Monday, March 30, 2009

THE MOJAVE ROAD - A TRIP THROUGH TIME

TRIP PREP


Well, it was time for another adventure, so with friends Mike and Nancy we headed out towards the Mojave Desert. I had read about the Mojave Road, a 130 mile 4-wheel drive road, leaving the Colorado River and ending just east of Barstow. Originally the Mojave Road was established in the 1850’s as a wagon route across the Mojave. The army established forts along its route at spots where water was available. The road never became a favored route for settlers heading to California, but rather a route for freight wagons.

Electing to spend two days on the road, we eliminated the first 14 miles by starting our trek where the Mojave Road crossed Highway 95, just west of Laughlin, Nevada. Did someone say Laughlin? We used Laughlin for our pre-trip preparation, by visiting various gambling establishments, and of course sustenance for the arduous trip ahead. After a dinner of lobster and a champagne brunch in the morning, we finally hit the trail on Saturday morning around 9 o’clock.




OUR FIRST CAMPFIRE
OR IS IT BANANAS FOSTER?


FORT PIUTE
Fort Piute was our first stop on the trail about 9 miles over a rough and bumpy section of trail. Not difficult, but slow going. The remains of the fort are protected now as are all sites of historic significance along the trail. The majority of the road is in the Mojave National Preserve. Fort Piute was located at a year round water source and established to protect people traveling on the road.

STOPPING ON THE GRADE UP TO PIUTE SUMMIT
After topping Piute Summit at 3400 feet, we headed across Lanfair Valley. As we headed west, Joshua Trees started appearing. Soon we were in a forest of them and it is said there are more Joshua Trees here than in the national park of the same name. Hanging from one of the Joshua Trees, is the penny can. It has become a tradition to leave a penny in this can to help maintain the Mojave Road. Mike being a big spender left a quarter.

MID HILLS CAMP
After 42 miles of bouncing around, we opted for an early camp at an established campground about 8 miles south of the Mojave Road on a well established route. It is usually at camp when you discover what you have forgotten to bring. We discovered at our lunch break that I had forgotten the chicken salad for our sandwiches. Luckily we didn't starve. Mike went to set up his tent, a remembered he had left it in his truck, which was parked in his driveway. Come campfire time, the axe I brought was no where to be found. We did manage to remember the beer and wine. Funny how that is.
After a dinner of chicken chili, we retired to the campfire before heading off to bed, Cathie and I in our warm tent, with Mike and Nancy sleeping out under the stars.

A MOJAVE NATIVE
After a great breakfast prepared by Mike and Nancy, we broke camp and joined back up with the road and turned west. After a short distance on established county roads, we were once again on the trail. For the first 5 miles we encountered numerous woop-ti-doos which kept the speed down below 5 mph. We had been seeing wild flowers for most of the trip, and in this section they were extremely plentiful. We also happened upon a pair of Golden Eagles, who upon our approach, took to flight.
After another mandatory stop at Mojave Road Mail Box, where one signs the log book, we began our gradual decent to Soda Dry Lake.

SODA DRY LAKE
It is said that if Soda Dry Lake is not dry, you should not attempt to cross it. Those that do, become mired in deep mud, and there is not tow service who will risk trying to save your ass. If you are unable to extricate yourself, the only solution is to wait for the lake to become dry again.
Near the far side of the lake is the Travelers Monument and according to one more Mojave Road tradition, one must place a rock on the pile, adding to the Monument's size. Of course you have to know about this before arriving at the monument, because there are no rocks on the dry lake. So having read about this tradition, we brought our rocks with us. Once depositing your rock, you are then allowed to climb to the top of the pile and read a plaque hidden within. Only those who deposit a rock know what is inscribed on the plaque and must never divulge it's contents.

A "DIFFERENT" VIEW OF THE MONUMENT

MIKE WORKING ON HIS CHRYSLER
I was kidding Mike about his Jeep being a Chrysler, a company who's future is suspect, so I had to get this picture of him working on it. Turns out, our Toyota had some problems, and Mike was kind enough to follow us all the way home to make sure we didn't break down. Guess I should keep my mouth shut.

FLOWER FIELDS
After crossing the lake, we traveled through some deep sand requiring one to keep moving or get stuck. We were also encountering some high winds causing poor visibility due to the blowing sand. We later learned the winds were gusting to 50 mph.
MIKE FORDING THE MOJAVE RIVER
The last part of the trip is through Afton Canyon, probably the most pretty section of the entire road. We didn't stop for photos due to the winds and blowing sand. The road shares the canyon with the Union Pacific Rail Road and the Mojave River. At first the River is barely visible, but as you travel up canyon the water becomes more plentiful with the last river crossing shown in the photograph.
We reached the end of the trail around 3 o'clock having enjoyed the entire experience. We were guided across the desert by the book the "Mojave Road Guide, An Adventure Through Time", written by Dennis Casebier. It is a mile by mile description of the entire route and provides a wealth of information about the history of the Mojave Road. At the title of the book suggests, it was just one more of Gassaway's Adventures.

SOME THINGS JUST DON'T SURVIVE THE TRIP ACROSS THE MOJAVE!

If you want to know what is inscribed on the plaque on Soda Lake, let me know and I'll help you pick out a rock to take there.











2 comments:

Diane said...

The photos were great and so were the narratives. Sorry we missed the trip. Maybe we will be invited for another trip sometime!!
Your friends,
Gary and Diane

Connie said...

I hope you had at least one Jalama Burger!