Altar 2002 Day 3: 04-11-2002

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From Camp Sidewinder to Camp Scorpion

Sidewinder was a pretty good camp.  Not too much wind and no uninvited guests during the night.  Once daylight broke, I hopped on the quad and ran to the top of the dune face to the east.  Below, you can see the camp from the ridge.  You can see the shadow of the big dune to the east on the face.  Also, note the dark spots in the sand.  These are traces of the volcano to the east of the camp.  The volcano, Sierra Pinacate, is one of the defining features of the region and will be viewed from close from the following day's camp.  The volcanic crater can be seen in the lower right corner of Figure 2 on the home page.

From the top of the dune, the morning light clearly defines the crest of the dunes.  Camp Sidewinder is just to the right of the photo below.

We had a good breakfast of bacon and eggs and then packed for another tough day of travel in the high dunes.  Gladly, before I started off, I discovered that one of the tires was low and managed to fill it before it de-beaded.  But, as we will see, this did set the tone for the day.  Due to the soft sand and the intentionally high tire pressure, I had a hell of a time getting out of the bowl where we camped.  After several tries, I relented and let out the air that I had just put in.  I did make it out, but was on edge about another de-beading.  For good reason it turns out.  Amazingly, I was not the first one hit.  Dan had recurring problems with his right rear despite the fact that the patch had been redone the day before, with both care and skill.  But to no avail.  The Altar wants it's pound of flesh.  Below Dan gives up and mounts the XZL spare he has.  The tire will be retired until we get to Puerto Penasco and the llanteria (tire fixit place).  Matt is raising the tire with the bar so it will fit over the lug nuts.

Within an hour of Dan's de-beading, I was hit again.  Note that the strap is being used to compress the tire to encourage it to seat.  Kathleen is in the body armor as she is riding the Banshee again.

After living in Tucson for my childhood, I have become interested in desert plants.  I noticed that there were strange bushes in the dunes.  Note the one below.  I had never seen the trunk structure on a bush of this type before.  This puzzled me for several hours until I realized that what appeared to be the trunk was actually the tap root and that the wind had eroded the sand away from the bush. 

More classic razor back dunes with the exposed root bushes on the right.

Another view of the root structure of these most hardy bushes.  The mass of the root must be about 90% of the total mass of the plant.  As we will see in later photos, this fellow is a light weight.

More of the dark volcanic sand from Los Pinacates.

My heightened paranoia about de-beads was sufficient to cause me to be unable to make it up a seemingly small obstacle.  Here, Nancy brings me the "strap of shame".  The ribbing was bad enough to make me air down more.  As you can see below, the results were quite predictable.  

Taking Dan's lead, I just swapped out the offending tire for a spare with a tube which is on the left of the photo.  Given the plethora of tire problems on the last trip, I brought 2 full-sized spares and 3 tubes on this trip.

One fact of driving off road is that tired drivers make mistakes.  Below, I was unable to identify the hole before heading into it.  Dan just missed it and attempted to warn me.  But I did not fully understand the instructions in time to avoid the hole.  The strap of shame was again put to good use.  As we will see later, I was not the only beneficiary of the strap.

Camp that night was a sand camp as opposed to the hard pan.  Frankly, I thought it was more comfortable.  As an extra bonus, there was brush to hide behind as opposed to having to walk a half a mile.  As a real treat, we set up a propane powered shower and all got to take a hot bath.  It felt wonderful.  We were in clear view of Los Pinacates and would be treated to an awesome sunrise the following day.  The obvious name of the camp would be revealed to us the following morning.

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