The desert is one of those places you have to slow way down to experience. I pity the people just passing through, either on a day trip or a one-night camping stop on their way to somewhere else. You have to let the desert in to your soul slowly. Sit and listen to the silence and you’ll start to hear the faint birdsong, the buzz of insects in the bushes, the wind through the branches of the cottonwoods.
One of the best ways to get to know the desert is to walk through it. So let’s go on a hike on part of the Ring Trail in Mojave National Preserve. The trail starts at the parking lot of the Hole in the Wall Visitor Center, deep into the eastern side of this wonderful land managed by the National Park Service.
Look up as you walk along the sandy trail. These rocks are the remnants of a volcanic eruption about 18.5 million years ago. A groundswell of ash and rock fragments blew out along the ground for more than 200 square miles, cooking everything in its path. The ash and rock welded together as they cooled and entombed remains of birds, plants, and mammals.
Over time, weathering from wind and rain have worn away the softer materials, causing rocks to fall and that’s what you see from the top all the way down to the trail.
As we wend our way west, we can see mesas formed by that volcanic tuff and ash. Looking up and out, you start to get a sense of how large that volcanic eruption was.
The trail takes another curve, a bit north, and this canyon comes into view. The trail continues…
…until you’re inside the canyon, looking at walls of rhyolite tuff, with tafoni created by weathering. Tafoni is the geological term for those “holes” you see in the rock, created over lifetimes of wind and rain. Yes, there is enough water in the Mojave Desert to weather rocks like this!
Sometimes the weathering looks very much like modern art. This one below reminds me of a Picasso face.
We turn around to retrace our steps and get home before sunset, but not before enjoying one last few to the south. It’s hard to imagine that one of the most violent volcanic eruptions ever took place here. We stand in silence looking out at the landscape, letting the sun warm our faces before it slides behind those mountains for the night.
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.
For more information on the volcanic eruption, click on this link.