Coming up Wild Horse Canyon Road off Black Canyon Road, on the way back to Mid Hills campground; Round Valley is behind me

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

Last night's cold air has returned and I have to put on my long pants and sweater as soon as I get back to the campsite.

The campfire is burning and it's time to put on my outer shell over my sweater, brrr

My head is cold and it's not even dark yet. How did I forgot to bring a hat or at least a couple of bandanas with me?

They sell bandanas at the Nipton General Store, but I haven't been there yet on this trip. My sweater doesn't have a hood. I pull out that pair of heavy gloves that yesterday seemed like useless extra baggage in the heat of the Kelso Dunes.

No warmth is emanating from the nearly dead sun and a cold south wind is blowing in. This means that it's time to have a campfire to get some heat. It is windy, but not so much as to make a campfire unsafe—I hope.

It's such a treat to have a campfire as a bicycle camper. It's enough to carry adequate amounts of drinking water due to the weight of it, so I don't even consider adding to the burden by trying to carry firewood. It's neither appropriate nor legal to collect woody materials from the desert floor to burn in a campfire.

Time to move away from the campfire for a few moments to see how supper is doing

I dig out my Goretex outer shell from the tent and put it on over my sweater. I brought this with me as a precaution, "just in case it gets cold," but I didn't really think I'd end up wearing it.

In a very nice gesture, as National Parks Service goes about cleaning up the downed and damaged trees in the area from last year's fire, they've been chopping up the wood and leaving boxes of it at the campsites for visitors to burn. I'm so grateful!

The other bonus about staying at this campground right now is that it's temporarily free due to all the fire damage. It usually costs $12 per night.

I haven't built a campfire in years. It looks like I've got it started well, so I add a few logs. Something burning smells really aromatic; I'm guess it must be the juniper wood. The fire is burning nicely now and I'm mesmerized by it. I'm having a hard time pulling myself away to prepare another instant meal.

Checking up on the Tasty Bite spinach dal and basmati rice heating up in the little pot of boiling water; my heavy gloves are keeping my hands warm

Tonight's special will be boil-in-bag (two separate bags) Tasty Bite spinach dal and basmati rice. This package is much heavier (12 ounces!) than the many just-add-water-to-pouch camper meals that I'm carrying, but I'm now glad that I didn't hesitate to bring it along as a treat.

The little flame of my propane one-burner stove on the picnic table is boring compared to the the big campfire in front of me. My boil-in-bags barely fit into my small pot of water, so I let them simmer for much longer than usual. This is fine because it gives me more time to sit in front of the campfire idly while I wait. I add a few more logs to the fire.

The spinach dal and rice is delicious, but I want more. I follow it up with some beef jerky and some spicy chili-lime cashews.

I sit on the ground in front of the campfire for what feels like hours, staring blankly at it. The warm food in my stomach seems to have cooled down and only the campfire is providing me with a little warmth now.

Most of the heat from the fire is getting blown away by the wind and I want more of it. I move closer to the burning embers, but retreat a bit soonafter when a big crackle in the fire shoots a handful of embers at me.

The campfire burns

The dark moonless night with thousands of stars in the sky has been beautiful tonight. It's now time to retreat to the tent to get out of the cold wind and write some notes in my journal under the light of the little flashlight lantern that hangs from my tent's ceiling.

The campfire outside smoulders unattended for an hour or two and then finally dies out. And so do I.

I crawl into my sleeping bag wearing my t-shirt, sweater, sweat pants and socks. I tie the sleeping bag's hood around my head and start to drift off thinking about tomorrow's adventures beyond Mid Hills campground.

I hear a vehicle pull in at the next campsite up the hill and distant conversations in a language unfamiliar to me that sounds eastern-European. Perhaps I'll dream in that language tonight.

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