Saturday, March 17, 2007

Mojave Desert Walkabout

Yesterday I took off to visit a few places in the Mojave desert that I haven't yet seen. First up was Bristol Dry Lake. According to the Center for Land Use Interpretation, the lake has been actively mined for salt since 1909. The lake bed is just south of the tiny town of Amboy, CA which sits on the historic Route 66. The first picture I show here is approaching the Amboy area. You can see the dark shape of the Amboy Crater in the photo. The northern edge of the dry lake bed is there in front of the crater.

The northern end of the lake is tan colored and crunchy to walk on. My feet sank about 1.5 inches into the crusty surface. I walked around looking for any small dark rocks that might be meteorites. Then I drove several miles furher south, where the lake bed takes on an entirely different shape. Here the top inch of surface is crystalline salt. It was very hard and my steps didn't break the surface. It was also extremely rough. This is hard to explain, but I'll try. I sat down to take some pics from a lower perspective. The surface was so very rough - as if covered with tiny jagged points - that it scraped up my hands. Same with my pants. You certainly cannot slide on that stuff. There were other visitors who also pulled to the side of the road and wandered about, so I didn't feel out of place. Here's a Google maps link that shows Amboy and you can see the large dry lake bed south of town.

Then I headed north west to visit Broadwell Dry Lake. Again, I was hoping to look for meteorites. It's an easy 6 mile drive from I-40 on a BLM road that takes you into the western end of the Kelso Dunes Wilderness Area. As you can see from the photo, I had zero chance of finding any meteorites. All those dark rocks are lava. They were very light weight. They were everywhere. Earlier in the day I visited the BLM visitor center in Barstow to pick up a new National Parks pass. At $80, it's more expensive this year, but it covers National Parks, BLM lands, and even USFS National Forests. I also attempted to drive an off-road trail to a place called Kramer Arch, but that's a story for another post.

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