Hangin’ in Mojave (2a)

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Tuesday, 11 Feb….

FINALLY starting to feel really better today, with the cough diminishing and my energy continuing to rise. Still not up to a lot of hiking, though, so a short morning walk was all I tackled.

The morning sun lit up the slope west of camp. This area is favored by the barrel cacti, and their purplish spines set off many hillsides. This plump fellow guides the way to Banshee Canyon in the distance.

 

 

DSC_0229Another oddity we’ve never encountered before: the coyote gourd. Looks like a small un-ripe watermelon, but it’s light and some of them rattle with internal seeds.

 

After breakfast, we decided to gas up Ralph. At 1/4 tank, we didn’t have the comfort zone needed for long lonely desert roads. Nearest gas is at Needles or Baker, each about 70 miles away. But Baker was close to something we wanted to see, the Lava Tube area, so that was our pick.

DSC_0263Baker is a nondescript whistle-stop about halfway between Barstow and Las Vegas, on I-15. Coming down off the high country of the Preserve, it looked like nothing more than a thin scattering of shacks along the Interstate. Gee whattayaknow – – that’s what it was.

Driving back into the Preserve, we were amazed at the total lack of signage of any kind. Major (dirt) roads simply darted left and right off the main Kelbaker road (Kelbaker – – Kelso to Baker – – get it?). DSC_0264

Some roads went somewhere, some didn’t. Fortunately, we have a great NatGeo map and some terrific guidebooks, and they helped us find the Lava Tube Trail, which (finally) was flagged by this gallant 6” square notification.

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The Lava Tube was smallish, as such structures go, but nevertheless intriguing, eerie, and charming.

 

 

DSC_0285Several holes in the roof let sunlight streak in at various places.

 

 

 

 

 

DSC_0291When we walked the old dusty floor, the sunbeams took life and became Luke Skywalker laser swords scything down into the tunnel.

 

 

DSC_0293After Baker and the Lava Tube, it was getting late. Ralph was waiting patiently amidst the deep green creosote, the lava flows and cinder cones.

– – to be continued.

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