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Thread: Mojave National Preserve

  1. #1

    Mojave National Preserve

    The Mojave Desert first caught my interest last year while driving to L.A. on a family vacation, but I never seriously expected to hang out there. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I began obsessing about the area after watching an episode of the YouTube series Roadkill in which they drove across the Mojave in southern Nevada in a lowrider (yeah, both silly and hilarious). I needed a break from the snow in Utah so I researched the area and found that Mojave National Preserve in California looked ideal for a road trip. At the last minute I pitched the idea to Chris. He had to shuffle some things around at work, but by Thursday afternoon he was able to commit to the trip, and on Friday afternoon before the long Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend we hit the road. The sun set before we reached I-15, but driving at night made for a good excuse to make a slight detour to the Las Vegas Strip since I'd never been there at night. We hit Baker, CA at about 10PM and loaded up on fuel and "supplies," then drove southeast into Mojave National Preserve. I'd previously identified a camping spot using Google Earth, so we followed the GPS along dirt roads in the dark until we found camp.

    Chasing the setting sun east of Cove Fort, UT

    Las Vegas Strip

    52 degrees in Baker, CA

    Mojave National Preserve sign outside of Baker

    An owl took up residence in the cliffs above our camp and its hoot woke me up a couple of times during the night, but I just smiled at the novelty of it and went back to sleep each time. I was eager to rise after the sun came up so I could see in the daylight where we'd landed. We were camped in Black Tank Wash, in the middle of an area called Cinder Cone Lava Beds. Before even fixing coffee and breakfast, Chris and I hiked around for quite a while exploring our new surroundings. After eating breakfast and packing up our gear, we drove a short while to look at a lava tube. The lava tube had a couple of skylights, but due to overcast skies we didn't get to see the beam of sunlight that I was hoping for.

    Camp in Black Tank Wash at Cinder Cone Lava Beds

    Cinder cone

    Cinder Cone Lava Beds

    Lava tube entrance

    Lava tube

    Ceiling texture in lava tube

    Our next stop was Kelso, which is a former railroad depot and mining town, and which is now a visitor center managed by the NPS, surrounded by abandoned buildings and infrastructure. After checking out the small museum at the visitor center we headed south and made the three-mile round-trip hike to the highest point in the Kelso Dunes. Up to this point we hadn't encountered many people in the Preserve, but at the top of the dunes there were perhaps 30 other people. The hike up the dunes was a slow slog, but Chris and I ran down the steepest slope on the way down and made fun, quick work of the descent. After a simple lunch at the Kelso Dunes trailhead we drove farther south to the Granite Mountains and found a place to camp near Granite Pass. It was somewhat early in the day to set up camp, but we wanted to make up for arriving late the previous evening. Once we found a suitable camp spot we hiked around and explored the gorgeous granite hills and boulders on the east side of the Granite Mountains. Seriously, the area was simply beautiful. We turned in early that night and slept on the ground without tents.

    Kelso depot

    Kelso jail

    Kelso Dunes

    Kelso Dunes and Providence Mountains

    Horde on top of Kelso Dunes

    Granite Mountains

    Chris feeling the cactus

    View toward the Providence Mountains

    Cholla near camp

    Sunday was much less planned out than the previous days. Following a map that Chris had grabbed at the Kelso visitor center, we took a dirt road between Kelbaker Road and Essex Road. Along the way we encountered mining ruins near Hidden Hill and Bighorn Mine. We entered a mine shaft, explored mining ruins, and we both really enjoyed the restored cabin called Hilltop House. We returned to the pavement at Essex Road and went right at the fork onto Black Canyon Road, where we stopped a couple of times to visit Colton Well and some volcanic alcoves at the northern end of Fenner Valley that had obvious signs of Indian occupation.

    Granite Mountains sunrise

    Granite Mountains camp

    Windmill at Hidden Hill

    Hidden Hill mine shaft

    Notebook in Hilltop House

    Hilltop House fireplace (yes, I took a hit from the Fireball bottle)

    Jeep and Chevy at Hilltop House

    Covered mine shaft near Bighorn Mine

    Bighorn Mine water tank

    Mountain layers southwest of Bighorn Mine

    Windmills at Colton Well

    Fallen windmill at Colton Well, Providence Mountains in the background

    Alcove at the northern end of Fenner Valley

    At Hole-in-the-Wall we followed the Rings Trail through Banshee Canyon. At two dryfalls in the canyon there were steel rings embedded in the cliffs that provided hand- and footholds. Near Hole-in-the-Wall we spotted some petroglyphs, and a short distance away we sought to find more rock art at Counsel Rocks. My research played out well and we found the pictographs and petroglyphs that I'd hoped to find.

    Rings Trail at Hole-in-the-Wall

    Rings Trail at Hole-in-the-Wall

    Rings Trail at Hole-in-the-Wall

    Banshee Canyon

    Me on the Rings Trail at Hole-in-the-Wall

    Petroglyphs south of Hole-in-the-Wall

    Wild horses near Wild Horse Canyon

    Counsel Rocks petroglyphs

    Pictograph alcove

    Counsel Rocks pictographs

    Counsel Rocks pictographs


    Counsel Rocks hollow boulder

    Chris photographing Counsel Rocks pictographs

    It was getting late and we hadn't planned on a specific campsite that evening. We were on Cima Road and just started exploring dirt roads at random while looking for a good place to camp. There were some nice, scenic camp spots against granite outcroppings just west of Kessler Peak, but there was no cell service there (which was sort of important to both Chris and me, as we wanted to communicate with our significant others). After more wandering we found a decent campsite at White Rock Spring. This time I set up my tent while Chris slept on the ground sans tent. At sunup I awakened after a good night's sleep and checked out our surroundings. There was a corral nearby made out of railroad ties--out of habit I checked the ties for date nails, and I even found a few dating from the early- to mid-1930s. It was a relatively short drive from our last night's camp to I-15, and from there it was a pretty straightforward cruise home, with fuel stops in Vegas and Cedar City.

    Mid Hills

    The Mojave Cross

    Power lines near Cima Dome

    Camp at White Rock Spring

    Camp at White Rock Spring

    Corral at White Rock Spring

    Date nail in railroad tie at White Rock Spring corral

    Road south from White Rock Spring

    Cima Road

    Despite being managed by the National Park Service, Mojave National Preserve was a nice place to visit. Restrictions were much fewer than in any national park--for example, dogs, primitive dispersed camping, and campfires are all allowed. Chris and I talked about perhaps visiting JOTR next January...we'll see how that compares to MOJA.

    Photo Gallery: Mojave National Preserve
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  3. #2
    That bee hive is awesome!

    Loved the TR and pics.

  4. #3
    Internet searches put me in the vicinity of the first site. But I completely stumbled past the honey comb to the pictograph alcove on a random ramble heading up the mesa. Those are my favorite finds. That place has some energy, at least, I thought so. Special. Your camera skill brings out the reds with real clarity.

  5. #4
    Great pics, this place is definitely on my bucket list

  6. #5
    Awesome! I love riding out there. I bird hunt on the far eastern corner almost every weekend.

    We ride our dirt bikes across there from walking box ranch to New York Mountains up to the Kelso rd and itno Baker. Then we come back on the north of the aiken mine and down to Teutonia Peak (my favorite area!), through Ivanpah and back.

    Love the trips across there and I'm always amazed at the diversity.
    beefcake. BEEFCAKE!

  7. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by nelsonccc View Post
    We ride our dirt bikes across there from walking box ranch to New York Mountains up to the Kelso rd and itno Baker. Then we come back on the north of the aiken mine and down to Teutonia Peak (my favorite area!), through Ivanpah and back.
    I'd love to bring my dirt bike next time I go there--I assume being plated in Utah would be good enough to meet the NPS requirements. Is your bike plated, or is that even anything to worry about? Saw a couple of guys with KTMs camped just off Cima Road but didn't notice whether they even had plates.
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  8. #7
    I ride my plated DR650 but my buddies don't. We've ridden across there between Ivanpah and Baker about a dozen times and only seen a ranger once. We were in a gnarly back section of desert road hauling ass and I was bringing up the rear. I come around the corner and there is a very small, petite blond ranger (very attractive) standing in the middle of the wash waving me down. Asked if I was with the other two guys who just came through and refused to stop and weren't plated. I said I was but was able to sweet talk her into believing we didn't realize we needed plates. She half halfheartedly believed me and gave me a stern warning. I caught up to the other two and found out that they both made high speed maneuvers to avoid being pulled over and the one guy pretended he never saw her.

    We avoid the more popular areas and since we are on dirt bikes we stick to the more 4x4 type roads. Never really been an issue. There's plenty of stuff to see on the outskirts where you don't even have to go into the main ranger area.

    Next time you come be sure to bring your dirt bike. Here are a couple of my TR's for the area on a drit bike.
    beefcake. BEEFCAKE!

  9. Likes Udink liked this post
  10. #8

  11. #9
    Awesome report but are there any areas you can ride a quad around was thinking of doing some exploring in that area this weekend thanks !!!
    Ride On !!!!
    13 Silverado CC 6.2L
    04 YFZ 450
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    03 Suzuki LT80

  12. Likes RelentlessHiker liked this post
  13. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by ChanManYFZLV View Post
    Awesome report but are there any areas you can ride a quad around was thinking of doing some exploring in that area this weekend thanks !!!
    There are lot's of areas on the fringes that you can ride the quad on but I wouldn't ride a quad into the park itself. I love the nipton/ cal-nev-ari areas. Lot's of areas to explore. I've seen lots of quads and dirt bikes between nipton and the castle mtns. I think that as long as you stay in Nevada you're not in the park.

    I'll be out in that area bird hunting saturday morning if you're into that and want to come. Once the season is over next weekend I'll spend more time on the moto out there.
    beefcake. BEEFCAKE!

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