I love the desert, but without a four-wheel drive vehicle I am limited in where I can go. A couple of weeks ago I was lamenting that very fact , and a friend of mine suggested I rent a four-wheel drive vehicle. Wow! That is a great idea.
On Monday I picked up a Jeep Wrangler, and headed out to the Mojave Desert with Lukas and Konrad. Packed in the back were two model rockets, radio controlled cars, and a sling shot. Our first destination was Soggy Dry Lake. The flat dry lake bed is large and a perfect place to launch rockets. We also had it all to ourselves. The first rocket launch was flawless. Lukas was anticipating a lot of noise and he fled to the Jeep (he nearly made as much noise as the rocket, protesting the impending launch) . Konrad had no idea what to expect and was surprised by the noise of the rocket. The first rocket is a large rocket and probably reached an altitude of 500'. The boys enjoyed chasing the parachute and collecting the rocket. We prepared the second smaller and faster rocket for launch, and conducted our count down. Nothing! Hmmmm? After four failed launches I finally determined that in the excitement of the first launch I must have dropped the launch box, which made the batteries fall out of their holder. Once that was solved we had a great time launching our two rockets, until we ran out of rocket motors.
Now a dry lake bed has no plants or objects to reference for distance. What seems close can actually be far away. So when the small rocket started to come down from its 1,200' altitude it, floated about a 1/4 of a mile away from the Jeep. The boys started running to catch it, and they ran and they ran and they ran. They came back panting for air, but they always ran after the rockets. I eventually angled the launch pad so that the rockets drifted back towards the Jeep.
Now a Jeep in four-wheel low will literally crawl along at 2 or 3 miles an hour at idle. So I conducted a driving school for the boys on the lake bed. I sat them in the drivers seat, and from the passenger seat I put it in drive. The Jeep putted along at a walking pace while they steered. They both really enjoyed that.
After the rockets and driving school we headed out into the desert with a couple of goals in mind. We first stopped off at a place where the magnitude 7.3 Landers earthquake cracked and lifted the ground. The earthquake occurred in 1992, but because it does not rain much in the desert, the scarp is still obvious.
We then checked out an old iron mine. I had more fun at the iron mine dragging my large magnet and collecting Hematite. The boys just looked for junk and used shotgun shells. Wait, maybe they had just as much fun as I had?
Next we stopped at an old Navy bombing range at Galway Dry Lake. The bombing range was used during WWII to train Navy bomber pilots how to drop bombs on ships. There are three granite outcroppings in the dry lake bed that are the size of ships. There are craters, shattered boulders and shrapnel laying on the ground.
I had one more goal in mind, but the sun was setting low in the sky. I have had enough "a bridge too far" experiences, so I turned around.
On the way back we stopped off at a spot that is believed to be the location of the oldest living things on earth. They are called creosote rings, and they are a ring of creosote bushes that are clones of each other. The idea is that the original plant sent out new branches from the parent plant and these branches keep growing out from the center. We found a nice 20' diameter ring, but we did not find the "King Clone", which is supposed to be over 60' in diameter.
We ended our desert adventure with Sushi, Teriyaki chicken and ice cream. What a bargain it was to rent a Jeep for the day.