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Our expedition to the Mopah Mountain Range

by Cara Hirsch

It is the first weekend in November. Typical California weather, not quite shorts weather, not quite long-sleeves. We depart Pomona College at one in the afternoon, all of us in 4x4 suburbans, following our professors in a similar truck. We drive a little under 5 hours, towards the heart of the Mojave Desert. Suddenly, our professor's truck pulls to the side of the deserted highway. The truck suddenly turns, onto a dirt road. We drive on this road for what seems like hours, when it was only 20 minutes. The road puts our 4-wheel drive trucks to the test, we get tossed around, at only 25 miles and hour! We stop. There are not signs of civilization, the highway long disappeared into the horizon.
We set up camp on a long clearing of dirt, in the middle of the desert. Geology professor Rick Hazlett tells us this was an airstrip for the military. The army practiced here for World War Two. Its night, the stars stand out in bright relief against the black sky. There were so many that we could barely pick out the familiar constellations of Cassiopeia and the Big Dipper. Around the campfire, Professor Bryan Penprase, our professor of astronomy and archeoastronomy, points out the stars and nebulae above us. Professor Hazlett tells us he spent 5 months, alone, mapping this site for the government.
The next morning, we set out for our hike. At the edge of the airstrip are orange markers that say, "Beyond this point is Wilderness. No cars, no motorbicycles, no bicycles, no hanggliders."
The terrain is beautiful. Professor Hazlett tells us the mountains around us are actually extinct volcanoes, and that we are walking on several faults. After climbing over the smaller of these mountains, we reach an oasis. Palm trees, water, the whole bit. We rest there for a while, eat lunch, and continue hiking. We climb over a larger mountain, and a wide valley sweeps before our eyes. Ringed by mountains, this is the site we have hiked 3 hours for. Somewhere in this huge valley is a small group of rocks that bear the imprint of peoples who lived centuries before. We pick up our pace, and reach the site.

This site created by Cara Hirsch

Special thanks to Professor Bryan Penprase, Professor Rick Hazlett, and David Chavez.