Sometimes during our adventures, we stumble upon places that appear unnamed on any maps. In these situations, I tend to find the closest named sites and mash up a new name for recording purposes. This particular adventure took us near Horse Canyon and Bird Spring Canyon in the Mojave Desert, so I’ve coined this little region as Horsebird.
Situated at the southern base of the Eastern Sierra, Horsebird is one of many clearings accessible by the miles of dirt trails stemming from Dove Springs. Dove Springs, directly accessible from Highway 395, is a named BLM OHV site with Red Rock Canyon State Park directly to its south, and open BLM public land to the north. The Dove Springs entrance is about 10 minutes further north from Jawbone Canyon on Highway 395. There are two main arterial roads here, Los Angeles Aqueduct Road and 2nd Los Angeles Aqueduct Road. As their names suggest, both are graded service roads intended for the LA Aqueduct’s maintenance. The main arterial roads seem to always be pretty well-graded, and should be accessible by most vehicles (sedans might even be OK here). The side trails off the arteries, however, are can be significantly less maintained. We passed through some very washboard and rutted roads, as well as roads covered with rocks of about 6” in diameter. Although there are some flat sites off the main arteries, high-clearance 4x4 is necessary to find the more isolated sites here.
Due to the region’s proximity to the mountains, weather can turn on a dime. A week prior our trip, the forecast showed cold but mostly sunny skies. The day before we left, the forecast indicated cloudy skies with a low chance of rain. What we actually got was a combination of sun, rain, flurries, and sleet – perfect for our trip’s main purpose of R+D testing a new tent design.
Although we left in the afternoon, rush hour traffic on I-5 and Highway 14 set our schedule back. By the time we turned off Highway 395 at the Dove Springs entrance, the sun had already set and the cold was setting in. The trails around the area were mild and mostly well-graded, and we were able to cover miles of trail pretty quickly. With the winter daylight hours, though, it was still pitch dark when we arrived at the initial site. Unfortunately the initial site was not quite suitable (too sloped and too many rocks), so we quickly scouted around and found a more appropriate site nearby atop a ravine.
With the winds slowly setting in, we decided to pitch our setup with a partly-enclosed vestibule. After pitching the prototype cabin tent and a V2 tent, we spread the canopy between them to create the common space in between. We staked the rear of the canopy lower to shield us from prevailing winds, and used fewer segments of tarp poles to create an entry into the common space and provide a spot for the fire pit. After the 15 minute setup, we started the fire to trap some heat under the canopy and made a quick dinner. We retreated into our hot tents shortly after to prepare for the next day.
The rain arrived overnight, starting as a light drizzle, then heavy downpour. The rain slowly subsided by morning, and we were greeted with a partly cloudy sunrise. After a warm breakfast, we took this time to explore the area by foot, hiking through the nearby rock formations and Joshua Tree groves. The clouds in the sky moved very fast, and in the distance we could see heavy storm clouds incoming.
By the time we made it back to base camp, the storm had just resumed with freezing rain and sleet pelting our shelter. We spent the rest of the afternoon working under the soft patter of the rain. In the late afternoon, the patter slowly stopped and camp fell dead silent. The rain had frozen into flurries, and snow started falling just as the sun set. Rain and snow fell interchangeably throughout the night and next day when we wrapped up and headed back to town.
We scouted around the area more the next day and found plenty of other beautiful sites. Unfortunately we also found some trashed sites with broken glass, beer cans, etc. Please keep these places clean so everybody can use them for years to come!
Thanks for reading, more to come!