Into the Mojave Desert in California

(Last Updated On: November 9, 2020)

We immediately head out of Vegas, quickly finding ourselves in the desert.

I’m so happy to be on the road here. I love the big, stark landscapes of the west.

Finally we turn of the freeway and onto Cima Road and into Mojave National Preserve.

It’s a wonderful, sort of desolate landscape, yet filled with green Joshua trees and brilliantly colored wild flowers . . .

. . . and wind, a fierce, car ratting wind. Every time I open the car door I’m shocked by the cold wind, under-dressed for the weather even in a light sweater, struggling to hold the camera steady in the gusty air. Still, it is wonderful to be here, immersed and nearly alone in this huge landscape. (Lane complains about the traffic whenever the rare vehicle passes us. There are not many other people out here.)

The howling wind means we bypass Kelso Dunes, admiring them only from a distance.

I’m compensated by a cool pile of rock. . .

Joshua tree with rocks

. . . and a field of rugged wildflowers.

On the advice of a ranger we head over to Amboy Crater, where we do find a few flowers scattered amid the rock.

Leaving the preserve area we come to a landscape filled with lines of small, even peaks. Natural or not?


Soon there are more and then still more, making it clear that these are the man-made remnants of some industrial operation. Then we start to notice soils traced with white and finally we come to the settling ponds themselves. It is the landscape of salt production.

The next stage of our trip takes us through an area called Wonder Valley. It is desolate, really desolate, with little plant life and a dry landscape flecked with an occasional tiny cinder block house – most of which appear to have been abandoned. I wonder if they fell victim to the economic and housing crisis or a water crisis? As we drive, we speculate as we drive on why these homes were located here in the first place (my guess, retirement community, seems to be mostly right).

Despite internet claims to the contrary and a few reasonably prosperous homesteads, it’s a depressing place, so I’m pleased when we finally reach the otherwise unimpressive town of 29 Palms. At least it is alive. (Alive with cops too. The road from 29 Palms into Joshua Tree is absolutely crawling with police – it’s a multi-city speed trap.) Still, I’m glad we are not staying there and hope something better lies ahead.

The sun is setting as we reach the city of Joshua Tree. It is blindingly bright and golden ahead of us.

Soon we reach the nearly perfect enclave that is Spin and Margie’s – a good end to a long day.


Next post: We have the Park Mostly to Ourselves

California desert wildflower tour

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