High Mojave Desert up Ridgecrest Way

The desert is cooling down. Autumn is here and with it, the opporturnity to explore the local environs without killer heat has arrived.


I was driving home the other evening, about fifteen minutes before dusk sets in, and was silenced by the sunset.  It was an incredible bright pink with a tinge of pastel purple.  The foothills of the Sierras were silhouetted a perfect ink black in the foreground. 

I pulled into the driveway and watched the sky come to its day’s end rest.  The pink began to soften and become less profound.  Softly, the purple took a deeper hue and reached higher into the sky.  In the far corners, the Caribbean blue colors lessened and gave way to the coming darkness of night.

A peace was settling on the earth.

I went inside and warmed up a pot of black beans.  I ate them.  They tasted like Guatemala.


A few weekends ago we visited a place called Fossil Falls.  It’s located about an hour north of Ridgecrest on the east side of route 395.

Fossil Falls is neither fossils or falls.  Instead, it is the geologic remain (fossil) of a waterfall that was created when lava poured into the Owens River channel around 20,000 years ago. As time passed on, the water eroded and carved the lava into a stretch of smooth, exotic, rounded features. 

Where’s the water, you may ask. 

Well, in 1913 the Los Angeles aqueduct was completed, thus resulting in the draining of the falls.  Today, there is no water flowing over Fossil Falls.

On the day we were there, there were several rock climbers polishing up their techniques on the north side of the fall.  We simply climbed and crawled on the rocks, through the rocks and over the rocks.  

We had some lunch, lazed in the sun and climbed a little more. 


Looking west from route 14 south that sits 15 miles outside of town, you can see what appears to be a big rock sitting in the desert at the base of the foothills. 

What appears to be a rock is just that, a big rock. 

Robber’s Roost is its name.  It is called Robber’s Roost for that exact reason.

In the 1870s, a notorious bandit named Tiburcio Vasquez used the rock as both a hideout and lookout.  Stagecoaches and wagons used to roll through these parts, and ol’ Tib Vasquez sat waiting for the pioneers and their riches. 

As far as the rock is concerned, geologists call it an inselberg.  An inselberg is an isolated erosional remanent of a much larger granite mass.


While it may have been a “robber’s” roost in the past, today it serves as a roost of sorts for birds of prey.  Red-tail hawks, prairie falcons and other raptors nest in the crags and crevices of the rock.  For their “roosting”, the area is off-limits to human entry from 1 February through 1 July.

Last week we went out there to watch a sunset.

It was cold and windy.


Every morning the sun comes up and casts a color on the foothills that Crayola will never create.  I’ll try to describe it; it’s a wholesome periwinkle, violet, pink, slate blue, Sierra mountain natural, native color with a mix of golden sunlight set off by
high Mojave Desert morning sky that combines to form a color on the foothills that really cannot be described.


It’s a beauty that only nature can paint.


(written 12 November 2000)

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