June 25,  2009

Trip Description:
The Mojave or High Desert occupies over 22 thousand square miles of the south west, and is typically identified by the indicator species Yucca brevifolia. While temperatures range from below 0 F in winter mountains to over 130 F in summer valleys, autumn temperatures often stay between 70 and 90.
Our appreciation of it seems to grow with each visit. The amazing solitude, scenery, geology, relics, flora (and fauna when seen) would seem more at home on another planet than to the forest and temperate world most of us are use to. So on October 5th, with most of our obligatory duties behind us, we took off in our little camper for the high country. Our first stop was Cedar Grove in Kings Canyon. Not only is Highway 180 sublime, but the canyon is generally warmer and more varied. For those leaving the park and/or wishing to avoid freezing nights, Potwisha campground close to the southern entrance on 198 makes for a pleasant oak woodland overnight. From here Rainbow Basin Natural Area  just above Barstow made for a leisurely ride, and one can take in the Owl Canyon hike if time. Our next destination was Mitchell Caverns in the Mojave National Preserve. Our first time here, we were impressed not only with the caves, but the amazingly serene and expansive desert vistas, not to mention the Mary Beale Nature Trails just off the parking lot. There are campsites here, or 18 miles away at Hole-in-the-wall.
We got an early start for Hoover Dam, and were quite surprised at the changes over the last 30 years. A lot of money was spent on the new Art Deco visitors center, and more on the spectacular bridge bypassing the dam. From here we leisurely headed east on 167 taking a number of new hiking trails on the way to Valley of Fire, itself worth a day or two of exploration.

Our next stop was the amazing Springs Preserve  in Las Vegas. It's an ecological Disneyland with modern desert architecture. Well worth the cost to visit, or you can tour the gardens for free. Once again we camped at Red Rock Canyon  west of Vegas and took some of the trails we missed on our last visit. Especially memorable were Ice Box and Pine Creek Canyons.