Saline Preservation Association
P.O. Box 1941
Lancaster, CA 93539-1941
Greetings Fellow Friend of Saline Valley,
This newsletter is an update of events and happenings in Saline Valley and Saline Valley Warm Springs. Remember, for real-time news, road conditions about the springs, and all SPA meeting minutes, and previous newsletters go to the Saline Preservation Association (SPA) forum at: http://forum.salinepreservation.org .
SPA is a non-profit organization providing an informational conduit both between and among governing agencies and a widely dispersed community who visit the Saline Valley and its Warm Springs. SPA’s goal is protection, preservation, and conservation of the valley to include geology, wildlife habitat, archeology, and a traditional human presence that emphasizes responsible individual freedom of choice.
SPA meeting report with the National Park Service (NPS) – February 17, 2023, in Saline Valley
Submitted by Mike Ramsey, SPA President
Four SPA board members Mike Ramsey, Fred Dickson, Timbo Hynes & Bonneau Dickson met with NPS Superintendent Mike Reynolds & Chief Ranger Rob Wissinger on the lawn at the lower springs. It was a closed meeting. This was done to keep the meeting time from running very long as can happen when the public comments and questions start. Mike Ramsey agreed to stay afterwards to brief the public and answer questions.
The first topic was the MOU between SPA and NPS. Mike Reynolds stated NPS wants to renew the MOU (memorandum of understanding) at the appropriate time.
The second topic was the NPS Management Plan. It is already in place and will stand as is.
The third topic was the need for an additional toilet at Palm Springs. Currently there is no funding for this project. NPS stated the need has been elevated. The type of toilet was discussed. NPS wants to make it a composting type. This type separates solids from liquids, dries the solids. The solids are bagged in a type of cartridge. When full it can easily be changed. The first step for this type of toilet is an “engineering study”. SPA expressed that since the other three toilets were vault style, why not make the additional toilet the same? NPS reasoned that the composting style can be maintained without the need for pumping. SPA stated they would make a considerable donation towards an additional toilet. Currently, funding for a toilet is in the 2025 NPS budget. SPA also requested NPS put the pumping of the toilets on a schedule. Mike Reynolds agreed to present the idea to his boss.
The fifth topic discussed was the future of camp hosts. The discussion revealed if Lee were to retire, Dave would step up as the main camp host. Additionally, it was discussed that there is currently no need for an upper springs camp host. If in the future, there is a need for a new host it would be through the normal application process through Death Valley National Park.
The sixth topic discussed was the removal of the derelict abandoned Ford truck on the north road. NPS stated it is on BLM land and is out of their jurisdiction, but advised the first step would be to have the truck declared abandoned. SPA will continue to pursue the steps necessary to get the truck removed from the valley.
NPS’s Update to SPA and Saline Visitors
There is good communication between NPS & SPA.
NPS explained their current funding changes within the park. The original mandate from congress was 80% of all park entrance fees were to be used for park maintenance. When Scotty’s Castle flooded all fees collected were to be used to restore Scotty’s Castle. Recently congress changed the mandate back to its original 80% to maintain the park. Congress allocated disaster funds to be used for Scotty’s Castle. This change “could” expedite funds for the second toilet at Palm Spring.
NPS encourages all visitors to buy park passes when visiting the park. Saline Valley is part of Death Valley National Park. Passes are available in Lone Pine, Panamint Springs, Death Valley Visitors Center and online. SPA encourages visitors to purchase park passes.
The burro relocation project is ongoing.
Mention was made of the marijuana grow sites discovered in Death Valley. So far 15 have been discovered. If a visitor discovers a site get away and alert the authorities. These sites create a lot of long-term damage and are run by dangerous people.
The Winter that was and Helicopter Rescue
Submitted by Bonneau Dickson, SPA Director
Well, 2003 certainly has been the “Winter that Was”! Nearly everybody agrees that it was the worst winter that they can remember. Numerous atmospheric river storms, one right behind the other. Up to 10 feet of snow in the passes. Numerous rockslides in the South Pass. Even in April, the North Pass was still closed.
Numerous people got stuck in the valley. One poor soul who was in the valley in a two-wheel drive vehicle without chains was stuck there for 40 days. Lots of people helped this person out with extra food.
A car with four people in it got stuck in the South Pass. After nearly a week in the car, they somehow got out a distress signal and a helicopter from the China Lake Naval Air Station was sent to rescue them. The helicopter spotted them, but the ceiling was so low that the helicopter had to land at a lower elevation and wait for the ceiling to lift. When the ceiling lifted and the helicopter returned, it found that it could not land because the wash from the rotor stirred up a blinding cloud of snow. After several attempts to land, the helicopter started lifting the stranded people up and into the helicopter in a basket. I am reminded of seeing wounded Marines lifted in baskets out of small clearings in the jungle in Viet Nam.
There were two other helicopter rescues in the same period.
Maybe this should be called the “Winter That Wasn’t”. I decided against trying to visit Saline Valley during the Easter week. I felt that a trip would have been just too difficult, and I did not want to run the risk of getting stuck in the valley.
The takeaway message here is “BE PREPARED WHEN YOU GO!”
You should have at least: a spare wheel (two would be better); good mud and snow tires; chains; maybe traction boards to help you get unstuck if you get stuck; a shovel; a pry bar; warm clothing; extra food; a good cell phone.
Even if you don’t care about yourself, think about others. When you get your dumb self stuck at a narrow spot in the passes then you are blocking others from getting by.
Emergency Communications check-up.
Submitted by Mike Ramsey, SPA President
NPS stated the current system is working and will remain the same. The NPS provided SPA with the FICC dispatch phone number. This number would be for the public to contact NPS with concerns about persons in the park that have not checked in at home or any emergency.
There are 3 numbers available to call the Federal Interagency Communications Center (FICC)
#1 760 786-2330, #2 909 383-5651, and #3 888 233-6518
The first number is the local number and likely the best one to use. All go to dispatch.
SPA thanks the Camp Hosts
Submitted by Timbo Hynes, SPA Park Liaison
SPA board of Directors would like to acknowledge the fine job of our “guest host/sit in” for Lizard Lee. Through considerate collaboration between Lizard Lee, who has held the position of camp host since 1995 or so, finding reliable, alternative host presents a challenge during the year, especially around holidays and other personal events. I, like many others, have seen temporary camp hosts come and go on many occasions, but the one who I can rely upon and trust the most is a fellow named Dave. It’s been many years since I first met him and right off the bat, I took an immediate liking to Dave. He is a staunch supporter of our beautiful Saline Valley Hot Springs and has officially been sanctioned by the National Park Service as a VIP (Volunteer in Park).
An intelligent person with common sense and a love for the desert and Saline, he has taken all the mandatory classes and training provided by the NPS. We appreciate both Lizard Lee and Dave and their willingness to step up to the multitude of challenges that this remote site has at times been thrown their way.
Next time you are in the Valley, please take a few minutes to thank all our camp hosts, as they are very adept at desert living and can help people with many unforeseen problems, whether personal, vehicle related or otherwise, they get the job done and often more than not, don’t get the recognition that they deserve.
Operation Scrap Metal Clunks Along
Submitted by Jorel Allegro, Director
The abandoned Ford F-150 just north of Willow Creek Mine on Saline Valley Road, North Pass has been a blight our public lands since 2019. Reports from that time indicate the poor truck only needed a water pump and the owner was returning within a month or so to retrieve it. Now 4 years later the vehicle has been vandalized, stripped of parts, burned, shot up, burned again, and now spray painted by degenerates who must think an idle truck is an inviting desert plaything.
I started my quest to have the vehicle removed in January 2023, calling first to the Inyo County Sheriff’s dispatch to report the vehicle abandoned. The agency promptly directed me to the California Highway Patrol, the typical primary agency for reporting and removal of abandoned vehicles on or near highways in the state. Upon explanation of the issue and reporting the location, the CHP directed me to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as the vehicle is on BLM Land.
After some phone system shenanigans, I ended up connected to the Federal Interagency Communications Center in San Bernardino which handles dispatch and communications for multiple federal agencies in southern California. I logged the incident and am glad I didn’t hold my breath for someone to reach out to me. I emailed the BLM Bishop field office with the FICC dispatch card number, photos, and GPS coordinates of the vehicle a short time later. Eventually I was able to get ahold of the Chief Ranger at the BLM Ridgecrest field office. This took 4 months.
I am working with BLM to have the vehicle declared abandoned so that it can legally disposed of (with a little help from Miller Towing). The plan is to organize a volunteer group to haul out the truck and debris to Lone Pine so that it can be picked up by a recycler. A burly two axle trailer and a few good rigs with tow straps and winches should be adequate for the disposal effort. Once I have a clearer timeline on the public agency’s response, I will reach out to organize the work party, potentially this fall. If any SPA members are interested in assisting in this service project email me firstname.lastname@example.org .
This entire ordeal has been a great educational experience on the function of our county, state and federal agencies and how challenging it is to get things done the right way in one of the most remote areas of the southwestern United States.
The History of the President’s Day Softball Game
Submitted by Michelle Hamilton, SPA Secretary, with the help of Scott Thompson & Pam Verhaegen
The first President’s Day Softball Game was played February 19, 1989, between the Warm Springs Skins 31 and the Palm Springs Misfits 30. At that time, Walt aka “Wizard” who camped at the Palm Springs and Bob aka “Chili Bob” who camped at the Warm Springs decided it would be fun to play a softball game on President’s Day weekend. According to Scott, Wizard envisioned getting lots of kids involved, whereas Chili Bob envisioned his team beating Wizard’s team. Scott became the Homeplate Umpire early on, and his wife Pam kept the game’s scores and stats. They did not miss a game till 2016 when they no longer visited Saline Valley. The team names and colors were decided by Chili and Wizard. Every year’s scores are kept on a trophy that is passed to the winning team.
Since 1989 there was only one year that a game was not played and that was 2001. There was a huge snowstorm before President’s Day weekend, and no one could get in.
Chili Bob passed away on October 10, 1998. For the 1999 Softball game we had a 21-beer salute and shot some of his ashes out of a potato gun over the ball field. Someone brought out a metal statue of Chili Bob and set it in the outfield. The Skins won that year 18 to 16. This was the 1st year someone brought out a trophy.
Wizard, Chili Bob, Silver Bob
Wizard passed away July 14, 2003, and we had another Memorial Game for him in 2004. The Misfits creamed the Skins 28 to 5. The last Memorial Game was for Jim aka “Turtle Jim” who passed away November 21, 2009. That year the Misfits beat the Skins 21 to 16.
As of 2022 the Misfits have won 17 games and the Skins have won 15 games.
*SPA is an eligible 501( c )( 3 ) Nonprofit. 100% of all donations go towards the maintenance and continuance of Saline Valley.
Membership to SPA is free, just email your name and email information to email@example.com.
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You can also donate by sending a check or cash to:
Saline Preservation Association
PO Box 1941
Lancaster, CA 93539-1941