inspired me to get on with retirement and travel solo. For a number of years I have been exploring the back roads of Vancouver Island and some of the interior of BC. Couldnt decide on type of vehicle I wanted till I read your blogs and researched what would suit me. Now have a 2009 Nissan Xterra Off road and making additions that will work for me. Camping, backpacking, fishing and exploring. Looking forward to attending the Overland Expo West this weekend to meet like minded people and hear their stories. Retiring at end of June and then this old lady will be heading for the hills! Looking forward to hearing more of your travels.
 
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