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The Mojave Desert by Overland

I have been overlanding (offroading and camping by vehicle travel) in the Mojave desert since '93 after my first trip with my uncle at the age of 12. My uncle has been going with his group of friends every year since '88. We follow the lesser worn trails and trade routes of persons long past: immigrants and miners, homesteaders and native americans, experiencing the the desert's beauty and learning it's history first hand along the way.

Despite it's expansiveness, desolation, and lack of water, the Mojave is rich in history. The natural beauty of it's painted sunrises and sunsets strike an appropriately colorful backdrop for it's tales; migrant crossings by wagon trains seeking a better life, miners dreaming to strike it rich only to scrap a living by chiseling through rock with primitave hand tools, families looking to cross it's expansive basin and ranges in start of a new life, cultural clashes between indians and settlers, and even training of American soldiers for World War II in the fight against facism.

Side Note: Land Closures in the Mojave

During our time touring the Mojave we have unfortunately seen vast tracts of land designated WILDERNESS PRESERVE, NO ENTRY. Travel by foot or horse only. These travel-ban areas are created by politicans in Sacramento, CA, and supported by faux environmentalists who have never walked its sandy washes, climbed atop its lava flows, or spent a night under a full desert moon sleeping on a camp cot. In an attempt to "protect" these lands "for the public good", countless trails have been closed that we had been visiting for years, preventing us and others from experiencing them ever again.

Psycholinguistics aside, these land preserves in practice serve to keep the public out of public lands. The desert is by nature a place where travel is limited and difficult. Horses need water, of which there is practically none. Mountain bikers cannot ride through soft sand that blankets the landscape. Foot travel is all but foolish for any meaningful distance, and you better be in strong shape and stout character to attempt to cross the desert on foot like the pioneers of old (who had pack mules). Even an extremely fit backpacker cannot walk through the desert very far, battling its temperature extremes while carrying all the items needed for survival.

Vehicle travel is the only reasonable means of transportion left, which is being systematically banned. Vehicles do leave tracks in the sand, however, they are washed away by the next storm. As true environmentalists who appreciate the land, we respect the wildlife, and we leave no trace, packing everything out that we pack in. Our temporary presence does not disturb the desert in any way.

Should the policies of Sacramento continue, it is likey that the next generation will not be able to experience these public lands as we have. They will be relegated to the national park format of riding crowded tour buses, only able to venture short distances on foot during rest stops and learning briefly its geology, history, and wildlife from plastic exhibit signs. The rest of the desert will have to be explored by text book or Internet.


Baker Trails, November 2016

Located in the East Mojave, the small gas-town station of Baker best known for the world's largest thermometer, has many miles of offroad trails in each direction. On this trip we drove the through low-elevation, dry barren hills where miners and ranchers scrapped for a living in the Kingston mountains, then past the cindercone volcanoes to the high-elevation, majestic Joshua Tree forests of the Ivanpah mountains.

Bradshaw Trail, May 2016

Explore the historic overland stage route connecting San Bernardino, California to the gold mines of La Paz, Arizona. Aided by Cabazon, the chief of the Cahuilla Indians who lived near the Salton Sea, William David Bradshaw and a small party mapped and traversed the ancient 200 mile overland trade route to the Polo Verde Valley, crossing multiple ranges including the Orocoppia, Chocolates, Chuckwalla, Mule mountains, each of which are both desolate and breathaking in their own right. The Orocoppia are at first glance typical a mojave basin and range, but upon closer inspection contain intimidating badlands and humbling mud palisade canyons that invite exploration. The Chocolates are appropriately named, dark and contrasting in color with the clear blue skies of the Colorado desert. The Chuckwalla are chunky, geological wonders rich in minerals and full of interesting specimens for the curious rock round, while the Black Hills and Mules are mars-like desolate volcanic wonders of an age long past, filled with hidden crystalline gems.

Mojave Trail, 2015

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Anza Borrego, 2014

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