Friday, February 22, 2008

High desert solitude

We are at a small "dispersed area" camp site in the Mojave National Preserve, really just a dirt pulloff next to a dirt road, where the power lines cross Kelbaker road (map).

The email fallout from my conference call yesterday morning had us off to a very late start out of Baker. In fact, it was lunch time when we were finally ready to roll, so we strolled over to the Mad Greek for a burger, which was quite tasty. I'm sure their gyros are equally good.

Our late start would have put us in Kelso just an hour or so before the train depot-turned-visitor center closed, and then we would have been looking for a spot to stay in the last vestiges of daylight (there is no overnight parking in Kelso). While the dispersed camping rules page said not to park "along" paved roads, our "Guide to Free Campgrounds" said this spot was nevertheless OK, and there is clear evidence that it is used regularly, including the remains of a campfire ring. The very first dispersed camping rule here in the preserve is to stick to spots that are already well used. So when this came along a good 12 miles or so before Kelso, we decided to make an early stop for the night.

In spite of being only a couple dozen yards from the road, and almost under the four parallel sets of power lines that cross here, it was an excellent choice. It's at the summit of a long but shallow grade -- we climbed steadily here from Baker, perhaps 2,500 feet worth, with the engine at ~70% load. Aside from the power towers, we have an unobstructed 360° view of desert scrub and the unadorned tops of the surrounding low mountains, with no hint of civilization. Kelbaker road is closed to commercial traffic, and so even the roadway was quiet, and I would estimate that fewer than half a dozen vehicles passed us in the dark of night.

While I suspect many would find it stark, this is the sort of place that we find hauntingly beautiful, and we are just having a relaxing morning with all the blinds open to drink in the panorama. At some point, we will roll down the hill to Kelso, spend some time at the old whistle stop, and then continue south toward I-40 and Amboy. Our big project for the day is finding water, as our tank is nearly empty (we only put a couple days' worth in at Furnace Creek, knowing we had a large up grade ahead of us).

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