The Mojave Trails National Monument is massive, 1.6 million acres of federal lands, multiple wilderness areas and many privately owned developments and homesteads make up one of the mojave deserts newest protected recreation areas. Not to say that anything out there is really new. This desert is made of ancient geologic formations whose existence spans a timeline much larger than most modern humans can grasp. Effectively connecting Joshua Tree National Park with Mojave National Preserve, Mojave Trails creates, at least on a map, an undeveloped wild open area that covers a large portion of the mojave desert. The Sheephole Valley Wilderness is on the southern edge, closest to my home in Twentynine Palms and was our destination this weekend on our constant search for beautifull and quiet spaces.
Sheephole pass is 28 miles from the intersection of Amboy and Adobe road in Twentynine Palms. Anybody traveling out here would do well to visit the gas station there as there is literally no services or gas or even reliable cell service in this part of the desert. I believe I saw a sign labeling this road as Ship Rock road or Ship Rock Mountain rd but it was pretty faded. It is really a gas line road that crosses the desert but serves as access to this part of Mojave Trails nowadays. The road is sandy but well maintained, four wheel drive is recommended but I never needed it.
The sandy alluvial slope that the gas line road travels down is a great place for wildflower viewing this time of year. The desert gold poppies were particuarally abundant. This is prime Desert Tortoise habitat so please watch carefully, they dont take well to vehicle traffic and tend to not look both ways before crossing the road. To our dissapointment we did not see any on this trip.
We did however come across these little beauties which I believe are called Purple Mat growing side by side with some Wallace Eriophyllum. These plants are considered miniatures as they are very small and low growing. Miniatures are pretty common plants in the desert, they are easy to miss if you are not looking for them but worth the effort. Many interesting desert creatures are very small, plants included.
Other desert plants are much harder to miss, like these beautifull purple flowers which I believe to be some sort of Lupine. I really am a novice when it comes to identifying desert flowers so if any of you out there could narrow it down for me feel free to comment.
Not long after the gas line road leaves amboy rd a well traveled road veers off to the east. Soon after the road is blocked by a gate which represents the boundary of the wilderness area. This road has been closed long before Mojave Trails was established as the Sheephole Valley Wilderness was designated years ago. Please respect the wilderness designation and do not attempt to drive around the boundary. At this point the road makes a turn to the south and if you have a high clearance four wheel drive vehicle you can make it up a canyon for a short ways into the edge of the Sheephole mountains. The canyon walls are steep and rugged, perfect terrain for their namesake the elusive bighorn sheep. Several informal campsites are along this short road before it dead ends at a beautifull and secluded turn around. It doesnt seem like a great place to camp however as there is no flat ground to be found. Someone has in the past decided to create some petroglyphs on the boulders at this spot. Not really recommended but I suppose it is better than spray paint. It seemed clear to me that they were made by modern man and not native americans.
As far as I can tell the road up to this site is open to vehicle traffic but if you encounter any signage claiming the oppposite you should obey the rules and only travel on foot. It was well traveled at the time of my visit but the Land Managers have limited resources and often cannot replace signage as fast as the desert or visitors remove them. Always obey posted rules, take only pictures and leave our public lands as you found them. Bring lots of water and let someone know where you plan to travel before you head out, there is no reliable cell service or help of any kind, it is imperative that you are prepared for any emergencies, vehicular or medical. You are responsible for your own safety in the wild, no exceptions.