I committed to EXBRO fully anticipating that the xB and I would have to be rescued at some point. Sure enough, that happened on Day 2, at this crossing of a muddy irrigation canal. With hindsight, I think I could have made it if I had done two things a bit differently. But hindsight doesn’t count, except as a frame of reference for the next challenge.
It took barely five minutes for me to get my recovery gear from my roof carrier, hook it to Jim’s Jeep, and get towed up and out of the muddy and grassy bank that had snagged us. There’s a slo-mo video of the xB’s baptism in this post for your edification and expert advice about what I did wrong. Or just for the laughs.
As to the rest of the day, it was filled with more superb scenery, additional driving challenges, a very steep mountain pass, and more good food and company.
Our first point of interest after breaking camp was Diana’s Punch Bowl, also called Devil’s Cauldron. It’s a geothermal feature, a curious dome of travertine about 600′ in diameter rising above the valley floor. In the center is a roughly 50′ wide hole, and some 30 feet below is a very hot (200° F) pool. A steep “road” allows access to the top.
Someone rappelled down and installed a couple of pink flamingos on the “beach” to the left of the pool. It reminded me of the cenotes in the Yucatan, but obviously not suitable for swimming.
We’re car guys, so naturally we parked in formation for some more shots.
Here’s a video of two of the trucks navigating the rocky front road. The worst section was near the top, not really visible here. I chickened out and took the easier back road down. I didn’t want to tear off my exhaust on the second day. But again in retrospect, I would have done it. My cautious and reckless aspects are in a perpetual tug of war.
The next stop was Potts, Nevada. Yes, this very remote ranch commonly known as Potts Ranch once was recognized by the Post Office as a “town” worthy of a post office. The ranch was originally granted a post office in 1893, however the grant was rescinded before the office became operational. The grant was re-extended in 1898 and the post office, with various members of the Potts family acting as postmasters, operated from August 12, 1898 until October 31, 1941.
The ranch was founded by William Potts in the 1870s, and would remain in the Potts family until 1944 when the property was sold. The Potts’ spread, which was recognized as one of the finest cattle outfits in the state at the time, eventually came to include other adjacent properties.
Thanks to some natural springs, including hot one, the valley floor is green and the cows are still very happy to reside in Potts, even if the people have long left.
The views up and down the valley are mighty long, as was the ride to the nearest actual town.
Ted and Andrea wanted to see Toquima Cave, which has ancient pictographs dating back thousands of years, so we left the NBDR and headed into the hills, where we hiked up to the cave.
The cave is now protected from vandals and idiots by this massive steel barrier, but it was easy to see the pictographs through the bars.
One can only speculate what the symbols stand for. And appreciate the fact that they’ve endured several millennia.
We were heading back towards the NBDR track on the other side of the valley on a rather nice gravel road when Josh suddenly stopped and pulled over. According to his map, there was an alternative route across the valley, which looked shorter on the map, and would certainly be more challenging than the gravel road. That was a major positive for Josh, who was all-too eager to use his extensive rescue gear. Some discussion ensured.
The “road”, which was more like two overgrown wagon tracks, angled off to the left just behind where I’m standing. I was a bit apprehensive, as just getting down the steep berm of the road alone looked a bit challenging to me. And the very marginal, rutted tracks heading off some ten or more miles across the valley looked like it had not been used for some time, perhaps last by a wagon train that never made it to California. We had no idea whether it would actually continue intact all the way across.
But hey, we’re here to have a bit of an adventure, so off we went.
This shot from Ted and Andrea’s Tacoma show how we typically traveled spread out, with the leader calling out the route and obstacles and such over the radio. The dust plume of the car ahead of them is barely visible.
Here’s a video from the Tacoma as we bounced along that track.
Having crossed about half way across the valley, we noticed that Josh’s Tacoma in the lead was now standing still, and he was getting out. Uh oh.
The “road” was completely washed out, and there was no chance of crossing the little canyon that had emerged. Josh scouted around, and found a place to cross a ways off. It was a bit rough but doable.
That’s me crossing it. I love this shot because it both shows how I had to drive much of the time on this very deeply rutted road, hugging one side or another, as well as because it’s just silly, seeing this white cube of a car at a crazy angle. From what I hear, driving behind the xB was pretty amusing for those willing to choke on my dust, with it darting about and tilting one way or another.
The track was now barely perceptible. There was some growing question as to whether it would peter out all together. It was going to be a long way back, if so.
As we came closer to the center of the valley, it suddenly got greener and lusher, and there was a fence along one side. We had entered a ranch area, and there was obviously water. And then suddenly the track disappeared into a drainage canal, whose bottom was soft white sand. I was quite certain that I wouldn’t make it. And I was right.
Jim (and Josh) both sloshed through quite readily, which probably didn’t help, as it churned up the silt and made the grass on the far bank wet. Oh well, here goes…
Here’s a slo-mo made by Ted.
In the intro, I said that I might well have made it if I had done two things differently. I should have turned the xB’s Traction Control back on, which was off. Having it off is better for loose sand and gravel, as it allows some wheel spin instead of the choppy braking (of the spinning wheel) and power interruption that TC causes. But in this case, it was a mistake to have it off, as my right front wheel had absolutely no traction at all and was spinning freely.
Also, I should have entered at an even faster speed. This is a difficult calculus to make without carefully examining the far bank, as going to fast might have crashed my into it too hard causing damage. But I underestimated how much resistance the water created, and I was going to slow by the time I hit the far bank, despite keeping the throttle down pretty hard. A bit more speed would almost certainly have taken me up the far bank, which turned out to be pretty soft.
It took just a couple of minutes for me to get down the bag of recovery items from the roof rack. It took very little for Jim and his Jeep pulled me out; he said he couldn’t even feel it.
Randy’s Sequoia had an easier time of it. Watching and comparing it to mine, the big difference is that he started rather slowly, but was able to accelerate at the last moment and keep up his speed right to the far bank, as his wheels were providing plenty of traction, whereas m xB slowed down quite noticeably.
We finally made it to the main road, and we all sported suitable graphics now from the water crossing.
Jim’s Jeep had the best one by far. I suggested he clear coat it when he got home.
This reservoir afforded the chance for us to do some water crossing. Very refreshing, on a hot Nevada afternoon.
We now had a mountain range to cross.
As the road steepened drastically, I had to shift down into second, and then quickly into first. It was deceptively steep. The xB was working very hard in first gear, and there was a bit of wheel spin noticeable. I decided to take an on-the go video holding my phone in my hand. As I was trying to select “video” in the camera, I almost missed an incredibly tight hairpin curve, which I obviously had not seen coming from peripheral vision. That was close…
The road down the other side was just as steep. I had to keep my foot firmly on the brakes despite being in first gear. The pictures don’t quite do it justice.
There were numerous more water crossing on the far side off the pass, but by now they were mostly non-events. Just keep the hammer down.
We eventually found a level spot to camp, right alongside the creek. It was shaping up to be another spectacular sunset.
The sun was perfectly framed by the notch in the valley.
Josh set up a time lapse camera to catch the sunset over a half hour. He’s got quite the overlanding rig, with all the bells and whistles.
And the almost full moon was rising, which would light up the night, but not enough to seriously diminish the stars.
All photographs and videos were taken by the following: Andrea Blaser, Jim Klein, Edward Niedermeyer, and myself.