8 days and 7 nights exploring the desert mainly in the vast and beautiful Mojave National Preserve. Thursday April 27th to Thursday May 4th 2017
Cherished praise from a friend:
“What great photos!!!… the flowers…the skies…rocks…insects…animals…nature untouched and ready to be discovered and admired. You must be the most fearless, smart and adventurous person I know. I lived vicariously every day of your trip, and I felt like I could smell the flowers, the dust and and the breeze of the dessert.
What a privilege to travel with you! Thanks so much for sharing your amazing adventure,
Day 1 –
Thursday April 27th – Plan was to go to Saratoga Springs area North of Baker below DV. I use Roger and Loris Mitchell guide books for all my jumping off points generally. Great books. https://trackandtrailpublications.com/ Left Los Angeles after 3 days of serious house cleaning and truck maintenance. Transmission flush/change- tranny cooler install, front and rear diff fluid change, transfer case fluid change, and wiring for ham radios. Also built a 220 antenna for the truck. Ya. Busy. Sat in stop and go traffic for 3 hours basically to the 15Fwy. Nuts.
Got to Barstow felt good. Headed to spot I discovered years ago. Weather was great- cool and breezy. The moon was beautiful. There was a really big black widow- impressive and instilled reverence. Breezy- cool- crickets.
Friday April 28th – Slept great. Listened. Looked. Sun warm- breeze cool. Did some shooting. Ear protection I fixed worked great. I love fixing/improvising. Saw some writing on an olde fridge there and folks wanted to keep area clean. Good. I picked up a bag worth of trash and set up ham radio equipment. Quickly realized I forgot 2 tiny things that I also could not operate without. Dang. Was talking on 220MHz Edison system to a guy in Bishop. Was really great to have ability to chat w someone. Hit Barstow for few hrs and tried to find parts I needed. WalMart, thrift store, sad empty Radio Shack- no dice. Decided to check out Alvord Mine which was on way to Baker etc. Turns out it was a place I would see from the 15 and always wanted to visit. Flowers, tortoise I helped, views, breeze, sun. Explored and hiked all around Alvord. 4 kids from NE showed up to explore the mines and I went with them! Crazy but great. Kids in their 20s are fearless and have no sense of mortality. After an hour or so we were in deep and I went looking for 2 of the kids. The beams and workings were sketchy as hell. A lone bat flew back and forth in the tunnel ahead. That did it for me- time to go. A bat that cannot get out was my cue. Food, reclining, relaxing. Kids gave me a prfect tiny cluster of quartz crystals as a gift and left.
Saturday April 29th – Fucking beautiful morning. Breezy and cool in 70s. Some folks showed up I was curious. Hiked over. A lone man was sitting. We talked for a long time. He was in his 80s and could not go climbing around the mines like he wanted. I grabbed guide book that expanded on the history of Alvord Mine so he could read about it. Later hiked up to get cell service to order parts and have them delivered to a friend in Vegas. Saw my first Chuckwalla! Headed back towards 15fwy- mtns on other side looked like they had sand piled up high so I went towards them. Turned into epic day. Another tortoise- a spunky youngster- turned and faced me when I walked up. Brave survivor. Discovered a paradise of desert lilies in full bloom! 4ft tall at times and a fragrance that arrived on the breeze! Spent quiet time there. Bare feet in warm sand. Later- ended up on the Mojave Road! 7 years since I was there. Made it to river crossing. Walked through checking depth. Not today. Eaten alive by mosquitoes. Headed back- following roads I did not know. Night walk. Sleep.
Sunday April 30th – Woke up and played some guitar. Back tracked a bit to see what I missed driving in the dark the night before. Explored the area. Eventually headed back to the road I was on. I may have been thinking- “eventually reach Kelso- head N to Baker”. I eended up in Hidden Valley and Google said I could cross railroad but was not so. Now I was conflicted. Beautiful dunes I could explore and figure it out next day. But I was a little anxious. Half a tank of gas- not urgent- but the miles tick by fast out here on this scale. Started driving on the railroad siding and just kept going. I was in some of the most remote and beautiful country I have ever been in. Many, many miles later arrived in Kelso just as the sun set. Found a spot- showered- cooked- happy.
Monday May 1st – Another great day. Would be heading to Vegas today to pick up parts for ham radio. Found a really cool container near camp. Wooden plug. Wonder what was in it and when?? Checked out the visitor center and hit the road. Cima road was just beautiful as it climbed. Everything was green and flowers everywhere. The scent of flowers was just filling the truck and making my day. Vegas was great- got to see a good friend and my favorite dog. Re-stocked ice and food in the cooler. As often happens, I made a plan but ended up doing something else entirely. I was going to a place out of Primm, NV. I got there with all the casinos etc. and realized I had to get back on the frwy. While looking for the on-ramp I reached a sign that said Ivanpah Dry Lake. Sounded good to me- I figured I would check it out. Was fantastic and they support land sailing there too! I noticed I could get back into Mojave Preserve this way and decided to head back in. Baker and Saratoga Springs were fading fast for this trip. I was not attached and always happy to improvise on the spot. Sometimes it leads to some anxious moments and night driving but pays off every time. The dust cloud behind me got really thick at one point so I stopped and discovered the dry lake was as fine as talcum powder at the far side. The cool dust squished out between my toes when I walked on it. Many smiles. Golden hour. On the paved Morning Star Mine Rd I discovered a tortoise research facility. Cool! Moments later a jack rabbit ran in front of my car and I hit it doing 55mph. My heart sank. I went back. Grabbed my hatchet and walked to the still body. Luckily there was nothing for me to do. I tossed it into the desert as a more fitting resting place than asphalt. Turned up a random dirt road and went up- up- up. Eventually I found a somewhat flat spot and set camp. I was tired. I saw droppings all around and thought people must ride here. Then the wild donkeys started calling in the dark! Had no idea!! I considered moving but although they romped around in the dark they seemed too shy to come and stomp on my face.
Tuesday May 2nd – Hours of hiking. Flowers. Mines with clear pools of water and hoof prints. Salt lick type spots where burros eat white mineral. Yucca everywhere. Then a lone Joshua Tree. Not another in sight anywhere. Exploring the area- creepy cabin w no windows. Incredible desert garden landscapes. Finding a great camp.
Wednesday May 3rd – Beautiful snake trying to get out and about until it saw me. Back into it’s burrough and then just watching me. Off for a hike. Mine. Flowers. Vistas. Moving dark line far off in the distance. A train! Rough but beautiful drive out. 2 yes 2 tortoise on the way. Eureka Dunes with Britt and Bentley. Way way bigger than we thought and way hotter that we could manage. Drive to cell service and work for a bit. Gratefully I can stay longer. Vulcan Mine Rd- a 7 year cycle completing as it began. Camping and exploring the desert. Foshay Pass. Protective cattle. Massive horned steer. Camp. Golden hour. Hike. Birds singing. Bees and flies buzzing. The scent of flowers. First coyotes and owl of the trip. Dinner- radio- stars- sleep.
Thursday May 4th – This is it. Last day. I will sleep in my bed tonight. Morning 540am birds singing. I record them and go back to sleep. A hot frustrating morning experimenting with antennas and ham radio. I talk to a station in MS with only 5W of power! Pack up- roll out. Air up tires and hit the black top. Great drive home. Back with plenty of daylight. I will be changed for weeks. Less phone/computer/internet/chatter. Grateful.