Mojave Preserve Overland Adventure Part 2: Government Holes to Foshay Pass

Gizzard Stone

A water trough. A cattle chute. An old fence. Weathered foundations shorn to the ground by time. So much of the West is notable for the either the landscape, or the marks left on it by the ebb of civilization.

We start our second day on the Mojave Road, in the Mojave National Preserve with the both the relics and remarkable landscape of Government Holes, a water stop on the old emigrant route west through the Mojave Desert.
It’s fun experiencing places like this with children. They know what’s interesting about this stuff, and the don’t need a guidebook as a testimonial. A well is for splashing. A fence is for climbing and a cattle chute is a great place to jump from. And they did. And we did. This trip gave us a new appreciation for just stopping and milling about a place for a while. I set the schedule for this whole overlanding expedition such that we would have time for stuff like this. Planning: It’s one of the reasons we don’t waste a whole any cash on light bars or fret over the time it takes to set up and tear down camp. It’s all part of the adventure.
Sacred relics found in the sage decorate our make-believe frontier campfire. We’re re-reading Peter Pan again and one of the admirable (and damnable) qualities of Peter, is that he can jump in and out of worlds like this. Forget where he is from and switch back at a moment’s notice. Things imagined are as real as things remembered. And forgetting the difference between the two is also the reason one seeks adventure in the first place.

We leave no further marks on this landscape beyond a slight rearrangement of items we found there and flow off down the road.
We took a detour off the Mojave Road here to head south to a place called Hole in the Wall.

Hole In The Wall

Not far past Government Holes you’ll come to Black Canyon Road. The Mojave Road and it’s rock pile bread crumbs continues on, but consider a detour. If you head south here you’ll come to a place called Hole In The Wall. Here there’s a campground, information center, and Trail Head.

The main attraction here is the Rings trail. The 1-mile trail wanders off down a dry creek bed from the Visitor Center skirting a butte composed of the local volcanic rock.

There are many rocks to stop and climb on and the kids made the most of the time out of the truck. The Mojave Preserve has quite a lot of opportunities for Overlanders to spend time on foot exploring historic and geologic waypoints.

For us, overlanding is more than just driving and this trail was well worth the time to explore. Eventually the trail loops around the back side of the butte and heads up into a low pass. The trail gets rough as it passes over rocks and slabs of volcanic tuff. It works it’s way into an increasingly narrow canyon, that will offer respite from the wind, or on summer days shade from the glaring sun. It is a lot of fun scrambling through cracks and over boulders wondering where this path leads.

Finally, the path is impossibly narrow and threatens to trap you in impassable walls. But that’s where the fun part starts. Check out the video for what comes next.

It’s called Banshee Canyon and it gets its name from the whistling moan of the wind blowing past the many pockets and vesicles in the volcanic rock. It’s a really cool place. If you’re not up for the climb, there is an overlook where you can look down from behind a metal guard rail into the canyon below.

Foshay Pass

If you travel with me much you are never surprised when we miss the turn. It happens. But once in a while missing the turn is a good thing. This time, heading south on Black Canyon road I missed the turn to Foshay Pass but spotted a Desert Tortoise sitting on the side of the road. The Desert Tortoise is rare and protected, so seeing one in the wild is a rare treat. So rare in fact that the ranger we spoke to the next day in Kelso Depot said he had never seen one and had been a ranger there for several seasons. The tortoise was sitting on the edge of the road just outside the yellow line. We did not touch the animal and kept a respectful distance. We were concerned that he was heading across the road, which even with the sparse traffic might have ended badly. So before we left we moved an orange sandbag that was lying nearby to just in front of him so that any oncoming car might see it and not stray off the roadway. Hopefully, he fared well.

The ranger later told us that if it is necessary to help one across the road the thing to do is to carry them low to the ground out of harm’s way. This will hopefully not freak them out too much which causes them to void their bladder which leaves them susceptible to dehydration. Hopefully doing nothing was the right course of inaction here. I feel that too often we humans feel like something must be done when many times no action is best. Certainly, no action is usually better than the wrong action. Either way, we left him to his business and moved on to Foshay Pass.

OK, Back on track. Foshay Pass crosses the Providence Mountains from Black Canyon Road to Kelbaker Road. It’s a fairly good road for the most part though bumpy and washed out in places. Overall it was rougher and less traveled than anything on the Mojave Road which lies 20 miles to the north. The road climbs to the summit through beautiful high desert scrub brush. The road crests the humble pass and heads back down opening for stunning views of the Kelso Dunes in the valley below.

There are two routes down from the summit to Kelbaker, one is fairly fast and smooth and will have you at Kelso camp in a matter of minutes, the other is not. While Google Maps doesn’t show the road as continuous, you can get through the pass and down the other side.

A list of resources and info links can be found at the end of the blog post here.





Nice! We're targeting this in Dec. Glad your kids can experience this, especially the tortoise reporting. Where can I find episode One?