Mugwumps, Nevada – May 29, 2016

Camping at Mugwumps

Camping at Mugwumps

After spending a quiet night at Tuff Campgound in the Inyo National Forest, we started out towards Reno. The Fuso drove significantly better since we swapped out a front tire with the spare tire.

We stopped in Reno to pick up supplies. Now that we were prepared, we headed to the Black Rock Desert. We made a brief stop at the historical marker near the border of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation.


Jon reading the historical marker.

There was a nice view, too.


Since we weren’t going to be able to reach the Black Rock Desert until after dark, we decided to do a little dispersed camping in the BLM land east of the highway. We found a spot that was sheltered from the highway noise by a rock outcropping.

Camping behind a big mound of rocks.

Camping behind a big mound of rocks.

We were surprised by the unusual nature of the rocks.


After getting the camper set up for the night, we went out to explore.


These rocks are tufa mounds.


They were formed when this entire area was underwater. Our campsite is below the surface level of the now dry Winnemucca Lake. The landscape looks like it could have been part of an ancient lake bed.


The mounds were created by springs emptied into the lake below the surface level. The springs contained dissolved calcium with combined with the carbonate in the water created calcium carbonate rock. As the springs continued to flow, the rock built up into the tufa mounds.

USGS Tufas of Pyramid Lake, NV website



You can see a number of other areas with tufa mounds in the background.

Most of the mounds had broken which allowed us to take a look at the interesting forms created by the slow deposition of rock.




They almost look like the remains of an ancient alien civilization.


We spent a lot of time walking around.



Jon found a rattlesnake. We left it alone. Rocks like these are a great habitat for small rodents. And where you have small rodents, you have things that eat them.


The scenery made for a nice background.




It was getting close to sunset.


I fixed dinner and we had a quiet night.





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Going North from Saline Valley and through the Owens Valley – May 28, 2016


Looking back at the Saline Valley Warm Springs

We left Saline Valley on May 28. Before you reach the Saline Valley Rd, you pass by the Bat pole. It is another creative landmark for the warm springs.


This time we went north on the Saline Valley Road to get back to civilization. The road going north is a much more pleasant route to go into and out of Saline Valley. For one thing, it is much shorter.


The road is still very rough with sections of washboard and very rough surfaces.


And there is a significant climb to get out of the valley.


The mountains are beautiful.


There was an abundance of wildflowers along  the road, especially once you get up over the North Pass.


You know you are getting close to the end of the road when you start seeing the Sierra Nevada Mountains. There was still snow at the top.


When we did reach the road, we saw a sign warning about a bicycle race.


We passed the bikers a few miles later. There were only about four of them and they were still on the side of the road with their support vehicle.

Once we reached pavement, the Fuso seemed to have all of its tires severely out of balance. We just weren’t able to tell while we were on the dirt roads.  Our tire rotation in Saline Valley seemed to be a bad idea. We couldn’t go any faster than about 45 mph. We plan on doing something about it when we reach a campsite tonight.

We headed north on US 395, the main road running through the Owens Valley. The Sierra Nevada mountains are to the west and the White Mountains on the east. It makes for a very pretty area.

Owens Valley

We stopped in Bishop, CA for lunch at and to check out Mule Days.

Bishop Mule Days

Every Memorial Day weekend, Bishop celebrates the mule with equestrian competitions and festivities. We had heard of the event, but never visited. It took a while to find a parking space.

Once there, we headed directly to Erick Schat’s Bakkery, Home of the World Famous Original Sheepherder’s Bread. We’ve stopped here for bread, but had not ever eaten there. The sandwiches were awesome.


We strolled through an arts and crafts show that was being held in the Bishop City Park.


We got back on US 395 and started looking for campgrounds. We were passing through the Inyo National Forest. We stopped at Tuff Campground. It was a fairly small campground along Rock Creek. We found a spot and were quite happy to be settled for the night.


It was really cold. Even in Bishop, temperatures were in the 90’s. When we arrived at the campground, the temperatures had dropped into the 60’s.

After dressing more appropriately, we walked along Rock Creek that meandered along.


We passed by a significant number of people fishing along it. We stopped to talk with a few people that were packing up for the day. This area is quite pretty with lots of wildflowers and a picturesque creek.


And there are some mighty big trees.


We took a little time to swap out one of the front tires for the spare. We hoped that would make enough of a difference to allow us to continue on in the morning. It was a quiet and very cold night with lows in the 30’s. Quite a contrast to Saline Valley.





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Saline Valley, Death Valley National Park, CA – May 24-27, 2016


This is not going to be an in depth description of the Saline Valley Warm Springs. It would take a lot of time and type to explain the area. We were here in May of 2014 during this same type of trip. You can check out our blog post from our last trip here at:

Saline Valley Blog Post 2014

To sum up very briefly. There are three sets of natural warm springs in this part of Saline Valley.

Camping around the Lower Springs and the Palm Springs (the middle spring) has been going on here long before this area was part of the National Park System.  There is a camp host, a fire pit, vault toilets, and a lawn at the Lower Springs.

A wonderful lawn to nap on.

A wonderful lawn to nap on.



The camp host’s compound and wild burros.

There are several small pools for people to soak.

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The crystal pool, fire pit and sink area.


We’ve been visiting here since 2001.

Originally in a Range Rover and a tent.


2001 Warm Spring Campsite 2 RR


Later in a Land Rover Defender 110.

Jon and I both love the desert and this one is particularly beautiful. I usually take a lot of pictures of the scenery and the vegetation.


Sunrise at Saline Valley – Oct 2002


A view from this year.

A view from this year.

We arrived in the mid-afternoon. We decided to camp at the Lower Springs in the same campsite that we used during our last trip.

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It is in a fairly protected site.

Even the Fuso is well protected at this site.

Even the Fuso is well protected at this site.


It was a good thing in 2014 during a ferocious dust storm.

Massive dust storm in 2014

50 mph sustained horizontal winds in 2014

After setting up camp, we decided it was time to wander around and see who’s here and check out the current condition of the place.

Shower area. Not much has changed.

Shower area. Not much has changed.

In the main social area, there were two burros eating a magazine. A nice guy did take it away from them, always a little dangerous since they are actually wild burros. Oddly enough we saw the same two burros in almost the same place as in 2014.

both burros texts

Wild burros are a real problem in the Death Valley area. They out compete the native wildlife especially the Big Horn Sheep.

We walked around and talked with people.

We went for a dip in the Sunrise Pool. The weather was hot, so we didn’t stay in the pool as long as we might have under different circumstances.

Jon in the Sunrise Pool

Jon in the Sunrise Pool

There are a number of art projects around the springs.

Including Peace Mountain, a red pumice covered hill with a peace sign on it.

The dark red mound has a peace sign.

The dark red mound has a peace sign.

And all sorts of creatures and patterns made out of rocks that wash off of the surrounding hills.


And a wrench standing on one end.


The end of a wrench sticking out of the ground.

Even the wall surrounding the Source for the main pools is decorated.


Several heart shaped rocks form part of the wall.

Most of the vault toilets have murals on the inside and rock art of the outside.


We were camping near the Dragon Pool, but it didn’t have much water in it during most of this visit.


The day we arrived, the clouds came in and threatened to rain, but it fortunately didn’t rain on us.

Jon admires the rain clouds and sunset.

Jon admires the rain clouds and sunset.


Close up view.

Close up view.

As important, it didn’t rain on the pass above the warm springs. Water runs downhill and there can be flash floods here even without getting any direct rain.



On May 25, we had the same clouds roll in around 2:30 when it was about 95 degrees in the shade. The clouds brought just a light sprinkle of rain, but the best part was that it dropped the temperatures by about 30 degrees making it much more comfortable.

A view of the clouds from the hill above the Fuso.

A view of the clouds from the hill above the Fuso.

We spent most of the day just relaxing. With a little time spent getting the Fuso organized again. After a week at Overland Expo, we have a lot of things that need to be organized.

We were buzzed by the occasional jet.

Another jet.

It may look small in the photo, but they are really low to the ground.

They do a lot of low level flights over the valley. The noise is incredible.

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We had a quiet night.


On May 26, weather was certainly hotter and we didn’t have any rain. Jon and I rotated the tires on the Fuso. Not any easy thing to do considering the size and weight of the tires and the Fuso.

Jon and I rotate the tires.

Jon and I rotate the tires.

Later in the day, the Bells pulled up in their Land Rover. They are friends we met though the overlanding community. Graeme and Luisa Bell with their two children, Keelan and Jessica, are traveling the world in a Land Rover with a roof top tent. They have driven from Argentina to Alaska and are now planning a trip to Asia. Their website is:

A2A Expedition

They camped next to us.


Luisa grilled over a fire for dinner and the rest of us sat around the fire talking.


May 27 was uneventful. The weather became hotter. We spent much of our time in the shady areas on the lawn. As we got closer to Memorial Day weekend, more people arrived.


Incredible sunsets.

We hung out around the campfire at the Bell’s campsite again.


On May 28th, we decided to head north out of the heat and hopefully to someplace with fewer people. There may be a lot of desert around this area, but the pools, lawn, etc. are a limited resource. It doesn’t take very many people for it to become crowded.

See my next blog post for our drive out of Saline Valley and where we went from here.















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The Road to Saline Valley, South Pass – May 24, 2016

When we checked into the Panamint Springs Campground last night, we chose to stay in a dry RV spot since we weren’t going to be there long enough to need any services. So it was a real surprise when we woke up to a stream flowing from our site.

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There was a water faucet, but it was part of the irrigation system. The irrigation system had been turned on, but the one at our campground had broken off underground and all the water was creating a stream running under our truck.


The water faucet is to the left of the open front door.

Except for getting our feet wet at the bottom of our steps, this wasn’t a problem for us. We contacted the office, but they weren’t able to do anything about it at the moment.

We finished packing up and continued to go west on Hwy 190.

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At the edge of Death Valley National Park, we turned onto Saline Valley Road.

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The road follows along the top of the ridge. Joshua Trees love high altitude desert and this part of the road is definitely both.

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Joshua trees silhouetted against the sky.



There is a turn off for Hidden Valley. Then the road follows Grapevine Canyon which drops it into the Saline Valley.

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There is a lot of wildlife and flora down the Grapevine Canyon due to the spring that runs through the area. At one point, we were treated to the sight of an adult quail followed by a procession of baby quail crossing the road. As we got closer, suddenly there was a tremendous number of quail jumping out of the bushes, flying and running across the road. They all disappeared into the canyon on the other side of the road in moments.

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As we reached the slope leading down into the valley, we heard the sound of a big aircraft close by. After looking around for a bit, we saw a C-130 flying really low along the valley to our left.

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I took a few pictures, but they don’t do it justice. The C-130 is a really large four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft. It passed from behind us to follow the valley. To see it flying so close to the ground for miles was amazing.

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Most of the drive to Saline Valley Warm Springs from the south pass is a very long heavily washboard dirt road. The washboard is truly teeth jarring, especially for the 50 or 60 miles it takes for us to reach the turn off to the warm springs. The Fuso is especially uncomfortable and it feels and sounds like everything is going to rattle apart.

Bone jarring washboard video

We came this way in June one year in our Range Rover. It was 128 degrees along the valley floor. We blew out two tires going down this road to the warm springs. Not at the same time. It was a combination of the heat and the washboard. So we take it easy when we drive in from the South Pass.

I think the mountains make for beautiful scenery.


Notice the washboard.

There is a mostly dry lake bed/salt flat which shines with the sunlight.

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Eventually, you reach the turn off for the warm springs. It is still a long drive before you get to the bat pole. It is on the far right of the photo below. And the springs are the darker green area with trees that is almost in the center.


We started out around 8:30 am and arrived around 3:00. It is a long and dusty drive. We set up camp, but that is a story for the next blog post.




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Traveling to Panamint Springs – May 23, 2016


A view of Panamint Valley at sunset.

Because of all the interest in the Fuso getting stuck in the Black Rock Desert playa, I posted those blog entries out of sequence. Now that those blog posts are done, I’m working on filling in the gap between Overland Expo and going to the Black Rock Desert (May 23-29).

We left Overland Expo on the morning of Monday, May 23. We were planning to go to Saline Valley which is located in the Death Valley National Park. Due to the length of the drive, we were going to camp at Panamint Springs tonight and drive to Saline Valley the next morning.

Death Valley National Park Map

On May 23, we started from Mormon Lake, Arizona (just south of Flagstaff, AZ). We crossed into Nevada by the Hoover Dam. We didn’t see any Big Horn Sheep this time. In previous years, we’ve seen them on the rocky walls right before you get to the Dam. We passed through Las Vegas and headed north on NV highway 160 to get to Death Valley via Pahrump, NV.

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Interesting geology in Arizona

Jon and I have been going to Death Valley area since we lived in California (about 15 years ago). It is a gorgeous area and I love taking photos there.

view down valley w sky 3

Photo from December 2000 – Death Valley

It is all about the light. That is unless it there is a dust storm. We were here two years ago and there was an incredible dust storm that really limited visibility.


April 2014 – Saline Valley Dust Storm

The drive out was uneventful. We stopped to get gas and groceries in Pahrump, the last town before the national park.

The sun was just beginning to set. There were already a lot of shadows.

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By the time we reached an area with a good view of Death Valley, the sun was setting.

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It was pretty, but not the best conditions for photos. It was also getting late and we were tired.

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To get to Panamint Springs, we had to drive over the Panamint Mountain Range. This is a long uphill drive and we have to take it slow in the Fuso to keep it from overheating.

The view down into the Panamint Valley is really lovely although the light was disappearing quickly.


We planned on staying at the Panamint Springs Campground. By the time we arrived, it was late and we both were hungry and tired.


Panamint Springs Resort – Photo from May 2014

The restaurant was closing in a half hour. I staked out a table while Jon checked us into a campsite.

Panamint Springs Campground

After a late dinner, we settled into the Fuso for a quiet night. There are times when it is really nice to have a camper. There wasn’t much we needed to do before going to bed.

odm 083603 20160603_192140





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Black Rock Desert, Finally on Firm Ground – June 4, 2016

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When the Bulldozer and Fuso finally reached firmer ground, they stopped to disconnect.

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It was such a relief to finally have gotten the Fuso to a place when it is unlikely to drop through the playa.

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We all stopped and checked over the condition of the Fuso and assessed the situation.

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We stood around and talked for a while.

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Then it was on to the staging area to load up the bulldozer and mini excavator.

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You can see the Semi-truck and trailer in the distance to the left of the bulldozer.

The Fuso drove on this part of the playa just fine. I took it easy and followed so that I could take pictures and watch the Fuso’s progress.

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Everyone made it to the staging area without any problems.

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Willie loaded up the bulldozer.

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Gary had not arrived yet. Willie was going to wait for Gary and they were going to pick up an unoccupied vehicle that had been stuck in the playa.

Jon and I in the Fuso and Carman in his Xterra decided to go ahead and leave to playa. We were going to meet at Bruno’s Gas Station.

IMG_3871 Xterra fs

We finally drove on the actual playa road, not just across the playa.

It was very dusty and hot. Thank goodness we didn’t break the windshield. We weren’t able to go particularly fast. The Fuso was running pretty hot. It was over 100 degrees outside.

20160604_154541 therm11s

We stopped at the entrance to the playa and checked out the signs.




We also took a good look at the Fuso to make sure that everything looked ok. It was exceedingly dusty.


Carmen went ahead and we followed.

Jon and I stopped at Bruno’s Shell and Towing in Gerlach.


Carmen had decided to go check on a stuck vehicle. Willie and Gary arrived shortly after we got there. They had decided to go back later in the day for the vehicle.


We talked for a short time and we went on our way.



To sum up:

These are the things we did right:

A) Come prepared. That means plenty of water and food, recovery gear, a shovel, jack, pull-pal, tow straps/cable, etc. Be sure that you can actually access the recovery gear from the outside of your vehicle.

We used to keep the recovery gear in a lower storage box on the passenger side of the vehicle. It is a good thing we moved it, because we really couldn’t reach that box when we sank, plus because of the damage to that box, getting into it would have been exceedingly difficult.

B) Carry an DeLorme inReach satellite two-way texting and emergency communicator with the emergency insurance

DeLorme inReach

C) Pay attention to the weather and find out about the current conditions in the area.

The Friends of the Black Rock Desert in Gerlach is a great resource.

Know Before You Go


Things that we didn’t do well.

A) Make sure you have actually have roads that reach all the way to your destination.

B) Follow well established routes across the playa.

C) If you are on a playa, pay very close attention to the surface of the playa. If there is vegetation growing on it, don’t go there. It will be very soft.

D) Just because there are tire tracks across an area of the playa doesn’t mean that your vehicle will be able to drive on it, too.


Most importantly:

If you just need a tug and/or digging to get out, contact:

Carman at:

Smith n Tobey in Wadsworth, NV



If you need a major recovery effort, contact Willie of Courtney Rock and Transport


Bruno’s Shell and Towing

565 Main Street in Gerlach, NV








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Black Rock Desert, Stuck in the Playa, Day 4 (Second Recovery) – June 4, 2016

So we got the Fuso out of its hole and were on our way to the staging area and firm ground. The bulldozer had stayed with the Fuso. Carman and the pick-up truck had waited with the Fuso. The mini excavator and I headed back to the staging area. I arrived pretty quickly and waited for everyone else to arrive. I waited for 5 to 10 minutes and noticed that the Fuso did not appear to be getting any closer.


The Fuso isn’t getting any closer.

There was no tell tale dust cloud behind the Fuso, so I headed back. The mini excavator moves at a slow walking pace, so Gary had only gotten about halfway between the Fuso and the staging area.

When I arrived, it was obvious why the Fuso stopped. It had gotten very badly stuck on the driver’s side. The Fuso had sunk down to about the same level as we had originally gotten stuck on Wednesday.


Willie, Jon and Carman had already started working towards extricating the Fuso. The back of the Fuso was hooked up to the bulldozer which was pulling backwards and a little towards the driver’s side. Dirt has piled up a little in front of the lowest storage box and to the side of the front wheel.



The bulldozer was able to pull the Fuso several feet backwards.


The tracks under the front of the Fuso show how much it has moved backwards.

After doing this, there was quite a bit of dirt between the storage boxes and around the rear wheel.


Using our experience in getting the Fuso out the first time, the bulldozer pulled the Fuso towards the high side (the passenger side this time). They started by pulling the front part.


Carmen is hooking up the tow chain to pull the frame by the back wheel to the side.

There is now quite a pile of dirt alongside the front wheel.

The front end has been pulled a couple of feet to the side. The back has only moved about a foot.



And now you can actually see and get to the rear wheel.



And now all of the lower storage boxes are above ground level.



The next step was to try using the giant tow rope to yank the Fuso backwards.



They are ready to go.



The bulldozer digs in.


Pulling hard.


On the first try, the Fuso moved backwards several feet.


We tried it again.

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Ready for the second pull.




The Fuso has definitely moved backwards. There is a lot of dirt behind the front wheel and the lower storage boxes are a little lower.



Jon and Willie assess the Fuso’s current situation.



The Fuso has tilted a little more.



A view of the passenger side.


Gary has arrived after he walked back from the mini excavator.


There is now quite a bit of dirt to the side of the passenger side front wheel. But the passenger side wheels are on top of the caterpillar tracks which should made them a little more firm.



Jon and Willie take a walk to prepare for what comes after getting the Fuso out of the second hole. No one wants this to happen a third time. The best way to keep that from happening was to plan the best route to get to firm ground.


Jon and Willie plan a route. The mini excavator is in the distance. The bulldozer has left a lot of tracks.


When they return, we prepared for another pull forward. No rope this time. If the Fuso does get out, the rope would require them to stop before continuing. Inertia will help keep us from bogging down again.




We are ready to go.


The chain broke.

Video of the chain breaking.

Here is the link in case the internal link doesn’t work:


Thank goodness no one was hurt. It broke with a lot more momentum than when our chain broke the last time. This time the chain popped up to hit the front of the Fuso. It broke a headlight and front spot light, but it didn’t break the windshield. We can drive without headlights as long as it is daytime.


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Gary offers to get another chain. Willie decided that he would go back to the semi-truck and get a heavier chain. It gave me a chance to take a few more pictures.


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The bulldozer has been leaving lots of tracks in the attempts to get the Fuso out of the ground.

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Signs that the bulldozer has been active.


Jon and Carman look at the damage and remove the broken chain.

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Willie comes back with a bigger chain and Jon hooks it up to the Fuso.

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We are ready for the next pull.

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And the Fuso is out.

The Fuso gets free a second time.

Here is a link to the video.


Jon and Willie had made a plan for what happened once the Fuso was out, so they continue driving until they come to a good place to stop. At about 17 seconds, you can watch the rear wheels of the Fuso break through the playa up to the rear axle. If they had not be moving, the Fuso would have gotten stuck, again.

They stop to reevaluate the ground and decide on the best route back to the staging area and firm ground.

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Jon and Willie get out to plan the next part of the drive.

The marks in the foreground of the photo are from the undercarriage of the Fuso dragging when the rear wheels dropped down into the playa during the first part of the drive (at around 17 seconds on the video).

Jon and Willie continue forward after a few minutes.


The Fuso is finally on its way to firm ground.

A link to the video of the Fuso’s escape.

You can see how much the Fuso wallows from side to side as it drives over uneven surfaces. It does it even with the stronger replacement frame. Add to that the weight of the vehicle, it makes it easy to imagine how one side could just drop through the playa crust.

Fortunately, the playa gets generally firmer as they get closer to the staging area.


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Finally driving out to firm ground.




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Black Rock Desert, Stuck in the Playa, Day 4 (After the First Recovery) – June 4, 2016



We finally got the Fuso out of the hole that we had been stuck in for the last four days. All it took was five people, a 22,500 pound bulldozer, a mini excavator and a lot of digging.

Video of the bulldozer leading the Fuso into a turn

To get back on firm ground, we needed to turn the Fuso around (180 degrees) and drive over more ground just like the stuff we got stuck in.



We got stuck so far into it because of Jon’s great driving and inertia. The problem is getting up a little momentum while on an unstable surface.

Jon and Willie stopped after they pulled away from the immediate area around the hole. The Fuso was level and stable. It had cut into the playa surface, but it didn’t really dig in.
It was so fantastic to have the Fuso out of the hole. Now that it was out, it was time to check out the area. The hole was amazing.

Jon is standing in the passenger side side wheel rut.

The Fuso’s underside drag marks are visible behind Jon in the picture above. You can see how the underside of the truck dragged along the dirt.

A closer view of the drag marks.

It explains why it required so much force to get it out.

The passenger side tire rut was incredibly deep.

After spending some time looking around, we were ready to pick up all of our equipment and head to firm ground. There was a lot of gear.
Since we were so focused on getting the Fuso out of the hole, we didn’t have a specific route planned out to get us back to the staging area. We were all just so relieved to have the Fuso free.
We had five vehicles to return to the staging area. It is a good thing we had five people to drive them all rather than making multiple trips. Willie was in the bulldozer pulling the Fuso with Jon at its wheel. Gary drove the mini excavator. That left Carman to drive the pick-up truck while I drove Carman’s Xterra.
The plan was for all of us to meet at the staging area and the semi-truck.

Finally on the way back to the firm ground.

But we weren’t there quite yet.

To be continued in the Second Recovery.







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Black Rock Desert, Stuck in the Playa, Day 4 (First Recovery) – June 4, 2016

Hopefully, we now have everything we need to get the Fuso out.

So hopefully, we now have everything we need to get the Fuso out. In addition to Jon and me, we also have:

Carman, of Smith n Tobey Recovery Services, and his Xterra

and the highly skilled and experienced Willie of Courtney Rock and Transport and his assistant, Gary. Willie has brought his bulldozer, mini excavator and a tan pick-up truck with equipment.

It is currently 12:30 in the Black Rock Desert playa and temperatures are already at 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

We started by walking around the Fuso, evaluating and discussing its current situation.

12:31 - Evaluating


12:32 - Jon making a point

Jon is pointing out some important features.


Note how well you can see the underside of the Fuso. This is not a good way to view our vehicle.

Notice how well you can see the underside of the Fuso.

It was decided to try to level the Fuso. We didn’t want it to fall over on its side and having all four tires on the ground makes it more likely it would be able to roll rather than drag.

The first task involved using the excavator to dig a hole next to the driver’s side rear wheel.

12:38 - Excavating next to the left rear wheel

Jon and Willie attached arecovery chain to the frame.

12:43 - Hooking up a recovery chain

The Bulldozer was moved into place and the recovery chain was hooked up. When the bulldozer was drove backwards, the Fuso slid into the hole and straightened out.

12:46 - Before the pull



12:46 - After the pull



A deep hole had been required.

12:47 - Rear wheel is in deep

The Fuso is now quite a bit more level.

12:48 - Fuso more level now


Now there is a big gap on the passenger side of the Fuso between it and the ground. The excavator was used to fill in the gap.

12:50 - Pushing dirt to fill in the gap


12:51 - P

Gary is packing down the dirt


The bulldozer was moved to the back of the Fuso. The Fuso was hooked up to the bulldozer. We are trying to pull it backwards.

12:53 - Trying to pull it backwards

First Try


12:56 - Second try

Second Try

The Fuso has not moved backwards at all.

12:58 - It hasn't moved

Jon describing the mechanics involved with pulling the vehicle out.

There is too much dirt behind the rear wheels. To get the Fuso to roll backwards, it will need a ramp.

Clearing out the dirt under the back of the Fuso.

1:01 - Excavating next to the right rear wheel

Excavating next to the right rear wheel

At least by having the excavator, it makes it much easier to dig an area next to the truck to work.

1:03 - Trying to clear out some of the dirt under the back

As always, there is lots of digging required.

It is a challenging place to dig.

It is a challenging place to dig.

While Gary and Carman were digging under the back of the Fuso, Jon and Willie had been discussing the situation.


The ultimate problem is getting the Fuso up and out of the hole. So Jon and Willie decided to see how effective the excavator is at lifting the front of the Fuso.

1:09 - Trying to lift the front end

Trying to lift the front end

It wasn’t successful. The Fuso is just too heavy for the mini excavator bucket to lift.

Since more of the dirt had been cleared from the back of the Fuso, we used the bulldozer to attempt to get the Fuso to go backwards.

1:13 - Trying to pull it backwards

You can see how much the bulldozer is digging in at the back of its treads.

The bulldozer dug in and the Fuso didn’t move at all.

Willie had a big tow rope that we hooked up to the back of the Fuso in hopes that it would provide enough dynamic power to yank the Fuso enough to get it moving.

1:16 - Attaching a tow rope

Attaching the giant tow rope

Even with that effort, the Fuso remained firmly stuck.

1:17 - Trying to pull it backwards with a tow rope

Trying to pull it backwards with a tow rope


Video of Bulldozer trying to pull the Fuso backwards with a tow rope


A new approach was needed. Instead of pulling forward or backward, we would try pulling it sideways to try to get more of it on less disturbed/firmer ground. Since the passenger side was the low side, they started by pulling on the frame next to the driver’s side rear wheel.

1:23 - Attaching a tow chain to the back wheel to pull it to the left

Attaching a tow chain

After hooking it up, the bulldozer gave it a tug. It slid over several inches.

1:23 - Pulling the Fuso's rear to the left


The tow chain was attached in front of the driver’s side front wheel. The same process was tried again. The front of the Fuso slid over quite a bit more.

1:29 - Pulling the front to the right

Jon points to how much the front wheel has moved.

Video of pulling the front of the Fuso towards the driver’s side


(Please pardon the quality of the video, everything was happening so fast that I hard a hard time photographing and video taping the events.)

Now that the Fuso is reoriented, the next effort was focused on pulling the Fuso forward. Jon and Willie hooked up our recovery chain to the front of the Fuso.

1:31 - Jon hooking up the recovery chain to the front


The bulldozer gave it a tug. The tow chain broke.

Video of pulling the Fuso forward and the tow chain breaks



1:32 Broken recovery chain

Jon holding part of the broken chain.

Jon and Carman crawled down to extract the broken pieces and to see if there had been any damage.

1:32 - Finding the broken chain

The recovery chain belong to us and was obviously not rated for this kind of effort. Another chain was brought from Willie’s supplies. In addition to another chain. We decided that it would be helpful to dig out from in front of the front tires to give them a little more of a ramp to climb up.

1:33 - Gary brings over another chain. Carman digs.

Gary brings over another chain. Carman digs.

So more digging occurred.

1:34 - Always more digging

Finally we were ready to give it another try pulling forward this time.

1:37 - Ready to give it another pull

Ready to give it another try.


1:38 Success. The Fuso is out of the hole.

Success. The Fuso is out of the hole.

Video of the Fuso finally getting out of the hole.

Four days after we got stuck in the Black Rock Desert playa, we finally had the Fuso out of the hole we had sunk into.

However, this is not the end of the day or the story. It wasn’t enough just getting the Fuso out of that hole, we had to get it back on a firm surface.

I’ll continue in the next post.


Categories: Prep | 1 Comment

Black Rock Desert, Stuck in the Playa, Day 4 (Pre-Recovery) – June 4, 2016

We were scheduled to meet Willie in Gerlach at 9:00. So we had a little breakfast at the hotel before Carman picked us up.

"Bruno's Shell & Towing"

“Bruno’s Shell & Towing”

We were meeting at Bruno’s Shell and Towing on Main St. The funny thing about the garage’s name is that Bruno no longer owns it and it is no longer a Shell station. We were informed by Cecil, the owner of the garage, that Willie was going to be there, but he was running a little late.

We wandered around the lot surrounding the garage. It contained a wide collection of vehicles and equipment in various states of decay.

Very old trucks.

Very old trucks.


The desert is a great place to store old vehicles.

Two old RVs.

Two old RVs.

Willie arrived and immediately went to work loading up the equipment on his semi-truck.

Courtney Rock and Transport

Courtney Rock and Transport

That meant a 22,500 pound bulldozer and a mini excavator, both with caterpillar tracks. Plus a tan pick-up truck with shovels, wood, and other miscellaneous supplies. Willie had some additional help, Gary. He helped load the equipment and drive the pick-up truck.

Willie loading up the equipment.

Willie loading up the equipment.

The biggest problem about the area where we are stuck is that most vehicles big enough to pull us out would also be so heavy that they would also sink. The caterpillar tracks will do a lot to mitigate that problem. As it is, Willie will have to park his semi-truck on firm ground and then drive the equipment to the Fuso.

We would all meet at the Fuso. We had GPS coordinates for our camper making it pretty easy to find if you are familiar with the area. Since we were in Carman’s Xterra, we arrived long before Willie and Gary.

The Fuso is still really stuck.


Jon getting out recovery equipment.

You can see how far to the right the whole vehicle has shifted from its tire tracks.

You can see how far to the right the whole vehicle has shifted from the original tire tracks.

In preparation, Jon and Carman did a little digging to be able to attach a recovery chain to the frame on the low side of the Fuso.

Attaching a recovery chain to the frame.

Then we just hung out until we saw the semi and pick-up truck in the distance.

We can see the semi-truck and pick-up truck heading in our direction.

Dust clouds are good indications of vehicles.

We drove out to meet them at a staging area where the playa is firm enough for big vehicles.


The ramp gets unfolded first.

The ramp gets unfolded first.


Unloading the heavy equipment.

Unloading the heavy equipment.


With Willie and Gary driving the bulldozer and excavator, Jon volunteered to drive the pick-up truck to the Fuso. Carman and I rode back to the Fuso in his Xterra.

As expected, the trucks were a whole lot faster than the bulldozer and excavator.

The bulldozer is on its way.

The bulldozer is on its way.


Bulldozer followed by the mini excavator with the semi-truck in the background.

Bulldozer followed by the mini excavator with the semi-truck in the background.

Story continued in the next post. I’m breaking up Saturday’s events because there are a lot photos and videos.




Categories: Prep | 2 Comments

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