Desert snowballs

3/17/08 One reason Paul and I have become RV vagabonds is to escape the cold effects of the winter months. We seek sun, warm temperatures, adventure and the pleasure of meeting a wide variety of people on the road. The winter of 2008 has met all of these expectations.

We departed Los Angeles a few days ago after a glorious visit with our son Yechiel, our daughter in law, Miriam and our adorable grandsons, Azriel and Tal. For once, the weather in LA was warm, sunny and welcoming. Our motor home faced the Pacific Ocean and the beach just a few feet away from our windshield.

After our 12-day visit we departed LA, the busy freeways, the crowds of people all wishing to occupy the same space at the same time and headed northeast for the Mojave Desert Reserve. We have become fans of the deserts of California, the Imperial Valley, Death Valley, Joshua Tree, the Anzo Berrego and more. It was time to try a new location. We found the rustic campsite and set up to camp for several days. What better name could there be for the campground in the Mojave, but “Hole in the Wall”, (from the lore of Butch Cassidy the Sundance Kid and the Hole in the Wall Gang)? Our altitude was at 4000’ above sea level. Arrival time was late on a Thursday afternoon, with brilliant blue sky and the sun playing in the rough peaks and mesas near our campsite. The temperature was in the mid 70’s. We met our neighbors and enjoyed cocktails and conversation together to share our RV experiences.

Having listened to NOAA – the monotone but informative voice of the national weather channel, we knew to expect high winds and cooler temperatures. And that is exactly what we got. Our rig was buffeted and shaken with winds probably up to 45-50 MPH. Being old hands at weather of all kinds, we brought in our slides and battened down all “hatches.” With no hook ups at this campground, we were dry camping and loving it.

The wind whipped at us during the 4 days we were there. We had plenty of company including tenters. But, we remember our days of tenting and thinking this was heaven. (in case you think we are completely out of our minds, there were times when we would keep the tent in back of the station wagon and seek the nearest and greatest B & B for our comfort and staying warm and dry.) These folks did not have that choice; our location was very remote indeed.
Our minds were made up not to miss a trick or attraction in the Mojave now that we were embraced by its beauty and smack in the middle of the Reserve. Our days included visiting an historic town called Kelso with a rich history in the development of railroading, a dip down into the Mitchell Caverns to see the wonders of stalagmites, stalactites and a new formation to us called shields. (that look like flat, cylindrical plates pressed against the cave wall or ceiling). We did an unsuccessful hunt for baby desert tortoises (a bit too early in the season), hiked into and climbed a canyon wall for a spectacular view. We also climbed down into volcanic lava tubes and saw vast Cinder Cones left after earthquakes as recent as 10,000 years ago.
There are still some hikes to be enjoyed on our next visit, the Mojave Joshua tree forest, the “burn over” of a few years ago to photograph and the Kelso Dunes to climb. Our departure date was uncertain and would be determined by the prospect of diminishing the high and eventually annoying winds.

Sunday morning arrived with no diminishing of the winds and a new surprise: SNOW. The snow had been forecast for above 5200’. So it was indeed, a surprise.
We decided to depart the Mojave to seek relief from the constant blowing and the cold. My skin is so dry from the cold and my arthritis is saying “hello.” The campground is almost empty leaving only 2 rigs plus that of the campground hosts and the single tenter remaining. Warmer weather is due to arrive in a few days. The spring wildflowers will continue to grow, the kangaroo rats will chew on campers belongings left unattended and the baby tortoises will hatch without our notice this year. We have much to look forward to on our next visit to the Mojave Desert, a place well-noted in history through folk lore, fiction and works of art.