Skid marks along the Mojave Road as it descends from the mailbox toward Aiken Mine Road

Bicycle camping in and around Mojave National Preserve 2006

Day 12: Marl Springs to Baker

29.9 miles, 2:45 hrs, 21.2 mph max, 10.8 mph avg

Elevation: 4100 feet to 4550 to 923

I eat a handful of dried apricots, drink more water, and ride away from the Mojave Road mailbox. I stop to open a cattle gate that is hardly more than a few wires strung across the road.

A cattle gate across the road needs to be opened, and then closed

I'm getting closer to the cinder cones and am also noticing that the road is levelling out somewhat. The road seems to be in a wash now, so it has gotten a bit sandier. As my elevation drops, there are fewer joshua trees, while creosote bush is becoming the dominant plant.

I reach the intersection with Aiken Mine Road, a wider dirt road which heads north past the cinder cones and eventually to Cima Road. This is another road that I haven't gotten around to exploring yet, even though I'd like to.

Mojave Road has been slowly getting closer to Kelbaker Road all along, and Kelbaker is now just a half mile or so to my left up Aiken Mine Road. I could head that way to rejoin pavement, or I could just continue along the Mojave Road, which will eventually cross Kelbaker Road several miles further on.

The Mojave Road passes straight through the sand in the wash

The eight miles or so that I've just ridden on the Mojave Road from the powerline road to here at Aiken Mine Road has been great—this would make excellent mountain-biking day ride. The next few miles could be equally enjoyable, especially as the road starts following the edge of the lava flow.

I decide to continue along the Mojave Road beyond Aiken Mine Road. It's sandier here. I think I'm still riding on a slight downhill, but it might not be quite enough to make riding through the sand feasible.

The road here is in Willow Wash and is not quite a road anymore. It's more like just driving in a wash that just happens to also function as a road.

I get off the bike and drag it through a particularly sandy stretch, hissing, and then get back on again. But I can only ride a few hundred feet before I lose traction again. The cycle repeats a few times.

I've reached a point where the road scenically follows the edge of the lava flow, but I'm walking more than I am biking. Of course, walking is to be expected during a "bikepacking" trip!

Sandy area of the Mojave Road along the lava flows

About a mile beyond Aiken Mine Road, I come to Rainy Day Mine Road, which leads over to Kelbaker Road in about half a mile. This looks like a good opportunity to stop walking and start riding again.

Rainy Day Mine Road is also a sandy two-tire-track road, but firm enough that it rides easily. At least it feels easy right now after all the deep sand I've been through.

I reach predictable, dependable Kelbaker Road again after the short ride through creosote-bush scrub on Rainy Day Mine Road. Ooo, real pavement again for the first time in about 20 hours. Mountain-biking mode is now switched off in favour of road-biking mode.

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