On the road to Las Vegas, a layover day in Mojave National Preserve

Our first night in Mojave National preserve, we went to bed about ten PM so we would be ready to get up early. About one o’clock in the morning, it started to rain. Rain may be over dramatizing it, a few isolated rain drops started falling. This has happened to me several times camping out in the desert and, every time, it soon stopped. My first thought was to ride it out but, after about a minute – it is hard to tell accurate time in the dark, at one o’clock, with heavy cloud cover;  it could have been less, probably not more – I got up, threw my ground cloth and sleeping mat into the back of Ed’s truck and climbed into the cab with my damp sleeping bag.

It was warm, so I went back to sleep. At about three o’clock, when I woke up, the sky was clear and I was uncomfortable sleeping sitting up so I got out, took my ground cloth and sleeping mat out of the truck, laid out my bag, and went back to sleep. All in all, I was probably awake for ten minutes and was ready to go when the sun came up. I am still sort of amazed at how painless the whole experience was.

After a quick breakfast of Kellogg’s Super K and no tea or coffee – because we didn’t have a stove – we set out to explore. I first went to the area the year after I fell in love with the great California desert in April of 1977.

As an aside, Alan Cranston was then a California Senator and was pushing for a national park in the area. The problem was that the other Senator was always a Republican and the rule of the day – I don’t know if it is official or unofficial – was that both Senators had to agree to make it a park and the Republicans didn’t want to. Shortly after Dianne Feinstein became Senator, giving the state two Democratic Senators, the Mojave National Preserve was established, in 1994, along with the change – and enlargement – of Death Valley from a National Monument to a National Park. The Preserve is administered by the U.S. National Park Service and is located in California about three hours south of Las Vegas which was very handy for us. The Preserve is about the same size as Delaware at 1.6 million acres but with a lot less people (although with railroad tracks running through it and lots of power lines, only about half is designated wilderness). But there are three major mountain ranges; some great, 600-foot-high, sand dunes; several volcanic cinder cones with lava flows; and a couple of dry lakes. End aside.

We planned on exploring two areas, the Hole in the Rock area of the Providence Mountains in the morning and the Kelso Dunes in the late afternoon. On the way to Hole in the Rock, I was a little surprised at how many inholdings there were and how used up the land seemed. People have probably been running and over grazing cattle here for over a hundred years which may help to explain why the Republican Senators were against establishing a park.

.We did see more flowers than I expected, however, including some nice  orange mallows – Sphaeralcea ambigua – which I think is related to the marsh mallow

and our friends, the same Echinocereus that we enjoyed near our campsite

but my favorite plant that we ran into was Salvia dorrii – desert sage – with its balls of purple flowers each with tiny purple orchids growing out of them

When we got to  the Hole in the Rock visitor center, I was reminded – again – how good government architecture is. Not just in the big, expensive buildings like the Federal Building in San Francisco (not my picture)

but in cheap, small buildings, tucked away behind the mountains, in the desert; just fitting in perfectly with its solar panels – solar photovoltaic panels? – mounted on cheap, concrete, highway dividers.

We spent the late morning walking a couple of trails in the area and it almost felt like we were walking through botanical gardens.

Then it was back to the Visitor Center to have lunch in the shade of the covered porch.

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