Our first trip in 2004 was a long one day affair that found us going up Highway 395 to the Monarch-Rand Mine turnoff on BLM road EF411. The idea was to approach Inscription Canyon from the west so that we could stop by Bird Spring, which we have seen on the map many times but had never been to. From EF411 we turned northeast on EF473 until we were due north of Bird Spring. We then turned south in quest of the canyon that would drop us to the spring. However, along the way we came to a most interesting sight! Out here in the middle of nowhere was a dirt bike buried to its hubs, a metal replica of an American flag, and lots of little memorials to deceased desert motorcycle riders! Everything was neat and tidy and no vandalism was apparent. Even if we never found the spring this was worth it!
After proceeding down the canyon a bit we encountered the elusive Bird Spring. If there were any birds around they had better be carrying ice picks with them 'cause the spring was frozen solid. We got lots of nice close up pics of the ice as well as the spring itself. Then it was back up to EF473 and on to the east. Finally, we dropped south again to Inscription Canyon. Inscription Canyon is a small finger of a canyon that winds into an ancient lava flow on the far western edge of Superior Valley. There is a varied collection of ancient Indian petroglyphs, including several that depict big horn sheep. We really enjoyed walking along the base of the canyon and spotting the petroglyphs up on the rocks. Bill Mann has several pages devoted to this site in his book Bill Mann's Guide to 50 Interesting and Mysterious Sites in the Mojave Volume 1. This is a great spot and several trips would be needed to do it justice. However, we were burning daylight and needed to find the northern entrance to Black Canyon so we could take it south to eventually rejoin Highway 15.
Black Canyon proved to be historic as well as scenic. We made a side trip to an old opal mine called Scout's Cove. Here the miners had dug into a tufa cap and created a snug little cabin. The BLM, bless their hearts, were thinking of our safety and had bulldozed the old opal mine entrance. However, with a bit of patience, you can still pick through the material covering the entrance and find some chips of nice orange opal. Time pushed us back into the Jeep and we continued down Black Canyon. Although we found the Black Canyon road to be in good shape, we have heard that it often turns into a real sand trap. For that reason, you might want to tackle it in a 4x4. We made one more stop at another petroglyph site, and then exited the canyon and meandered across Harper Dry Lake. I say meandered because we had lost the road and it was getting dark. Finally we just bushwhacked a trail toward where we thought a road should be. In the process we came across a nice skull, probably from a cow. It must have been a lucky skull 'cause we found the road and got on the highway. What a shock after the solitude of the rest of the day! This turned out to be a really packed day, probably two days would have been a better idea, but it had been really cold in the high desert at night and we opted for our own bed at the end of the trip.