I’ve Been Through the Desert in A Van Named Walden

In our last episode, I decided where to park for the night by getting stuck on a dark desert highway, with cool wind in my hair. Actually it was really a dark desert one-lane road. I kept the windows shut. There could be animals out there. When I awoke and was warm enough, I got up to survey the situation. It was a pretty enough setting.


The wheels weren’t that deep in the sand. I’d stopped spinning the wheels before Walden dug himself down to the frame.



The night before, as Walden was spinning fruitlessly in the sand, I remembered a friend, who had himself once lived in a van, suggesting that it could come in handy to have an actual shovel. At the time I couldn’t imagine that such a thing was worth the space. Now I was starting to wonder. I instead readied my cat hole trowel. With it I started moving sand away from the wheels. I was hopeful that I’d be successful in digging myself out, as even if I had rope and a come-along, there weren’t any trees in the desert. It would be difficult to explain to my friends at AAA just where the hell I was, especially since I didn’t really know. There was no data service, so Google would be no help.

With the loose sand pushed away from the tires, I cranked the engine, took a deep breath, and gunned backward. The tires spun. I tried again, this time trying to eeeease out. This time the wheels spun just a bit, caught on the dirt I’d dug down to and Walden rolled out of the hole. I was free to move about the road. I stopped to make a plan. Step one: I wasn’t going to try to turn around again. I hoped that I hadn’t driven very far down this road because it was clear that the only way to get back out was going to be in reverse. It wasn’t that bad, actually, only about four tenths of a mile.

Rather than consulting the map to see where I might like to go, I headed out of the Mojave National Preserve back to the main road. I found my way to the ranger station. The sign said that it was open Wednesday-Saturday. This being Tuesday, I was somewhat disheartened. Maybe the bathrooms, accessible from their own exterior doors, would be unlocked. No joy. At least I knew where the cat hole trowel was. I was standing there on the porch and contemplated my next move when a ranger drove up. She explained that it would be a while before she opened. I asked her if she’d please unlock the bathroom. She complied.

When I spoke to her later about the Wednesday thing, she explained that they’d just changed the open times again, as the season was just starting. There are two types of people who most often visit this desert land in the summer, Japanese tourists, who want to experience the healing heat of the desert, and people who are lost. I told her about my getting stuck and deciding to sleep where I was and she suggested that was as good a way to find a place to stay as any.

She described a hike that I should take. It was only about a mile, so I figured I could do it. I encountered a couple who was peering off into the desert. I asked them what it was. It was some bird. They also showed me this bird’s nest, which was pretty cool. Who knew that birds built nests in cacti? It makes sense, though, I don’t see any felines or canines climbing up to raid the nest.


I don’t know what you think these rings are for, but it turns out that you use them to climb up. That was why they named it “Ring Trail.”


The hike actually was pretty cool. I stopped a bunch to check out the cacti and other desert flora. I took a bunch more pictures that you can see.

It turned out that the “pavement ends” sign was right. This was the way that the ranger told me to go, wasn’t it? I looked at the map. It seemed like the right road. There really weren’t any other roads I’d seen. In spite of my queasiness from my previous stuck-in-the-sand experience I forged onward.


Then I saw a brown sign with a picture of a jeep on it. Walden is not a jeep. The ranger said that jeep roads really were jeep roads. But this was the way she said to go, wasn’t it? I studied the map. This sure seemed like the way she said to go. It looked safe enough.


One cool thing about this route, if it was in fact the route that she suggested, was that, according to the ranger, this section of the preserve has more Joshua Trees than Joshua Tree National Park. She said that the rangers from Joshua Tree National Park really didn’t like her saying that. I saw a bunch of big cactus things. They weren’t the cool cactus that I wanted to see that have the arms. They were just big cacti.


It turns out that those things are, in fact, Joshua Trees. The saguaros are the cool ones with the arms.

After a while, I made it back to a paved road and that led back to what in Arizona counts as civilization.


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1 Response to I’ve Been Through the Desert in A Van Named Walden

  1. Jay Who Lives In A Van says:

    Noelle says she can’t post. I thought I’d try.

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