Mojave National Preserve

March 19th     –     Kelso Dunes

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March 18th     –     Kelso Depot, Cinder Cone Lava Beds, and Lava Tube

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March 17th     –     Barber Peak Loop Trail

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The Barber Loop Trail circumnavigates Barber Peak, which is a prominent peak west of Hole in the Wall Campground. The trail passes the Opaline Cliffs to the northwest, and returns to the Hole-in-the-Wall area via Banshee Canyon. The loop was another opportunity to enjoy the concentration of geologic formations. Desert flowers were in bloom and plentiful. We had a special opportunity to see a male Chuckwalla enjoying the morning sun. Five of us completed the 6.9 mile, 800′ elevation gain loop.

Two hikers opted to hike New York Peak. Despite a good hike description from a book, and some coaching from a local Ranger, they were unable to find the route. The were treated to a private tour of the nearby Rock House, adjacent the Rock Spring Loop Trail. The Rock House is full of history:

“While fighting in Europe during World War I, Bert Smith was exposed to poison gasses used during that war. Returning to the U.S. with scarred lungs, Bert eventually moved to the Mojave Desert in the late 1920s. When Bert built his Rock House and started living here in 1929, it was a desperate attempt to regain his health. Although he expected to survive only a short time, he lived here until 1954 – 25 years!”

March 16th     –     Hole-in-the-Wall Rings Loop Trail

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The plan was to arrive at the Black Canyon Equestrian & Group Campground mid to late afternoon, set up up tents/RVs, and then hike the nearby Hole-in-the-Wall Rings Loop Trail. “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Les’ Jeep broke down just east of Barstow, so sadly Les and Gary were unable to attend the event.

The Hole in the Wall area is a geologic wonder. From the USGS website: “About 18.5 million years ago, a powerful volcanic eruption blasted outward from the nearby Woods Mountains. Propelled by the force of rapidly rising and expanding gasses, a ground-hugging cloud of ash and rock fragments spread out at near super-sonic speeds across the countryside. Some of the rocks thrown out by the blast are 14-20 meters (60 feet) across – the largest ever documented! An area of over 600 km was covered with ash and rock fragments so hot that they welded together after they reached the ground. Almost instantly, hot, suffocating ash buried every living thing in the path of the blast. Whatever birds, mammals, and plants once flourished in Mojave Preserve at that time now lie entombed beneath the volcanic tuff that forms the colorful cliffs of Hole in the Wall.”

Six hikers completed the 2 mile, 200′ elevation loop and then headed back to the campground. The campground was spacious, quiet, isolated and clean. It was designed to support 50 people. Seven of us had the whole place to ourselves. Even the pit toilets didn’t smell. We all turned in early in anticipation of our adventures the next morning.

March 12th     –     Conejo Mountain

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15 hikers assembled at the signed “Powerline Trail” trailhead on Via Ricardo in Newbury Park on a lovely spring-like morning – the sky was a clear blue with a few puffy white clouds, the temperature was perfect for hiking up a mountain, and there was a wide variety of blooming wildflowers on the mountainside. The trail began gently enough and soon afforded us with views of Old Boney Mountain to the east. As we reached the Edison Road we had a brief view of Camarillo and beyond to the west. We followed the Edison Road through a landscape littered with volcanic detritus to a spur road that led up to a pair of power transmission towers at which point we regrouped and followed a “use” trail which led steeply up the eastern flank of Conejo Mountain. We were in luck since the previous day’s rain had softened the dirt on the steepest section of the trail (which improved traction), but had not made it muddy. Once we summited the eastern portion of the mountain, we could see our destination: the highest point on the mountain which is “marked” by a small man-made rock cairn. We followed the “use” trail across the rock-strewn landscape to the “peak” of Conejo Mountain where we enjoyed 360-degree views of both near and distant mountains, the Pacific Ocean, and parts of several cities. We retraced our route to Via Ricardo and returned home having completed a very pleasant 5.5-mile hike with 1,600′ of elevation gain/loss on a beautiful day.