My slow climb up Kelbaker Road ends when I start to approach the summit at Granite Pass; the road to Arrowweed Spring is just to my left

Bicycle camping in and around Mojave National Preserve 2006

Day 10: Willow Wash to Arrowweed Spring

36.2 miles, 4:40 hrs, 23.9 mph max, 7.4 mph avg

Elevation: 2200 feet to 3800 to 2123 to 4000

The break I just took and the energy bar are helping. I ride another slow uphill mile on Kelbaker Road and watch as my odometer signals the 12-mile point up from Kelso Depot.

The road to Arrowweed Spring, just before it descends into a sandy wash (aren't all washes sandy?)

I locate the little dirt road that goes to Arrowweed Spring. It looks passable, but I can't see where it ends. I wonder where Arrowweed Spring is over there toward the mountains.

The map I'm looking at only shows one road to Arrowweed Spring, but I'm an insider now. The staffwoman at the visitor centre told me that there's a second road to Arrowweed Spring 3/4 mile beyond the first one.

I conclude that I might benefit by continuing upward along Kelbaker Road and taking advantage of the extra 3/4 mile of pavement to reach the high road. Who knows, maybe there will even be a bit of downhill to enjoy in the dirt and sand of the high road.

Just a little further, just a little further, only 3/4 mile more. OK, here I am, now 12.7 miles up the hill from Kelso Depot, instead of 12. Roads can be difficult to find out here sometimes—but there's the dirt road to Arrowweed Spring at my left just as I was told it would be.

Sandy, rocky conditions on the road to Arrowweed Spring; I can't get any traction to ride, so drag the 10-ton bike through most of this

I see other dirt roads that go off to my right toward campsites along the Granite Mountains. I'd like to explore that area as well, but I can't do everything at once!

Leaving pavement for the day, the first 1/2 mile of the road toward Arrowweed Spring is a typical two-tire track through creosote bushes, slowly and scenically approaching the mountain backdrop. Rough, but easily done on a mountain bike since it's not uphill.

Suddenly, the road dips steeply into a sandy wash area. Off and on, I drag the 10-ton bike through the sandy and rocky sections here. I get back on the bike every now and then, but I don't get very far before I have to stop again!

The road is also going uphill a little, but I'm not paying much attention to that since I'm fixated on trying to figure out where this road will end.

Looking back toward the Granite Mountains and Kelbaker Road, alarmed at how much I've climbed to get to Arrowweed Spring; Kelbaker Road cuts across the scene horizontally in the upper middle of the photo along the line where the greener areas end

I've reached a junction of sorts where the road seems to turn right toward the steep hills nearby, but a faint rocky road (or is it just a trail?) continues straight ahead uphill.

I follow the better-worn tire tracks, which end at a really nice secluded campsite surrounded by the hills. There's something miraculous about how wide-open desert can immediately become charming and intimate spaces just by turning a corner.

Hmmm, is this the place? Maybe. But there are no scenic vistas of Kelso Dunes from here like the staffwoman at the visitor centre told me I would see, so I figure this must not be the only campsite up here.

I ride back to the curve in the road and drag the bike up that rocky rise that continues straight-ahead from there. It's rugged and uphill—not ridable yet. I'm not even sure if this is actually a road, but I'll probably find out soon enough.

Sunset in the desert often casts a beautiful orange light on bushes and earth textures, and I'm enjoying the view from my tent

I reach the top of the little hill, perhaps a third of a mile later. I turn around and am surprised to see that that I've climbed a few hundred feet on this road. Since I'm so tired, I'm glad that I was too preoccupied to notice that my uphill climbing for the day has been continuing without me realizing about it. I'm admiring my surroundings, thinking how much that last little climb was worth the effort.

I have trouble selecting a spot to camp. The rough road turns to my right and ends a hundred feet or so in a gully where it looks like people have camped before. This makes it a good candidate for a site, but it seems like it might be too close to the spring.

I can't tell exactly where the spring is, but it must be nearby because I accidentally locate one of the cameras that the park installs by some springs out here to monitor wildlife.

I don't want to be included among the wildlife observed at the spring, and camping too close to the spring is not allowed anyway because it discourages the animals from using it.

Slugging down yet more water, which is still unpalatably warm, while boiling water for my meal-in-a-bag on my mini-stove

So I return to the high point on the "road" and try to find a spot that's both fairly level and devoid of debris like broken glass. It seems that a lot of desert visitors over the years have taken full advantage of the freedom that they have to break glass and shoot bullet-holes through things.

I haven't seen any human life since leaving Kelbaker Road's blacktop, and it would be great if it stayed that way. The views of the nearby Granite Mountains and distant Kelso Dunes are great from here.

Better yet, it's cooler and breezier up here at 4000 feet, but it's still not cool enough to be sweater weather. Hopefully it will cool down more overnight.

As the sun goes down, strong winds set in. The tent sucks in and out and sways heavily while I prepare my instant just-add-water-to-the-bag meal of "teriyaki chicken and rice."

The 10-ton bike lays down and goes to sleep for the night at Arrowweed Spring

After an hour or so, the winds that so suddenly blew in an hour ago have completely disappeared. It's silent out here again. Bugs and moths are now flitting all over my tent, making sounds like raindrops. I stay inside to avoid them.

Every now and then, I clearly hear a car passing down below in the distance on Kelbaker Road, hoping that none of them will pull in on my road. Each time, I look out through the tent screen, watching the car's headlights send rays across the dark desert, then eventually disappearing behind hills that I can no longer see.

There's just a small crescent moon tonight, giving off almost no light, so the sky is all darkness and there are more stars than I'll ever need. I don't think there's anyone around for miles. Good night.

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