The Mojave Desert has always been for Ruth & me a place to hurry across to get to the Los Angeles area to visit her relatives. One year we took a back road through it but didn’t find much to stop for. This year was entirely different. We had only one day to explore it, not nearly enough time. Others feel that way too. Occasionally I’d overhear other travelers exchanging info about what they have seen or not seen yet. The Mojave is definitely being discovered as a notable seasonal destination. We plan to see more of it as soon as we can.
We had to content ourselves with only 4 major attractions this time. Yesterday I blogged about the super surprising Kelso train station. That was #1 without a doubt. #4 was Goffs Schoolhouse, which is just outside Mojave National Preserve’s southeast corner. Once a Route 66 landmark, it was a classic one-room school serving up to 18 students. They were the children of ranchers, railroad workers and miners from 1914 until 1937. The building was restored about 20 years ago and now looks a bit like a mini Kelso Station. It’s home to the Mojave Desert Heritage and Cultural Association, and inside are some displays that tell about the region. My favorite was about the turquoise mine at Halloran Springs that was worked by local Indians. Goff’s is worth a brief stop.
The dunes were an unexpected sight as we approached Kelso. About 700 feet tall, they cover a 45-square-mile area southeast of the well-named Devil’s Playground. Those who hike in the area sometimes hear them singing as sand slides down their steep slopes. Often running down a dune initiates this sound. A 1½ mile hike takes the fit to the top of the highest one. They are among the tallest dunes in North America. Speaking of tall, the highest point in MNP is almost 8,000 feet Clark Mountain. It’s in a detached section of the Preserve north of I-15.
Our 2nd favorite attraction was Cima Road. Most travelers, me included, think that the world’s largest Joshua tree forest is in Joshua Tree National Park. It’s not. The largest known concentration of Joshua trees is in the Mojave National Preserve (MNP) along Cima Road. These trees rely on a single species of yucca moth for pollination and are not really trees. They’re yuccas.
Upcoming favorites might include the Desert Studies Center at Zzyzx, the Amboy Crater south of Mojave National Preserve, and the Castle Mountains. The Preserve was established in 1994 with the implementation of the California Desert Protection Act. President Obama created the Castle Mountains National Monument in 2016. It ‘s a jigsaw puzzle shaped pristine desert ecosystem bordered on 3 sides by MNP. Its 4th side is Nevada.
If you go to hear singing dunes, by the way, fill your gas tank in Arizona, not in California.