Spring on the Mojave Road
By Steve Mersman
I left my house in Pinon Hills early on Thursday. Since I was doing the Mojave Road, I thought I would check out some other points of interest along the Mojave River. My first stop was to find the location of “Lanes Crossing.”
I drove into the river bed off of Turner Road in Victorville and parked along the river. Since Owl Rock products in Oro Grande has all entrances blocked from the east side of the river, it was my only option without asking permission.
My next stop was for a delicious sandwich at the Cross Eyed Cow Restaurant in Oro Grande.
My favorite sandwich is the Peterbilt (but the pizza is great too). My next stop was to find “Point of Rocks” near Helendale, which I’ve only seen in pictures. I didn’t realize the railroad pretty much cut right through it.
My next stops were to be Cottonwood, Fish Ponds and Forks in the Road, but time was getting short. I’ll save that for another trip. I still wanted to stop and check out Goffs Schoolhouse in remembrance of Dennis Casebier. But since our “certain circumstances,” it was closed.
I arrived at the Avi Resort not too late, and just my luck, no rooms were available. I checked availability the day before, and plenty were available. So called a friend which recently moved to Bullhead City and he allowed me to crash at his house.
I woke up pretty early since my friend had to go to work. I met with the three other vehicles I was leading across back at the Avi for breakfast but it was also not open for business, due to our “certain circumstances”. I found a little restaurant—The Bonanza Café— in Fort Mojave which is right across the bridge from the Avi. After breakfast we topped off our gas tanks, along with another group doing the Mojave Road. In fact, there were quite a few groups doing the trip. Looks like this trip is going to be crowded and camping spots may be an issue. Especially when one of the groups were 13 strong.
We finally started our trip and the weather was perfect, the wash coming from Picture Canyon had a weird undulation to the road; it would throw you back and forth, you really had to watch your speed. The only reason I could come up with, is they had an off-road race through here recently and the cars’ suspension and all that horsepower created these annoying road conditions. I still like to blame the UTVs though.
We made it to the highway crossing and could see the road to Piute Springs.
We took our time because I knew it was going to be busy up that single road. We met a few groups coming up and passing was a bit of an issue. People forget that uphill has the right of way. Anyway, we moved over the best place we could without running over vegetation. That’s another story. With that many people I was pleased that all were respectful and no trash was left behind. When we arrived at Piute Springs, I took a short hike and showed off the Petroglyphs and Fort Piute.
The creek was barely running. The driest I’ve seen it. The hope was to see some wildflowers this trip, but I think we were too early or just not enough precipitation this year. We loaded back up and headed down the road and made the right turn and began our climb over to Lanfair Valley.
I showed everyone the wagon tracks coming over from Piute Springs.
I forget how beautiful Lanfair Valley is. It is very thick with vegetation. I can see the temptation to raise cattle out there.
We continued on to check out Rock Springs, and figure out where we were going to camp. Everyone doing Mojave Road likes to camp near Caruthers Canyon and with that many groups it is going to be busy.
After driving around until dark, trying to find a site without neighbors, we settled near the windmill and corral near Maruba Road. After setting up camp and standing around the campfire the clouds rolled in and the wind picked up. Not too bad, but it was pretty cold, but what a beautiful sunrise with the low clouds still around.
After finishing breakfast and loading up we headed for the Rock House, Government Holes and lunch would be had at Marl Springs. It’s probably the most important stop for travelers along the Mojave Road for surviving such a journey in the late 1800’s. That is a long desolate way east from Afton Canyon, and west of Government Holes. I hiked along the mountain to find more petroglyphs and match the photo from Jeff Lapides book “The Mojave Road in 1863.” I’m always on the lookout for Tillman’s signature anytime I stop at a watering hole. Could this be one? Maybe he couldn’t stay long enough to finish it.
After finishing lunch, we headed to the lava tubes. When we made our right turn at Tank 6, the traffic kept getting worse.
Getting passed by a Toyota Camry at 50 mph – this was going to be interesting. Sure thing, there were people everywhere in the parking area and parking right next to the lava tubes. After getting through the crowd we headed to our next campsite along the lava walls beside the wash. When we arrived, it was going to be too busy and the wind was too strong. We decided to camp on the east facing mountain near 17 mile point We set up camp, cooked some delicious food, and hung around the campfire discussing what we saw, what we forgot and got a phone call out.
The next morning I woke up to utter silence. It was so quiet, just the sound of a jostling sleeping bag, or a zipper opening a tent flap. We said our goodbyes since one group left the night before, and the other had to take Kelbaker Road back to the 40 since he came from Arizona. My friend Joe and I were the last of the group, we were going to finish the trip. We continued on and over Soda dry lake. It was very dry – no problems at all crossing.
We stopped at travelers monument after a large group was leaving, I couldn’t find the rock I had left 10 years ago, that pile is getting pretty big. We kept on and stopping a couple times to fix the rock cairns, some were hit so hard the rocks were scattered everywhere. Keeping those telephone poles and rock cairns in sight we made it to the mouth of Afton Canyon, another favorite site of mine. It still amazes me to see that water running. Lucky for us the railroad is doing work on the tracks so the crossing was filled with railroad ballast just tires deep through the water.
We continued up the road and I showed Joe the old Indian path that still can be seen cutting across the desert.
We made it to the freeway, aired up our tires and discussed the next trip out in the desert. ~ Steve