This is a part of a series detailing our itinerary for the upcoming trip through the California desert. For details, and to donate, check out our Kickstarter page.
After leaving Death Valley, our trip progresses southward to Baker, CA, a town on the northern boundary of the Mojave National Preserve. The Mojave is high desert, and as such will be several degrees cooler than the basins of Death Valley, and although the temperatures can still exceed a hundred degrees, I expect the climb in elevation will be a source of some relief.
The Mojave National Preserve is the third largest park in the National Park System in the lower forty-eight states. It includes 1.6 million acres of desert, including mountains and the largest joshua tree forests in the nation.
While in the Mojave, we hope to see Hole-in-the-Wall Canyon. Hole-in-the-Wall is a slot canyon carved by water and wind into a volcanic rock formation, featuring banded rocks and holes varying in size from the very small to those large enough to walk into. The holes were formed by gasses trapped in the lava flows that blanketed the area, and slowly enlarged by erosion over time. Hole-in-the-Wall is supposed to be a hauntingly beautiful location, with areas of the slot narrowing to the point that the canyon is almost a cavern, with the bright sunlight shafting down through the opening in slim beams.
We also intend to visit Kelso, California, a ghost town in the park. Kelso came to be as a railroad stop on the Los Angeles-Salt Lake City route, because of the springs nearby that provided an abundant water source. The town boomed briefly as borax and iron mining took off nearby, but when the mines closed, the town dried up and blew away. The old railroad depot nearly faced demolition, but was saved and today is still maintained as the Mojave National Preserve Visitor’s Center. If we have time, we may also take a slight detour to see Ivanpah, CA, another dead mining town. Ivanpah sits on the shoulder of Clark Mountain, and is not as well maintained as is Kelso.
The nearby Kelso Dune Field features both stabilized sand dunes, and those that are still migrating. If we make it out to the dune fields, I hope to climb a dune (in Kelso they reach up to 650 ft in height) and hear (and perhaps record) a phenomenon that the sand at Kelso is known for… singing sand.
Developed camping facilities are available at Hole-in-the-Wall campground, near the canyon. At over four thousand feet in elevation, I expect that the camping here will provide more comfortable evening temperatures than Furnace Creek. I am very excited to sleep under the desert sky with no rain fly on the tent, and I expect we’ll have plenty of space since we’re going to be there in the off-season.
The next day, we will pack up and get back on the road, heading toward Twentynine Palms, CA and toward the centerpiece of our trip, the Salton Sea.