Vic led his Irvine Valley College Emeritus Program bird class for adults to the Mojave National Preserve this past weekend. I tagged along to take photos and provide a guest lecture on the natural history of the area. We stayed for three days at the Desert Studies Center near Baker. We saw fantastic scenery, found birds and other interesting critters and learned more about this fascinating and lightly visited part of California.
The 1.6-million acre Mojave National Preserve was created when Congress passed the California Desert Protection Act in 1994. About half of the park is designated wilderness and is open only to hikers and horseback riders. But nearly a thousand miles of roads — some paved and some 4WD only — crisscross the preserve, making access easy.
If you've ever sped from Barstow to Las Vegas to get through the desert as fast as you can, you're missing an incredible adventure. The best parts of the Mojave Desert are not along I-15. The desert is best enjoyed slowly and close up, as we did it. But while the Mojave National Preserve is only 3.5 hours from Huntington Beach, the lack of good visitor services keeps many from exploring the area more thoroughly.