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Title for Afton Canyon Sites

Afton Canyon is east of Barstow south of Interstate 15. We exited at Afton Road and turned to the north before visiting Afton Canyon to the south.


The rare Crucifixion Bush

We wanted to see the rare Crucifxion bushes that grow around a small playa and apparently nowhere else on the Mojave Desert and in only a few places outside their native habitat in the Middle East. It is believed that the crown of thorns that was placed on Jesus' head came from this plant.


Spiky thorns used in the crucifixion

The stifff, spiky stems are very sharp. There were dry seeds clustered at the ends of the branches.


A grave nearby

There is a lonely grave on the desert near an old emigrant trail. A note in a bottle stated "December 27, 1872, to whom it may concern: died this day of sickness: too far to travel so will put her here. Bonnie Keebler Harris, born December 1823 in New York, mother of five children. God rest her soul."


A cave sheltered travelers

We parked at the entrance to Afton Canyon and walked about 1/4 mile toThe Caves. Mann speculates that the Harris family was trying to reach shelter here near the Mojave River. The Caves were an important way station on the old government road, where travelers could rest, get supplies and find protection from Indians.


The view to the south from the cave

Standing at the mouth of the cave, we saw this view to the south. The rust-colored bushes are tamarisk, also called salt cedar, which were imported throughout the West to stabilize river banks, and then were found to be invasive, sucking up water and crowding out native vegetation.


The entrance to Afton Canyon is marked by a railroad bridge

This is the view to the east, which was our route. Our sandy road crossed the Mojave River and then meandered in Afton canyon. The railroad tracks crossed the river on a bridge and made a beeline to the Kelso Railroad Station, more than fifteen miles away. The old railroad station is now a museum for the East Mojave Desert Preserve.


Arbuckle Mine is high on a mountainside

The scenery in the canyon is very dramatic. Above us on the mountainside in the white area, the 1894 Arbuckle Mine had a tramway to transfer minerals to the canyon floor. Later magnesite was mined there and an aerial tramway ended at a railrod siding.


A railroad bridge marks the entrance to a slot canyon

Jim is walking on the railroad bridge numbered 194.65, which marks the entrance to a slot canyon called "Spooky."


Afton Canyon view from the slot canyon

This is taken from inside the slot canyon looking back at the railroad bridge.


The slot canyon named Spooky

The walls have embedded rocks and cracks that made us hope there wouldn't be an earthquake.


Spooky Canyon gets dark and narrow

The passage narrowed and then there was no daylight at all. Jim and Darlene turned back when the way became steep. Martin and Cassandra climbed two dry waterfalls (one with the aid of a fixed rope) and finally emerged on the plateau above.


The train track and parallel dirt road

Back in the main canyon, our road followed the train track east to the open Mojave Desert.


A dramatic sunset

The sun set dramatically behind us as we looked for a camping spot. We finally stopped next to the train track (the long straight line in the picture), sheltered from the wind by a large clump of salt cedars. We counted six or seven trains thundering by in the night.



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