Sarah Jane, the Wonderhussy.
Monday, March 5th, and I was scheduled to meet with Wonderhussy to see parts of the desert I hadn’t dreamed of. I had always been restricted to the paved roads by the rental cars I drive, but there is so much else to see. Of course, if someone like myself had gone down random dirt roads I would probably get stuck in an area with no cell coverage. Someone, someday, might find my bleached bones.
Wonderhussy is the online name of Sarah Jane Woodall, a Las Vegas based model who spends her free time trekking to interesting places and filming them, posting them on Youtube. I was looking over videos of places I had been, the National Parks, the Mojave, and had come across a video she had done about hiking up to a cabin in a side canyon of Death Valley. I followed the links to other videos, until over a couple of months I must have watched a hundred of them. I really don’t know how many she has posted, but it must be near two hundred. She even has a video explaining why she uses the moniker Wonderhussy. Informative, humorous, with beautiful scenery, her videos are now among my favorites on Youtube. She wonders what happened to the people who used to live in the cabins and makes up some wonderful stories about what might have happened (hence the Wonder part of her name). And she also runs a guide service. Since I was heading out there anyway, and was already spending a bundle, I thought it might be cool to let someone with knowledge of the desert show me some of the sites. And meet someone who does a great deal of videos, as I was planning to enter the Youtube vid game.
Inside electronics room of the abandoned concrete factory.
Sarah Jane showed up at my hotel about 11 AM with her four-wheel drive lift package Toyota. I had eaten a good breakfast at the Bonnie Springs restaurant, had my cameras, still and video, in hand, and was ready to go. I had planned to film on the Akaso, but for some reason never got around to it, though I did get some great stills. I was too busy talking with Sarah Jane about a variety of topics. Not just learning from her, but also telling her of my own adventures in the east. We talked mental health, religion, science, and of course self-publishing. A totally enjoyable trip with someone who enjoys discovering new things. She was just as attractive and personable as her online persona.
Part of the kiln at the abandoned concrete factory.
We proceeded to the area north of Vegas, off of I-15, until we reached an abandoned concrete factory. I had seen this one in a video she had done, but walking it for real was somewhat different. More real. Not quite to the extent of the Grand Canyon, but actually being there made it real. We explored the outside, as well as the inside of one of the control rooms. It was amazing that so much machinery had just been abandoned. So much investment. In Florida it would be scarfed up and bulldozed under in no time. Or maybe it would have rusted into nothing. Here, it just sat out there in the emptiness, preserved by the dry climate and baking in the sun. There was the inevitable new trash scattered around, particularly empty boxes of rounds and some old shotgun shells. What is it about people wanting to spread their trash everywhere? The site also had some graffiti, and Sarah thought it might have been used in some films. We proceeded from there to a nearby town to get a couple of cold sodas.
One of the abandoned cabins near the Virgin River, with a Tamarisk tree to the side.
Next it was to what must have been a series of cabins that had been used before the interstate had been built. A roadside hotel? The interstate had killed them, just like I-40 had killed so much of Route 66. Sad. These were much like the cabins she visits in her videos, filled with lots of items like old magazines and newspapers that were well preserved in the desert environment. There were Tamarisk trees in the area, and the Virgin River flowed in the background. I heard that haunting whispering sound of the wind through the trees, reminding me of the Australian Pines of home. I looked over the leaves and was surprised to see that they were the same as the Australian Pines. Maybe not the same species, but definitely the same order. Sarah Jane related a story of being chased off this site by a man screaming about trespassing. To me the sound of the wind through those trees evoked relaxation and a sense of being home. To her it brought on memories of the guy screaming at her and chasing her from the property. This shows how the experience changes the reaction to the same stimulus. Okay, enough psychobabble for now.
Mountains in the distance.
The next part of the trip, and the longest, was up into the mountains. Sarah Jane was exploring herself this time, going places where she hadn’t been. We were going into the back country, where the Bundy’s and their supporters lived, where many old-style Mormon families stayed off the grid and possibly off the government net. Dirt roads climbing through the mountains, overlooking vast expanses of valleys. At one point we saw signs stating we were in the Grand Canyon. We crossed over into Arizona for part of the journey.
Rock formation with my guide in the foreground.
At one point near the start Sarah Jane spotted some pipes and backed up to take a short upward trail. I have to hand it to her. I’m a very observant person and I didn’t see anything of note. We went into a small canyon and found a wall of concrete blocks, looking for all the world like a dam. There were other artifacts out in the desert in some sandstone formations. I later found out that this place was called the Cistern, and was a project from the depression built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Just one of the many hidden treasures out here in the wilderness, which includes abandoned cabins, old mines, ghost towns. You can see a lot of these on Wonderhussy’s videos, and I’m sure she’ll have more in the future.
More cool rock formations, with my cool guide getting a closer look.
We spent the rest of the afternoon climbing a mostly well-maintained dirt road around a mountain, then down. There were some dips that would have killed my rental car, and I was more than happy that we were in her truck. There were some stops to see some of the scenery from high vantages, but mostly it was driving by the many ranches and small cabins that dotted the wilderness. Really some beautiful country, terrific rock formations for this geology aficionado, spectacular drop-offs. Sarah Jane moved her four-wheel drive expertly over the road. To tell the truth, I would have been terrified to be driving up there, but I had total confidence in the professional. Unfortunately, I only brought a couple of candy bars, and when that feeling of low blood sugar hit that’s all I had. So, I ate them and didn’t take my medicine or insulin, really only the safe way to manage it at that point. I probably should have said something, but I was so into the trip that I didn’t want to spoil the moment. We passed some grazing cows (on what, I’m not sure) then some horses, and then we were in Mesquite. She delivered me to my hotel at just a few minutes over eight hours into the trip. Perfect.
More cool formations along the way.
It was an eye opener, seeing the wilderness like that, and well worth the cost. I can recommend Wonderhussy Adventures for anyone who wants to explore off the beaten path.
The majestic desolation of the desert.
If only the rest of the night had gone so well. I tried to get on my computer to look up the address of the Lion Habitat Ranch, and the damn thing refused to boot up. I kept getting a screen that said my hard drive had failed, and to contact Dell support. Kind of hard to do when the hard drive won’t boot up. The next day I was shopping for another computer at Best Buy. If I had been at home I would have seen about having the notebook repaired. On the road? I could only take one computer back, so this one was trash.
Next: Lion Habitat Ranch in Henderson.
And be sure to check out Wonderhussy Adventures on Youtube. If you’re interested in Americana and history, her channel is a great source. She explores ghost towns, old mines, abandoned cabins, and hotels/restaurants/attractions that have been put out of business by the changing transportation patterns. She fearlessly goes to these places, so you don’t have to. Like and subscribe, and if you’re looking for a local guide for the Mojave, I highly recommend her.