Our first night was spent at The Hole in the Wall Campground where campers stay in the shadows of a beautiful rock wall and fields of Mesquite and Cacti. The formation of the local mountains and mesas involved volcanic rock flow and many holes and caves that remain, invite exploration for hikers and photographers. Dixie joined us for a short hike up into the rocks where we had a great view over the country and looked down on the motor home from a birds eye view. Hole in the Wall is at 4,400’ elevation.
Chris has done a lot of research on boon docking areas in the Mojave National Preserve. We drove to a few sites and chose a beauty that was private and provided a view of the desert and mountains all around. The landmark that helped us find our site was a lumpy rock outcropping with its own holes and caves. We spent the first two weeks of March there exploring the desert cacti, spring flowers, wildlife, diverse rock formations and celebrating the sky. Diverse daily cloud shows, nightly sunsets, moonrises, star gazing and campfires provided our Wi-fi free entertainment.
The Barber Peak Loop Trail took us seven miles around some white Opalite cliffs that were smooth and punctured with many holes and caves. Our weather started out cool with dramatic slate coloured clouds framing the valley. We observed a variety of cacti along the trails: Pincushion, Cotton top, Barrels, Cholla, Pencil, Cow Tongue and Prickly Pear. Rock colours and textures varied along Barber Peak from smooth red sandstone, deeply creviced ochre walls, pinnacled black cliffs that resemble something from a fantasy novel, grey rock faces pocked with various holes and caves as well as bright white opalite with lumps like mashed potatoes and holes for the gravy. We stopped for a snack under some Pinion Pines as our hike heated up. The afternoon sun lit up the desert grasses and wild flowers. The Mesquite bushes were covered with yellow flowers, Sage bloomed purple and red flowers decorated the Desert Paintbrush. We were quite weary when we reached what we thought was the trail end however a high wall of rock rose up at the base of the trail. Our only way home was to go through Banshee Canyon up The Ring Loop Trail. The late afternoon sun cast beautiful shadows within the canyon walls and baked down on us as we completed the seventh mile of our journey.
Between day trips, we hiked and biked around camp. We spotted small Lizards, Cottontails and Red-Eared Desert Hares, the amazingly camouflaged Horned Lizard, beetles, hawks and ravens. Once and awhile a cow or two would walk by fairly close. They roam free in the Mojave as the Preserve is open range for ranchers and one morning we were greeted by a group of five cattle.
An hour’s drive from camp we drove thorough the largest Joshua Tree Forest in the world. Beautiful rainclouds framed the sun streaked drama of the Joshua-covered hills. Along the Cima Road is a remote memorial and cross honoring war heroes. Close by is the Teutonia Peak Trail that winds through hundreds of Joshua Trees some up to twenty feet tall. A few displayed their spring buds ready to blossom and eventually produce new tree limbs. We viewed an abandoned mine shaft which are common throughout the desert. Because the day was cool, Dixie enjoyed the hike especially when we stopped for a picnic lunch and threw her some crusts and fruit. We had a great view of two snow topped mountain ranges at 7000 plus feet in elevation.
We took another trip around the Rings Loops Trail where a few pictographs adorn the rocks. Climbing up the rings was much easier after a one mile hike unlike our first scramble following the six miles around Barber Peak.
One hot day we drove to the Kelso Sand Dunes and trekked across the hot sand. Dixie was not impressed. The huge dunes are famous for the booming sounds that their shifting sands sometimes produce, Unfortunately they were quiet while we were there. The former mining and railway town of Kelso is all but abandoned today. The Railway Station is preserved and holds some great displays of railway history in the area. Some of the original bumpy glass produces distorted views of the gardens. The tracks are still used and we watched a couple of freight trains rumble by, one particularly interesting one carried huge railway maintenance machines. The old post office and one cell jail still exist outside the station. The Palm trees and green grass must have been a sight for dry eyes when visitors pulled in to the platform at Kelso.
We stopped for gas in Amboy one day. It has a preserved café and gas station on Old Route 66. A shell of the old motel stands lonely behind the old sign. A working post office is the only other building in town surrounded by miles of desert and mountains.
Another day, we drove into Needles, a large town built beside the Colorado River where we loaded up on groceries and freshened up our clothes at the largest laundry mat I’ve ever seen. Dixie had a refreshing swim in the Colorado and a good workout pushing against the strong current. We picked up our parcel at UPS and headed back to camp as the sun began to descend. A bird flew across the road into our headlights and in the morning we sadly found a dead Nighthawk wedged into the car bumper. We experienced a variety of temperatures over two weeks in the Mojave and later that day we even had hail.
In 2005, The Hackberry Bush Fire roared through hundreds of acres of the reserve wiping out Juniper and Pinion Pines. Although the ground vegetation has returned, the landscape remains bare except for skeletal black trunks. We hiked the area one cool gray day where the only colour was a few yellow and lavender wild flowers; everything else was gray, beige or black. On another day we took a sunny, hot hike for a few miles across the rocky mountain paths. We lost our way on the poorly marked paths and ended up hike hiking much further than planned. Luckily there were some lush Juniper Trees where Dixie could rest in the shade and we had just enough water to take us back to the car. The problem is, the trail posts are too far apart and are brown so they are almost impossible to see among the taupe and ochre landscape. we were treated to a spectacular sunset on our last night in the Mojave.
We called our campsite Lion’s Head Mountain. You can see why in the photo below.