Jonathan and I headed up route 15 towards the town of Baker. It was a beautiful, sunny morning, like 95% of the mornings here in southern California. We drove through pristine desert, mixed with rocky, brown mountains.
Before Baker we noticed that on the right side of the road were a series of ten signs, about an eighth of a mile between them, each one sporting one of the Ten Commandments painted on it. (Similar to the sign to the right). I knew we weren’t in Cambridge anymore.
The entrance to the Mojave National Preserve is in Baker, a long, straight road heading off on the horizon towards dark, craggy mountains. We were soon flying down this road, listening to Jonathan’s desert mix cd.
The visitor center has a museum, gift shop, and lunch counter. Jonathan had a hot dog and bought a t-shirt, whereas I purchased post cards. This was a pleasant, warm experience in the midst of stark desolation.
We drove down the road a bit further, and came to a path called the Mojave Road, a trail apparently once used by Native Americans as they traveled to the Pacific from points east. We wandered there alone for awhile, the sun strong and comforting, the silence broken only by occasional gusts of wind.
Jonathan has long talked about the Kelso Dunes, so I decided to go see what the fuss was all about. These white sand dunes stand 600 feet tall, and were created by the westerly winds that blow the sand in from the nearby dry Soda Lake. It was a beautiful site. We began to climb the dunes, but I soon became tired and needed to rest.
It was also getting colder and darker, so decided it was time to leave the park, but not before seeing the bizarre Devil’s Playground, a haunting area of jagged rock piles, their peaks pointing up to the now orange sky. It was one last site in this amazing and underrated national park.
We came out of the other side of the preserve, heading west on route 40, a gorgeous orange and pink sunset turning the mountains varying shades of blue. Barstow, all lit up for the evening, looked like a bustling metropolis in the distance, at least compared to Kelso.
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