Theresa in Banshee Canyon

Mojave National Preserve protects 1.6 million acres of desert in southeastern California.  There are signs of past volcanic activity throughout the park, including in the Banshee Canyon shown above.  Over 18 million years ago, a series of violent volcanic eruptions blasted rock, ash and gas across this area at supersonic speeds.  There was no lava, but thick layers of ash welded together as they cooled to form these swiss-cheese-like rock walls.



Mojave sunset

A fierce winter storm dropped rare rain and snow on us for two days (the region averages only 4” of precipitation per year).  The cold wind howled over 50 mph and rocked our RV.  We experienced a few days and nights of the coldest weather on our trip.  Yet the storm also provided some amazing sunsets.



Boondocking in Wild Horse Canyon

One of our favorite aspects of this park is we spent the entire time camping alone in the wilderness.  We camped in three spots including in Wild Horse Canyon, shown above, for 6 days at a total cost of $0.  We loved being alone, always in total silence except for the birds and the wind, and waking up surrounded by mountains.



Shadow watching over our RV in Wild Horse Canyon

When we’d arrive at a new spot, we’d climb the nearest hill or mountain to scope out our surroundings.  In this photo, Shadow fearlessly perches on a rock a few hundred feet above our RV in Wild Horse Canyon.



Our first camping spot

This was our first camping spot in a massive plain surrounded by mountains.  There were no people for miles.  We loved the total isolation.



Theresa carefully navigates her way along the edge of Providence Mountain

While we’re eating lunch in the RV, we’d peer out our window and spot a tall mountain nearby.  “How about we hike to the top of that ridge today?” I’d ask.  “Sure, why not!” Theresa would reply.  There’s something especially cool about walking outside your RV and right into a hike without having to drive somewhere.



Hikers on Kelso Dunes

There was so much diversity in this park.  One amazing feature was Kelso Dunes, a 60-story sand dune that we climbed one afternoon.



Timm, Shadow and Darby on top of Kelso Dunes

Climbing to the top of the dune was exhausting.  Every step was one step forward and a half step back as our foot slid in the sand.  After a laborious hour-long climb, we finally reached the peak, sat down, rested and enjoyed our lunch.



Darby loves sand dunes

Kelso Dunes is one of only 30 dunes in the world that “sings” when you slide down it.  The special composition of the sand causes mini-avalanches that moan and groan.  We love the dunes because there are no trails and we can hike anywhere.  Notice the little speck in the photo above, that’s Darby!  She loves the soft feel of sand dunes on her pads.



Theresa descending into a massive lava tube

The Cinder Cone National Natural Landmark in Mojave contains another amazing natural feature: a massive lava tube.



Theresa in a lava tube

Occasionally lava on the surface would cool faster than the lava underneath, which would continue to flow downhill and empty out, creating a lava tube.



Lava tube ceiling

The lava tube ceiling dripped and dried into wild alien-like patterns.



Timm stands at the exit hole for the lava tube

Here Timm stands at the hole where the lava underneath exited to form the lava tube.  Notice the cinder cones in the background.  There are over 30 cinder cones in this area, and most are hundreds of feet high.



Camping along the edge of a lava bed

Our third camping spot was wedged between a long sand dune and a massive lava bed many miles wide and two stories tall.  It was so quiet here we felt like our ears were stuffed with cotton.  Notice Shadow walking gingerly on the very sharp lava rock.



Timm stands before a cinder cone which we're about to climb

On our final day in Mojave National Preserve we decided to climb a 500-foot cinder cone.  Looks easy, right?



Theresa is climbing up the cinder cone

There were no trails and no shortcuts, so we climbed straight up its side.  Like most lava, the cinder cone was sharp and unforgiving, so we created two makeshift pick-axes out of smoother rocks and used them to claw our way up the edge of the cone.  This photo is deceiving and doesn’t reveal that Theresa is perched perilously 40 stories above the ground.  Click on the photo and see if you can spot our tiny car in the distance at the edge of the dark lava bed.  Yes, that dark color is lava that at one time poured out of this cinder cone, and the light color is the normal desert floor.



Steep edge of the cinder cone

You can see how steep our climb was, but the view was incredible the entire way up.



Theresa enjoys a well-deserved drink on top of the cinder cone

We took a long drink and enjoyed the spectacular 360-degree view of the Cinder Cone Natural National Landmark.  The Mojave National Preserve was an amazing place and one of our favorite parks on our trip so far.

>> Next Stop: Death Valley National Park >>

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