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Trip report, southeastern California (BLM Land)

2003

BLM lands generally have nothing in the way of facilities, so *most* areas are not often used, except during hunting season. For you easterners, it will be a long trek: BLM lands are generally found from New Mexico to Montana, and westwards. (Including some in Alaska, but that's for the polar bears among you.)

A Small-scale map of BLM lands can be found at: http://www.blm.gov/nhp/facts/maps/landsmap_m.html.

I took a break from driving during my last California to Florida trip, and stopped off at some BLM sites. (One on the way to Florida, the other on the way back about a week later.) The sites I stopped at are along Interstate 10, between Blythe, CA, and Desert Center, CA. It's straight-up Mojave Desert, so bring at least a gallon of water per person, even if you only plan on being there a short while. (Your vehicle could get stuck, break down, etc., and you might be looking at a ten-mile hike back to the Interstate. The object is to *make* it, not be found halfway back. Besides, you'll have to carry your clothes, as well. <g>)

The photo gives an idea of what to expect. Those are the Chuckwalla mountains in the distance, some fifteen miles away.


Red Cloud Road


I'd provide Interstate mile-markers, but the CHP got them pulled off a long time ago. The best way to find them is to get topographic maps of the area you are interested in. (Otherwise, if you're on Interstate 10 and just south of the Joshua Tree National Forest, pick an exit to the south side of the highway, and look for the signs that mark the trails into the BLM lands.)

One commercial outfit that produces state-by-state atlases of topographic maps in booklet form is Delorme, PO Box 298, Yarmouth, ME, 04096, or look for them at www.delorme.com. Their booklets include GPS markings, if you're so inclined.

Since the offical USGS maps are larger and single-sheet, they are somewhat more detailed, but the DeLorme state atlas is good enough for road and trail navigation.

While the desert isn't for everyone, a little knowledge and patience goes a long way. On my first trek, at the intersection of Red Cloud Mine Road and the Bradshaw Trail (both dirt roads, slightly washboarded when I was there), I spotted some game tracks, probably pronghorn antelope, from the size of them. (The trail follows a dry wash known as Salt Creek. Those with water near the surface usually have much more brush, and greener in color.) Also noted was where the pronghorns took off -- the tracks got much farther apart. There were coyote tracks off to the side. <g> Admittedly, since I hadn't been in the area for the previous day, I had no good way to determine how old the tracks were.

A better site for an excursion is Corn Springs Road, about six or seven miles east of Desert Center, CA, on Interstate-10. That one has a profusion of greenery (in the wash itself) when one gets closer to the spring, and about twenty date palms at the spring site itself. The spring's water table has receded below ground, but there is still a hand pump -- which works. Corn Springs is exceptional in that the BLM maintains some primitive campsites there.

A bit of history -- the earliest crossings of the desert didn't follow what is now the Interstate up the middle of the flattest land, the travellers skirted the mountains, looking for springs. As one desert rat or another settled in, hostelries formed up. Some of them even grew into towns; the rest died as the highways bypassed the horse trails. Consequently, every wash or spring is worth a little exploration. You might find something. Best of all, on BLM lands, you can do it nude.

If camping is your thing, the BLM allows overnight camping, but you'll need to register with the local office. Some areas have restrictions on open fires. You *must* bring your own food and fuel. The idea is to leave the lands with minimal impact. (Besides, what passes for wood out there is too laden with oils to be a decent campfire. <g>)

The BLM's main website is at http://www.blm.gov/nhp/index.htm. From there, you can browse around to the state which has your interest. Give it a try -- after all, your taxes pay for it!

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