Back to our October 2012 trip--we stayed a couple of nights at Tecopa Hot Springs Resort, relaxing in the hot springs and enjoying Chef John's ever-delectable cuisine at Pastel's Bistro. Above: an early morning view of Grimshaw Lake, just down the road from the resort. Below: the mud hills across from the lake, with the mountains beyond.
This trip, we took a drive outlined in the brochure "Motor Touring in the Eastern Sierra," which you can get for a donation at the ranger station in Lone Pine. The brochure has 18 routes recommended for 4WD SUVs, and it has led us to some interesting places. Just outside Tecopa, we were directed to an umarked dirt road with this scenic view of the Amargosa River. We couldn't see water, but presumably it's down there keeping those trees green and lush.
After the overlook, we took a little detour of our own and found this bizarre assemblage of items all by themselves in the desert. On the left: a fire pit in the foreground and a black door shot up with bullet holes in the background. On the right: a pair of black pants propped up and anchored to the ground, with the same black door in the background. We speculate that someone was making a video out here--on our way to the scenic overlook, a caravan of spiffy vehicles was leaving from this direction--which prompted us to head over and see what was up.
From here the route followed Mesquite Valley Road for about eight miles, returning to the Old Spanish Trail road and leading to this overlook. Can you see the squiggly dirt track on the right side of the picture, leading back towards a dark, isolated hill? That's the actual Old Spanish Trail. The wagon marks are still there. It was used by Spanish, Mexican, and American traders and was especially active from the 1830s to the 1850s. Of course, there's more to it than that: the trail followed what is described as "ancient Indian trade routes." That's the story I'm interested in.