Mojave Desert trip, January 2020

Since I needed to spend a couple of days in Bakersfield taking care of some property business, we decided to continue on to the Mojave. I wanted to revisit more of the Mojave National Preserve, so on the Thursday, Jan 16 we drove to Barstow. But first, we made a stop in Rainbow Basin, a fascinating geological area (as well as mammal fossil area).

Barstow syncline

Barstow syncline

A syncline is where tilted layers of rock meet in a V (the reverse of this is an anticline). Note that the lighter color layers on top of the V are not tilted, so were likely laid down after the syncline was formed.

We did a short hike in a narrow canyon (I found it on All Trails). It was disappointing to us—perhaps more rock scrambling than we can do was required to go further. On a previous trip I had done a much more interesting hike through a different canyon and then returning over the top seeing the various exposed layers, including several areas where fossil excavation had taken place. (I should mention that fossil collecting by private individuals is not allowed. The excavations were done by universities).

Later that afternoon, we checked in to our currently favorite motel (three free nights courtesy of the motel chain reward card) and set about trying to find a suitable restaurant. Since being diagnosed with celiac disease restaurant choices have become much more limited and I thought there were only two restaurants in town that I trusted. But, surprise, an old favorite Italian restaurant had a few gluten free choices on their menu and we found them delicious.

The next morning, Friday Jan 17, we tried to get away early, but failed. It was a good 90 minute drive to the area I wanted to explore first on Cima road in the Mojave National Preserve (MNP). Our first stop was at the Evening Star Mine with its remarkable head-frame. With remnants of snow on the ground and a blowing wind it was really chilly.

Evening Star Mine

Evening Star Mine

This mine operated from 1939 to 1944 and was the only producer of tin ore in the Mojave desert. The 60′ tall head-frame was one the few that had a crusher on top. There are many mines in the general area of the Evening Star, and several old cabins as well. That’s where we headed next.

J. Riley Bembry was a central figure in prospecting and mining in the area. He staked the claim for the Evening Star Mine, but sold it within a year. His cabin has been restored to a condition that folks overnight in it (in spite of the rodents and possible hantavirus.

Riley cabin

Riley cabin

From Riley’s backyard you could sit on a makeshift double or triple swing and check out the vista, including the nearest neighbor.

Geer cabin

Geer cabin in the distance

We drove over to the little cabin in the photo above. It is the Geer cabin and has been nicely restored.

Geer cabin

Geer cabin

We stopped for a photo at the famous Mojave Cross. Riley Bembry erected this to honor the WWI dead in 1934. In 2002 a lower court ruled the cross illegal because it was on public land. In a land swap deal, Congress transferred a small area around the cross to the VFW. This ended up in the Supreme Court, but in a 5-4 decision it was sent back to a lower court. The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California approved the land exchange in April 2012 and the cross was rededicated.

The Mojave Cross

The Mojave Cross

We drove on down the road to Cima and then across the railroad tracks and out to the Death Valley Mine. It took longer than I expected, but we still got there just before sunset. This area was called Dawson Camp in the late 1800’s. In 1906 J.L. Bright staked a claim and called it Death Valley Mine for unknown reasons. There are several structures at this site, some still in relatively good condition. The mine was reactivated in the 1950’s and perhaps some of the better preserved structures date from that period. A nice write-up and more photos than I took are here at Cali49.

Death Valley mine structure

Old cabin at the Death Valley Mine

We did more exploring in the MNP the following day. We visited Kelso, where the old rail depot is now the Preserve headquarters and visitor center. Then we drove out Rock Springs through Cedar Canyon. It seemed so short on the map—it’s easy to be fooled on how long it will take.

Sunset illumination

The setting sun illuminates the mountains

I’ve more photos in the gallery. Check them out.

Mojave Desert January 2020 gallery

2019 Christmas greeting and review of our year

Anticipation. There is something about this season besides the incessant commercialism of buy this, Buy This, BUY THIS! It’s the anticipation of celebrating the birthday of Jesus.

Seems like it has been a busy, almost hectic year.


96th birthday (cup)cake

Phil’s Mom moved into an assisted living facility in mid 2018 and was placed on hospice care in late 2018. On January 2, 2019 she reached her 96th birthday. We celebrated with her by placing a candle on a cupcake. 

Her health declined rapidly following that, and she passed away on February 9. Following this, Phil was consumed with administering her estate. Caring for her family deeply, she had provided for her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. It didn’t seem like much of a burden to slog through the paperwork to get that distributed.

Morro Bay

Dinner time for the otters in Morro Bay

At the beginning of March we spent a couple of days in Morro Bay, beach walking and hiking some of the bluffs.

At the end of March Phil was caught up enough for us to take a trip up 395 in the Eastern Sierra. Fun times. Explored the arches in Alabama Hills, visited the old Mount Whitney fish hatchery (wonderful old stone building), Laws Railroad Museum, and rock art in the volcanic tablelands.

Alabama Hills

Arch in Alabama Hills with Mt. Whitney on the skyline

Mt. Whitney fish hatchery

Historic Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery

Convict Lake

Frozen Convict Lake

In late July we (and all the kids) stayed for a few days in the Teton Valley, ID.  We did hiking, biking, and sightseeing in the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.

Fish Hatchery

Mesa Falls, Idaho

In late August, just the two of us went to Bishop and did some of our easier favorite hikes. In September, we spent a couple of days in the Mendocino/Fort Bragg area. And finally, we spent almost 2 weeks in Eagle Crest, Oregon. With the fall colors, there was lots of beautiful hiking to be done.


Heart Lake in the Rock Creek canyon


Morning light on the Three Sisters


Koosah Falls on the McKenzie River


Tenas Lakes off the McKenzie Pass highway

Now, it’s only a few days to the actual birthday celebration. Our whole family will gather for wonderful food, fellowship, giving and receiving gifts, and a portion of our anticipation will be fulfilled. But not all. There is still more to the story, and that’s the beauty and mystery of what was revealed to us by Jesus.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”


Our family portrait. Left to right: Mark, Cortnie, Annmarie, Elizabeth, Karen, Chase, Phil, Dan, Audree, Carolyn


2019 Year in Review gallery

2017 Amgen Tour of California

With no Mother’s Day get-together planned for our family, I headed off to Sacramento for the Amgen Tour of California bike race. I watched the roll out of the men’s stage 1, wandered around the women’s team buses getting photos of the women racers, and then watched the women’s 20-lap criterium. Then the men arrived back in Sacramento for 3 laps before finishing in front of the State Capitol.

UHC team leading the yellow jersey (Katie Hall) around. Katie lost the yellow jersey by 1 second because she missed out on an intermediate sprint.

Men’s neutral roll-out start.

2017 Amgen women’s stage 4 gallery
2017 Amgen men’s stage 1 gallery