Monday, December 29, 2008

Exploring the Mojave National Preserve

With the holidays approaching, Arienne and I decided to load up our van and explore the desert for a few days before joining her family for Christmas in Las Vegas. We didn't really have a solid plan but headed toward Barstow on Hwy 58. Going through the outskirts of Mojave you start seeing the quirkiness of desert life and the effects of downsizing at Edwards Air Force Base.
When we got to Baker on I-15, we followed signs south to an area we had never visited, the Mojave National Preserve. I'd seen some great photos Jack Dykinga had made in the preserve, so thought we'd take a look and headed down Kelbaker Road toward Kelso, an old railroad stop. The Kelso Depot has been freshly renovated and looked more like a suburban Vegas clubhouse than something out of the old west. Fortunately the old post office had retained its "charm."

Tracks at Kelso

Next, we headed out to the expansive Kelso dunes and went for a hike. The dunes were amazing, with signs of wildlife everywhere and remnants of the spring wildflower bloom. We'll have to come back to see that.
Just to the south we could see high granite spires sticking over the horizon so went that way and found a campsite where I could get out and photograph at sunrise while Arienne slept in.

There was a storm rolling in and despite my hopes for a great sunrise, the clouds blocked the good light. It was bitter cold with strong wind, so before long I crawled back in the van and made a second cup of coffee. Arienne was ready to face the world and we went on a nice walk through the unworldly gardens of cactus, yucca, and joshua trees. I can only imagine what it will be like in March or April when everything is blooming!

With a bit of time left we explored some dirt roads near Cima where we found what is apparently the thickest forest of joshua trees in existence. 

Off in the distance I saw an odd wooden structure and figured it could only be the remnant of an old mine. Piles of old tailings were a good clue. We followed a dirt road right to it and spent the better part of the day crawling down inside dark abandoned mine shafts. It was cool to see, and I think we found a gold nugget (fools gold most likely!).

So thats wraps up our first trip to the Mojave Preserve but you can bet we'll be back and next time we'll bring a 4wd so we can really get off the beaten path. If you have any favorite spots to see petroglyphs, wildlife, flowers, etc, I appreciate your input. 
As always, your comments are welcome, and each of the image are available as fine art prints. 

-Jerry Dodrill

1 comment:

Richard Wong said...

Looks like an interesting place Jerry. The Trona Pinnacles seems like an interesting place that you might want to check out though I think that is closer to Death Valley.