Mojave National Reserve

I woke up on the right side of the bed, which made my trip to the Mojave Preserve very enjoyable. I got up early and headed for Kelso Depot, a beautifully restored former train station that now houses a gallery and visitor center. After an uninspiring talk with a ranger who was clearly just phoning it in (definitely not part of the AltNPS crowd), who told me that I didn't want to go visit Hole-in-the-Wall because it was 60 miles away, I accepted the unspoken challenge and hit the road, full of indignant we'll-see-about-that's.

On the way though, I had to stop at Kelso Dunes, which I had passed on the way to the depot. I didn't have time to climb to the top, but it's a place I'll return to at some point, because it is seriously enormous. As I was driving toward it I kept wondering why this particular mountain looked so different from the others around it, finally realizing that it was a towering pile of sand on a scale I'd never seen before.

There was creosote bush all over the place. It looks sparse at the edge of the road, but blends together into a shimmering wash of color as it merges with distant foothills. Yucca dots the landscape at regular intervals. You can tell that you've moved from the Joshua Tree ecosystem into the Mojave because of the switch from Joshua Trees to various types of yucca.

I made it to Hole-in-the-Wall by mid-afternoon and spent some time soaking in the glowing hillside grasses. The rock is very soft, so there are rocks with small holes all over the place. The ranger at this center was much more engaging and clearly loved his work. I eavesdropped as he spoke with a couple camping nearby.

Sunset found me back in the town of Joshua Tree, preparing to move on to a couple of nights in Palm Springs. Ready or not, I was about to leap into a completely different world and I was having a major case of nerves.