Day 1 of “On the Road”! Traveling to the Mojave National Preserve


(Beaver Tail Cactus Bloom, Afton Canyon)

March 10th, 2014
At 10 AM, we left the guest house of our dear friends Chris and Margot Tufty (Chris has been director of photography on MOST of Backcountry Pictures films)

We were lucky it was the two of us – as there was an accident blocking up the 210 heading East – so we got on the fast lane and whizzed on by.

Climbing the Cajon pass was the first time I got the “visual” that from when we came (Los Angeles) and to where the road was heading (Las Vegas) was IN the desert.

All I wanted to do was drive THROUGH what we were seeing so we could GET to the desert, which was our destination.

That was it. I, too, have held the perception that desert is just a place to get through on your way to something else

The turning point (no pun intended) was when we turned off of I-15 East toward Afton Canyon, known by guide books as the “grand canyon of the Mojave.” We lunched at a picnic table in a windy spot, then took a short walk near the railroad tracks, then got in our car to drive thru the base of the “canyon”.

Not quite the spectacle of the Grand, but mighty none the less. Sandstone walls, many shades of gray, teased me to come back when the light would be less flat to see them as pink.

Here we entered that “zone” where time begins to slow down. The silence starts to envelop you. And what I remember I love about the desert tickles me onward.

We broke the spell slightly when we stopped in Baker for gas, bought a few post cards and fire wood, then re-entered the desert “zone” along the road inside the Mojave National Preserve leading to Kelso (aptly called Kelbaker road).

Once at the Kelso Depot we stopped briefly in the visitor center to buy some stamps, then when I asked where I could mail something was told, right over there by the trees, you can’t miss it.

We walked by numerous sets of trees seeing nothing that looked anything like a mail box, got back in the car, and began to drive onward, when we noticed, believe it or not, a mail slot box for receiving and sending mail, right beneath, yes, another set of trees.

We then followed the written instructions to the tee to the Granite Mountain Research Center where we were to spend a few nights and meet with Jim Andre, a noted botanist who runs the center; someone we sensed would be pivotal in guiding us as to what to see to possibly include in the film, and known by many in the desert as a “poet” of the place.

Once inside the funky gated area, we were pleased to find ourselves off the grid, among these granite pilings of rocks, the moon about to come out, the wind threatening to grow in intensity and our hosts welcoming us, settling us in for the night, and showing where to cook our own meal for dinner, etc.

We settled in for a nights sleep awakened many times by howling winds, sparkly moonlight, and dry desert air. We had arrived. This is the Mojave.image

(David in Afton Canyon)


(The first day of our trip in the Mojave National Preserve)