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MJ Destinations: 3 Days in The Mojave National Preserve – Day Two MJ Destinations: 3 Days in The Mojave National Preserve – Day Two
One of the best parts of ANY Adventure is discovering new things. Whether it’s new places, new people, new scenery or just finding a... MJ Destinations: 3 Days in The Mojave National Preserve – Day Two

One of the best parts of ANY Adventure is discovering new things. Whether it’s new places, new people, new scenery or just finding a new perspective from which to see things. Traveling for many folks can be intimidating, especially when venturing out into the unknown…but it shouldn’t be. Every time we go somewhere we continue to learn, grow and process the new experiences in hopes that the next time we can do better. “Adventuring” also means that you have to plan to not fail…as Benjamin Franklin said “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”. When it comes to jeeping and/or overlanding, especially in remote areas, being prepared is a MUST. I guarantee that by being prepared your experiences will be much more enjoyable! If you’re not sure how to prepare, then I recommend adventuring with someone that is, and learn from them! One thing that’s definite about the offroad industry and this hobby is that there is a plethora of information out there…you just have to learn how to use that information and make it work for YOU!

Day two of our Adventure into the Mojave National Preserve found us waking up at a NPS campground called the Mid Hills Campground. For a map refer back to Day One.

Taking a quick look at my iPad mini running my Gaia app, I knew there was an overlook just a short distance from the campground…and when a map says there’s an overlook at a place you have never been to…well you HAVE TO go see! We made some coffee with the JetBoil and started packing things up to start the day. Our friends that had joined us, Mike and Brad, shared very similar travel habits as Jessy and myself, which is a huge plus when traveling with others. Brad slept inside his 392 Jeep Wrangler and Mike utilized his rooftop tent on his 4 door Jeep JK which meant that it didn’t take much time for us to load up.  The overlook was only a few minutes away, and the short side trip was worth it! I had hiked over a few small hills to get a better perspective of where we were parked. There is only room for a few rigs at the turnaround point so we all fit just fine.

The view from the overlook is looking back west, across the Kelso Cima Road that we drove up and back towards the Kelso Mountains. The storm clouds had cleared out and the views were awesome! After my quick hike back to the group, it was time to hit the road. I knew I wanted to follow Wild Horse Canyon Road along the Mid Hills and in between the Providence Mountains heading towards the Hole-In-The-Wall Information Center. Hole-In-The-Wall is also a center point of interest for the Preserve.

The route we chose was very scenic and the roads were in great shape. This time of year traffic is scarce. We only ran into one other vehicle on our way to Hole In The Wall and had only seen a handful of vehicles on the entire trip so far. Before we arrived at the Information Center I did spot a sign near some rocks off to the left side of the road which had to be investigated! What a find! Some amazing petroglyphs!

Brad was so excited that he even wanted to give a Cholla a hug! (No Cholla nor Brad were hurt during this image being captured :-))

One of the things to remember when traveling with no real plan, in the winter, on a weekday, is that many places are closed this time of year. We found this out at a couple of places during our Adventure. The Information Center is closed on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays and it being a Wednesday when we arrived…well…we will just have to make another trip back!

What we did find out from the signage was that there are a few trails around the area as well as a “Rings Loop” trail. We didn’t know what a “rings” trail meant but we were going to find out! A short distance from the Center around the back were a few parking areas and more signs. The rocks had definitely changed and become much more interesting with lots of holes, erosion, and colors. We also found out that the Petroglyphs we had stopped to see are located along the Rings Loop Trail.

Time for some more hiking! The hikes are actually very short unless you choose to do the entire Barber Peak Loop which is 6 miles. We really just wanted to see the “rings” and poke around which is exactly what we did. We spent maybe an hour or two exploring this area, which also included checking out the large NPS camping area and eating some lunch.

Like I mentioned before, even though we had no real plan, there was still SO much ground to cover and SO much to see, and being the planner that I am, I always have “where will we sleep” thoughts going on in the back of my head. With a quick sandwich in hand, it was time to head towards a place on the map that caught my attention: The Providence Mountains State Recreation Area. Inside this recreation area is also where the Mitchell Caverns Natural Preserve is located. It wasn’t too far from the Hole In The Wall Campground down Black Canyon Road and back up Essex Road. Did I mention that some places might be closed during off-season or during weekdays? Well, here was what we drove up to:

Not having a real PLAN, kind of bit us this time.

Again, just another reason for us to make a return trip and now we know! So, we turned around and headed back towards the intersection of Essex Road and Black Canyon Road, where we also found an intersection of a couple other dirt roads. Since we had been on pavement for a bit, the dirt roads were calling. A look at Gaia showed a path through the Providence Mountains that also had a Spring, a Mine and was also in the direction of the Kelso Dunes, where in the back of my mind, I wanted to camp. We headed out almost straight west along what appeared to be a power line road and then turned into just a maintenance road of some kind…but it was ROUGH and slow going for quite a while until we reached the Vulcan Mine, another cool find! This place was huge in its day and was the most profitable mine in the Mojave National Preserve’s history, producing over seven million dollars’ worth of iron in the 1940s. The iron was used to build war ships that were used during World War II. In 1944, the mining crews stopped extraction after they had removed about half of the iron. This means that about half the iron is still here – it was just too expensive to get to it, since it’s underground.

This is a National Park Service photo:

Views of the Kelso Dunes in the distance as we started back down the road.

Again it was getting late in the day and this afternoon we were losing Brad back to reality as he had prior engagements that he had to attend to. So now there were just two of us as we headed into the Dunes area to see about some camping. I’ve always wanted to explore these dunes having driven by them a few times over the years…my only hope was that there would be a place to camp. Score! This place has some great camping areas and a pit toilet as well. There were maybe 3 or 4 other “Adventurers” in the campground but we mostly had the place to ourselves! We were out of firewood (failed to plan) but that was ok as it was time to cook some dinner and enjoy the company and the sunset! Even had a chance to capture some night shots again!

Check out the Gallery for more images of this perfect campsite! And with one more day left, the Adventure isn’t over! Stay tuned!


Corey Osborne Co-creator

After 23 years of corporate life, I decided to pursue my passions in the off road industry. Specializing in marketing, visibility, relationship and brand building, and acting as MetalCloak's field marketing representative, I have travelled across the country (quite a few times!) using Metalcloak’s CTI (Corner Travel Index) to educate the off road enthusiast. I have also worked with Jeep Jamboree USA as event staff, to provide additional value and education to its participants. I've been fortunate enough to work with both international as well as domestic media; have attended most of the off-road events across our country; and have driven a wide variety of vehicles. I'm a certified PADI scuba instructor and have a BS in Computer Science.