Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The wonders of the Mojave Desert

Mojave Desert, CA

Oh, oh, ohhh! We hiked Hole-in-the-Wall through ring canyon, jumpin' for joy the entire way. If we weren't exclaiming about the mountains; it was the swiss cheese look of the canyon walls; or the prickly plants; or the vast, larger than life, sky; or climbing the rings; or some other astonishing thing. And, you should have seen Benton on the rings. "Rings, what rings?" an overjoyed Benton seemed to say. Ed and I fully utilized the rings to move up the slick rock shoots. Benton, on the other hand, scampered up through the shoots like a mountain goat. Gleeful at the top, acting almost giddy with the pleasure of the "Wow! Way to go Benton" exclamations we poured forth.

The canyon at Hole-in-the-Wall is called Banshee Canyon, because the howling wind sounds like screaming. We did wish we had a big chunk of Whidbey Island's Screaming Banshee bread with us.

We are very smitten with Mojave Desert. It is the place many drive through on their way from Death Valley to Joshua Tree. We were pleased we stopped, explored, and stayed a few days in this undiscovered jewel. The ranger, giving the Saturday night presentation, with Ed and I the only attendees, whispered to us, "keep our secret." He was right. Much of the charm of Mojave is the isolation. The rest is the magnificence of the place!

Thistle way down in the vallery

From our first Mojave camp at Mid Ways, high up in the pines and juniper trees, to the Hole-in-the-Wall camp, down low in the valley, we have been enchanted by this national preserve. Although the desert is not yet in bloom, the variety of species, and their crazy names like hedge hogs, organ pipes, teddy bears and barrels, is delightful.

On our way from Death Valley into the Mojave, we visited Kelso Station, an old train station, now a museum and visitor's center restored and operated by the National Park Service. With both Ed and I coming from railroad families, we were pleased to see this magnificent old station, once slated for demolition, now looking fit as a fiddle. Unfortunately, the lunch room was not functioning because the previous owner has retired, but the search is on for a new restaurant operator. Anyone?

The Kelso Station was built by Union Pacific in 1924 and closed in 1985, with it's most active period being during World War II. The upstairs floor was for housing railroad workers, the main floor was Union Pacific offices and waiting room, and the basement was storage, luggage, and idle-time activities such as pool. The lunch room, also on the main floor, was designed with stools placed at a charming u-shaped counter, much like an old drugstore ice-cream counter, surrounding the serving and cooking area. We would have loved to sit down for lunch at the counter, but chips and coke were the only offerings. We instead ate from Thistle supplies, at an outside picnic table, overlooking the tracks, where, much to our pleasure, a train rolled by.

"We know so very little about this strange planet we live on, this haunted world where all answers lead only to more mystery."
- Edward Abbey

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