Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

VIPs Acquaint Us with Mojave National Preserve

Exploring backcountry roads, near Mid Hills Campground

Exploring backcountry roads, near Mid Hills Campground

©Bert Gildart: “Hold on,” shouted Dick above the rattle of the washboard road and the chatter now occurring inside the 4-wheel drive Jeep. “We’re about to board a roller coaster.”

Dick was referring to ribbon of sand and rock that ground its way through Carruthers Canyon and into the New York Mountains, where we hoped to find an old gold mine.

Janie and I were exploring California’s Mojave National Preserve–now with a delightful couple we had met in Hole In the Wall Campground, where they are based.


The couple was on one of their two days off, and more and more in this period of immense fiscal cuts to our national lands, the National Park Service is relying on the hours contributed by VIPs, or Volunteers in the Park.

Like most VIPs, Dick and Linda are retired, Linda as a high school guidance counselor and Dick from a job as an avionic technician and manager. Because of their life-long interest in camping (Dick was once a Scout Leader) the role is perfect, and the park is certainly getting their money’s worth from this couple! They’ve been in the preserve since January and will stay until mid April. Like many volunteers, they are “fulltimers,” basing themselves–full time–out of a motorhome. While working, they patrol the campground, clean up backcountry fire pits, and then one day a week are provided with a park vehicle to learn more about the area and to help clean it up. Dick has even volunteered to lay out a new hiking trail.

Our excursion to find a gold mine was not part of their work assignment, though they are allowed a little time simply for “area familiarization.” So we decided to call it work, even though we were exploring on one of their days off.

Preserve hosts huge Joshua Trees

Preserve hosts huge Joshua Trees

“We’re working now,” joked Dick, as we passed through an extensive forest of Joshua trees. “Want to stop? Mojave’s got the most extensive forest in the world–and some of the country’s largest specimens.”

We stopped.


Many stops later, we arrived at the Death Valley Mines, just off the Cedar Canyon road. Though a family once lived here, today the outbuildings are eroding. Nevertheless, Janie and Linda discovered about a dozen jars of pickled vegetables to include potatoes and cucumbers.

Old canning jars intrigue Janie and Linda

Old canning jars intrigue Janie and Linda

“Don’t think we’ll eat any of these,” joked the two ladies, looking at the corroded bottles.

As well as the general structure, an old grave marker at the base of a Joshua Tree is also eroding, but the inscription pecked into a piece of sheet metal is poignant and still legible. In part, the inscription reads:

In loving memory of husband Lee. May God be with you until we meet again.

Dick examines Death Valley Mines structures

Dick examines Death Valley Mines structures Dick examines Death Valley Mines structures

Departing the mine we returned to the Cedar Canyon road, then traveled east. As we traveled we paralleled the old Mojave Road once used by explorers, trappers and army scouts. Among the list of notables were Jedediah Smith, John Fremont, and Kit Cason, among hundreds of others well known at the time.

The route is one I was particularly interested in learning about and both Linda and Dick wanted to explore it, too, though probably from their jeep. The road is still maintained and one of the more exciting back-country challenges is to drive all that still exists of the old route. It begins at the Colorado River proceeds west and then in about 20 miles enters the Mojave Preserve. From here it proceeds about 80 miles to Zzyzx–at the western edge of the preserve. The name is not an Indian name, rather it was created by a Dr. Springer who wanted a unique name, and his thought was that he could do so if he drew from the last letters in the English language. So far, he’s not had any competition.

Mojave Road

Mojave Road

Though Janie and I have yet to travel to Zzyzx, Dick took time to drive to a segment of the old road, and it appeared as though it might challenge a biker because of the soft sand, and, so, I will be doing some more inquiring. The group of friends with whom I climbed Rainier (links: Rainier & Rainier ) last summer are now looking for a new challenge. “Seems like you’re looking for an adventure,” said Dick, “and not a slog. You may want to test it first in a 4-wheel drive.”


Other stops we made include one at Government Holes. Here on November 8, 1925 is where Matt Burts and J.W. “Bill” Robinson, shot it out. Both were killed. Because the men had been professional gunfighters the shootout has become part of the colorful history of the Mojave Preserve. It was, according to all historic accounts, one of the last classical gunfights of the Old West.

The last excursion of the day took us into the New York Mountains, home too, for many former ranchers–most of whom have allowed the government to buy out their holdings. The road was bumpy, and Dick kept asking how we liked the carnival ride. “We like it,” said Janie,” between her “umphs.”

“Glad to hear that said Dick,” laughing a bit as Linda joined Janie in creating a chorus of “UMPHS.” Dick, who is justifiably proud of his jeep’s comfort, added that it was in part because of the deep shocks, three-inch lifts and the big tires. “Creates a softer ride,” he shouted as we bounced along.

New York Mountains

New York Mountains

As we drove we also took time to enjoy more Joshua Trees, here on the verge of blooming; but our longest stop included a mile hike searching for an old gold mine. The mine was described as the Shelf Mine, and because we did find a huge shelf and the remnants of old mine diggings, we thought we were near. But the day was late, and so we departed.

Dick wasn’t disappointed and said as much. “Now, I’ve got a reason,” he said, “to return to the New York Mountains.”

“As if you really needed one,” we joked.

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