On the way out of Mid Hills campground, two campsites over from mine; the vegetation around their campsite is partially burned

Bicycle camping in and around Mojave National Preserve 2006

Day 3: Wild Horse Canyon Road to Hole-in-the-wall campground and back

23.38 miles, 2:43 hrs, 22.4 mph max, 8.5 mph avg

Elevation: 5500 to 4200 and back

It's time for a hot-water wipe-down to get rid of some of the sweat and salt from yesterday (and the day before!). It's great to be camping near a water supply so that I can wash without worrying that I'm "wasting" my valuable drinking water on washing myself.

One of the few flat stretches of Wild Horse Canyon Road is found just west of the entrance road to Mid Hills campground

I heat up some water on my "one-burner stove" and go at it. Despite the warm sun, the cold air blowing on my wet skin makes this experience a little more invigorating than I had intended! But it still feels great.

The sun is just warm enough that I decide to change into short pants, but I'm still wearing my sweater, just in case I get cold.

I'm somewhat clean now, but that condition must not be allowed to remain for long. It's time to apply sunscreen to my exposed parts and get sticky again.

I slowly prepare for the ride down Wild Horse Canyon Road. I pack a few essentials—water, Clif bars, dried apricots, almonds, camera, pump, tube and bike tools—into my small saddlebags and mount them to my rear rack instead of the front rack.

Wild Horse Canyon Road rolls slowly downhill and the Providence Mountains loom high in the background

I hop on the bike and wobble away from the campsite. After two days and 86 miles of pedalling with a full load, the 10-ton bike suddenly feels incredibly light. Without all the extra weight pulling down my front wheel that I've gotten used to, steering is now too easy. Every little move I make breaks my attempt to ride in a straight line.

After a mile or so, I will have forgotten about this temporary condition, but for the moment I have to be careful.

There's almost no flat land up here. The half-mile-or-so ride on the dirt road to get out of the campground is rough in places and rolls up and down. With more down than up, it's fun.

The campground road heads down one last little hill and ends at Wild Horse Canyon Road, where I came in last night. I turn right on the wider, gravelly road instead of backtracking on yesterday's ride.

As Wild Horse Canyon Road descends, the silhouette of the Providence Mountains begins to hide behind the closer mountains

This 20-mile loop ride that I'm starting now, from Mid Hills campground down Wild Horse Canyon Road to Hole-in-the-wall campground, then returning via Black Canyon Road, isn't new to me. I did this ride during my first trip out here in 1999, and liked it so much that I repeated it when I came back again in 2000.

Indeed, this might be the perfect day ride in Mojave National Preserve for a car camper who carries a mountain bike while travelling. Somewhat strenuous due to the gravel roads and the 1300-foot elevation drop and gain, but not hard-core.

Wild Horse Canyon Road is as scenic today as it was during my last two rides here, despite the burned vegetation in some areas. The road winds gently through beautiful high-desert post-card country, going up and down, mostly down. The desire to stop and take photos as I go around each corner is almost annoying, a stimulating disruption.

Here and there, enough sand and gravel has accumulated to provide some slippery mountain-bike challenges along the downhills. I tend to ride in the middle of the road because of this, except when there is a car coming, which is hardly ever.

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