If you have been following along or have missed the prior two days of this “unplanned” Adventure, we have covered quite a bit of ground all within the Mojave National Preserve. Day one began from Baker, CA and ended with us camping at the Mid Hills NPS Campground near the center of the Preserve.
Day two began from the Mid Hills Campground and ended at the Kelso Dunes Trailhead and Campground. Amazingly, spending the night out at the Kelso Sand Dunes was peaceful, quiet and had zero wind! After all, as Mike said, “you know why the sand dunes are here and how they were created right…?”.
We got lucky I think! Waking up with a sunrise on the sand dunes was awesome and it was also calling to us to take a morning hike. We had seen a couple of other folks that got up a bit earlier than we did and hiked up to the very top of the steepest dune…we weren’t feeling that motivated but we wanted to explore some of the sand hills before we got back on the trail.
The storm systems that had passed through over the past few days made the sand much easier to walk on. There were areas of VERY soft sand but staying in the darker colored areas made hiking much less work. We took some pictures (and you can see more in the Gallery below) and walked around for a bit, making it about half the way up the tallest dune.
Knowing that we STILL had a lot of ground to cover, it was back to camp to pack up and hit the road. We were also getting a little low on fuel now, though Jessy’s Wrangler with the 2.0L turbo does amazingly well on sipping very little gas. At this point we still had about 1/4 tank left and Mike with his JK was just a little below that, though he had brought extra fuel so we knew we were fine.
I had an idea of where I wanted to head today and there was fuel on the way to the Goff’s Schoolhouse. There is a single gas station, Najah’s Hi Sahara Oasis, located at the intersection of Goffs Rd and I-40. They have firewood, a few groceries and a gift shop…but be prepared as nothing is cheap, including gas…of course we are in California.
Goffs and its historical schoolhouse are one of the highlights of this trip. If you have never been, it’s worth a side trip even if you are just traveling along I-40 headed somewhere else. We could have easily spent a few hours here and during the “on season” it appeared that they do tours and even have a kitchen and eating area. Built in 1914 and located along the famous Route 66 before it was “realigned” in 1931, the Schoolhouse was used as a community center, school and library during its 23 years of service. It is now a full museum filled with an awesome collection of history.
Once again, since we were traveling on weekdays and during the winter months, the Museum was closed, but a nice caretaker came out to greet us and provided some information as we were able to take a walking tour of this great facility. I highly recommend visiting this place and I’m sure we will make another trip back.
Many more images will be posted below in the Gallery…but WOW! So much history and so many preserved mining machines from the past! Those that know us, know that we kind of geek out on the mining aspect of this area (ie Death Valley), but it appears that many of these pieces of equipment have been restored to work and run! In fact one of the presses in the back looks to have run recently, so I’m guessing when the “tour” season is in full swing, you can actually see these machines do work! Simply incredible!
With daylight burning and STILL lots of ground to cover, we left with a ton of images and plans to come back again. It was time to head towards the “beginning” area of the “Mojave Road” on the east side of the Preserve. We chose a not much travelled dirt path that converged upon a power line road that eventually turned us north and towards the Piute Ruins which were on my short list.
Taken directly from the NPS website: “4WD and High Clearance is required to reach Ft Piute. It is located in a very remote area. The road is not regularly maintained, and some sections are rough and sandy. Before beginning a journey, drivers should ensure that their vehicle is in good condition: check tires, oil, and gas gauge. For emergencies, carry tools, tire jack, towrope, extra water, and fluids for your vehicle.” Was the drive worth it? Yes!
Another amazing find on this awesome Adventure. Yes, the road up to the Ruins was rough with lots of cantaloupe sized jagged rock, but take your time and with decent off road tires you should not have any difficulty. If you took a look at our day three map, you might have noticed that we passed the Mojave Road in order to take the side trip up to the Ruins, which meant we would have to back track just a short distance to take up the formal Mojave Road. The road out of the Valley is a CLIMB! While not being overly rough or chewed up, it does require your attention in a few spots, and while I was busy taking photos, Jessy did an amazing job of keeping the Jeep from beating us up!
We knew we were on the home stretch, which was a good thing considering the time and the fact we really didn’t have a great idea of where we would end up tonight. The Mojave Road takes us to an intersection with a well maintained and graded route called Ivanpah Road. Ivanpah will take us up through some breathtaking Joshua Tree forests as well as the New York Mountains. The name of the NY Mountains will make complete sense when you see them 🙂 There is also another area which we noted for a future trip to the east of the Ivanpah Road, known as the Castle Mountains and the Hart Mine Road area. The Castle Mountains look breathtaking from a distance, which means another trip! As the road winds its way through the Joshua Trees, you will definitely notice the results of the Dome fire. A 2020, 43,000+ acre fire that caused the death of approximately 1.3 million Joshua Trees. The tragic loss to an area like this is substantial. Another excerpt copied from the NPS requires our attention. Please take a minute to read through and understand this loss.
If you’d like to help with Cima Dome’s recovery, there are a number of things you can do.
First, avoid introducing weed seeds into the backcountry. Hikers and drivers on backcountry roads should make sure their shoes and vehicles are free of mud and plant debris which could harbor invasive plant seeds. Equestrians should be especially careful to follow the Preserve’s rules by feeding horses weed-free seed in the days leading up to and during their visit. Horse droppings could spread invasive seeds to areas miles from any roads that are difficult to monitor, so weed outbreaks there would be difficult to notice and mitigate.
Second, be careful not to start any more fires. Though this fire was started by lightning, it could have been just as easily been started by a person. The New York Mountains and Clark Mountains have high fire potential, and the unburned parts of the Joshua tree forest could still burn, as well. Please only have fires in pre-existing fire rings, clear some defensible space, have lots of water on hand, immediately drown fires when finished and do not have a fire at all if it is windy.
Third, contact us if you’re interested in volunteer opportunities. We have hundreds of Joshua trees being grown for us which we had planned to use for other projects, but now re-planting portions of the Dome Fire burn area has higher priority.
Deep breath! It’s late in the day and we are needing some dinner! We set our sights on Nipton, a small “community” on Highway 164 just outside of Primm, NV, and near the Ivanpah Solar Generating Facility. While we “thought” Nipton would be our saving grace for a campground…we were wrong. Nobody was around as we pulled into town and the “camping” areas we saw were…let’s just say, unacceptable after staying in the amazing places that we had stayed the past 2 nights. BUT we did capture some amazing images as we came into town!
So since Nipton didn’t work out, we focused on the dry lake bed area just outside of Primm. We were running out of options and it was dark. We travelled down a poor excuse for a sand washed out road for a couple miles and called it a day. BUT we had some firewood (planning) and it was a little warmer than what we had been sleeping in…so a quick meal, a small fire and some needed rest were in order. Looks like I’ll have to share some of the morning images in a Part 4 of this 3 Day Adventure! I hope you enjoy the images as much as I did in taking them!
Stay tuned as it looks like Part 4 is just about ready!