Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Thanksgiving Trip: The Mojave National Preserve

We went to see Andy and Kate in Phoenix at Thanksgiving.  We started off from Sacramento where I had a meeting and stayed overnight in Barstow - a lot cooler than last summer.  The next morning we started east on Interstate 40.  Joan's mother's maiden name was Kelso, so we decided to go off-track to see Kelso, CA, and its Union Pacific Railroad depot, not knowing that it is the headquarters for the Mojave National Preserve.   Apparently if hunting is not allowed, the National Park Service calls it a Park; if hunting is allowed, it is called a Preserve.  Things one learns when going off-track.... 

The Mojave National Preserve is a huge parcel of land in California's "high desert."  It is forbidding in its austerity, but there is beauty in that dry austerity.  Some of the world's tallest sand dunes are just outside Kelso.

Kelso Depot

And it turns out that the depot, which we had expected to be a weathered shed, is a large and well-preserved building, an oasis in the desert.  In the era of steam engines, the depot was the center and transient housing for a thriving railroad town - the place where the engines took on water and where pusher engines were added to the trains climbing west into the mountains.  No more steam engines, and the diesels go through at 60 mph.
 Joan in front of the cage that was used as the Kelso jail

But the depot, besides housing Preserve headquarters, has a fine museum and the old lunch counter is now the only place for food for many miles.  Well worth the time we spent there - and the Preserve is inviting enough that we're considering camping there when the desert flowers are in bloom.

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