We're staying at a magnificent campground, Mid Hills in Mojave National Preserve, CA. We're happily isolated, having driven many miles on a washboard road to reach this desert high spot. RV's are not recommended on this rattle-your-teeth-out road, but here we are anyway, still with teeth, but a couple of shattered dishes. No phone service. No internet. The only sounds are a breeze through the trees and an occasional bird twitter. No people, no cars, but the ubiquitous airplane from time-to-time. Just now, a new sound. A train whistle off in the distance from the Union Pacific running through the valley. We have decided to stay put today. Enjoy the peace and absorb the majesty of the Mojave.
The night before last we parked in a casino parking lot, on the main street of Perhump, Nevada. A horrible town with the worst of corporate America's offerings -- Walmart, McDonalds, Home Depot, Denny's, and casinos, all lined up like soldiers along a dismal main road. No town center, city park, or community gathering place to be found. One long strip of glaring lights, litter, traffic, end-to-end parking lots, noise, and ugliness. Ed and I are puzzled about Perhump. Why does it exist? How does it support so many huge businesses? Is it that it is only 60 miles from Los Vegas? We are, nevertheless, grateful for a grocery store for restocking Thistle, and a free camping space.
The contrast with where we are now camped and Perhump, couldn't be greater. We are enjoying stunning unspoiled views in all directions. All available for a mere $6.00, plus our tax dollars, happily paid, to support this nation's wonderful park system. Because the Mojave is a national preserve, rather than national park, Benton is allowed on the trails so we'll be exploring such places as Hole-in-the-Wall, Quail Basin and Banshee Canyon. Plus, sand dunes, up to 700 feet high. The weather is mild, even cool. Last night it dropped down to 40, from the low 70's during the day. It's windy.
In the summer of 2005 a wildfire, caused by lightning, swept through Mojave, destroying hundreds of acres, including half of this campground. We are camped in a site untouched by fire, but other nearby sites were badly burned, with dead trees still standing in eerie beauty. What's interesting to me is after 15 years, I'm seeing no signs of seedling trees. I'm left wondering how long natural restoration takes in the Mojave desert. One ranger we spoke with said she's thinks, never. The weather has changed enough that there is little hope the juniper and pines will return.
Desert calm, after Death Valley's unease, is restored here. I think it's the trees. The trees bring a human scale to the landscape that I find comforting. Pinyon pine and juniper dominate -- old, knarled and twisted, stunted in these harsh conditions, with the tallest reaching only 20 feet. Yucca, sage, goldenbush and other cacti-type plants make up the understory.
"The romantic view, while not the whole of truth, is a necessary part of the whole truth."
- Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire