Moving past the Ranger station Echo area, still running along Highway 95, the foothills of Ireteba Peak expand skyward into the bonafide El Dorado Mountain Range. This mountain range runs parallel to the 95 from Searchlight to Black Canyon, with only Nelson transecting it at about the halfway point.
This area, to the south of Nelson and surrounding the 95, is one of the places I like to off-road the most. There are so many old mining areas and springs and outbuildings that I get overwhelmed because I want to visit them all.
In our world, Highway 95 makes a distinctive curve westbound, as seen in the game map.
# 159 – Highway 95 Viper encampment
# 160 – Clark Field
# 162 – Wrecked Highwayman
# 166 – Broc flower cave
# 230 – Bootjack Cavern
# 159 – Highway 95 Viper encampment – In our world, this location is not so much as an encampment, but conversely, a massive canyon. The location is called Keyhole Canyon. Some of the roads up in this more northern part of the foothills have names, well letters anyway, which is helpful. You will take a right off of northbound 95 onto “Route T” and follow it until an intersection with big powerlines on both sides. Take a sharp left instead on to “Route C” which will wind around for a few miles, ending in the location on the right. There are a lot of cool petroglyphs here and sometimes you can see people climbing and scaling down the rock face.
# 160 – Clark Field – Where the highway bends is where the “field” would be located in our world. Even offroading, I could not find anything besides massive electrical posts in either direction, but it looks similar to a really cool place close to Cima, in the Mojave Preserve. Even though in game there is no graffiti, the large industrial constructs look alike. Especially the big cistern looking vats with the catwalks. I did not try to walk across them – the drop is really far and the catwalks are really sketchy.
Also, it is one of the coolest places I found in the entire desert. Incredible, artsy and post-apocalyptic, desolate – so cool. This place is badass, it is called the Goldome Mine and Mill … BUT … I need to tell you how to get there or you will face the same fate I did.
The first time I found the place, coordinates I used took me a super dangerous route when a really safe route existed, so I was pretty annoyed. It is the problem with looking at stuff from a satellite image, even with the elevations marked, and with a lot of experience driving here and reading the maps, it is hard to tell what is going to be treacherous until you are there.
Driving northbound on Ivanpah Road from the Lanfair Valley, on my way back to the Mojave from scouting the Crescent Canyon area equivalent. One time I was hanging out with the mayor of Nipton and he told me that he did a ton of off-roading back here when he was younger and that I should check it out since I was going to drive right by it anyway.
The gps took me off of Ivanpah Road, approaching from the southeast. This almost got me killed and messed up my Jeep. Do not under any circumstances go this way ever in your whole life.
I consider myself a pretty experienced off-road driver and I am not one to take risks. I got to the crest of the hill overlooking the mill with no problem and realized the road had sort of … disappeared? I parked and got out to try and scout ahead and find a path forward, but there wasn’t one. I was going to turn the Jeep around but the sandy soil started eroding under my back tires, I started spinning out and couldn’t wait any longer. There was only one way to go and that was forward.
I could see the mill in front of me so I slowly made my way down, carefully as I could. I was a stone’s throw from the first structure of the mill when I felt my back tires drop off an edge. I gunned it and pulled a hard right, getting onto solid ground but resulting in being stuck fast against a rock and rutted area in the front and wet sand in the back. If I could get enough momentum, I could easily get over the rock my front tire was stuck on, but the back tire was just spinning sand and there were no trees for the winch. Also, with each attempt, the back tire was swinging my Jeep to the left instead of forward which was going to end up taking me off the cliff.
I shifted into 4L, somehow it got over it and down to the first landing. I can’t remember much about how I did it. I only tell this tale to warn others of the potential dangers and to let you know to play it as safe as possible.
The first landing has a ton of cool stuff, a long catwalk and thin stairs downward to the mill, mining equipment, cisterns, old crap, rusted barrels, all the things I love and would have made me freak with excitement if I wasn’t so preoccupied with the nonsense at hand. And I think in retrospect, once I didn’t die or ruin my vehicle, that is what I was so pissed about.
The forsaken gps instructed me to loop around the landing and curve around the north side of the landing’s equipment but that would have dropped me to my death, so I decided to try this steeper but shorter path down the southern side of the landing. When I say steep, I mean steep. As in it felt like I was looking straight down steep. I saw some other people down at the mill so I left my Jeep and walked down the path, sort of scoping out where I was going to have to turn to avoid the largest ruts in the ground.
There were a few people here hiking around and taking pictures, fellow Jeep people, and I asked them what they thought of the path and told them about my harrowing experience. I must have been white as Ghost, so they got their straps ready and said they could help me if I got stuck coming down. There were plenty of winch-ready spots here.
I was able to make it down the hill with some judicious, cautious steering and was about to accept everyone’s high fives when I looked down and saw my back driver’s side tire was messed up. It wasn’t flat but the tread had been cut and was flapping off in long strips.
It was ok, I had a highway ready spare on the back. The folks there offered to help swap it for me, and even had a way better jack than I do. I was going to insist on doing it myself like an independent courier, but I was so frazzled and exhausted that I was thankful for the assist.
When chatting with them, I found out that they were staying in Nipton, and chatted about the cabin they were in. It was one I had stayed in before. They got the tire on for me and I thanked them over and over again, asking if I could give them anything, NCR dollars, Legion Denarius, poker chips, caps, pre-War money, anything. And they said just pay it forward. Don’t find people like this out in the wasteland too often.
Before we parted ways I said, wait wait wait, how do I get out of here? How did you guys get in here? And they said oh, just follow this super flat and easily traverse-able road that was available this whole time. WHAT.
I cleared the rest of my itinerary for the day, which involved a bunch more off-roading, and decided to turn in early. But not before I “paid it forward” … to the people who helped me out. Since I knew what cabin they were staying in, I took a detour to Nipton, about 20 miles away, give or take. I bought a bunch of beer, candy, and goodies at the general store and left it on their doorstep with a note of gratitude, hastily scribbled on the paper bag.
Even though I lost the day, risked by life, will be trembling for the next day or two, and would have to head into civilization the next day to get a new spare, I had a smile on my face from meeting those people – Sam and family, with your dog “Girl” – from Wisconsin & Virginia … thank you.
A few quick things about Goldome Mill, a few weeks back I saw some Fallout: New Vegas graffiti here, and although I think it is amusing in the abstract, I have to ask everyone to Leave No Trace and respect the desert. We don’t want to gain Infamy with the rest of the desert-goers and it is important to preserve our most beloved Mojave.
Also there are hundreds of ping pong balls everywhere, and my tire changing friend said they have been here for years and no one knows why. Bizarre!
# 162 – Wrecked Highwayman – I have found several contenders for the Wrecked Highwayman in my varied desert travels, all in the middle of absolute nowhere, cased in decades of decay and rust, and riddled with bullet holes. I always feel a bit nervous standing around objects that have been the recipient of bullets.
Addendum: I have found so many rusted cars in my travels that I will keep the photos of them compiled in this entry, to have them all in one spot.
# 166 – Broc flower cave – There is no cave or cavern north of the state route here, just a vast open range, peppered with some more massive power lines. The location reminded me of a place close to the mill called Mitchell Cavern. The entrance was high up on the rock face. And as an aside, I think broc flowers are based off of the Mojave’s Desert globemallow flower. They look pretty similar and were used by Native Americans as food and as a medicinal plant.
If you want to see my collection of all the in-game plants and their real world equivalents, you can go here.
# 230 – Bootjack cavern – I believe the real world location to Bookjack cavern is called St. Louis Mine. It is in the same approximate location. You can find the mine by heading along the same Grandpa’s Road we took earlier, which turns into Gas Pipeline Road after heading off of 95. A straight shot of 4.5 miles or so will lead you to the mine.