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Chapter #81: The Mojave National Preserve, CA - July 22, 2008


 

Old Route 66 Map, featuring the Mojave National Preserve (http://jamesmcgillis.com)"Hole in the Wall, Mojave" - Alone in the Desert, Twenty Miles from I-40

On June 1, 2008, I departed Navajo National Monument, Arizona and transited to the Mojave National Preserve in Southeastern California.  Once I reached Flagstaff, Arizona, my two-lane highway driving ended and I headed west on Interstate I-40 for the balance of the trip.Old steel truss highway bridge over the Colorado River, Needles, California (http://jamesmcgillis.com)
 
In the 1970s, I-40 replaced or bypassed much of US Route 66, also known as “America’s Highway”.  From an elevation of over 7000 feet in Flagstaff, I-40 rises and falls until it reaches a low point of 457 feet at its Colorado River crossing, near Needles, California.
 
From an elevation of 3962 feet at Moab, Utah, the Colorado River falls over 3500 feet during its 500 nautical mile trip to Needles, or an average Near flood stage, the Colorado River Highway Bridge, Moab, Utah (http://jamesmcgillis.com)drop of about seven feet per mile.  During that trip, the river encounters the Grand Canyon, as well as Glen Canyon Dam, Hoover Dam and Davis Dam, all three of which thwart its freefall.
 
Having pulled my travel trailer over 440 miles that day, I scanned the I-40 roadside for signs of the California National Preserve, where I planned to camp.  On a previous trip, a tractor-trailer rig had blocked my view and I had overshot my turnoff by twenty miles before realizing my mistake.  Finally, as the sun dipped in the west, I spotted the turnoff for Mitchell Caverns and Hole in the Wall Campground.  As I transited the last twenty miles to my camp, Sunset at Mojave National Preserve (http://jamesmcgillis.com)the sun set behind the dry mountains of the Mojave National Preserve. 
 
Arriving at the campground in twilight, I was surprised to see that there was no campground host, nor did I see campers at any of the twenty-four campsites.  As eerie as that seemed, I selected a campsite and leveled my travel trailer for the night.  Later, as I cooked dinner on my propane grill, I noticed that one other campsite had lights showing, but that was at the far, upper end of the campground.
 
Campsite, Hole in the Wall Campground, Mojave National Preserve, near Needles, California (http://jamesmcgillis.com)In the morning, I awoke by the sound of my fellow campers driving away.  After their departure, I had the entire campground and its hundreds of acres of surrounding desert entirely to myself.  Some humans fear being alone in the vast open spaces, but I relished the opportunity to meditate and commune with nature.
 
Having camped there twice before, I hiked again to the top of a small ridge, which has a 360-degree view of the area.  I checked on a relict cactus patch, including species not found elsewhere nearby and found the cacti healthy and growing, despite the Deserted Hole-in-the-Wall Campground, Mojave National Preserve (http://jamesmcgillis.com)persistent drought of the past decade.  Living as they do among the rocky outcroppings of the ridge, the terrain acts as a buffer from the fires that plague our western deserts as much as they do our western forests.
 
Although it was June in the Mojave Desert, the air temperature that day reached a peak of only 82 degrees Fahrenheit.  With gasoline prices in the area hovering around $4.60 per gallon, the lateness of the season and the fact that it was a Monday meant that few travelers were taking advantage of our great California deserts, which was fine with me.
 
Barrel Cactus, Mojave National Preserve (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Seduced as I was by the splendor and solitude around me, I forgot about time.  It was a rude awakening when I realized that it was mid afternoon and I had over 200 miles to travel before arriving home in Los Angeles.  Finally, I pried myself away and headed back towards civilization.  After nineteen days in the “four-corner states” of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah, it was time for the pleasures of home.
 

By James McGillis at 04:14 PM | Travel | Comments (0) | Link

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