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The old Mojave Road was the southernmost route used to cross to the west coast by missionaries, the military, and various other groups, starting with Juan Batista de Anza's expedition in 1776. It is a 138 mile trail across the Mojave National Preserve from the Colorado river (and Nevada border) to Afton canyon, just west of Baker, CA (familiar to those Angelinos who make the weekend pilgrimage to Vegas). It crosses through historic forts, near stalactite-filled caverns, past many petroglyphs, lava tubes, cinder cones, early desert settler relics, and large canyons, all along some rough 4x4 roads. If you are interested in repeating this trip, I recommend saving these coordinates on Dirtopia at a minimum, and suggest purchasing Adler Publishing's California Trails - Desert Region book, which has integrated trail directions, GPS coordinates, and lots of information on the various areas you pass through. 

For this trip, we rented a classic 2 door Jeep Wrangler (this was before the FJ Cruiser, and this rental provided me with more reasons of why I didn't want a Jeep as my main car). We left on a Friday late morning and reached the starting point of Needles, CA with enough time to set up our tent at a KOA, grab some dinner and go to sleep. Saturday we began the drive, crossed over the Colorado River, and headed west into the Mojave NP, where we visited Fort Piute and Piute Spring, an old army base with many Native American petroglyphs. There was a Jeep meetup going on at the time, which led us to believe that the road was going to be much busier than expected, but it turned out that everyone only went to the main destinations and didn't travel the Old road, which provided for a much more pleasant trip.

From the Fort, we travelled west over an extremely rough and rocky pass, surprised that we didn't get a flat tire. Unfortunately, being our first offroading and backroad navigating experience, we wound up a few miles too far north, and were skirting a gorgeous canyon in Lanfair Valley before reaching a set of rough stadium jumps and sharp terrain, which did give us a flat tire! After swapping out the spare, we turned around, found the right trail, and at the intersection of Lanfair Valley Road, beared south to reach the nearest tire shop, which turned out to be many miles away, on the south side of I-40, in a "town" called Essex. The town was completely run down with the exception of a post office and a mechanics garage that charged a whopping $5 to fix our flat. 
A couple hours behind, but back on track, we return to the Old Mojave Road where we left off, and head west to Black Canyon Rd, where we spend a night at Mid Hills Campground after viewing one of the most incredible desert sunsets that I have set my eyes on. Nights got fairly cold here, and the fire was a very welcome addition to the evening.
We awoke on Sunday for an adventure-filled day, starting with a ranger-led tour of the Mitchell Caverns State Natural Preserve, within the Providence Mountains SRA. These are some fun little caverns with well preserved formations, sitting in the middle of the Mojave National Preserve. It is also accessible via paved road from I-40, and thus recommended even if you are just passing through.

 
 
Friday we left fairly early from LA for the eastern side of Pinnacles National Monument, and arrived at the shady and oak-strewn campground after a long stretch of winding and hilly rural roads. I never get carsick or any other form of motion sickness, but the last couple hours I had been increasingly more and more sick-to-the-stomach. Unfortunately after setting up the tent and air mattress, which we finished fairly early in the afternoon, I was more nauseous than ever. I had overlooked the fact that Marie had previously had a light stomach bug of some sort, and I must have eaten the same thing as her a few days later, because it was a horrible pain. Slowly everyone else arrived and pitched their tents, including Susanne, Justin, and Eric-- who had an amusingly large, rented 8 person fortress tent. I napped and stayed in the tent until dinner when I had a few bites to eat before going back to sleep, still sick.

Saturday morning I woke up feeling slightly improved, but still couldn’t eat anything. The options were to skip the 12 mile loop hike I had planned through both famous caves (and a possibility of bats), to do a small dayhike by myself, or to tough it out. Well if you don’t know me, I’m pretty stubborn, so the third option was the only one. As a result, they were forced to go slowly, but we still had a good time overall. The first cave was not too far in and it was great to crawl through the tight cave (especially being 6’3”), but unfortunately no bats were visibly roosting. We continued the hike to the top of the peak in the middle of the park, and followed some precarious stone ledges around to the other side. This was made easier with some metal pipe railings, but be advised that if you are over 5’10” or so, it is actually more difficult because the railings are at mid-thigh height and just waiting for some over-brave soul to fall over the railing a few hundred feet.
At this point I started feeling worse and they had to go increasingly slower to wait for me, but after descending the other side and reaching the western TH and campground, I drank gallons of water and laid down. Next we hiked through a wash to the second cave and saw some even more impressive drops and descents, but once again no bats. (I was just in a rush to get through it though, so there could have been some). Once on the other side, it was a fairly level hike along a stream back to the TH. I felt increasingly better and better, and by the time we had driven back to the campground I felt good enough to eat a huge meal and enjoy the campfire.