Last April Sue and I (and Maggie, of course) camped at Red Rock Canyon State Park located just off Highway 14 just north of Jawbone Canyon.
While it’s too hot there in the summer, it’s great in the cooler temperatures of the fall, winter and spring.
From the website:
Red Rock Canyon State Park features scenic desert cliffs, buttes and spectacular rock formations. The park is located where the southernmost tip of the Sierra Nevada converge with the El Paso Range. Each tributary canyon is unique, with dramatic shapes and vivid colors.
Historically, the area was once home to the Kawaiisu Indians, who left petroglyphs in the El Paso mountains and other evidence of their inhabitation. The spectacular gash situated at the western edge of the El Paso mountain range was on the Native American trade route for thousands of years.
During the early 1870s, the colorful rock formations in the park served as landmarks for 20-mule team freight wagons that stopped for water. About 1850, it was used by the footsore survivors of the famous Death Valley trek including members of the Arcane and Bennett families along with some of the Illinois Jayhawkers. The park now protects significant paleontology sites and the remains of 1890s-era mining operations, and has been the site for a number of movies.
After wet winters, the park’s floral displays are stunning. The beauty of the desert, combined with the geologic features make this park a camper’s favorite destination. Wildlife you may encounter includes roadrunners, hawks, lizards, mice and squirrels.
Camping in developed sites only in Ricardo Campground. The campground is tucked up against the base of dramatic desert cliffs, with 50 primitive campsites, potable water, pit toilets, fire rings, and tables. Bring your own firewood, or purchase it at the visitor center. There are no RV hook-ups or showers. A maximum of 8 people is allowed per site (there are no group sites).
Camping is first-come, first served; there is no reservation system. The campground can fill up on weekends in the spring and fall, especially if the weather is nice or on holiday weekends, so arriving on a Thursday evening or Friday morning is recommended.
Off road vehicles including motorcycles that are either street legal or ‘green stickered’ are welcome but must obey all park regulations and use trails set aside for each. — Red Rock Canyon State Park
Sue and I unhooked our trusty Jeep and started our exploration.
The first day we stayed on the west side of Highway 14 and explored the Dove Springs area, where I used to lay out dual sport motorcycle rides. A marked sand wash leads from the campground over to the Dove Springs area. The heavy winter rains had caused many flowers to bloom and we especially liked the forests of Joshua Trees.
The marked dirt roads are perfect for 4-wheel drive vehicles and we utilized them all the way over to the paved Kelso Valley Road. From there we headed over to Highway 178 which led us into Lake Isabella and lunch.
Then, we turned on the Caliente/Bodfish Road which led us to the Piute Mountain Road. As we headed up the Piute Road, we stopped and talked to a US Forest Service ranger who was driving toward us. He warned us that we probably wouldn’t be happy, as the road had been torn up over the winter but was passable.
We laughed because that is exactly what we wanted. Shifted into 4-wheel drive and off we went. Still a little snow in spots and in some sections the road was eroded and fallen trees to go around but all in all we enjoyed the drive. Piute Mountain Road eventually dropped back down to Kelso Valley Rd where we picked up a nice dirt road back to our campsite.
Other days we spent exploring the El Paso Mountains which included the Burro Schmidt Mine and miles of great scenic Jeep roads. Our last day we got a hold of the Jawbone map and followed it out to the Husky Memorial, which I had never seen before.
The Husky Memorial started in 1987 when a desert racer named Jim Erickson passed away and his buddies decided to honor him by placing his Husqvarna motorcycle (thus the “Husky” nickname) in concrete in a clearing wayyyy out in the middle of nowhere.
Over the years, other motorcycle enthusiasts’ plaques and remembrances found their way to the memorial. Now there are probably 75 or so memorials present, and I knew a good third of them. In fact, one of my requests is to have mine placed there but not for awhile, I hope! It was very moving.
Another place to visit and not miss are the Trona Pinnacles located not far from the desert town of Trona.
The Trona Pinnacles are unique geological features in the California Desert Conservation Area. The unusual landscape consists of more than 500 tufa spires, some as high as 140-feet, rising from the bed of the Searles Dry Lake basin. The pinnacles vary in size and shape from short and squat to tall and thin, and are composed primarily of calcium carbonate (tufa). The Trona Pinnacles have been featured in many commercials, films, and still-photo shoots. – Wikipedia
Our last visit was to the old town of Randsburg located just off of Highway 395 South of Ridgecrest. Neat old town and I’ve been there many times in the past. Great hamburgers at the White House Saloon and great ice cream at the General Store. My old motocross pal Goat Breker bought an old hotel and has it spruced up very nicely.