The old Mojave Road is quite sandy as I head downward toward Marl Springs

Bicycle camping in and around Mojave National Preserve 2006

Day 11: Arrowweed Spring to Marl Springs

32.3 miles, 4:05 hrs, 23.4 mph max, 7.9 mph avg

Elevation: 4000 feet to 2123 to 4400 to 4100

I've seen numerous photos of Marl Springs, so I'm trying to visualize where it might be as I look south down Mojave Road back toward the mountains. I can't tell exactly where it is, but I know I'm pretty close.

I stop near Marl Springs to see if this might be home tonight

I head down Mojave Road, and it's really sandy, just like the reports that I have read. I wanted to explore parts of this road on my previous trips here, but I was intimidated by the possibility of getting stranded in sandy areas.

The road is really starting to go downhill, and I'm having fun skiing effortlessly through the sand. I skid a bit here and there, and stop a couple of times when I feel like I'm starting to lose control.

Cholla and barrel cacti appear occasionally alongside this narrow road, and I don't want to accidentally slip and fall into any of them!

This is turning out to be a fantastic end to a long day of fairly strenuous riding on a hot day—icing on the cake.

My campsite near Marl Springs at sunset

Suddenly, I start imagining myself dragging the 10-ton bike back up this hill tomorrow morning; I'll definitely not be able ride up this sandy slope!

So now I'm actively looking for a place to pull out and set up camp before I get too far down this hill. Hopefully Marl Springs isn't all the way down at the bottom of the hill.

I see two tire tracks that head off toward the mountains, so I pull in to see what's there. They just go 50 feet or so to an open area. This doesn't seem to be Marl Springs. Marl Springs proper is probably a little further down the hill where the mountain range curves a little.

People have obviously camped here before, which qualifies it as a campsite. I get off the bike and walk around a bit to check out the area. As always, there's some broken glass scattered around, and the area is on a slope, but I manage to locate one mostly level spot where I could set up the tent and be glass-free.

A train crosses Kelso Valley down in the distance just before the sun goes down

I think this will be home tonight! My only reservation is that I'll be just 25 feet off the road. This means that any passing vehicles will be in my bedroom, but I've read that this road only gets a few vehicles on it each week—so I'm hoping that traffic won't be a problem, especially on a Sunday night.

It's silent here. I enthusiastically set up my tent and hear the noise of rocks moving not too far away. Looking up toward the rocky Marl Mountains behind me, I see what looks like four or five bighorn sheep climbing the mountain. They're too far away to see clearly, so I'm not sure what they are.

Surprisingly, my cell phone looks like it works here, probably due to the relatively high elevation (4100 feet). I take advantage of the reception and call my friend Trennel in Los Angeles. The phone really does work here!

I try to make an intelligent conversation, but I'm unable to communicate how I feel standing here all alone in a remote location invisible to most of the civilized world.

It's about to get dark here near Marl Springs

I hear lots of quail noises that seem to be coming from different directions, but I only see a few quail. They must be hiding in the creosote bushes.

I boil water and prepare my usual campers-meal-in-a-pouch. Teriyaki chicken and rice (mostly just rice with great flavourings added)—so tasty.

The sun sets slowly behind the Marl Mountains. It's dark and still very warm outside, so I sit in the tent with just the tent's screen "protecting" me from the wild world outside.

The sky is black, cloudless and star-studded again. A small crescent moon sits above the mountains. I write notes in my journal, hoping to catch up (I'm still about a day behind).

Bighorn sheep, I think, climbing the rocky hills of the Marl Mountains

I'm jolted by what sounds like a viscious cat fight nearby. I listen intently. I've never heard anything like this before. It's loud and ferocious and doesn't sound like any ordinary cat fight in my back yard. Moreover, it sounds more like it's just one cat making all the noise and that there's not a second cat fighting back.

The howling-hissing noise is relentless for a minute or two, but the shock of it to a city-boy's ears makes it seem like it has lasted much longer than that. I conclude that it must be bobcats or mountain lions mating, which I've read can be a rather aggressive act. I don't know for sure what this is, but I need an explanation and this is the only one that my mind can come up with.

I'm a unnerved by this because it happened quite close to my tent. The wind is picking up and I'm annoyed by the noises that my tent is making in the wind. I'm unable to tell if the sounds I'm hearing are just caused by my tent flapping or if there's a mountain lion walking around through the creosote bushes outside my tent, checking me out, me, a strange intrusion on his territory.

Sunset glows on the Providence Mountains and Mid Hills behind me near Marl Springs

A lot of moths and bugs are glued to my tent again tonight, more than during other nights I've spent out here so far. They're no doubt attracted to the light of my flashlight-lantern in the tent. Whenever I need to go outside, I extinguish the light for a minute or two before opening the tent screen to go outside.

I figure it's a good idea to go out and bring my camelbak inside the tent, placing it in a garbage bag as usual to keep any water dripping out of it from getting my tent wet. I don't want to leave it outside where its drips might attact more water-seeking wildlife than I need to experience.

I keep writing in my journal, holed up in my tent. My pen runs out of ink. Anyway, I'm reaching that moment of the evening when I'm tired enough that I'm ready to go to sleep.

Crescent moon tonight

It's around 23h00 and it has been a tiring day. I should fall asleep automatically. I step outside briefly to urinate one last time and stare for a few minutes at all the stars that I don't usually get to see. I crawl back inside and turn off my flashlight lantern for the night.

Each time I start to fall asleep, I wake up abruptly with a sensation that I can't breathe. It's hot inside the tent, so I roll over once or twice, catch my breath, unzip my sleeping bag a little more, then fall asleep again, sort of. This cycle keeps repeating.

Maybe this wouldn't be happening if I didn't close up the tent, but I'm damaged tonight. I can't bring myself to leaving the flaps open, with just the screens closed, because that would allow my wildlife neighbours for the night, who have already announced their presence, to look inside the tent and see me sleeping during the night.

But finally, I get tired of this cycle and I stop waking up for some reason. Last time I checked, it was 2h00. Let the mountain lions feast on me now, I'm too tired to care.

Next ->

Contact mojave2006 ... at ...