This year’s annual GTFO of Utah trip took Chris and I back to Mojave National Preserve, which is where we went for our inaugural trip in 2016. That outing took us south and back north again through the preserve, but this time we traversed it east to west along Mojave Road. We were quite late rolling into our first night’s camp, partially due to the gas station in Palm Gardens being closed and having to backtrack to Searchlight for fuel. We arrived at camp on the north end of the Dead Mountains after midnight and still stayed up for a couple of hours around the camp fire.
With a late start on Saturday morning we hit the Mojave Road and entered the preserve, headed to Fort Piute. We spent almost two hours there, walking around looking for petroglyphs and at the remains of the fort. It was breezy but warm and sunny relative to what we’d left behind at home.
We drove for a while and then left Mojave Road briefly to check out the petroglyphs at Eagle Mountain, which I enjoyed more than those at Fort Piute, particularly because several of them appeared to represent Joshua trees. We ate a late lunch there (nutritious as ever!) and then returned to our driving route.
Back on Mojave Road we continued west while making several quick stops. We visited the Penny Can Tree, hiked around Rock Spring for a bit, and saw a couple of old buildings, including Bert Smith’s cabin where we met a guy from Sandy, Utah, where Chris is also from.
Next we took a detour off the main route that turned out to be way longer than I’d expected. We drove south quite a bit to Woods Wash and hiked down the wash looking for some petroglyphs. I didn’t know exactly where they were but figured we’d run into them eventually. We did find a few glyphs that were just okay, but not the ones I was hoping to find, so the detour wasn’t worth the time. We returned to the Jeep after sundown and ended up driving in the dark for another 30 miles before finding a decent place to camp for the night near Marl Spring.
Despite another late start on Sunday we crammed a lot of activity into the day. After a quick stop at the Mojave Road mailbox, we departed Mojave Road and went into a lava tube we’d visited on our last trip here. Then it was farther north to poke around Aiken Mine for a while.
Our next stop was for a short hike in Black Tank Wash to see some petroglyphs and pictographs. The pictos weren’t great but they were the only ones we’d see on this trip, so I was glad we made the stop.
Another abandoned mining area north of Aiken Mine had a lot more to see so we spent about 45 minutes there looking at all the stuff left behind.
The last point of interest before we started looking for camp was a dense area of petroglyphs near Cow Cove. The road there is closed so we ended up hiking almost four miles total, including a lot of climbing up and down the hillside covered in boulders with petroglyphs on them.
Before finding camp we decided to drive out to I-15 to fuel up, and on the way we passed an abandoned ranch at Rock Tank that looked like a great place to camp, so we returned around sunset after filling the Jeep’s tank. It was cold and breezy, so I slept in the Jeep but Chris set up his cot in the old house.
We returned to Mojave Road on Monday and spent the whole day on it without any major detours this time. There were a bunch of things to see along the way without much effort.
After passing out of Mojave National Preserve and before reaching Afton Canyon, we encountered an abandoned Nissan Altima. It appeared to be stuck in the sand, had a flat tire and a broken window, and had this note written on the side:
My name is Heather Marie Underwood, AZ Arizona. I went to get someone to pull me out (the car) and give me a jump.
I didn’t think much of it at the time, other than that it was a little eerie. It wasn’t until writing this (November 2022) that I looked up her name and found some social media posts saying that she’s been missing since December 2020 and that her car had been found without her in it. I haven’t found anything else in the news or from official sources. Creepy.
In Afton Canyon we stopped to inspect a borax mine, visited a couple of memorials, hiked up a deep dark slot canyon, and hiked to an alcove near some wetlands along the Mojave River. At the west end of the canyon we left Mojave Road to begin the first leg of the long drive home, but first had to cross a deep spot in the Mojave River that had me worried. I couldn’t see how deep it was so I just eased on it, and it turned out to be no big deal.
We got on I-15 around 5:30PM and it was only about an hour to Rock Tank where we’d camped the previous night, so we aimed for that. Again I slept in the Jeep and Chris stayed outside on his cot. After breakfast the next morning we hit the road for home. It had been a really good trip, with a lot of sights packed into a short time. This part of the drive is always the worst, and we broke it up with a quick stop at Seven Magic Mountains. Luckily it was cold and very windy and we had the place to ourselves for the, like, two minutes we were there.
Photo Gallery: Mojave Road