Hole in the Wall

The chain of buttes the hides the hole-in-the-wall
The chain of buttes where the hole-in-the-wall hides

I first found hole-in-the-wall early one spring after seeing an article about it in the local paper. My boys were still young then (7 & 9) and I would take them camping in the desert on their spring break. Originally we would go to Joshua Tree and just stay there.

Lately it had gotten harder and harder to get a decent camp space as Joshua Tree's reputation had grown and the rock climbers had taken over.

We had been at Joshua Tree for a couple of days and I decided to go see Hole-in-the-Wall in the East Mojave. We arrived at our destination at Hole-in-the-Wall in the early afternoon.

gateway to hole-in-the-wall
The gateway to hole-in-the-wall

I backed the old van up to one of the many rock protected camping site. This site had a table with a trellis over it as well as square steel box bar-b-que on a steel post. The site was up against the rocks so the rocks protected the site from the howling desert winds. This site was magic.

As the sun's light receded into night we watched the full moon rise up out of the wastelands to the east. I have seen full moons over the water but in my mind's eye this moon is still remembered as the largest moon I have ever seen.

In the morning we hiked down through Hole-in-the-Wall and to the base of the monolithic stone that makes up the base of the mesa of which Hole-in-the-Wall is a part. We approached a butte very similar to the type of butte seen in many old western movies of Monument Valley after a short hike.

We skirted the main base of the butte and began following a a sand and rock ridge covered with an abundance of three foot tall barrel cactus. We watched a whirligig devil wind's funnel move across the open wasteland in the distance.

will palmer standing at the base of the entrance to hole-in-the-wall
Will Palmer standing at the base of the entrance to hole-in-the-wall

The next trip we made to Hole-in-the-Wall was after the Mojave National Preserve had been declared. I guess there are benefits to this section of East Mojave becoming a National Preserve but I am not sure that I have ever seen those benefits. One of the new government ‘benefits' was the demolition of the excellent campsites snuggled up against the rocks of Hole-in-the-Wall.

the rings one must climb to navigate hole-in-the-wall
The rings one must climb to reach the other side of the hole-in-the-wall

If you have a motor home then you would enjoy camping in the new ‘improved' campground which consists of telephone poles laid out in sand in the middle of a flat alluvial fan with no vegetation over waist high and a howling wind from which the only protection to be found would be in the motor home. Forget sitting around a campfire. There is no bench. There is no trellis. There is no bar-b-que on a stand.

But there is a large building, a ‘visitors' center, that I have never seen open. I suppose they open it for visiting dignitaries of the bureaucratic, corporate or political persuasion.

One trip to Hole-in-the-Wall coincided with the short period of time in which the swallows were nesting. Possibly the swallows were there because the year before had been an El Nino year and the monarch butterflies were thick.

An window in the rock near the hole-in-the-wall
A window in the rock near the hole-in-the-wall

Another trip I scouted out a way to reach the top of the Hole-in-the-Wall mesa and I did just that reaching the top after a grueling 45 incline up a ridge with the last forty feet up a near vertical shaft that broke the rock mesa cap. Once on top I had fantastic views all around.

I was not alone. A strong pungent odor occurred at many of the gnarled stunted pinon pine and California juniper trees. I recognized that the marked trees basically fenced off a section of the top of the mesa. I saw no evidence that any man had ever ventured up to the top of this mesa. I recognized that the odor was the smell of big cat urine.

I quietly searched the top of the mesa and discovered that what at first glance had appeared to be a hollow in the rock face was a cave. I cautiously and quietly approached the cave. The smell of big cat was overwhelming at ten feet.

And that was as close as I got. I realized myself alone on the top of a mesa in the middle of the East Mojave desert in the lengthening light of late afternoon with a big cat, a cougar, and that the top of this mesa was too small for a big cat to peacefully cohabit with me. So I did the right thing and retreated.

Climbing to the top of the mesa, finding large predatory life and climbing back down was an exhilarating experience. The power of the life force of the cat was tangible in the air as I approached the cave entrance.

The awe and terror of emotional response to a sudden recognized reality that my subconscious identified before my conscious mind did washed through me with a mystical power that awakened me to the physical reality of my situation. I felt fully alive and was able to rejoice in the living of life.

"The land itself is in mourning - its wilderness pastures are dried up. For they all do evil and abuse what power they have." - Jeremiah 23:10

2008: I have just been back by the Hole-in-the-Wall and the Mid Hills. After I had written the above I had gone camping in the Mid Hills several times. There was a beautiful pinon pine and juniper forest that concealed my favorite camp site. Surrounded by pinon pine and juniper the forest at the camp site went on for miles in every direction.

Well, as in many cases, once the federal government got involved in the day to day management of the area it has been totally destroyed. Of course the government never assumes responsibility for anything and they deny that they allowed 70,736 acres to burn in the Hackberry Fire obliterating the forest of pinion pine and juniper through inadequate and neglectful land management.

Perhaps the government should not be blamed for failing to contain the fire and if not then we must blame our culture. A forest that stood without being burned for centuries was obliterated in a fire storm in one day due to extreme weather conditions that never occurred at any time in the past millennium, conditions caused by global warming.

I will never see this forest, as it was, nor will any other man or woman for a thousand years as it will take that long to come back - if it ever does. One more island in the sky exterminated along with all the wildlife and 70,736 acres of pinon pine, juniper, oak and cedar. A beautiful forest converted to barren desert - chalk another one up for the domination of the Earth by mankind.

My heart grieves at this loss of a beautiful and wonderful forest on an island in the sky in the heart of the East Mojave.

(On a positive note the 1,124 firefighters despatched at the tune of millions of dollars did save a few shacks.
Is not the government wonderful?)

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