Off The Beaten Track – Rainbow Basin, Barstow, CA
Since we were driven out early by high winds from our glorious spot in Lone Pine, our “pack” decided to wheel it out and head to shelter down south in the grand Mojave desert. We were looking for the best of the best -> solitude, beauty, views, trails. In other words a spot where no “beasts” have gone before. So, of course we took the back-road to Barstow, CA and stopped there ….. ????
Now those of you who know Barstow may be surprised. For those of you who don’t I’ll paint a little scene. Close your eyes and imagine if you will a desolate desert plain stretching, well…to infinity. Raise your thumb, twirl it around and plonk it randomly anywhere on this dreary landscape. Add-in several enormous truck-stops, a few sad strip-malls and an ad-hoc town and voilà, there you have it. Barstow has emerged like a single stubborn weed in a huge dusty back-yard. NO-ONE vacations at Barstow, at least no-one that I know.
So naturally that’s where we went. And naturally we found everything that we were looking for, because as everyone knows there’s a hidden gem in everything….somewhere….and right here the fabulous spot is called the Rainbow Basin.
Just ~10 miles out of Barstow on a long dirt road it rises from the desert like a diamond in the rough. Rainbow Basin is an ancient formation deposited in the middle Miocene (16-13 million years ago). Tectonic motion, compression and erosion raised the earth over many millions of years and sculpted the rock into alluring curves of mineral deposits. From neon green to deep red the layers roll like rock petals of a giant rose blossoming to enclose you completely. Add-in a sprinkling of picturesque Joshua Trees and you’ve created the painting of a masterpiece.
And there’s more than just pretty rocks here. The site is a paleontologists dream with over 368 sites and 17 new species of mammals discovered right here including the very first record of a mastodon in California. Camping is on BLM land right in the midst of the colorful painting, surrounded by miles of hiking and biking. It’s simply stunning!
Our “pack” hunkered down within the protective rocks for several days while the winds passed by up north, enjoying pretty much complete solitude (we were literally the only folks there the first 2 days) and gorgeous surroundings. A worthy and unexpected little stop off the beaten track….and all of it in Barstow too.