Sunday, June 19, 2016

Mojave Road Saga - Day 1

Note to self: before venturing forth on the historic Mojave Road start early and get plenty of sleep the night before. A single lane dirt road (path in most instances) heading west (from where we started) for nearly 140 miles should not be started in the afternoon or after a lousy night sleep.

Hope self reads note!

He didn't - as with many travelers the night before an adventure starts, the sleep is fitful with the brain working on overload. Are we forgetting anything, is there enough fuel, enough water, should we be traveling this road with only one vehicle? Questions like these, and many more, often keep the explorer from getting the right amount of sleep before a trip begins. Starting tired is one strike against a trip along the Mojave Road.

Starting at nearly two in the afternoon is the second strike.

Luckily there wasn't a third or this trip would have been a strike out.

John and Paul just wanted to get started down the dirt road leading from the Colorado River - so in the heat of the day and with tired minds they drove out of the Avi Resort looking for the beginning of the Mojave Road.

It may get a bit hot in the Mojave Desert - maybe!

Perhaps that's why it took nearly an hour to find the beginning.

For most of the trip, the GPS was right on. The rock markers called cairns (stones set up in a pyramid fashion) were easily found, and the map in Dennis Casebier's book, Mojave Road Guide, pointed us in the right direction. But for some reason it took some maneuvering and back tracking to locate the beginning of the road.

A 'cairn' - guideposts for the Mojave Road. Don't miss them!!!
The trip began at the site of Fort Mojave which was built around 1859 on the shores of the Colorado River. The fort had been built to maintain a sort of peace with the Mohave Indian tribe which had been causing some grief - like killing immigrants and explorers who ventured into their lands. For all but two years during the Civil War, the fort was manned until 1890 when it was turned into a school for the Indians until the 1930s. Nothing much is left of the site - in truth, we found nothing indicating a previous Army fort from the 19th century. No cannons, rifles, graveyards, placards, markers, or anything else indicating a fort had been built along this part of the river.

 Of course, to be fair we may have missed a turn here or there but one thing was certain - the sand was extremely soft, the temperature HOT and we wanted to get a move on westward.

Deep - very deep sand - 4 x 4's only please

No fort, just riverfront property.

For some reason it took some maneuvering and back tracking to locate the actual beginning of the Mojave Road. Trails were everywhere heading into the desert west of the Avi Resort and though the guidebook was explicit we could not find a cairn to save our lives. One road went west and then south and then east - another road went north and then west and then east - we guessed all roads ended back at the Avi Resort. 

It may have been a trick to force us to lay by the cool blue river and gamble. But the ploy didn't work and in about an hour we finally found the beginning of the Mojave Road.

By trial and error we eventually found the road
We found it and the adventure was on. And what an adventure!

Across the same road that the likes of Jedediah Smith, Kit Carson, John Fremont, and Peter Skene Ogden had used while making their way across the Mojave Desert, we were traveling with the ghosts of some of the most famous early American adventurers there were.

Nothing could stop us now - almost nothing . . .

This something did stop our westward movement the first day.
In a relatively recent rain - something the deserts don't often get but when they do it pours and takes out primitive stretches of road easily. This was the case a few hours from the kickoff point of the trip. Even four wheel drives could not make it across a section of the upcoming road since what we learned electrical cables may be exposed or something to that effect. Whatever we would have to find an alternate route - one of 34 miles set up by the BLM or a 14 miler by a great group of Mojave Road enthusiasts.

We'd sleep on it and decide in the morning - tired and hungry we made camp a quarter a mile away and enjoyed the solitude of the desert. We made plans to start fresh and early the next morning.

Stay with us -- the adventure continues with next week's blog entry.

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