January 2, 2010

Mojave National Preserve

On the second day of our trip in Southern California we headed to Mojave National Preserve. We had picked up information about the park the day before at the Oasis Visitor Center in Joshua Tree National Park. We knew there wouldn't be any food in the the preserve so we made a stop for sandwiches before heading out on the road. After about a two hour drive we entered the park through Essex Road and stopped at the Hole in the Wall Information Center. This center also has a small bookstore, picnic area and nearby campground. The trailhead for the Rings Loop Trail is close by as well. We perused the information center, then made our way to the trail. The Rings Loop Trail is a 1.5 mile loop that takes you near the Hole in the Wall campground and past many yuccas. Most of the trail is fairly flat and easy. You pass by many rocks and cliffs with holes and hollows, for which the information center is named for. Near the end of the loop you reach a very short strenuous section of the trail where you have to ascend through the canyon using metal rings that are mounted in the rock. Although we've used chains on a trail before, this was the first time we had to use rings and it proved to be a lot of fun. Before we knew it we were back at the informatinon center. Next stop was the Providence State Recreation Area, which is still within the boundaries of the National Preserve. It's about a 25 minute drive from the information center to this area, which has a tour center, campground and caverns. There are three short hiking trails within the state area, which seem more like nature walks. There are also ranger guided tours of Mitchell Caverns on most days of the year and we were lucky enough to be able to go on one of these. Cost of the tour is $6 per person. The tour is about a 1.5 mile walk that takes you to the entrance of and through the limestone caves. During the 90 minute tour we learned about stalactites, stalagmites and numerous other cavern formations. Sometimes bats and other wildlife can be seen on these tours but we weren't so lucky. The tour completed our day at Mojave National Preserve and we headed back home. There are a few other information centers within Mojave National Preserve and three small campgrounds, but not many hiking opportunties.

The rings on Rings Loop Trail

Mitchell Caverns