As you recall in December we went on an 18 day road trip from our home in Georgia to California and back. Now that we have had to get back, and settle back into the groove of work, it is time to reflect, reminisce, and re-live our trip. Over the next few months, I will be recounting our trip here. The following is from our ramblings through the Mojave National Preserve in San Bernardino County, California.
Our first day saw us heading into the Mojave from the South. We got off Interstate 40 onto Kelbaker Road and headed north up towards Kelso.
Originally opened in 1924 as a train station, Kelso Depot wan renovated and reopened in 2005 as the Visitor Center for Mojave National Preserve. Former dormitory rooms contain exhibits describing the cultural and natural history of the surrounding desert. The baggage room, ticket office, and two dormitory rooms have been historically furnished to illustrate life in the depot in the first half of the twentieth century. Read more here.
The Landscape is littered by sand dunes, volcanic cinder cones, Joshua tree forests, and carpets of wildflowers. Each turn or crest of the ridge brings new expansive views. Before we left from the first day, we drove out to the Kelso Dunes. Too bad we didn’t have time to explore more before the sunset on us.
The next came early for us. We started off about 6:00 a.m. from Baker, California. From there we headed East again, on the opposite end of Kelbaker Road. We drove to Aiken Mine Rd and turned to head up to some volcanic cinder cones to look for the lava tubes. Needless to say, we drove right past the main one you can climb down into – “Guess that means we have to go back now”!
Joshua Tree forest scatter across the landscapes here. The Joshua Tree is a form of Yucca plant. Trees only grow an average of 3 inches per year for the first 10 years and from there slow their growth. If it survives the rigors of the desert, it can live for hundreds of years; some specimens survive a thousand years. From the height on some of the ones we saw, like the one pictured here, it most have been around for 100’s of years to grow that large!!
The first major stopping point along our journey was the Mojave mailbox. Here you sign in the logbook, and then leave (or take as needed) some supplies that could benefit you or others. At the base of the mailbox were bottles of water, an American Flag on a staff, and a surfboard – though not quite sure what one would use a surfboard for out in the desert. Inside the mailbox were food rations, flashlights, batteries, pens, papers, maps, knives, sunscreen, and a ton of other miscellaneous items. Since we visited in the dead of December, we left some hand warmer packs.
We signed the log book, and started to head back to the Jeep when we noticed several collections of various items out behind the mailbox. I had read about the Frog Garden, but didn’t know it was so close to the mailbox. There were probably 100’s of frog statues and toys here. We’ll know next trip to bring along some trinkets to add to these collections. Scatter next to the Frog Garden were also a Bobblehead Garden, some Tonka Trucks, Jeep and Gnome Gardens as well.
All along the trail cairns mark the way. You can watch for these stacks of stone along the way to ensure you are on the correct road, as there are many roads and trails that criss cross the desert.
The expanse of the Mojave Desert.
Marl Springs was our next stop. There is an old well and some fencing from an old homestead.
A placard dedicating the Mojave Road.
Next was Government holes with another water supply near Rock Spring, with an old concrete trough. It was a watering stop on the Mojave Road first dug in 1859 and was later used by cattle ranchers until recent times.
In late 1866 an Army post was established at this spot and called Camp Rock Spring, California. It was maintained through 1867 and into 1868 at which time the U.S. Mail was taken off the Mojave Road and the presence of the Army no longer required. Bert Smith built a rock house in the early 1930’s close to Rock Springs.
Another old homestead along the route.
A plaque dedicated to the Nevada Southern Railway that ran through these parts.
As early as the 1980’s as the Mojave was being developed into a recreational trail, a can was placed hanging out over the road. It has become a tradition to deposit a penny into the can as you pass. If the can is too full, you are to add another one. We paid our poll and moved on…
The next point of interest we came across is the old Mojave School Bus. Not sure how or why it got out here or the history of it. I have heard that since we traveled the road that the bus has been removed or relocated by the National Park Service. I am glad we got to experience it.
As far as the eye can see, we had more road to travel but knew we where getting close to the end. Way off in the horizon you could occasionally seen the flicker reflection from 18 wheel trailers on State Highway 95.
One of the last stops along our route was the old Fort Piute. Along the way we passed what remains of the Irwin homestead – mainly turkey pens that they were trying to raise while living here. On past that is the remains of the old Army Post. It was constructed in 1867 by Company D 9th U.S. Infantry and maintained by them until 1868.
The rock corral used to keep the horses in.
Again, follow the cairns to ensure you are on the right route.
Sunset on the Mojave Desert. If we have a chance to run the Mojave Road again, there are sections to the East and West that we missed that we would want to explore and spend more than a day and half here. To really do justice, I think about three days to explore and really soak in the landscape, history, and all the Mojave has to offer.
Until the next time!