Growing up in the 70’s I learned and spent a lot of time camping, hiking, being outdoors and active.  Every spring summer and fall, my parents and I would load up the truck, and later the trailer and head out.  Typically preparations would start the week before departure, and the loading process would start on Thursday afternoon with my brother and I hauling all the gear into the yard, while my mom packed the vehicles.  Friday could not come soon enough and when it did, my dad would come home from work, change is clothes, wrangle up two kids, maybe a dog, adjust the mirrors, and exclaim “We’re off” as we drove out of the driveway.  For the most part, for my family nothing much has changed much from my dad.  It is however the details that matter.

In 1972, I was one year old and to celebrate my dad bought a new truck.  Details of the vehicle back then are scare.  From my point of view, my dad previously owned a 1964 International Scout.  He drive this car for years all over the desert south west in the late 1960s.  When my dad married my mom, my mom made him sell the Scout because the breaks were horrible, and at least three times they failed completely.  It was a wise decision considering the stakes for the family at the time, but the loss of his beloved Scout was difficult and for decades despite its faults the Scout cast a long shadow in our family.

Returning to 1972, my dad decided to purchase his truck.  He chose a Sea Foam Green 1972 Ford F-100 pickup sporting a 302 inch V-8 sporting with a 3.2:1 gear ratio, two fuel tanks, and a four speed manual transmission which included a “Granny Gear”.  The extra costs of a four wheel drive were not an option for my dad at that time.  So, the truck became the “ultimate compromise”.  He opted for 2 wheel drive, but to offer improved traction he chose a four speed with granny gear.  The differential was geared up to offer improve gas mileage, but the little 200 HP V-8 could not pull a grade at any sort of highway speeds.  A camper shell, home built bed, pass-through rear window and the “green gopher” was complete for the initial incarnation.

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A quick stop to air down the jeep, just off the Kelbaker Road.

After our recent trip to the center section of the Old Mojave Road, my wife Heather was really excited to run the western section and complete  the entire length of the trail.  Her idea was to drive the western section on our way to our annual trip to Big Bear, CA over the Memorial Day holiday.  I worried that such a trip during this time of year could be a rough trip due to high temperatures in the desert.  In late April we finished the center section in Baker, CA and the air temperature was only 107 degrees.  Despite my concerns, we gladly planned our trip and embraced her good idea.

As we prepared for our trip, gathered our gear, food, and checked out the mechanics of the jeep, I decide to check the local weather report.  To my surprise, weather.com predicted the temps in the mid 80s with clear sky’s and light wind.  The weather could not be any better.

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Old Mojave Road

Incinerator behind the house at Caruther’s Canyon Road

In April 23, 2012, my wife and I woke up early and packed the family into our jeep for a day of back country exploring in the Mojave desert.  On this day, our destination was the middle leg of the historic Old Mojave Road.

The Old Mojave Road was originally a series of trails used by the Native Americans of the Mojave desert to connect the Colorado River with the Pacific coast.  Native Americans developed the trail over time, which was later used by Spanish Missionary’s, U. S. Army, and stage operators.  The Mojave Road fell into disuse when the railroads came into the area in the 1880’s.  Dennis Casebier, and his Friends of the Mojave Road, ‘rediscovered’, mapped and documented the Mojave Road.  Our trip on this day, is possible due to their hard work and dedication, which follows centuries of history.

As we left Las Vegas early Sunday morning we drove past Primm, Nevada and continued into California we watched the temperature climb from 75 to 85 degrees.  We exited interstate at Nipton Road and drove East into the southern California desert.  A quick right turn at Ivanpah Road and we were on our way into the Mojave National Preserve.

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