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Mojave Trails National Monument

Less than an hour away from Twentynine Palms lies America’s “Mother Road,” historic Route 66.  And now we have a new national monument—Mojave Trails— that includes the Mother Road as it crosses the Mojave, with 1.6 million acres of wilderness, rugged mountains, cinder cones and lava flows, sand dunes, ancient Native American trading routes, World War II training camps, and more.
     Take Amboy Road from Twentynine Palms through Wonder Valley, over Sheephole Pass (with the Sheephole Valley Wilderness to the east), and past the chloride mining operations on the dry lake bed, and you’ll reach the “town” of Amboy.  The town is owned by one man.  It’s only services are found at Roy’s where you can find simple snacks and drinks, gas, basic restrooms, and a whole lot of stories.
     About 10 minutes west from Amboy on Route 66, you can visit Amboy Crater National Natural Landmark.  You can walk on trails through lava flows into the center of the 250 foot high volcanic crater.  If you can, hike up to the rim of the crater and look across the landscape of the desert.  There are 24 square miles of lava flow and lava lakes, collapsed lava tubes and sinks, spatter cones and massive basalt flows to view.  To the west along Route 66, and to the north in the Mojave National Preserve, lie many more signs of the desert’s volcanic history.
     Amboy Crater can be an excellent site to view spring wildflowers, and is home to a variety of lizards and snakes.  There are picnic and restroom facilities on site.  Be cautious when hiking the rim as much of the volcanic material is loose.  The last “eruption” here was during the heyday of Route 66 when some high school students piled old tires inside the crater and set them on fire.  With smoke rising, it wasn’t long before the news got out there was a volcano erupting in the Mojave.
     Route 66 between Amboy and Ludlow is excellent for train watching.  Train lovers can follow Route 66 west all the way to Barstow where you can visit Casa del Desierto, the classic Harvey House railroad station, home to the Western American Railroad Museum and the Route 66 Mother Road Museum.  The Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail company has one of its largest railway yards here with 48 classification tracks.
     There are numerous areas for hiking, camping, backpacking, and rock collecting in the Mojave Trails National Monument.  Visit the historic Goffs Schoolhouse and the Mojave Desert Heritage and Cultural Association, where they have a working 10 stamp mill, or hike the Afton Canyon Natural Area.   If you have a vehicle up to it, head out to Ragtown and the Buckeye Mining District, just south of Ludlow off of Route 66, or the Cadiz Dunes, off of Cadiz Road.  Look for the Army’s Camp Clipper, Camp Essex and Essex Airfield, and Camp Ibis if you’re a World War II buff.  
     Or just enjoy the vast sweeping views of America’s Mother Road and reflect upon the westward migration that took place here—from pre-Columbian Native American trails from the tribal homelands along the Colorado River to the Pacific, to the Mojave Road, and then the Dustbowl and Great Depression migration to the beckoning orchards of California.

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