The Desert Explorers is a four-wheel drive (4WD) group within the Mojave River Valley Museum Association. Trips, normally at least once a month, focus on sightseeing (rather than "rock crawling") and often include an optional hike to explore mines, petroglyph or pictograph sites, old emigrant trails, or other points of interest. On a trip, we camp out wherever nightfall catches us. Children (and friendly dogs with the leader's permission) are welcome on most trips. Each trip announcement normally includes the planned itinerary, vehicle requirements, and special notices, such as skill rating, if appropriate. Very wide vehicles or those with 120-inch or longer wheelbases are not suitable for some trips. Check with the trip leader if you have questions.
We are now on FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Desert-Explorers/199131753466338
To go on trips, you must be a member of the Mojave River Valley Museum (MRVM) Association. A Desert Explorer is a Museum member who participates in the trips or subscribes to the optional Desert Explorers Newsletter.
See the Desert Explorers Subscription Application Form and the Mojave River Valley Museum Association Application Form for detailed information. Print and mail the completed forms with separate checks to the addresses shown on the Application Forms.
Trips are scheduled by the trip leaders and posted in the newsletter first, and then, later, in the Calendar and Future Trips pages of this website.
Be sure to check out our past trips! We've been all over the western United States, and as far as Mongolia and Peru.
Please read our "fine print" (policies) before you join us for your first trip.
General Meetings of the Desert Explorers are held approximately bi-monthly. All current and prospective Desert Explorers are welcome to attend the General Meetings. Dates and locations are in the newsletter mailed to each subscriber's home and in the Calendar page of this website.
The Desert Explorers has an annual Rendezvous in interesting desert locations, featuring guest speakers on a variety of intriguing subjects.
By Anne Stoll
November 25, 2007
In the spring of 2007, the Desert Explorers received a bequest of about 1700 35-mm slides and 5 videos from the estate of DE member Dwight Stroud. A preliminary assessment of the slides was undertaken by me, and from the sample viewed, they are wonderful. The collection consists of full-frame photographs of rock art (petroglyphs and pictographs) taken at sites in California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah. The images are remarkably clear, well-exposed, in good documentary (rather than artistic) style, and in good
In thinking about the best use of the collection, questions arose about just who Dwight Stroud was. It became clear that few of us knew Dwight or could put a face with the name. So I sought input from folks who did know him. I¹ve spoken with Joyce Jauch, his lady friend of many years, and heard from Dan Messersmith, Homer Meek, and Mary and Charles Hughes. Here¹s what I¹ve learned so far:
Dwight L. Stroud was born on May 8, 1931 on a farm outside of Chanute, Kansas, a town east of Wichita in the southeast corner of the state. Dwight was third from the youngest of six children, five boys and one girl.
Dwight¹s mother was a Puckett from Oklahoma. The family was very poor and Dwight remembered always being hungry. His one gift a year was an apple, a special treat. Joyce says "His parents were very conservative and principled and felt Dwight¹s purpose in life was to work on the family farm, period."
In the 1940¹s the family moved to southern California to the town of Paramount, where Dwight went to school. He joined the Navy, served in the Korean War, and circumnavigated the world in the destroyer on which he served. After mustering out, he started a business building custom cab-over RV¹s. Joyce says Dwight "was very good with his hands and could build anything." Dwight married and had a son, Cliff, who was 13 when his mother died of cancer. Five years later Dwight married a second time; this marriage lasted about seven years before ending in divorce. Dwight had his business in Long Beach building custom campers for many years. He liked to buy older camping trailers and refurbish them for resale. He also owned a trailer park in Pioche, Nevada with a partner.
By the 1980¹s Dwight was regularly going out on weekends exploring the desert. For some 20 years he rented a cabin at Indian Ranch in the Panamints, where he met "Panamint George" Hansen. Dwight became passionate about rock art during this time. Joyce Jauch met Dwight in 1990, and they took many desert trips together during which he pursued his interest in rock art photography. Joyce was with Dwight when he took most of his photos. The slide collection, she says, was Dwight¹s "pride and joy" which he only showed once or twice. Dwight was not one for standing up in front of folks.
Dan Messersmith says he knew Dwight during the years he lived in Kingman. The first MOE trip with Dwight he can document was June 20, 1997.
Charles and Mary Hughes met Dwight on one of Dan¹s desert trips. Dan says "I can¹t say I knew him Œwell¹ as he kept to himself a great deal. He was a bit shy and pretty quiet around camp but would speak up when the topic turned to Indians or rock art."
Mary remembers Dwight "as a kind, thoughtful man who loved and respected the Indian culture and sites." Both Dan and Joyce confirm that Dwight was quite knowledgeable about the Native American cultures of the Southwest.
Many recall that Dwight¹s interest in rock art included deciphering its meaning. As Dan remembers it, Dwight "believed he could read most if not all rock art. Numerous times on trips when we found pictographs or petroglyphs, he would tell us what they meant, at least according to him." Joyce says that Dwight "had an incredible eye for finding and seeing the images" and Charles adds that "if you were looking for a site Dwight would know where to look."
Dwight¹s activities in the desert went beyond hunting for rock art; he was an avid collector of artifacts as well as images. He was also a member of the Friends of the Mojave Road, Dan¹s MOE group, and worked with Bob Martin tracing the Hardy Road in Mohave County, AZ. Dwight¹s job for Bob Martin was finding and walking potential trails for the group to check out.
"He did a lion¹s share of that pre-work prior to the work parties coming through to prove out the trail with maps and GPS surveys," says Dan.
Dan Messersmith recalls that Dwight was a great 4x4 enthusiast and was very good with field repairs on his vehicle. He and Charles both remember that Dwight¹s trademark was a black SUV. Dan says he preferred Chevy Blazers and that although his last 4x4 was a white Jeep Cherokee he never liked it as well as the Blazers.
Unfortunately, Dwight was plagued by ill health for the last four years of his life. He had heart bypass surgery which sapped his strength, plus arthritis which kept him down. He died on January 19, 2007 in Kingman, Arizona. Joyce says he was an exceptional person, and we wish we had known him better. The DE appreciates his generosity in leaving us his slide collection
A Loving Tribute
by Debbie Miller
Today I pay tribute to an extraordinary man and friend. From day one I have been in awe of Bill Mann. He grew from humble beginning: from a young Merchant Marine on Iwo Jima, to miner and quarryman of rocks, businessman and author. When Bill got an idea in his head, he began with each small step and made his idea a reality. I often wonder how different things would have been had he not written his guidebooks and taught classes at Zzyzx.
Upon reading his first guidebook I was so delighted with his work that I wrote Bill a letter. This turned out to be his first “fan mail”, and we became buddies. What followed was a warm friendship and mutual admiration.
Bill was quite a storyteller. My favorite quote from him is something he would say while leading a trip. He would spin a yarn that left everyone wide eyed with wonder, like small children at story time. Then someone would say, “Wow, is that really true?” and Bill would come back “ Well, I don’t know…but it makes a great story doesn’t it?!” And everyone would laugh. We didn’t care if the story was not true, we just liked the “telling”. To be present experiencing the desert with him was a fun and joyful day.
At the time that I met him, I was a member of the Sierra Club. Bill opened my eyes to the other side of the coin and made me think more critically about conservation verses preservation. He was my first teacher in this respect. He had a bumper sticker on his truck that said “ If it isn’t grown, it has to be mined”. Of course, this was Bill’s profession and I believe he was a “responsible miner”. His family business can be seen on the 15 freeway – the Brubaker Mann facility dealing in colored rock.
Author Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “Do no go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”. Bill did succeed in leaving a trail, and leading thousands of respectful followers to his desert treasures. He bequeathed a tremendous legacy to those who don’t know him yet with his wonderful guidebooks. He has taught us to appreciate and respect every detail of the desert we encounter,: the beautiful, the historical, the odd and the mysterious. Bill not only made a difference, he was the difference.
His loving imprint upon me has changed the way I enjoy the desert lands and my understanding of mining. His remarkable marriage to Dottie was an inspiration to me, and I sincerely pray that my marriage will be as full and wonderful as theirs.
I had visited Bill in person and by phone often in the many weeks he was at Cedars-Sinai, a rough sentence to bear for an outdoorsman. He would always throw his arms open to me and say, “You are good medicine”. The last time we visited he hugged me so hard my neck was sore for three days. It was the best sore neck I will ever have.
Happy Trails, Bill. I know that you will be watching over me whenever I roam to those interesting and mysterious places.
Thank you, Bill
By Dave and Debbie Given
I first met Bill Mann about 10 or 11 years ago. He came to Mojave to give some expert advice on a project I had become involved in. Over the next several years, we were with him on a few “exploratory” 4 x 4 trips, some as pre runs, others just because he wanted to see what was on the other side. Almost always he had his beautiful wife Dottie by his side. Bill and Dottie taught many classes at Zzyzx, of which we were there for most of them. Bill had a passion for the desert that is unmatched. I never saw Bill without a smile on his face.
In August of 2005, Bill was diagnosed with leukemia. He was in and out of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for the next year. Whenever we went to see him, he had a positive outlook. Instead of giving up, he vowed to fight “this thing to the bitter end”; and fight he did. Bill had so many cards, posters and well wishes taped to the wall in his room, they actually covered more than one wall.
What a great inspiration to us all. My friend Bob Rodemeyer says Bill is up in heaven negotiating for a new book. Either that, or lining up for a 4 x 4 trip to see “what’s on the other side” probably both.
Thank you Bill for everything. You are sorely missed. We will see you a little later on a “trip”.
Editors note – It was Dave who brought Bill home from his final hospital stay.
It only took one encounter with Marilyn Martin to know she was a force of nature, not to be trifled with. She spoke with authority, let her thoughts be known without hesitation, but never without consideration. She was also deeply caring and always willing to put in the work to make things move forward. This was especially true of the Desert Explorers. Teamed with her husband Bob, she helped the former Backroad Explorers become the Desert Explorers of the Mojave River Valley Museum that we enjoy today. She never let up on that high level of involvement in our group.
When I first met Bob and Marilyn, I wondered “When does Bob get to talk?” It didn’t take too long to find out that this was a tag-team duo who didn’t worry about things like that. Together they never missed a beat.
When Bob passed suddenly in 2005, Marilyn picked herself up and took over the Newsletter building duties he had handled for three years and went on to put our newsletter together for another six, learning the software, cursing at her keyboard and crashing computers on a semi-regular basis. In her spare time, she also managed to go on DE trips solo and with friends right up through this year.
Marilyn was intrepid, camping with Bob and her boys in a converted WWII military truck all over the southwest, and in the Sierras, then later in more comfort in their 4x4 Toyota Skamper as well as their motorhome. They threw in a Mexico trip now and then too.
When you had a chance to chat, she wanted to know everything about you, your whole family, where they came from, what they are doing and what was coming up. She would share tales of her family and Bob’s, both rich in history. She even let it slip that she might be a shirt-tail relative of Neal Johns, not something many of us would be willing to admit.
She laughed easily. She always had an opinion. She was brash and kind and warm and fierce and ornery and outspoken but would hesitate to ask for personal help. Quite a beautiful person and one of a kind. And missed. She passed this June.