October 24, 2008 — We continued up highway 95 out of Lake Havasu City. When we reached I-40, we turned left / west and were soon in California. As in every drive, we enjoyed the landscape — each and every landscape change.
Our goal today was to go through the Mohave Desert and to stay somewhere close to Death Valley for the night. While reading the guide book on Mohave, I learned that there was a place called Mitchell Cavern and I thought it would be an interesting stop along the way.
We reached the turn off for the road that would bring us to the cavern but realized that we only had half a tank of gas. Carl felt it would be unwise to enter the desert without a full tank of gas, even in a Prius. So we pulled over and looked up where to find the closest gas station — it didn’t show that there were ANY — so we back tracked to an “oasis” that we seen 10-15 miles earlier. So we filled up — and paid a ransom for the gas! But we figured it was worth the extra 5+ gallons.
So back on the road again, we found Mitchell Cavern. Being a weekday, there was only one tour and that was to be at 1:30. The tour would take an hour and a half. Carl decided it was too much walking — and on unpredictable ground — so I went alone. The Cavern is situation up on the side of the mountain and the ranger could see cars coming, so he held up the start of the tour until the cars on their way up reached us. So, we had a late start.
Anyway, the tour was interesting, though it was difficult to really look at and photograph the formations in the cave because there were so many people on the tour. Logistically, the tour guide has to keep the group close together and get us from one section of the cavern to the next without anyone stepping off the walkway or touching any of the cave. At one point, he had to get us on within a corridor, and have the last person shut the door before he could open another door, protecting the air within the cavern.
We had only one opportunity to walk around freely, but it turned out to be an area without much left to see. Thought there was one interesting feature of this last “room” — it was where the 1991 movie The Doors was filmed with Val Kilmer playing Jim Morrison.
A little information about Mitchell Cavern. The caverns are limestone caves that feature a wide variety of formations, such as Stalactites (hanging down), Stalagmite (built from the ground up) and Columns (the stalactite mets the stalgmite) as well as other formations. The formations are sedimentary limestone and metamorphised limestone (marble) that are being dissolved by ground water high in carbonic acid content. The tour guide told us to imagine the bubble in a carbon drink as to how the caves (holes) were originally formed. The limestone drips down threw cracks in the rock to create the different formations. Much of the tour points out the images seen in each of the different formations; for example, a queen washing her hair in her royal chamber that includes draperies. Again, there were really too many people and too little time to let the imagination rip. Nevertheless, it was interesting.
Jack Mitchell had a permit to mine silver in this area but when he realized that he had the caverns, he decided to turn it into a tourist business. This was when lots of people were traveling by car on route 66 and the caverns offered a way to cool off — though the original path was a lot more difficult to get at the caverns than they are today. When Jack Mitchell ran it, a tour lasted all day. We were shown some of the tunnels that the visitors would have to crawl through to reach was we did by walking along a cement path!
By the time I met up with Carl again, it was already 3:30, so we decided to not continue with original plan to ride through the Mohave Desert and instead we went back out to I-40 to see if we could find a motel for the night. This is rather barren stretch of desert road – no gas stations, food or lodging. At one point there was a sign with the symbols for lodging and food, but when we looked to the left at the town, we noticed it was basically a bunch of burned structures. So we ended up driving all the way to Barstow, California.
Carl is studying the RVs for sale on e-bay again tonight. We might scrap plans to see Death Valley and go back to Arizona to look at the some of the RVs that are being bid on.