Picking up on my previous post covering my late March camping trip in the Mojave National Preserve, I last left you as we came off Aiken Mine Road, turning onto Cima Road. For those that have visited the Preserve in the past, you'll know that the Teutonia Peak is one of the most popular hikes on Cima Road. I had already hiked the peak during a previous trip, so we continued on down Cima Road en route to Kelso Depot for a refreshment before we scouted out a camping site.
It's always impressive to see the Joshua Tree woodland in the Cima dome area. Where I grew up in Victorville the Joshua Trees are thicker, more robust and probably taller (on average), but much more sparse than in Cima. The trees in Cima are thinner and shorter, but obviously the ecosystem fits the "woodland" description quite well!
I was excited when we got to Kelso Depot and we spotted the first desert dandelion. I know, it's kind of nerdy, but I have not seen a desert dandelion in a long time, and I'm not sure there is a brighter yellow and more sweet smelling flower around. Let alone one in an arid environment.
The crowd at Kelso is always a strange assortment. There were tourists from Europe, bikers on road trips, grungy campers, and families with kids. As well as a couple of people I'm not sure would fit into a category at all. From Kelso we got back onto Kelbaker Road heading south toward the I-40. The Kelso dunes to the west are a marvelous site, and the Providence Mountains to the east.
I stopped on Kelbaker Road to take a picture of the brilliant yellow blooms on this shrub with the dunes in the background, and then we continued on to Granite Hills, just a few miles south. The Granite Hills offered a perfect camping site, and place to explore among the boulders. It was still a bit windy out, but we were at least able to build a campfire shielded from the wind around the corner of a large boulder.
I took the picture above from atop a granite cliff overlooking the campsite. There are only a few campsites outside of the permanent sites that you can use in the Preserve if you plan to build a fire, so be sure to check with NPS website for the rules and regulations.
I spotted the cottontail around the campsite. It was clearly going to enjoy a bountiful spring harvest with all of the greenery sprouting everywhere, and in turn it could become a nice feast for the coyotes we heard later that night! (sorry rabbit)
As with any Mojave sunset, the colors were spectacular, and we could hear owls hooting among the granite cliffs and coyotes howling in the distance. The moon was bright enough to fight away most of the stars, but when I woke up before the sunrise, the moon had lost its battle to a trillion points of distant light, before the same soft blue shade we saw at sunset (pictured below) greeted us again.