Tyler and I’s stop at Big Horn was only the first adventure of the weekend. Our next adventure included driving down from the mountains and into the desert of the Mojave National Preserve. Going deeper into the dry and desolate desert was a trip as civilization seemed to slowly fade away and was replaced by rolling plains of sand and desert foliage. The sun was sweltering (even in February) and my goal of conserving the A/C was shot as we began to make our descent into the preserve. As we drove, Tyler told me a bit about the campsite and the area we were going to as he had been there before. He also told me of a rare species of turtle that’s native to Mojave but are rarely seen. We drove a long stretch of highway until we finally saw the marker for the National Preserve. I began driving down the road when Tyler exclaimed for me to “STOP!” I skidded to a halt, looking frantically around as Tyler got out of the truck and started approaching something near the edge of the road. As I got closer, I realized what it was: a Mojave Desert Tortoise.
The tortoise was calmly sitting there without a concern or care in the world. I had very nearly clipped his shell when I drove by but he remained perfectly still, basking in the sun. Tyler and I watched him crawl around for a bit until he finally made his way back off the road and into the desert. It was a good omen and another box checked for both Tyler and I.
The campground we stayed at was called Hole-in-the-Wall campgrounds. So named for the canyon the campgrounds are situated around in which it’s walls are hollow, volcanic rock. It’s a different kind of vibe than I was used to seeing as most of my camping experiences had been on the coast. The campgrounds sit near the base of the canyon’s walls and are spread out through the area. Camping and sleeping in the desert is a trip in that there really isn’t much cover. Aside from the canyon, it’s just you and the the elements. Wind blows through your campsite since there is little to no cover but the ground is level and the space offers a decent amount of privacy. The desert is harsh and extreme but is also one of the most serene and mystical places you can visit. That night, the temperature dropped to freezing temperatures but we had our fire roaring, our cooler full of beer and a sky full of stars to look up into and enjoy.
At Hole-in-the-wall there is one hike you can do, the Rings Loop trail. It winds through the canyon situated around the campsites and the visitor’s center. It’s relatively easy and straightforward as most of it is just flat ground at only a mile and a half long.
As you continue walking along the canyon’s edge, the trail veers into the canyon as the walls begin to rise all around you. This is when the trail gets really cool and you can start to see why they call this place “hole-in-the-wall.”
The trail leads you straight into the canyon and it sort of looks like a dead end. It’s hard to determine what is the actual trail but if you take your time, you will have no problem getting through. As you creep through the crevices of the canyon, you come upon a set of rings hammered into the walls. This is where the trail gets its name and it’s also one of the most fun parts of the trail as you have to climb up the rings. Once you get to the top, the trail loops back around and brings you to the beginning near the visitor’s center. There is a nice little lookout point where you can check out the entirety of the hike and see the canyon floor. All in all, hole-in-the-wall is a fantastic campground and an amazing area to walk around and experience desert life. The campsites are cheap, the scenery is grand and the rings trail hike is a joy. Definitely a spot I will be returning to.