The Mojave Road

The Mojave Desert is a huge swath of land in the Southwest corner of the United States, much of it located in California. It occupies close to 48,000 square miles and is noted for the Joshua Trees that grow only in this desert. The Mojave Road runs across part of the Mojave Desert and through the Mojave National Preserve, a unit of the National Park System. The road was originally a trail for Native Americans stringing together a series of watering holes and providing a route for trade between desert and coastal dwellers. Later it became a route for Spanish missionaries, explorers, and settlers from the 18th to 19th centuries. Today it’s an iconic four-wheel drive road. We spent four days driving the road with a caravan of Four Wheel Pop-Up Campers.

For part of the tour, I had a GoPro camera on the dashboard of our truck. Here’s four days of touring condensed into 10 minutes. Make sure to watch the water crossing at 8:52.

Our tour started at 7:30 a.m. on October 8 in the parking lot of the Avi Resort in Bullhead City. There we met our tour guide, Bob Wohler of the Off-Road Safety Academy. Bob gave us a briefing and provided a radio for each truck to use for communication while touring.

Once we were off the pavement, we stopped to air down our tires. I’ve driven off-road periodically for over 20 years and this was the biggest eye-opener on the trip for me. Less air in the tires gives a much smoother ride. As Bob would say, sympathy for the passengers, sympathy for the equipment, and sympathy for the environment. Our tour passed a number of interest points, the first being Fort Piute. Then it was on to our campsite for the night at School Bus Camp, noted for an abandoned school bus that marked the location until a few years ago when it was removed.

There are numerous points of interest along the road, including a tin can into which you can drop a penny for good luck, the Mojave Mailbox where you can sign your name and leave a comment, and a collection of gnomes and frogs. You just have to see it to believe it. The terrain ranges from sandy flats to rocky road to a dry soda lakebed, traveling through some magnificent Joshua Tree forests along the way. The road has worn down at several points so that you are driving in a canyon so narrow that the vegetation is brushing against the sides of your vehicle.

Once across the soda lake you arrive at a pile of rocks. Bob had instructed us to pick up a rock earlier in the trip, and this is where the rocks are deposited—at Travelers Monument. There is actually a monument buried under this pile of rocks. If you scramble to the top of the pile you can read the plaque. We were sworn to secrecy regarding the words so you’ll just have to plan a visit to read it yourself.

A highlight of the trip was the lava tube, and also the water crossing at the end. We ended up driving the last section of the road from east to west because we helped some travelers who got their vehicle stuck in the sand. Time was an issue, so we took a detour to Afton Canyon Campground for our last night. The next morning two rigs decided to cross the Mojave River with Bob’s coaching.

More photos are available here, and I’ve made a few select images available as fine art prints in my art store.

We logged 180 miles on the tour, some of it on side trips off the Mojave Road. Elevation ranged from 500 feet at the start of the tour to 5,700 feet at the high point.

Rocky Mountain High

Columbine at Woods Lake

When we left Arches National Park on Thursday the temperature was 97 F. After hiking the arches in the morning heat we decided to head to the high country of Colorado, finding a beautiful campsite at Woods Lake. In the morning we had a lovely hike around the lake.

Joann hiking around Woods Lake

After our hike we headed for Ouray, where we had Lunch at Maggie’s Kitchen. We split a buffalo burger.

Our campsite at Old Lime Creek Rd

We are currently camped in a meadow about halfway between Silverton and Durango. Once again I’m posting from my iPhone. More to follow when I have internet access with my laptop.

Great Basin National Park

Our camp near Great Basin National Park

Friday evening June 15 found us in Great Basin National Park. The word was that Great Basin National Park is one of the least visited parks in the country, and that said, we were hoping to find camping at one of the campgrounds in the park. We headed first for Wheeler Peak Campground, which was full, then on to Upper Lehman, which looked like a lovely campground, but it was also full. We then decided to try going off the grid, taking a dirt road near the Pole Canyon picnic area. The road took us just outside of the park where we found a quiet spot in some junipers to put the top up.A  very peaceful and pleasant spot. No services other than a fire pit, and we did not bring fire wood. Not a soul in sight, and not a single car on the road.
The next day we drove back up the mountain and we had a lovely hike up into the Bristlecone Pines. I was hoping to make it an early morning trip to catch some soft light, but given the drive and a 1 1/2 mile hike to reach the trees, that seemed unpractical.

 

Camping on the Green River

Camped on the bank of the Green River at Gray Canyon Campground. Woke up to the sound of the Green River roaring by just outside our backdoor. A pleasant kind of white noise following a good nights sleep. We’re camped at Lower Gray Canyon Recreation Area, just a few miles north of the town of Green River in Utah. Today marks day six on a three week road trip. We found this camp through Campendium, one of our favorite apps for locating camp sites. We are headed for Canyon Lands and Dead Horse Point State Park and as we dallied along yesterday, time passed and we decided to look for a lesser known campsite that might have room rather than risk finding the campsites full at some of the more popular locations on our route. This turns out to be a lovely site, shaded with cottonwood trees on the bank of the river. Only a handful of campers with plenty of open spaces. Once we had settled into our site we went for a swim in the river. Weather is very pleasant this morning, 68 degrees F when we got up at 6:30. Felt a bit cool with the gentle breeze. I put a light jacket on. Now as we’re breaking camp to hit the road at 9:00 the temperature is approching 90.

 

Santa Fe Road Trip: Day Four

We’re spending the night at Diamond Campground, near Springville, Utah. Our destination is Santa Fe. We have a week to get there. So we’ll be wandering the southwest for the next few days. No WiFi here so I’m writing a short post on my iPhone. More to follow when I can sit still long enough to edit photos on the laptop. Our travels so far have brought us over the Sierra Nevada Mountains via highway 120 through Yosemite and down the east side of the Sierra to Big Pine, where our son and daughter-in-law are expecting in July. Our first grandchild. From there it was on to Great Basin National Park, and then on to Salt Lake City where we celebrated the anticipated birth of our second grandchild, due in August.

Holiday Road Trip: Last Leg

Our return trip from the Eastern Sierra took us South down the Owens Valley and then west over Walker Pass on Highway 178. We opted for this route rather than retrace the route we had taken earlier on our trip, coming over Echo Summit on Highway 50. At 5,246 feet, Walker Pass is lower than the northern passes and less likely to have snow, although for this trip snow was not an issue on either route. One of our favorite stops on this route is the Onyx Store, in the little town of Onyx. It was closed when we passed by, not surprising since it was Christmas day. Some years ago I set my panoramic camera up in the store and captured a panorama. A framed print was hanging in the store the last time I looked.

We were tempted to camp at the BLM campsite near the pass, which is in the Joshua Trees. Fascinating subjects for photography.  We pressed on though, hoping to find a spot at the Keyesville Special Recreation Management Area (SRMA). As we set up camp we were surprised to find some fall color remaining on the willow trees along the Kern River. From this point home in the San Francisco Bay area there is not much available for camping, at least not the kind of camping we like.  We found plenty of campsites available with a few campers scattered here and there. In the summertime this is a popular place for mountain bikers and off road recreational vehicles. Fortunately we had a quiet camp.

Walking around camp the next morning I found a reminder that it is good to be “Alive,” a stone somebody had painted and left in camp. I had to stop and smile. Not that I needed a reminder, being in the outdoors and admiring God’s creation is reminder enough.