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March 2, 2010

We’ve been camped in the Mojave Preserve for over a week, without first being able to top off our groceries between Death Valley and Mojave, because tiny Baker in between only offered a few potatoes and various and sundry pitiful veggies at convenience store prices.  We stayed at Kelso Dunes until we nearly ran out of food and water and it was time to drive the 80 miles for groceries and water and showers.  It felt pretty good, actually, to clean out all the way down into the half-empty bags of lentils and rye berries in the corners of our cabinets, but we were happy to get back to the world of fresh veggies and milk and chocolate, too.  We’re staying in empty Amboy (population 4, home of Roy’s on Route 66) overnight waiting on a package, then we’ll head back out to the desert for as long as we can hold out.

Captain Hook finds his back to the wall - Kelso Dunes, Mojave Preserve

Captain Hook finds his back to the wall

The Kelso dunes, where we’ve been camping, are 700 feet high and the sand is fine!  It’s hours of barefoot hiking/sliding, and the running washes through the desert near it are nice and soft, good for the lower leg.  It is such a delight to walk in, that the kids made it two hours of hard plowing to the top of the dunes twice so far, lured just by the joy of running down, loose, with our arms windmilling.   The sand in front of Belle gives the kids ample material and landscape to build fairy empires and play with little toy animals and twigs and seashells and cactus parts and blossoms and stones and baubles.  Trent has taken over a lot of Mazie Jane’s schooling so I have a bit of time to write and study, and it is fun to hear them get their homeschooling rhythm going.  They certainly have an open tablet with all the sand to write in.  Holt is enjoying keeping a drawing journal these days and plays around with writing letters quite a bit.   Mazie’s more confident in her reading than she’s ever been.  This isolated camping is just what we were looking for.

In Death Valley a couple of weeks ago, we stopped for showers and had a chance to swim.     Holt experienced swimming in his floatie with and without a couple of extra floating inserts, and because of the change in buoyancy and doggie-paddle effort required, it dawned on him that they had been holding him up all this time.  So he took the whole floatie jacket off, got back in the pool, and started to swim as hard  as he could – and an hour later, he was still doing it!  Flipping from tummy to back, playing catch, and swimming half the pool – albeit with his nose barely above water.  He is still three, will turn four in April, and always so ambitious to keep up with the kids around him.  I doubt he’ll want to wear the jacket again.  So now he’s a stunt man on his two wheel bike, swimming without a jacket, and hot on the trail of his sister’s reading and writing.   His chest swells up with pride when he talks about it, and his voice gets even huskier.

Tecopa Springs is worth a stop for showers/soak if you’re looking for a place near Death Valley.  Although the baths are separate for men and women, they are nice with an open view of the sky.  As always near hot springs, we met some interesting people there.  And in Twentynine Palms for groceries, we stopped to ask a fellow if we could drop our recycling in his barrel, and he ended up being an artist, dancer and interesting dude who showed us around his eclectic place, formerly his grandparents’ auto hotel, with all its stylized signs from back when Twentynine Palms was a health destination for people recovering from mustard gas in their lungs.

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