Sat, Jan 16, 2021
TomB had been plagued by a foot injury that was going to keep him from joining us for a desert outing this weekend. I suggested we might do some jeeping, knowing that would be a big incentive. Karl and I had been to the Mojave River around Ft. Cady a week earlier, and I suggested we could Jeep on a portion of the Mojave Trail. It was an old Indian footpath that was upgraded to a wagon road by the US Army just before the Civil War, eventually all but abandoned once the US highway system was built. Now it's mostly an OHV destination and there are a number of books and online resources describing its path across the California desert from Barstow to the Colorado River. We planned to do the westernmost section between Ft. Cady and Kelbaker Rd in the Mojave Preserve. We would never make it to Kelbaker Rd, but we did enjoy two days exploring this historic route.
We met up at the Harvard exit off Interstate 15, some miles east of Barstow, leaving Iris's car at the Circle K there - 2WD and low-clearance would be worthless on the sandy journey before us. We packed gear for TomG and Iris in the two Jeeps and head south for the Mojave River. It did not take long to find that the Mojave Trail does not connect to the Mojave River from the Harvard exit, ending unceremoniously at a locked gate to a dilapidated shooting club. Some quick research online found that the better starting point is the Manix exit, just east of the Harvard one. So we drove back out to the Interstate, got off at the next exit, and began our adventure from there.
TomB's Jeep was already loaded with a lot of gear and we briefly discussed moving it to the roof so that TomG and I could ride inside. We were still about 3mi from our starting point, so it was definitely to our advantage to have Tom drive us as far as we could manage. TomG and I decided it would be quicker and perhaps more fun to simply ride on the back of the Jeep, "clown car-ing" as we called it. It was a bit of work to stay on the back of the Jeep with some rough riding ahead, but we managed it well enough, only jumping off a few times when it looked like the Jeep might slide off the roadway. We eventually got to another sand section where the Jeep struggled to get up a short embankment, the rear sliding off into the wash, forcing him to back up and try again. We were already close enough to the summits by this time so that it mattered little, and after a second failed attempt we gave up to start the hike. Tom would stay with the Jeep and repack stuff onto the roof while the others went off for more peakbagging.
After crossing a few sandy gullies, we ascended the NE Ridge of Peak 3,147ft over a false summit to reach the top in about 40min. There was time taken at the summit to reapply sunscreen, take in the views, eat various treats, and to leave a register. We went back down the same ridge but continued northeast towards the last summit, Peak 3,011ft, about a mile from the previous one. This took us across the upper part of the wash system we had driven in on, crossing the road we had hoped to use just before starting up to Peak 3,011ft from the southwest. There were recent tracks on the road, but what we didn't know was that they were Tom's - he'd rearranged the Jeep to fit four inside, then went about making it past the sandy section he'd gotten stopped at earlier. He was currently east of us, driving to the end of the road and wondering what had become of us. He had expected to see us somewhere on Peak 3,011ft, but we were still descending the previous peak at the time. The slope we ascended was loose and somewhat tedious, probably the least fun slope of those we climbed today. Upon reach the summit around 2:45p, I looked back to see that Tom had come back, spied us, and positioned his Jeep to pick us up upon our descent. It would save us about half a mile of desert walking, so we were happy that he'd found us. We left a second register on this summit before descending the same way.
After picking us up, we drove back down the wash/road to the stranded Jeep, retrieved that, and then headed down to the Mojave River. Picking up the Mojave Trail once again, we headed east, intending to spend the remaining daylight driving through Afton Canyon. Somewhere before reaching the canyon, I noticed Tom was no longer following me. TomG and I backtracked to find that he had stopped so they could collect a load of firewood that was freely available in the broad wash. Rather than figure out a way to strap yet more stuff to the top of Tom's Jeep, we decided to camp there for the night, not 20ft off the Mojave Trail. This worked out quite nicely, giving us some remaining daylight to set up camp, shower and socialize before it got chilly. We started a campfire around sunset and let it burn until we were ready for bed hours later. It was one of the better camp spots I'd found this season. I went to bed reeking of smoke inside the Jeep and in most of my clothes, but it was well worth the nuisance...
This page last updated: Wed Feb 2 17:27:47 2022
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