The Mojave Road was first used by the Mojave Indians who traveled the route to trade small quantities of foodstuffs for seashells with the indigenous people along the Pacific Coast. In 1776, Spaniard Fr. Francisco Garcés (OFM) followed the trail to the New Spanish Mission San Gabriel. Other explorers and surveyors included Jedediah Smith, John C. Fremont, and Kit Carson.
And then there was Dennis and Bob and George and Carol and Jim — all following the Mojave Road, from fort-to-fort, while deviating to see interesting things. We experienced a relaxed interpretation of the Mojave Road. This is our entire route, from the Colorado River to Afton Canyon:
Our first comfort break on the Mojave Road, around a dozen miles west of the Colorado River, and just inside the California border.
That’s the Mojave Road in the background, left of center. In all, we will cover 175 miles of desert over the next two days.
While bypassing Paiute Canyon on the old Ma Bell road, we encountered a few small washouts.
Friday night sunset. Did somebody say Lion King?
Our exceptionally adequate camp site/fire Friday night. At 5,400′, overnight temps could not have been better.
Lanfair Valley campsite, Saturday morning.
Stopping for photos in an area of thick, happy desert.
Bob and Dennis participate in “the airing out of the pits” ritual.
The New York Mountains line the northern end of Lanfair Valley.
Bob snaps photos of old graffiti at Camp Rock Spring: “Stua, 4th Inf. May 16” — this was most likely written in either 1867 or 1868 by Charles Stuart, a musician in Company B, 4th Infantry, California Volunteers. The camp was established in 1866 and in 1868 US Mail was taken off the Mojave Road and the presence of the Army was no longer required.
Another off-Mojave Road stop takes us to the old Union Pacific Kelso Depot. Several years ago, the railroad sold the property to the National Park Service which turned the building into a pretty spectacular Mojave National Preserve visitor center.
Many of the rooms in the depot have been refurbished to period — this is the old telegrapher’s office.
National Park Service: “Kelso Depot seems like an anomaly in the middle of the desert, but for the Union Pacific, it became a thriving necessity. Since its inception in 1862, the Union Pacific (UP) wanted a foothold on the West Coast. After reaching Portland, Oregon, the UP turned its attention to the rich California markets and the ports around Los Angeles. To get there, it needed to construct a railroad line across the Mojave Desert. Kelso was crucial to reaching that goal.”
We arrive at the Mojave Road Mailbox and sign in before visiting the Frog and Bobble-Head Memorials.
Another deviation from the Mojave Road — this time visiting the lava tubes.
Dennis and Bob cross six-mile-wide Soda Lake. When settlers traveled the Mojave Road in the 1860s, the Mojave River still flowed through here — it has since receded, mostly into Afton Canyon.
Carol and George in a slot canyon which branches off Afton Canyon. Heading upstream, the canyon roof closes in which transforms the hiking experience into more of a spelunking experience. If you plan on walking here, bring a flashlight.
On the way out of Afton Canyon on Sunday morning, we bumped into a small herd of Desert Bighorn Sheep — they looked well-fed and healthy.
Tourists gawking at the Bighorn Sheep. Oh, and by the way, a train is coming.
Dennis runs into a mysterious fog bank while crossing the Mojave River and is forced to stop until it clears.
Bob crosses the fog-free river.