A few sprinkles of rain overnight were completely evaporated by the wind and dry climate by morning. The new tent held up respectably in the windy conditions, a bit cramped fro my liking but easy enough to hide behind the Ruckus! Out on the highway, the small city of Hesperia unfolds around me where I stop for coffee and a brief blog post to update any followers as to my whereabouts. When in "Travel Mode" on the short sunny days of fall, I find it difficult to stop and waste time blogging or dealing with internet when the daylight is so precious. My GPS is set on Joshua Tree National Park, roughly 80 miles away across the open expanses of shrubs and rock that comprise the high Mojave Desert. My saving grace for neck fatigue and mpg is the glorious tailwind propelling me toward my destination as if some agreement had been reached with the heavens.
By 10AM, I regain feeling in my fingers after the sun bakes away the morning chill. It takes a few hours of riding and skirting the higher speed highways but I eventually make it to the surprisingly populated town of Yucca Valley. Tall palm trees dot the skyline and a number of subdivisions and buildings pepper the desert valley. The military base of Twenty-Nine Palms as well as a number of other defense related industries help to sustain the surrounding towns. A brief stop for groceries, water and fuel (my three essentials), then I head for the park. Flashing my National Parks Pass, I smile and accept a map of the park road and available recreation in the area. The main road through the park was relatively traffic free and empty on this weekday, which weekday? I have no idea.
The high Mojave Desert climate on the northern end of the park represents an amazing diversity of desert plants such as Pinyon Pine, Juniper and Joshua Trees. Amazed at the unusual landscape, my mind struggles to describe the sharp pointed spikes, thorns, cacti and water conserving plants. I lack a suitable history of experience and have no clue where to begin in photographing or writing about the life before me. Perhaps during sunset where the rocks are painted red and the trees silhouetted against the mountains it will all make sense? A lizard runs across the sandy surface near my footfall to hide underneath a cool rock.
The park is crisscrossed by hundreds of faults and evidence of recent geologic changes shape the rocks and mountains wherever I look. Overwhelmingly curious, my mind struggles to comprehend the environment unlike any place I've traveled before. Sandy tire tracks stretch off on side road adventures but the relatively narrow and small Ruckus tires prevent me from chasing dreams of bounding over sand dunes. The Park Road soon drops lower in elevation and the gnarly alien Joshua Trees begin to dwindle, overtaken by low vegetation of chollo and ocotillo and sage.
Before me is a magnificent panormaic view of protected wilderness stretching to the mountains 20-30 miles distant.
Exiting the park through BLM land, I promptly head over an Interstate without even glancing for consideration. The elevation begins to drop as I travel south down Box Canyon Rd toward the Salton Sea.
Near vertical sandstone walls devoid of vegetation reflect the extremes of desert erosion by wind and rain. A small pull off into a dry tributary of the canyon offers a simple fire pit and small tree bordering the wilderness in which to camp. I go for a hike up the canyon along a meandering course cut deep into the soft sandy rocks. Debris scattered through the riverbed hints at human presence upstream and the off-roading past of this now protected wilderness.
Temperatures overnight never fall below 50 and the breeze is nearly non-existent. Falling asleep, my eyes carry through the mesh toward the array of stars appearing the darkening sky. A quiet night, not even a coyote's howl to gleefully break my sleep.
In May 2014 I quit my job to ride a Honda Ruckus over 55'000 mi and counting. Wild camping most nights and cooking most of my own meals, I keep the costs low and the landscape changing.