Sunrise is always pretty out here in the desert, but the tent will be transformed into an oven soon, once the sun starts shining on it!

Bicycle camping in and around Mojave National Preserve 2006

Day 10: Willow Wash to Arrowweed Spring

36.2 miles, 4:40 hrs, 23.9 mph max, 7.4 mph avg

Elevation: 2200 feet to 3800 to 2123 to 4000

The sun is up and I don't want to get up yet. But I'm awake at 7h, sort of. I toss and turn for perhaps an hour. Just as I finally start to fall back to sleep, I feel hot sun heating up my tent. Within 15 minutes it becomes unbearably hot inside.

Two vans pull into my campsite area while I'm packing up; a group of high-school students in search of chuckwallas disperses

I begrudgingly crawl outside and slowly go about my breakfast routine of boiling water for instant miso soup, hiding in the shade of my tent. The sun is hot, but it's a nice, still day.

Yesterday's ride from Tecopa Hot Springs—both the distance and the hot temperature—was taxing and I needed extra sleep this morning. I don't have any energy yet. I'm just hoping that this condition won't persist throughout the day!

I follow my bowl of miso soup with many handfuls of granola, nuts and a couple of pieces of spicy turkey jerky. I drink a lot of water. Water is best at this time of day before it heats up too much.

Maybe I ate too much; I feel like I'm getting a post-meal food coma. I groggily start packing up, and I'm sweating a lot from the sunshine, even though it's still early.

My digestive processes are definitely functioning regularly, and it's time to walk around and look for a somewhat private spot to dig a hole for poopy-doopy. I hear a noise and turn around. Two big white minivans are pulling into this site. They park fairly close to the road and don't come all the way up the wash where I'm camped out.

Two students on top of the lava flow hunt chuckwallas

A dozen or so people get out of the two vans. So much for poopy-doopy privacy with all these people suddenly around! I keep dismantling my camp and the people that just arrived disperse throughout the area, many all around me.

I'm sure they're all as surprised to see me as I am to see them. I greet a few of them as they pass by. It turns out that this is a high-school biology class studying and trapping chuckwallas.

"A lot more fun than sitting in class," one of the guys points out. He climbs to the top of the rocky lava flow across from my tent and calls down to me, pointing out where he sees a couple of chuckwalls just a few rocks over. We're both silent for a monent, and he proudly snags one with his fishing-rod-like trap.

A mile or two up Kelbaker Road, I look back toward the lava flows where I camped last night—the black line on the right in the photo

I finish packing up and attaching my belongings to the bike. Some of my energy has returned, perhaps because I'm inspired to see these younger folks gaining an appreciation for the desert as something worth exploring.

None of them comment on my camping, which might be a good sign. Maybe they just see it as something normal to run into out here, and I would find that inspiring too.

I ride out of the campsite, waving as I pass the adults of the group, who are hiding maturely under the shade of a tarp strung between the two minivans.

Out on Kelbaker Road, I begin the slow climb up Kelbaker Road to the summit and then down to Kelso Depot, where I will be able to fill my water bottles again. From there, I'll probably continue up Kelbaker Road toward a campsite at Arrowweed Spring or Granite Pass—unless I change my mind.

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