Much of the Eastern Mojave Desert is now protected as the Mojave National Preserve. Motorists tend to zip by it on their way between Los Angeles and Las Vegas without giving it a second glance. But the prettiest parts are off the interstate.
The preserve has over a thousand miles of roads, many of them paved, which makes exploration easy. The Automobile Club of Southern California (AAA) has a great map of the area. The National Park Service also has a great map, but you have to know how to get to their visitor center at Kelso Depot to pick it up. Just take Kelbaker Road out of Baker, CA to get there.
Housing at the Desert Studies Center
Vic and I led a field trip for his birding class out there last month. We stayed at the Desert Studies Center in Zzyzx, an adventure in itself. Guests provide their own bedding, towels, soap, shampoo, etc. The bathrooms are open air community bathhouses, mens and womens, with hot and cold running water, curtains on the shower and toilet stalls, and coffee cans over the toilet paper to keep mice from using it as nesting material.
Our room at the Desert Studies Center. We brought our own bedding (sleeping bags) and towels.
Dawn at Lake Tuendae, an artificial pond at Zzyzx
Dawn at Soda Dry Lake
A mirage on Silver Dry Lake. There is no water.
Silver Dry Lake north of Baker, CA
Fall foliage at Horsethief Spring
Antelope Ground Squirrel
Freight train going through Afton Canyon
The Mojave River flows above ground in only three places: Afton Canyon and Upper and Lower Narrows in Victorville. The water flows under the desert sand everywhere else along its course.
Dawn at Zzyzx, day 2
Breakfast in the dining hall. The food was really good.
Corriente cattle are a Mexican breed that is adapted to dry desert life. Unlike other cattle breeds that eat grass and hay exclusively, they can eat browse (tips of bushes) like a deer.
Juvenile Western Fence Lizard
The chef at the Desert Studies Center prepared a nice box lunch for our group.
Pancake Prickly Pear
The Visitor Center at Hole-in-the-Wall has no electricity, but it does have running water.
Because this was a birding trip with Vic's class, not a photography trip, I had to grab this shot of Wild Horse Canyon out the car window.
Animal tracks at Kelso Dunes
Two hikers atop Kelso Dunes
Kelso Dunes at sunset
Providence Mountains at sunset
Sunrise at Soda Lake, day 3
One of Vic's students in a tiny dorm room.
Dawn at Soda Dry Lake
View of Lake Tuendae and Soda Dry Lake from the dorm balcony
Vic's Irvine Valley College bird class in front of a smoke tree.
Pygmy Blue Butterflies in Afton Canyon
Variegated Meadowhawk in Afton Canyon
Fall foliage along the Mojave River in Afton Canyon
The Mojave River at Harvard Exit near Camp Cady is just drifting sand
Camp Cady, an historic stop along the Mojave Trail
We spent four days out there and barely scratched the surface of things to see and photograph. And this was November! Imagine how pretty it will be with spring wildflowers.