A Long Dark Drive

Hole-in-the-Wall CampgroundThis weekend we planned to do some backpacking in the Mojave National Preserve, which is in the middle of nowhere in northeastern San Bernadino County, near the Arizona and Nevada borders.

The drive was supposed to take 4 to 5 hours, so I was hoping we’d leave at 7:00 pm. Of course we didn’t leave until quarter to eight, and then we had to run a couple of unrelated errands, so we didn’t really get on the road until 8:30 pm.

We drove up I-15 without any expectations. A few miles after leaving Escondido, I looked to the side of the road and noticed a building completely engulfed in flames! Not something you see every day. Certainly a distraction for the cars going 80 mph along the freeway. Fortunately the fire department seemed to be well represented.

A minute or so later, we hit some major rain – for about a minute. After that, things went pretty smoothly until we reached Rancho Cucamonga… and then stopped. We sat in traffic for maybe an hour. It rained on and off, which doesn’t make much of a difference when you’re going 5 mph. It was a bummer.

Once the traffic reached the top of the hill it started to flow a little more freely. We stopped in Victorville around 11 pm and filled up the gas tank.

It was late, and I was very sleepy. Fortunately Dave was much more awake, and he was driving. It was very, very dark, especially once we got to Barstow and turned from I-15 onto I-40.

Between Barstow and our destination was 100 miles of dark nothingness, many trucks pulled off to the side of the road for the night, and only 2 exits. The moon provided some light but it was still impossible to tell what the land was like. Every so often we could see a train, which was really just a weird pattern of lights followed by dark moving rectangles. It was a bit surreal.

We finally made it to our exit for the Mojave National Preserve and Providence Mountains State Recreational Area. It was another 15-20 miles to the campground, called “Hole in the Wall”. Along the way we saw (and tried not to run over) several critters crossing the road, particularly jackrabbits. The campground was first-come, first-serve, so I was a little nervous that there would be no space, and we’d end up sleeping in the car on the side of the road somewhere. Fortunately, we drove about halfway around the campground and found a perfect little spot. Interestingly, we got there just behind another vehicle – apparently we weren’t the only ones who were a little delayed getting to the campground.

By this time it was 2 am, and very chilly and windy. Fortunately the moon provided a good amount of light, in addition to Dave’s headlamp. It was an interesting challenge setting up our little tent, but we managed to do so quickly and then dive into it to huddle down for some sleep.

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