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Sometimes I like to rent a car and drive wherever the road takes me. I did this last weekend and found myself immersed in a world of strange and fantastic rock formations, resembling a lost city thousands of years old. I discovered Red Rock Canyon State Park.
Located along Highway 14 in Kern County, about 120 miles north of Los Angeles, Red Rock Canyon was once home to the Kawaiisu Indians, who left petroglyphs and artifacts in the El Paso Mountains.
The spectacular gash situated at the western edge of the El Paso mountain range was on the Native American trade route for thousands of years. During the 1870s, the colorful rock formations in the park served as landmarks for 20-mule team freight wagons that stopped for water. About 1850, it was used by survivors of the famous Death Valley trek. The park now protects significant paleontology sites and the remains of 1890s-era mining operations.
When a friend and I got to Red Rock, it was a windy January morning, with snow scattered about the desert floor and only two sets of campers sharing the rugged, 27,000-sq-ft Park. I imagine this place fills up fast in spring, when the weather warms and wildflowers line the desert floor.
Red Rock features 50 primitive campsites, potable water, pit toilets, fire rings, and tables. Campers should bring their own firewood, or purchase it from a ranger or at the visitor center. There are no RV hook-ups or showers. Camping is $25 per night per site,
As we slowly drove around the one road that circles the sanctuary,it felt like we were in a scene from the dinosaur classic “Jurassic Park.” Maybe that’s because the movie was filmed here. In fact, due to its unique landscape Red Rock was used in lots of movies, including “The Mummy,” “Zorro Rides Again,” “Westworld,” “Airwolf,” and “The Outlaw.”
When the scenery became to impressive, we stopped to climb the rocks and take pictures and look for native wildlife such as snakes, roadrunners, hawks, lizards, mice and squirrels.
From the ancient rock formations at Red Rock, we journey into the future as we stopped Mojave Air and Space Port on our way home. This facility is the first of its kind to be licensed in the United States for horizontal launches of reusable spacecraft. In other words its is known for testing some pretty wild and innovative aircraft.
While here we examined the Rotary Rocket Roton ATV, which in 1999 became the first rocket-powered vehicle to fly at Mojave Spaceport. And next to this craft, we encountered a replica of Space Ship One, which was part of the first private manned space program in the country.
We also had a great lunch at the Voyager Restaurant, located on the runway. While eating a bowl of chili and onion rings, we watched planes and helicopters take off before our eyes.
For more info on Red Rock Canyon State Park, call Mojave Desert Information Center
(661) 942-0662. For more info on Mojave Air and Space Port, visit www.mojaveairport.com.
-Photo and story by Greg Aragon