A month after our first aborted Mojave Road trip, we traveled back. Our goal this time was just to finish up the portion of the Mojave Road that we missed out on last time so, instead of starting at the Colorado River, we entered through Kelbaker Road so that we could fit the trip within a normal weekend.
Our first stop of the day was a return to the Lava Tubes. The Lava Tubes are a short detour off of the Mojave Road and off of Kelbaker Road. Some of us had visited back in April, but it was a cool enough spot that we went back to visit again. Though the December weather was fairly nice in the desert, the shaded interior of the Lava Tubes was a bit chilly.
And the exit to the tunnel was blocked by a video game boss.
Getting out into daylight again, we noted our vehicles parked in a neat row. Setting out on this trip were two FJ Cruisers and two Subarus, one of them (pst, the Crosstrek) completely stock except for the roof box. The two Subarus had visited the Lava Tubes before, the FJs had not.
After the Lava Tubes, we returned to Mojave Road proper, down through the sandy Willow Wash and towards Soda Lake. We did notice that, after Seventeen Mile Point, the trail seemed to be noticeably rougher and sandier than before. This was a bit surprising considering the lack of any real precipitation in the past month, but wind and vehicles can do crazy things to trails.
Still, despite the deteriorated conditions, we were making good time and so could afford a detour to Green Rock Mill.
Located near the edge of Soda Lake, Green Rock Mill at one time had hosted buildings, but now all that remained were the concrete foundations. The foundations would be a cool place to camp, and in fact had served as a possible alternative camping spot on our first trip. However, as Green Rock Mill is smack in the middle of wide open desert, the winds might get heavy at night.
You can see the edge of Soda Lake close by, Soda Lake being a couple minutes drive from Green Rock Mill.
I think there’s a law that says if you travel to Soda Lake, you must take a picture of your convoy parked on the dry lake surface. Being law abiding citizens, we obliged.
Traveling across Soda Lake, and on the Mojave Road in general, is a dusty affair.
Past Soda Lake is a sandy section. As the sands are continuously shifting, navigation is best accomplished through following the cairns placed on the trail. We were very surprised at how much sandier this section was than our last trip through.
A point that was driven home when the Crosstrek and one of the FJs got bogged. It was my fault though, as the sand was definitely much deeper and softer than last time and so, when trying to downshift, I caused a concertina that caused the following cars to stop and get stuck.
Luckily, since the last trip, I had watched too many Ronny Dahl videos and so had purchased a pair of Maxtraxs. I had cosidered them to be just nice to haves, but with the stuck cars, the Maxtraxs came out. They worked really well, extracting both bogged cars on the first tries and allowing us to continue into the Rasor OHV area with minimal time lost.
The Rasor OHV area held bad memories as that was where Chi broke down during last trip, but this time we traveled through there without drama. Along the way, we gave a toast to Chi’s lost transmission.
Past the Rasor OHV area was Shaw Pass. Though not overly difficult, the limited suspension travel of the Subarus, especially the Crosstrek, was pretty apparent here.
After Shaw Pass was the sand dunes of the Mojave River wash. Entering the wash, we were met by another traveler in a Bronco who warned of deep sand that got his buddies stuck. He eyed the Crosstrek with suspicion, gave us some navigation tips, and wished us luck.
The sand through the wash was fairly soft and deep, and navigation through the dunes was more by feel and praying that you would see the next cairn. We kept our speeds up and didn’t stop until we were clear of the sand, to avoid getting stuck again. The Maxtrax had proven to work well, but we were in no mood to use them again.
The dunes turned back to normal trail close to Basin Road, and close to our campsite. Our campsite for the night was an abandoned mine near Basin Rd. and slightly off the trail. Though finding the site took a little bit of effort, it was definitely worth it.
Especially since we were treated to one of the most amazing sunsets any of us had ever seen.
After the amazing sunset, camp was set and dinner was served. Also, notice anything in the picture above?
I’ll wait. In the meantime, here’s a picture of one of our buddies.
Yeah... three FJ Cruisers. Chi, with his resurrected FJ, had joined us in the dark! He couldn’t come during the day, but at least he made it for camp.
Unfortunately, also joining us was heavy desert winds. We had to rearrange our vehicles into an improvised windbreak, and even still, most of the tents were taken down and their occupants forced to spend the night in their vehicles. That’s the nature of the desert for you; you win some, you lose some. We still considered the first day of this return trip a big win.