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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Explore the multi-colored cliffs of Red Rock Canyon

As the winter snowbird season looks ahead to Groundhog Day and an early Spring, will you be heading back north from the desert to your home in the northern states? If so, do the following questions apply to your return home?

1. When I’m heading home I drive long days until I get there.
2. I never get distracted or stop to explore places I pass through on the way home.
3. When on the road I stop overnight at the campground or Walmart that is closest to the freeway so I can get going fast in the morning.

If this sounds like your travel agenda, may I suggest that this year you slow down, relax to the notion that you are going to spend several days on the road exploring some places that were just too far from your winter destination for day trips or that you ordinarily drive right by. You will still get home in time to see the trees bud, the wildflowers bloom, and to get in your spring planting.

For example, before you leave the desert and cross back over 3,793-foot Tehachapi Pass, take a right (north) on CA14 in the desert town of Mojave for 40 miles to Red Rock Canyon State Park. Here you can camp beneath towering sandstone cliffs, on the crossroads of a Native American trade route thousands of years old, and by buttes and cliffs with colorful white, red, pink, and brown layers (some of Jurassic Park was shot here).

The cliffs are riddled with fun-to-explore vertical slot canyons where Coopers hawks and other raptors nest. Hike to the top for a magnificent viewpoint of the surrounding Mojave Desert, where along the way you will find evidence of the abundance of desert wildlife, tracks of kangaroo rats and coyotes in the sand, steely eyes of Chuckwallas, Western whiptail, and horned lizards watch as you pass, and raptors circle overhead in the never ending search for food.

On one such visit, I stepped from my motorhome to see a drama unfold between a cottontail and a coyote. The wily predator had his eyes glued to the fluffy cute prey and was slowly stalking toward it. The cottontail caught sight of some movement and took off--straight toward me. Seems I was between him and his burrow. he darted right by me, not two feet away with the coyote in hot pursuit--until the coyote caught sight of me, whereupon he applied the brakes in a cloud of dust, and dejectedly lopped off and out of sight, with a final glare at me as he disappeared into the brush.

Close by you can make a side trip to Burro Schmidt's 2,087-foot tunnel. With no way to get his gold to the rail head on the other side of the mountain, Schmidt dug using only hand tools through the solid rock of Copper Mountain to reach the other side. Legend says his gold stash is still buried.

Prepare to boondock at Red Rock, even though there is a campground, there are no hookups and no dump station.

Learn about Bob Difley's eBooks on desert camping and boondocking at

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