Day 12 – Fishlake National Forest to Mojave Desert

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It finally happened. I finally hit my temperature breaking point. Well, as it turns out, Dingo hit her breaking point, and her sad cold little face was my breaking point.  Despite wearing a jacket designed by Nordic dog sledders, sleeping in a bed with insulation made out of space blankets, and being snuggled in a faux fur blanket, Dingo woke me at around 8:00am shivering from head to toe.

(This is Dingo last night, before the freeze)

When we got out of the trailer the first thing I did was put her in the car with the heater on. Then, as per my usual routine, I went to make coffee. If there was any room left before hitting my last straw it was consumed upon finding that my water jug was frozen solid. Knowing I couldn’t return to bed with Dingo in a near hypothermic state, I loaded up the car and went to find coffee.

In case you were wondering about the heating pad, it did work for a while. It would heat one side of me and then I’d flip over to heat the other side. I felt a little like a 7-Eleven hotdog rotating around the heat like a rotisserie.  Eventually, however, the heating pad drained the battery and I was back to relying on my sleeping bag.

With Dingo riding warmly in her bed as we headed down the highway, I was reminded of how hard it is to find coffee in Utah. It took about two hours to finally get my latte fix. To be fair, I did find one diner that offered coffee in a Styrofoam cup, but I just couldn’t bring myself to order it. If I had held out this long already, I wanted my coffee to be one, or maybe two, giant lattes.  Finally, after an intense search I was properly caffeinated. 

I pointed the car to the Mohave Desert, winding my way through Utah, Arizona, Nevada and finally into California.  As soon as I entered California, I instantly felt less exotic.  My California license plate had become a consistent conversation piece.  Everywhere I went I’d get “oh, you’re from California.  You sure are a long way from home.”   I never really knew if I should take it as an ominous “you’re not from around these parts” or a light hearted “wow, you’re on a big adventure.”  I generally chose to assume the intention was the latter, but I am a glass-half-full kind of lady.

Of course, now as one of the masses of California drivers, I figured I should see the first attraction on this side of the boarder.  In case you were wondering what that heavily advertised attraction was, it was of course the World’s Largest Chevron.  Conveniently enough I also needed gas, so the visit killed two birds with one stone.  

I got off highway 15 and began my meander in the desert. For a while I felt my shoulders drop, the tension lift and my patience increase. Just being off the highway and on a little country road made me want to turn on some music and drive the speed limit. That state of relaxation quickly faded when I turned off the country road and onto the dirt road that led to camp, and not just because of the bullet holes on the signage.

For 15 miles I drove somewhere between 5 and 15 miles an hour. The road was like driving on a very long and windy rumble strip. Every time I hit a bump, I pictured my tire scraping the wheel well of my car and peeling off like a banana.  

About 10 miles into the drive I had a realization.  The sun was going down and there was a slim chance the campground was full.  What if I had to drive this route back in the dark? I’m pretty sure there are scorpions, snakes and coyotes hiding behind cactuses right this second waiting for an unsuspecting camper to get lost.

In the distance I saw the light at the end of the tunnel.  The campground was slowing coming into focus, along with the two, no…four…no ten RV’s all in campsites!  As I tried to process this madness and figure out how all those campers managed to drive 15 miles on this dirt road my car transitioned off the dirt road onto beautifully smooth pavement.

Apparently, there was a completely separate entrance to this campground that was fully paved. Not just fully paved, but a mere 10 miles from the freeway.  Isn’t that convenient.

I rolled into the campground, envisioning taking a few scorpions to the Google campus to thank them for their guidance and found that thankfully the campground wasn’t completely full.  Threats of scorpion deliveries drifted from my mind as I selected a beautiful site and began to get comfortable. 

It was a delightfully warm evening as the sun began setting behind the hills.

I took dingo on a quick tour of the campground and chatted with a few fellow campers, including a couple girls who pointed out the snake that was living next to my campsite.   I thanked them and made a mental note of where to avoid walking at all costs.  It wasn’t a poisonous snake, but I figured it might have friends.

Dingo did her own exploration while I took pictures of the sunset, which gave me the opportunity to learn how to extract cactus thorns from her mouth and tongue.

All in all, while the day began somewhat slowly, by the end of the day it was both educational and eventful.


I concluded the day with a little Dutch Oven pizza and headed off to bed.

If everything goes according to plan, tomorrow I’ll be heading into Pinnacles National Park. It’s a long drive from the Mohave Desert so I’ll need to get rolling early.

Until then!

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