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Trip Reports


Majestic Mojave Springtime Sojourn Car Camp
By Aaron Jones
HIKE 04/20/2013 MOD

MAJESTIC MOJAVE SPRINGTIME SOJOURN CAR CAMP
BY: AARON JONES

WE WERE TWO HUNDRED AND EIGHTY SEVEN MILES OUTSIDE OF SALT LAKE WHEN WE SPIED THE FIRST JOSHUA TREE. WITH BRANCHES UPLIFTED TO THE SKY THE TREE SEEMS TO SAY HALLELUJAH AND WELCOME TO THE DESERT. THE JOSHUA TREE IS THE SIGNATURE PLANT OF THE MOJAVE AND WHEN WE SAW IT WE KNEW WE HAD ARRIVED. THE MOJAVE DESERT HAS BEEN THE HOME OF GRIZZLED MINERS, MISFITS, AND THE MALADJUSTED. INDEED, THERE IS A WHOLE CONTINGENT OF INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE CONVINCED THAT A SITE ENTITLED GIANT ROCK IS A LANDING SITE FOR FLYING SAUCERS. THE MOJAVE IS AN UNUSUAL ENVIRONMENT AND WE WERE EAGER TO EMBRACE A BEAUTY AND UNIQUENESS THAT IS OFTEN OVERLOOKED.

HEAT AND SAND ARE TYPICAL THOUGHTS REGARDING THE MOJAVE, BUT DID YOU KNOW THAT THE MOJAVE TRIBE OF NATIVE AMERICANS CALLED THEMSELVES THE “PEOPLE ALONG THE RIVER” AND THEY LIVED IN A LUSH ENVIRONMENT BESIDE THE COLORADO RIVER BEFORE IT WAS DAMMED AND DIVERTED UNTIL IT BECAME A GHOST OF ITS FORMER SELF? DID YOU KNOW THAT DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK IS HOME TO BOTH TELESCOPE PEAK AT 11,049 FEET AND DARWIN FALLS A LUSH OASIS THAT IS VISITED BY OVER EIGHTY SPECIES OF BIRDS? FIRE UP YOUR COMPUTER AND VIEW THE SPRINGTIME BLOOM IN THE ANTELOPE VALLEY POPPY RESERVE OR POUR OVER A MAP AND PONDER THE ABUNDANCE OF NATURAL AREAS INCLUDING NATIONAL PARKS, NATIONAL MONUMENTS, STATE PARKS, NATIONAL CONSERVATION AREAS, AND WILDERNESS AREAS WITHIN THE MOJAVE AND YOU WILL QUICKLY REALIZE THAT THE COMMON ONE DIMENSIONAL VIEW OF THE AREA IS LIKE A SONG TITLE FROM PORGY AND BESS: IT AIN’T NECESSARILY SO.

WE STARTED OUR TRIP IN THE RED ROCK CANYON NATIONAL CONSERVATION AREA OUTSIDE OF LAS VEGAS. OUR HIKES TOOK US TO LA MADRE SPRING, THE CALICO TANKS, ICE BOX CANYON, AND FIRST CREEK. WHAT DID WE SEE THERE? A SPRING, A TANK, A POOL, AND A GROTTO IN THAT ORDER. WE EXPERIENCED WATER IN THE DESERT AS WE WERE SURROUNDED BY STUNNING MONOLITHS OF CRIMSON SANDSTONE.

ONWARD WE WENT TO ENCOUNTER THE GREAT DIVERSITY OF THE MOJAVE NATIONAL PRESERVE. A PRESERVE IS ESSENTIALLY A NATIONAL PARK WITH THE ONE EXCEPTION THAT HUNTING IS ALLOWED. AS A RESULT OF THE ONE WORD DIFFERENCE IN THE TITLE ONE CAN EXPERIENCE THE BEAUTY AND INTRIGUE OF THE AREA WITHOUT THE TEEMING MASSES THAT INVADE YOSEMITE OR THE SOUTH RIM OF THE GRAND CANYON. OUR FIRST HIKE IN THE PRESERVE WAS TO TEUTONIA PEAK AS WE RAMBLED DOWN A PATH ADORNED WITH JOSHUA TREES, BLOOMING CACTUS, AND WILDFLOWERS. LATER THAT DAY WE THREADED OUR WAY THROUGH BANSHEE CANYON ON THE RINGS LOOP TRAIL WITH THE HELP OF RINGS MOUNTED IN THE ROCK. THE CANYON IS SO NAMED BECAUSE OF THE WEIRD SWISS CHEESE FORMATIONS IN THE ROCK THAT SOUND OUT AN EERIE DIN IN THE WIND. IT MUST HAVE BEEN UNBELIEVABLY BIZARRE LATER THAT EVENING AS WE WERE ASSAILED WITH GALE FORCE WINDS THROUGHOUT THE NIGHT. FORTUNATELY, WE WERE SAFELY ENSCONCED IN OUR TENTS AT THAT TIME AND IT WAS THE ONLY REALLY UNPLEASANT WEATHER WE ENCOUNTERED.

THE NEXT DAY WE SHOT BACK NORTHWARDS ON THE WEST SIDE OF THE PRESERVE. WE SAMPLED HIKING THROUGH THE KELSO DUNES WHICH IS ONE OF ONLY ABOUT THIRTY BOOMING SAND DUNES IN THE WORLD. IF YOU RUN THROUGH THE DUNES WHEN CONDITIONS ARE RIGHT YOU CAN HEAR A BOOMING SOUND. AFTERWARDS, WE ENJOYED THE KELSO VISITOR CENTER AND TOOK OFF FOR ANOTHER MAGICAL ADVENTURE, THE LAVA TUBES IN THE NORTHWEST PART OF THE PRESERVE. THAT NIGHT WE CAMPED IN AFTON CANYON ADDING ON ONE MORE UNUSUAL MEMORY OF OUR TRAVELS. AFTON CANYON IS ONE OF THE FEW PLACES YOU CAN SEE THE MOJAVE RIVER OR THE “UPSIDE-DOWN RIVER” AS IT HAS BEEN CALLED. IT FLOWS MOSTLY UNDERGROUND, IT IS WIDER AT THE SOURCE THEN AT THE MONTH, AND IT DOESN’T FLOW INTO THE OCEAN.

RAINBOW BASIN NATURAL AREA NORTH OF BARSTOW WAS OUR NEXT STOP. THE WHOLE PLACE LOOKS LIKE MOTHER NATURE WENT ON SOME KIND OF CRAZED JAG WITH A JUMBO BOX OF CRAYOLAS. A SCRAMBLE UP OWL CANYON OFFERED A PANORAMA OF TAN, GREEN, BURGUNDY, AND GOLDEN ROCKS SOME OF WHICH WERE SURPRISINGLY DISSIMILAR FROM OTHERS IN THEIR SURROUNDINGS. A SIDE TRIP EXPLORING A CAVE IN THE CANYON PROVIDED ONE MORE ADDITIONAL TREAT. A FULL MOON ROSE IN THE SKY THAT EVENING AND WE WERE ALL ENTRANCED BY THE INCREDIBLE STUNNING BEAUTY THAT SURROUNDED US.

NEXT MORNING WE SET OFF FOR RANDSBURG, CALIFORNIA A PLACE THAT IS DEEMED A LIVING GHOST TOWN. AMONGST THE RUST AND DUST OF DECADES THERE WERE SOME FIVE OR SO CONCERNS THAT WERE OPEN DURING OUR VISIT. IT WAS A DELIGHT TO CONVERSE WITH THE REMAINING POPULACE AND ADMIRE THE REMARKABLE SPIRIT OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE NOT GIVEN UP IN THIS HARSH ENVIRONMENT. RANDSBURG WAS ALSO THE ONLY PLACE WHERE I SAW AN OCOTILLO PLANT. WITH LONG GREEN WHIPLIKE BRANCHES TIPPED WITH BRILLIANT RED TASSELS OCOTILLO IS A VISUAL PSYCHOTROPIC WHO’S EFFECT TAKES PLACE IMMEDIATELY. DASHING OUT OF TOWN WE WERE OFF TO EXPLORE ANOTHER GEOLOGICAL ODDITY, THE TRONA PINNACLES. THE PINNACLES CONSIST OF HUNDREDS OF TUFA SPIRES ARISING FROM THE BED OF AN ANCIENT LAKE. IT WAS AN AMAZING SITE AND ONE THAT HAS NOT GONE UNNOTICED BY MOVIE DIRECTORS ESPECIALLY THOSE SEEKING A VENUE FOR A SCIENCE FICTION FILM. AFTERWARDS, IT WAS UP THE ROAD TO PANAMINT SPRINGS IN DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK AND THE END OF ANOTHER AMAZING DAY IN THE MOJAVE.

WILDROSE PEAK A FORESTED MOUNTAIN THAT STANDS IN STARK CONTRAST TO THE LOWER REGIONS OF DEATH VALLEY WAS PLANNED TO BE ONE MORE EYEOPENING EXAMPLE OF THE DIVERSITY OF THE MOJAVE BUT, MOST OF THE GROUP HAD NEVER VISITED DEATH VALLEY AND WANTED A MORE WIDE RANGING EXPERIENCE. NEVERTHELESS, AN AGENDA WAS DEVELOPED THAT ONCE MORE DISPUTED THE CONVENTIONAL VIEW OF THINGS. TWO OF US VISITED THE LOVELY OASIS OF DARWIN SPRINGS AND WE ALL HIKED IN MOSAIC CANYON AND THE SALT RIVER TRAIL. THE SALT RIVER WAS TEEMING WITH ENDANGERED PUPFISH PROVING AGAIN THAT THERE REALLY IS LIFE IN THIS ENVIRONMENT. THE NEXT DAY WE BID FAREWELL TO THE MOJAVE AND TRAVELED HOMEWARDS TO THE GREAT BASIN.

IT WAS A FANTASTIC TRIP. WE SAW A LOT, WE DID A LOT, AND WE CAN NOW CONFIDENTLY REJECT THE COMMON VIEW OF THE MOJAVE BECAUSE WE KNOW IT AIN’T NECESSARILY SO. PARTICIPANTS INCLUDED RON AND LENA MECK, RUSSELL PATTERSON, AND AARON JONES.




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