After being away from the desert for several months I almost couldn't bear it anymore. I planned a trip to Mojave but the idiots in Washington DC were threatening another government shutdown which would essentially shut down the Mojave Preserve.
After kvetching about this online my friend and Desert Expert Extraordinaire, Lori Carey said, "just get up to Red Rock Canyon". So, I did. The above photo shows the spot that I was able to secure for several days of desert bliss. Red Rock Canyon is only two hours north of Los Angeles but it certainly seems as if you're in another state, or another planet. It is about 80 miles from Bakersfield and 25 miles from the town of Mojave. The State Park link is here.
There is not a lot of civilization nearby this piece of unusual rock formation. As a result, it's uncrowded and provides solitude despite its proximity to Los Angeles. Many old Westerns have used this as a filming locale and it does have it's own unique charm. One day I jumped in the truck and decided to check out the local towns. The highway and the railroad tracks were lonesome on a late autumn afternoon. Just the way I like them. Have you ever felt "in your element" too? I
The weather was terrific. Highs during the day reached the upper 60s. It did get chilly at night but I was nestled in my little home away from home.
There are multiple hiking trails in the area. A highlight of the trip is the short Hagen Canyon Loop Trail. It's only a little over a mile but every bend leads off to another scenic spot which will tempt you into exploring. I spent an entire afternoon out there walking, wandering, resting, and making photographs. The geology is quite spectacular and there are some species of wildflowers that are only found here. It feels unique because it is...certainly no other place like it in California. At times, I found myself marveling at how much it looked like southern Utah.
My annual Death Valley Trip has been altered due to the Mesquite Spring Campground being closed from storm damage and I'm meeting my dear Bay Area family right back here in February. It certainly has on "Old West" feel. On the next trip I'll spend more time in the nearby El Paso Mountains and the Trona Pinnacles are just an hour away.
Thanks for joining me on this little Western getaway. We'll be back soon.
Most Americans are familiar with the great WWII general, George Patton. Certainly any student of that war can probably tell you, chapter and verse, of his exploits. There is no question he is one of the most colorful characters in American history.
My father's second cousin was General Omar Bradley, the "Soldier's General" and so we always felt that Bradley was the superior general on moral grounds alone but there is no question that Patton was a "genius for war". His daring leadership, especially of the 3rd Army as they roared through France and Germany, is legendary. He also possessed tremendous foresight and predicted that mechanized warfare would be decisive in the next major war after his service in WWI. He was, of course, right as his German counterpart, Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox, would emphatically demonstrate at the outbreak of WWII in North Africa as well as the German onslaught of the European low countries. There is much to say about old George and if you're interested in reading more about him I recommend, "Patton: A Genius for War" by Carlo D'Este and "War As I Knew It" by Patton himself.
Patton grew up in San Gabriel and knew the Mojave Desert. The following is from the Wikipedia page about the Desert Training Center:
Major General George S. Patton Jr. came to Camp Young as the first commanding general of the DTC. As a native of southern California, Patton knew the area well from his youth and from having participated in army maneuvers in the Mojave Desert in the 1930s. His first orders were to select other areas within the desert that would be suitable for the large-scale maneuvers necessary to prepare American soldiers for combat against the German Afrika Korps in the North African desert.
As a WWII history aficionado I had known of the training ground and visited Camp Young and the Patton Museum near Chiriaco Summit in the desert but hadn't gone to any of the other "camps". Fortunately for me, the wonderful people at the Mojave Desert Land Trust sponsored a tour to two of the Desert Training Center Camps, Camp Ironwood and Camp Granite. We were met by a terrific BLM archaeologist who knew the area and its history quite well. This was the first spot we went to near Camp Ironwood. I was told by military personnel that this was probably an "OP" or observation post. Perhaps old Patton himself climbed the hill and looked over his troops from this vantage point?
The next spot we stopped was at Camp Ironwood at the foot of the Ironwood Mountains. I was fascinated by the remnants of the camp from, lo, those many years ago which included a spot for religious services.. In particular the line wire and other debris left by our troops as they prepared to fight overseas and, for some, to experience an early death in sacrifice for not just our American freedom but for the freedom of the world.
A couple of desert creatures also caught my eye. I could write more about the gentle tarantula (the only spider I like!) but I'll save that for another post. Here is a big boy out looking for love and a well camouflaged lizard.
We ate a small and delicious lunch and visited our last stop at Granite Camp where the Desert Shrine was still beautifully intact. Apparently, the troops had to go miles to find the proper rock for the construction of these sanctuaries.
It was a beautiful desert day. The weather was perfect and a few clouds rolled in at the end of the day. I couldn't help but pull myself away for some landscape photos. The first is a panorama and then I made some black and whites that I hope you'll enjoy as they seem to capture some essence of the Mojave to me.
I also made some good old color photos too. In reviewing these photos I was reminded how easy it is to breathe and why I receive such solace in wide open spaces.
I had a wonderful time on this one day trip but it made me hunger for a longer stay. Next trip will be to the Mojave Preserve at the beginning of December. Thanks for coming along.
This will mostly be a journal of my travels. I may include other items that interest me. Feel free to join in.
All content (C) Jeffrey C. Hubbard. No re-use without express written permission