— lots of trouble uploading a large post, had to split it in two parts. This one is the second half of the day, (2a) is the first half —
We started back from the Lava Tube by simple pavement, but whimsically decided on a “long cut”. [For those of you not familiar with the lexicon, a long cut is like a short cut. However, a long cut, although significantly shorter in distance, will inevitably require twice the gas and three times the time to navigate.]
In this case, the cut was about 20 miles of the ancient Mojave Road. This little track runs about 140 miles from Barstow to the Colorado River (between Needles and Las Vegas). Like so much of the area, the Road is steeped in geology and history. It’s hard to convey the total sense of delight that both of us experienced in traveling this ancient Indian trail, now an easy 2WD/4WD back country track.
Firstly, it’s REMOTE. We were far away from the paved road, which is itself far away from the Interstate, which is far away from any town of any size. We were <way> out there and very glad for the spare gas, water, tools, and our satellite phone.
Second, it’s GORGEOUS. The desert is pure, simple, serene. We were surrounded by plants and animals and incredible scenery, from long winding sand washes to massive lava flows to towering cinder cones and massive rocky ridgelines. Although signs of man’s touch were visible, we still had a sense of the primeval.
As we chunked along the winding trail, Karin spotted a weird sight: a faded American flag fluttering gamely in the desert breeze. At first, we thought we’d stumbled on a remote camper, but no, it was the venerated Mojave Road Mailbox.
This delightful little treat has a sprinkling of traveler’s remnants inside: some beef jerky, a roll of duct tape, bottles of drinking water. Also sheltered is a large, dense logbook full of travelers’ entries, to which of course we added our own. According to guidebook comments, the Friends of the Mojave use the book entries to gauge road use by visitors.
Per our maps, guidebooks, dead reckoning, intuition, and perhaps mostly pure luck, we popped out of the Mojave Road fantasy-land and back onto Cima Road right where we needed to turn into Cedar Canyon and head on back to camp. Dusk was settling in as we pulled into HITW camp.
Howie wagged his tail in greeting and we settled satisfyingly in after a splendid day.