Tuesday, December 31, 2013

More Desert Finds

Odometer- 37748 - Camped in Ajo, AZ
Trip meter  0 miles

Monday December 30, 2013

My friend and fellow desert scavenger, Mark Lankford, called to see if I was up for another trip into the Barry M. G Goldwater Gunnery Range north and east of town.  "Absolutely"! said I.

We set off at 10 a.m. and Mark drove us in his Chevy  4 x 4 pickup, as it has better ground clearance than our Honda CRV, and it already has it's "desert stripes" as the locals call the brush scratches down both sides of the body.

We were heading out to an area called "Well that Johnny Dug".  I'm not kidding- it says so on the published maps.  On our way there Mark turned down a side road to the more approapiately named Sloven Well. Both wells are no longer operating, but Sloven Well looks as if it could be resurrected with some work and expense.  It has a Swimming pool sized concrete tank and has a metal well casing.

While we were poking around Sloven Well, we were approached by Lukeville Air Force Security, something that can happen while you are on the range.  The officers checked our permits and then engaged in some pleasant conversation with us.  One of the officers has been on the BMG security team for 12 years! Mark knows all the right questions to ask and he found out that it isn't as difficult to get into the "Hazard Area" around the active range as we thought.  We may get a chance to go into that area soon.

When we arrived at "Well that Johnny Dug", Mark pointed to a 4 foot square of plywood covering a hand-dug hole in the ground.  So impressive I didn't even take any pictures.  We were not here for the well anyway, and continued east to a search area that Mark has been working for several days, looking for an ejection seat and a canopy from a downed F-104G that crashed in 1966.  I spotted some yellow flagging in the mesquite that was outside the search area and we decided to investigate.  We parked the truck about 2-1/2 miles from the crash site and set off on foot following the flagging in a north-easterly direction which looked promising because it could intersect the inbound flight path.  We spaced ourselves about 200 feet apart and headed in the direction the flagging was taking us.  Unfortunately what we found was a section line marker- a rebar pin with a bronze USGS cap on it.  Since we were on the probable flight path, we decided to turn east and follow the path towards the crash site.  We were further out than Mark felt to be reasonable, based on his research- but it couldn't hurt to be thorough.  By 2:30 we had searched to within 1-1/4 miles of the crash site.  We knew this because Mark has a Garmin and he had loaned me one also.  Mark is good about setting waypoints in memory and we could dial in a radial that showed us where we were in relationsip to the crash site at any time.

Mark suggested that we move 200 feet further south and parallel our seach back towards where we had parked the truck.  We had only gone about 1/4 mile when I spotted something way south of me and hailed Mark who was 200 feet north of me.  Mark came over and we put the field glasses on the shiny spot.
Still not conclusive we decided to walk over closer.  As we got closer based on the brilliance of the reflection, we thought we may be seeing the windows of another car or truck parked on the road.  About 50 feet closer we looked with the binoculars again and out hearts started beating faster!  It looked like a piece of curved plexiglas!  Yeah!

 Eureka!  We found the canopy of  the F-104G and the serial number was a match!

The discovery gives us a more exact flight line and should enable us to find the ejection seat- that is unless someone has taken it.  It is rare, but some unscrupulous types will sometimes take objects.  As I've said before, Mark is a purist, and if we pick anything up to look at it, he wants to put it back in the same place, to allow the next finder to have the same experience we just had.

We were now jazzed about searching for the seat, so we set out a seach area, first toward the crash site, then away from it.  Alas the ejection seat, if it still exists, has eluded us once more.  At 4:30 p.m. we were both tired and set a course back to the truck.

On our way out, Mark showed me one more "site" which was no more than this piece of a control surface
in the ditch beside road  #607 (I think).  I said "site" in quotes above because there is nothing else here, and no record of an aircraft going down here.  So what is it from, and how did it get here?  We'll ask the experts at Aircraft Archeology and see if they have anything on it.

As Mark deposits me at the door of our RV he lets me know that we have been gone 7 hours and logged a little over 5 miles on foot, and searched the better part of a square mile.  He will use the GPS tracks and the canopy location and overlay them on his grid map tonight to see if we have left any gaps.  Next time we go out we'll have tightened down on the search area.  Today's find depended on the previous searches that Mark has done on his own- always narrowing the search window.  I was just glad I could be there when the find was made.  Next time we go out, I hope to have pictures of the ejection seat.

Joan had a day to herself, washed the car, shopped for groceries, refilled our driking water bottles at the kiosk, and even made a pan of chocolate brownies!.  We had dinner and watched a movie on TV and turned in for the night.

Tomorrow is New Year's Eve.  We count our blessings that this past year has been a dream-come-true.

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan

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