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Mojave Road report 1/23-25/04 (Long)


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  • Mojave Road report 1/23-25/04 (Long)

    Well, finally the Missus and I made it out to the Mojave Road. Her XJ got a quick make-over from Las Vegas Boulevard cruiser to rockcrawling bruiser. We had planned this trip for 3 months but were a bit crestfallen when we saw it written up as the cover story of the Sunday LA Times travel section.

    Well, we anticipated minivans, Subarus, and various luxo-SUVs (BMW, Lexus, etc), but we only ran into about eight vehicles on the trail and about half of them were dirt bikes. This really is a trip to get away from it ALL.

    We got a late start out to Needles, CA. Rolled into this sleepy little railway hamlet around 1400. Did a bit of last minute provisioning at a tiny pharmacy/stationery store and hardware store on West Broadway. Later, went down to the Rite-Aid strip mall. The Rite-Aid was much busier than the druggist/post office/liquor store/bus station and will probably spell the doom of that tiny drugstore.

    We just made it into Fort Piute just at dusk. We took a quick peek at the Ft Piute plaque and made camp in a clump of mesquite by the secondary corral ruins. Surprisingly, a lot of bugs showed up at night, but then I realized that the US Army only put up outposts where there was steady water for the US Mail caravan horses. There was a small spring overgrown with rushes down in the wash.

    Sunrise was cold but offered us an opportunity to make leftover bunkhouse breakfast burritos (corned beef, hashbrowns, eggs scrambled) to stuff next to the valve covers. We then poured ourselves some java and took a stroll to look over the Ft Piute ruins a little more closely. We imagined what a solitary existence it must have been for the Army soldiers stationed at Ft Piute during its very short period of existence from 1867-1868.

    After breaking down camp, we checked out the Irwin homestead. There we found quite a few petroglyphs etched into the desert varnish. I was quite fascinated by the panel that shows a kokopelli playing his flute to the bighorn sheep. We also saw a little "Welcome" mosaic'd into the concrete entry of their home. The Dennis Casebier book doesn't say exactly why the Irwin's left their homestead in the 1940's except to say that the predators won out over their experiment at growing turkeys in the desert. The Missus and I found a clue that might indicate another reason. On one of the thresholds, we found a very small pair of shoeprints with the name "Tony Irwin" above it and the date "3-18-45" below it. A celebration of a new member of the Irwin family and leaving for a brighter future for the family? Or perhaps a sorrowful rememberance of a lost child and leaving behind defeated dreams.

    We drove up over the Piute Ridge and were rewarded with an expansive view of Lanfair Valley (check out the panorama stitch). The Mojave Road can be clearly seen wending its way across the Valley. We drove by an old schoolbus and Ford station wagon. Don't know how or why someone would schlep those vehicles out there but there they were! We investigated the rusty carcass of the the bus and moved on.

    Our growling stomachs indicated it would be soon time to eat again so we took a side trip to Indian Well where we rewarded not only with our B.B.B. leftover treats, but with an expanse of petroglyphs surrounding a very old well, probably prehistoric and later widened by settlers in the early 1900's.

    After chow, we headed off again to the Penny Can tree. This can dates back to before the Mojave Road was officially a BLM recognized Recreational Trail. Users would donate a penny in the can for continued restoration and lobbying efforts. Now, the Mojave Road is not only a recognized Recreational Trail, but is now under joint supervision by both BLM and NPS. We left our coins and proceeded on to Rock Spring which is an intermittent spring and from what I can gather it is mostly an algae/insect larvae spawning site when there is water. When we got there it was dry except for a small patch of ice!

    We decided to do a bit of provisioning at the Goffs General Store, but after a 17 mile trip south from the Mojave Road, we discovered it was closed and probably had been for months if not years. Keep that in mind if provisions are needed during the trip.

    We hurried back past the Goffs schoolhouse and up to the Mojave Road, where the Missus took a photo op next to the only plaque actually commemorating the Mojave Road and the history it represents.

    Ominous rainclouds gathered as dusk approached, however after a few tentative drops they continued to roll eastward but left a dark cover over the sky. We setup camp about a half mile or so out of Marl Springs. Temperatures at this altitude were much colder and the biting winds knifed through our zippers and clothes. Deborah grabbed the last B.B.B. treat as we hurriedly setup camp. We did not record the temperature, but they were probably in the low 30's with wind chill taking it even further down. Hoodies, beanie caps, and windproof fleece were a must. We experimented with our Japanese Snow Peak Fireside folding fireplace. It was on closeout at the La Canada Sports Chalet and resembles nothing more than stainless steel origami. It is a folding firepit that concentrates and reflects the heat to make a very fast and warm charcoal fire.

    When the sun arose after a bitterly cold night (Sierra Designs 30 degree bag in a tent was barely adequate), we awoke and got off to a leisurely start. The Missus thought it would be great to snooze a bit more in the morning sun while sipping her hot chocolate, so she dragged the lightweight bag out of the tent and plopped herself in the chair.

    Our next destination was Marl Springs which is regarded as the most important spring along the Mojave Road as it is year round, plentiful and clean. It is still being used by cattle ranchers and of course by the occasional bighorn sheep. The water was remarkably clear and the change of vegetation truly made Marl Springs a visual oasis in the otherwise very dry valley.

    Our next stop was the logbook for the Mojave Road. This mailbox/logbook was established in 1983. There was considerable traffic recorded in the book with people seeming to travel it mostly in reverse (West to East) in an effort to get out to Laughlin. As each book is filled, it is archived at the Goff Schoolhouse which will soon house an NPS museum about the Mojave Road.

    After dutifully recording our dates of travel, number of travelers/vehicles, clever comments and email addresses, we set off for the dreaded Soda Lake. Before we got there, however, we had to negotiate Willow Wash. This very loose river sand required us to keep our speed up considerably. Driving here was very loose with the entire vehicle feeling quite sloppy and the rear occasionally trying to take a peek at what was going on up front. This was the most stressful part for the Missus as she was fairly sure that she was going to get stuck if she stopped or even slowed down.

    Soda Lake is famous for its very treacherous slick muddy surface. It is recommended that vehicles travel in at least pairs with at least one winch available. Also it is recommended that vehicles be spaced apart to prevent more than one vehicle getting stuck at a time. Now when we carefully began our crossing, we found the lake to be fairly dry. By that we meant that it was the consistency of PlayDough. Of course, that meant that all the salt had crystallized out of solution on to the surface of the lake bed. Also, the dry mud did not get rid of the very deep ruts that continually tickled the bottom of my crossmember. Eventually, the ruts got so deep, I had to straddle the left rut completely to prevent from getting longitudinally high-centered.

    At the center of the lake is Traveller's Monument. It is customary that every one travelling the road should bring a rock out to the center of this otherworldly flat expanse and add it to the Monument. Also in the center of the Monument is a very special bronze plaque with an inscription that will only be known by those who actually read it with their own eyes. We made our little deposit on the Monument and smiled as we read the plaque.

    We got considerably lost in the sand dunes on the West side of the lake. Our Geko 201/Panasonic Toughbook combination saved the day as we had downloaded the entire Mojave Road trailroute from the website. We reached Rasor Road and thought that we would save Afton Canyon for another day.

    We headed up to the I-15 and gently reentered reality by fueling up from our Jerry cans, reattaching the swaybars, and airing up the tires. We saw a Spanish-only speaking fellow roll in on a shredded front tire and rim. He repeatedly asked in a very pressured voice if he could borrow some tools from the gas station attendant to replace the spare tire from the spare rim to the horribly scraped original rim as the bolt pattern was wrong. The attendant stated that she could let him in the garage until the owner came back in a few minutes. Well, this fella just put the flat back on and rolled east to Las Vegas on his screeching rim.

    Well, that was our trip. We'll be doing it again for sure.

    1) Wake up in Needles and make the trip East if you want to complete in three days.
    2) There is so much to see. Three days may not be enough.
    3) Marl Springs is COLD in January, bring a zero degree bag, tent and a self-inflating pad.
    4) You will need more than 19 gallons of gas. Bring Jerry cans.
    5) Snow Peak makes a great product in the Fireside. If you are handy with sheet metal and a spot welder, you could make something similar for a lot less money. Bring your own firewood.
    6) Have this trip mapped out on GPS if possible. Laptop navigation would be even better.
    7) Be prepared for complete solitude.
    Last edited by jmbrowning; 01-26-04, 11:30 PM.
    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
    2003 TJ Rubicon: 4.5" OME coils; RE SF2; NthDegree TT/oilpan skid/shock shifters; FXD rock rails; Anti-Rock; 5150'

  • #2
    Great overview! I'm wondering if this would be more appropriate in "trail rides."

    Rick did this trail a little over a year ago and we've been wanting to revisit it together. You've pointed out some great tips that I think would help anyone planning to travel the trail!

    Once again, another awesome contribution to the site! Great job, and I"d like to know more about that folding fireplace!!
    :gun:'99 TJ Sport:gun:


    • #3
      Good to hear the Times artical didn't produce a huge flood of visitors, although, the more people that use the road, the less likely it will be that they close it!

      This route is one that I am wanting to do, and have made plans to do more than once. They always seem to get cancelled for one reason or another.
      olllllllo <--- If you can read that, roll me over!

      Price is soon forgotton, quality is not.



      • #4
        great write-up, I can't wait to see it myself. thanks.

        "in the end... the rocks always win."