39°F
weather icon Clear

Mojave Preserve trail offers easy hike, cooler temperatures

Before the weather gets any hotter in our region, a good place for a short hike might be Mojave National Preserve, located in California just south of the Nevada border. One you might try is the Rock Spring Loop, which boasts a historic stone house, the site of a 19th century Army post, a natural spring and American Indian petroglyphs.

The trail offers an easy 1-mile hike with only 100 feet in elevation change. It starts at about 4,900 feet, a pleasant altitude in early summer, with temperatures likely about 10 or 15 degrees cooler than in Las Vegas. Even so, I would get to the trail head early in the morning to enjoy the hike at its most pleasant.

From the parking area you walk through the hikers’ gate and just a few minutes later you will be at the Rock House. The house was built in 1929 by homesteader Bert G. Smith, a World War I veteran whose lungs had been damaged by poison gas and who came to the desert hoping to prolong his life. It worked; Smith lived in his own home 25 more years, and survived more than 30. Carl Faber, a noted artist, later lived in the house, as did a couple of other colorful folks.

The loop trail starts from the west side of the house and first goes south, then heads down the hill to the east. As you walk along you will soon see the wide sandy wash below, where the trail will continue. This area was the site of Camp Rock Spring from 1866 through early 1868. Camp Rock Spring was one of many U.S. Army posts established along the remote Mojave Road, in Arizona Territory and California, to ensure the safe delivery of U.S. Mail and supply wagons. Living conditions were very bad, and out of the 73 men stationed here during the post’s 15-month operation, 20 deserted.

Once you arrive in the drainage, turn right and head upstream. On the north side of the wash you will find many American Indian petroglyphs on the granite walls. On the south walls you will find an interesting inscription left by a soldier. It reads: “Stua, 4th Inf. May 16.” I am told this was most likely written in either 1863 or 1864 by Charles Stuart, a musician in Company B, 4th Infantry, California Volunteers.

If you continue up the wash you will come to Rock Spring, where even in the driest times I have found at least some water. There are some large boulders strewn around the spring, perfect for sitting and taking a break in the shade of the deciduous trees growing here.

Water was life in the desert, especially in the days before speedy travel by motor vehicle, so the spring was the very reason the trail passed here, and an Army post was thought necessary. Later it gave its name to the Rock Springs Land and Cattle Co., which ruled a million acres of grazing lands by controlling water sources. The cattle empire’s cowboys fought homesteaders and rustlers, with occasional gun play. Later, the company broke up into several ranches, and cattle operations continued into about 2001.

After visiting the spring, head back down the wash and you will pick up the continuation of the loop trail. This will lead you up and onto a natural bench where it then swings back to the northwest to a ridge. Here you can see the Providence and Hackberry mountains. The trail then heads back up and ends between the Rock House and the parking area.

Many of Deborah Wall’s columns were recently compiled with new information and photos in “Base Camp Las Vegas” and published by Stephens Press. She is the author of “Great Hikes, a Cerca Country Guide.” Wall can be reached at Deborabus@aol.com.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Saguaros at home in Sonoran Desert

Most people see their first saguaro (pronounced “sah-wah-roh) cactus on television, perhaps in a cartoon or a Western movie. The signature plants of the Sonoran Desert, towering saguaro cacti (Carnegiea gigantea) are also beloved symbols of the American West. These cacti can reach 40 feet tall and one was measured at almost 80 feet, although these are the granddaddies of the species.

Remote refuge home to palm oasis

If you feel the need for a very remote getaway, then the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona might be a good bet. Located pretty much on the road to nowhere, it is itself a wonderful destination for hiking, camping, wildlife watching and photography, as 80 percent of the park is designated as wilderness.

Snow-kissed landscapes make Zion winter wonderland

Zion National Park in Southern Utah is one of our favorite landscapes any time of year, but in winter its stark mountains, stripped of summer foliage, will be all the more breathtaking, especially if Mother Nature kisses her creation with snow. Yet this time of year is also the least crowded with other visitors. It’s about three hours away and, assuming an early start, even suitable for a day trip.

Holiday basketball camp set

The Boulder City Parks and Recreation Department is again offering a holiday youth basketball camp for children in grades 2-8.

Canyon home to many petroglyphs

Grapevine Canyon is one of the finest petroglyph sites in Southern Nevada. It is also one of the easiest to visit on a day trip, located in the southern part of Lake Mead National Recreation Area, near Laughlin, and approachable by roads fit for passenger cars. The short hike to the rock art itself is easy.

City Recreation, Nov. 25

Spragno volleyball team nets title

Landscape marked by giant designs

You might have seen aerial photos of geoglyphs in Peru and Chili or even those located in Great Britain and Australia, but here in the United States we also have equivalent cultural treasures.

Varied geology, history evident throughout Death Valley

You could spend months or even years exploring Death Valley National Park in California and never see it all, but for first-time visitors even a day trip can be more than satisfying, and now is a good time to do it.

Picturesque canyons draw visitors, photographers

There are thousands of colorful sandstone slot canyons in the Southwest and because no two are the same, exploring each is a unique experience. Some of the most picturesque canyons are found deep in the wilderness and only seen by those who hike many hours, even days, over rough terrain.

Pioneer spirit lingers in Grafton, Utah

Although Grafton, Utah, is just a few miles off the main road to Zion National Park, it seems worlds removed from the park’s bustle. It’s quite possible you’ll be the only visitor as you stroll among Grafton’s historic buildings, mature deciduous trees and open meadows with views of Zion.