Peak 2,140ft P300
Peak 1,620ft P300
Crucero Hill P300
Mesquite Hills P300

Sun, Jan 17, 2021

With: Tom Becht
Iris Ma
Tom Grundy

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX


Unlike the first, our second day on the Mojave Trail saw us doing more than a just a few miles of the Mojave Trail, an historic route first pioneered by the native americans, then converted to a wagon road before the Civil War, now a recreational OHV route across the Mojave Desert. We'd camped just west of Afton Canyon, the narrowest section of the Mojave River where bedrock brings water to the surface that normally flows underground. A Union Pacific rail line runs through the canyon as well, taking in the same sights of crumbling cliffs, badlands and raparian woodlands, unusual in a desert setting. The first part of the morning was spent driving and exploring on foot some of the interesting sights in Afton Canyon. There were water crossings, trains, bridges, slot canyons and more. One could easily spend days here without getting bored though we were through it in a little over an hour. For those with more time, there is a BLM campground in the canyon that can be more easily reached by high-clearance vehicles from the Afton Exit off Interstate 15.

Peak 2,140ft

Where Afton Canyon emerges into the large expanse of the Mojave River Wash, there are two summits on either side of the river, unnamed but possessing just enough prominence to get the attention of LoJ and myself. Peak 2,140ft is on the south side of the river. After exiting Afton Canyon, we turned off the Mojave Trail before it goes under a train bridge, taking a spur road up to an overlook where a small cemetery is located. This wasn't the best starting point, but we made it work. Still nursing an injured foot, TomB stayed with the Jeeps while three of us made our way upslope to reach a ridge that would curve around to the highpoint, approaching it from the southwest. We spent about 50min in the effort to reach the summit where there is a fine view of Cave Mtn to the north and the surrounding Mojave Desert elsewhere. Cave Mtn is the most prominent summit in the area and easily identifiable from many directions. For the descent, we took a more direct route off the North Ridge, dropping into a wash in that direction that we could follow all the way back to the railroad tracks. With cell service, we were able to get Tom to bring his Jeep closer to our exit point to save us about 2/3mi walking back to where we'd started.

Peak 1,620ft

This summit is located on the north side of the river. We spent some time driving around to the base of the peak where we could start within about 1/3mi of the summit on its north side. The climb is steep, class 2-3 terrain, some 400ft up broken limestone slopes. It took less than 15min to reach the summit, with an even better view of Cave Mtn to the northwest. We discussed options as we took in the views from the summit, one of which would allow Iris and TomG to climb Cave Mtn (which I'd already done) while TomB and I drove off to do some easier ones that TomB could participate in. When we got back down to the Jeeps, I dropped the pair off near the base of Cave Mtn before returning to join TomB. We then parked his Jeep and drove mine back to the RR tracks where we could drive east towards the last two summits.

Crucero Hill - Mesquite Hills

Both of these are located about nine miles east of Afton Canyon, on the south side of the railroad tracks. There are two OHV roads that parallel the tracks on that side and we used one or the other to make our way east. The one immediately adjacent to the tracks is a bit rockier but more level, while the outside one is sandier, making for a smoother ride. The tracks and roads run across the base of Crucero Hill on its north side. We turned off to attempt driving up a steep slope that presented itself on that side, but did not make it far before the Jeep got bogged down. We parked just off the road there, setting out on foot. We had about a mile to go along the spine of the hill to reach the highpoint near the southern end. There are great drifts of sand covering many of the hill's aspects and there was ample evidence of OHVs having better success than me at driving nearer to the summit. Tom managed as best he could with a bum foot, taking his time and favoring slopes that more suited its limitations. About half way to the summit we came across what looked like a survey marker, but turned out to be a memorial for a lost comrade or family member. Like the cemetery we found earlier, there seems to be plenty of desert rats who've been buried about the Mojave, especially places frequented by OHVs. It took us about 40min to make our way to the top where a large cairn is found. It did not seem a very wild place as vehicles could be heard off in the distance most of the time during our ascent.

We could plainly see the Mesquite Hills about 1.5mi to the southeast and a reasonable way to reach them via a sandy descent off the southeast side of Crucero Hill. We could see a couple of vehicles parked in the Mesquite Hills, offering an even shorter way to reach them. Deciding he'd probably pushed his foot as much as he dared, Tom decided to head back to the Jeep while I continued on foot to the Mesquite Hills. I gave Tom my key to allow him to drive the Jeep to meet me there. It took me less than 40min to cover the distance between the two summits, along an easy, but enjoyable route across the desert. The two vehicles we'd spotted had left before I had reached the base of the Mesquite Hills, leaving the place to myself. I was at the summit when I spotted my Jeep in the distance. I beat a hasty retreat off the mountain, aiming for the end of the road in the canyon below on the north side. We came to find someone's picnic site assembled here, complete with BBQ, picnic table and a view bench overlooking the desert to the west. After arriving at the end of the road, Tom brought up a couple of beers from the cooler and we sat at the table to enjoy the afternoon sunshine and take in the fine view. Not a bad way to finish the day.

After we'd finished our beverage and relaxed some, we returned to the Jeep and retraced the route back to Cave Mtn where we would retrieve our companions. They had made it to the summit of Cave Mtn, taking longer than we had expected - there would be no time or energy for the more ambitious traverse of the NE Ridge that I'd tried to sell them on. TomG and Iris were packed into Tom's Jeep for the drive back to the Harvard exit and home while I drove back to Baker (for dinner) and into the Soda Mtns where I would finish up the roadtrip the next day. I slept quite well that evening off Silver Lake Rd, no road noise to disturb my sleep this evening...


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