Skirting The Fringe Of Humanity Tour

We found ourselves parked at a Love’s truck stop in Tehachapi Pass California waiting for the arrival of our friends the Motsko’s. The sun was shining, life was good.

The Motsko’s

Currently residing near Bend Oregon Mark and Phyllis have spent almost all of their careers living in some of America’s most beautiful and remote National Parks working as backcountry rangers, horse wranglers and interpreters just to name a few of their professions.

Denise and I were lucky enough to spend 17 years working with these fine folks in Denali National Park.

But…..It was hard for us to fathom that the Motsko’s had never driven into California’s southern regions. This journey was about to change that fact.

Early Morning Light Red Rocks State Park

Our plans loosely comprised of traveling together camping and exploring some of SoCal’s and Arizona’s best desert destinations all while skirting the fringes of the southwest’s densely populated areas…..thus the title of this post.

Denise And Phyllis Enjoying Life

Denise and I recognized that for first time desert travelers trying to negotiate a safe path through the crush of humanity could be a daunting experience without moral and directional support.

Our challenge… them the good stuff without them witnessing the bad.

Red Rocks Canyon

Acting as tour guides would be an easy undertaking for Denise and I since we have spent well over 50 years exploring the backroads of the southwest.

We were looking forward to sharing some of our favorite spots and secret hideouts with them. This was gunna be fun!

Traveling south from Oregon the Motsko’s had driven down I-5 and Hwy 99 and by the time they passed through Bakersfield they were ready for the open expanse of the desert and a stiff drink.  

In short time we left Tehachapi together headed southeast into the Calif desert.

Amboy Crater National Natural Historic Monument

The overall objective was to camp and explore as many of the southwest’s remote and beautiful locations as time allowed, about 10 days.

Denise and I imagined this tour to be a kind of desert sampler.

Amboy Crater Camp

From Tehachapi we spent our first night in the beautiful Red Rocks Canyon State Park just north of Mojave. It was here that Mark and Phyllis finally started to relax.

Phyllis Sneaks Up On A Flower Joshua Tree NP

The next morning it was off along old route 66 to Amboy Crater National Natural Historic Landmark where we enjoyed hiking, wildflower photography and later that evening a wonderful night sky.

We headed south again in the morning just as the sun was becoming too hot for the pups.

From Amboy we continued south into Joshua Tree National Park. Unfortunately it was a Friday and the LA weekend crowds were already arriving in the high desert. The weather was glorious so who could blame them.

Joshua Tree Super Bloom

Visiting Joshua Tree during crowded times does not make for the most enjoyable drive through this wonderful park but with the super bloom peaking and vibrant flowers everywhere it helped take the edge off!

Chiriaco Summit Camp

Traffic was heavy and all the campgrounds were completely full so after a short hike in the boulders we were forced to drive south to the Cottonwood entrance to camp near Chiriaco Summit.

Hiking In Box Canyon

We spent two nights at Chiriaco Summit where we took a day trip to nearby Box Canyon. To beat the crowds we wandered up a couple of our favorite slot canyons and found no one around.  

Later that evening we again sat around the fire reminiscing and laughing while in the distance the slow steady lights of traffic on Interstate 10 kept Mark mesmerized for hours.

Chiriaco Summit Evening Fire

Mecca Beach on the Salton Sea was our next stop where we hiked to the top of a hill overlooking the lake to view an ancient fossilized coral seabed.

That evening we camped 230 ft. below sea level sitting around our nightly fire sipping our favorite libations while watching white pelicans flying low over the lake at sunset….nice! 

Our Mecca Beach Camp

After route planning discussions the next morning we decide to drive down to Slab City at the south end of the lake.

For those of you who have never visited this fascinating place it provides you with a glimpse of what it might look like to live a free, alternative and bohemian life style.

Today Slab City’s population includes folks from all generations living scattered across the desert. 

Mark And Phyllis Begin The Slab City Tour

Slab City’s Salvation Mountain is a monument to a man devoted to his faith and a testiment to his unique construction abilities.

Inside Salvation Mountain

I had briefly visited Slab City in the early 70’s when there was just a few folks living in RV’s on top of foundation slabs leftover from a decommissioned military base.

Today it is a thriving city of individualistic desert characters and artists living in all kinds of mobile and semi-permanent dwellings. 

East Jesus Art

The artist colony known as East Jesus is near the back of Slab City. Mark and Phyllis were visibly moved by the sight of some of the wildest freeform art, kinetic sculpture and unique living conditions they had ever seen. 

Moorpark met us at the gate and led us on a behind the scenes tour of this wonderfully unique place.


That evening found us on the other side of the lake wandering through fields of wildflowers in Anza Borrego State Park. The super bloom was in full display and dozens of varieties were on display.

With 11 inches of rain this winter it could be regarded as one of the best super blooms in decades.

Anza Borrego Super Bloom                  Photo: P Motsko
Flower Pollen Everywhere
Desert Lily

Finding a somewhat remote campsite near dry Clark Lake we enjoyed the sunset over Mt. Laguna knowing the rain was hammering down in San Diego just the other side of the range.

Desert Sunflower
Anza Borrego Campfire

Moving south again our route took us through the Imperial Sand Dunes where we made a quick stop to visit the historic plank road and the US/Mexico border.

With all that is going on in the political world right now it was a little disconcerting to stand 100′ from the border and see the wall first hand.

Mark And Phyllis Scrutinized The Wall

Just as sun set over Mexico we found a quiet campsite along the American Girl Mine road just a few miles from the border. 

Sunrise American Girl Mine Road
American Girl Mine Road Sunset

Our final evening together was in Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. Driving about 7 miles into the refuge we found a site with fantastic views of the Kofa range all to ourselves.

The next day we entered Quartzite to oogle gems and minerals of all shapes and sizes. Denise and Phyllis were in rockhound heaven.

At this juncture the Motsko’s were due to head north and we were due to head west back to Thousand Oaks to visit with my mom. 

Unfortunately the tour was over…dang! We had successfully skirted most of the southwest’s densely inhabited zones and found remote gorgeous desert landscapes together…what fun!

Official Logo Of This Years Tour         Created By Phyllis + Mark Motsko

It is not often you can find fellow travelers that are easy going, willing to travel spontaneously, have a sense of discovery and enjoy causal serendipity.  

While traveling with the Motsko’s we found soulmates of the road.

Thanks for a very enjoyable adventure…..let’s do it again! 

Don’t miss our latest video “Skirting The Fringes Of Humanity Tour” slip on the headphones, slip in the iPods, turn up the stereo…. Enjoy!

Next we drive north up Highway 395 for more adventures with more great friends.

Life’s good!!

Keep you posted!!


20 thoughts on “Skirting The Fringe Of Humanity Tour

  1. Thanks again for your update on your trip and I love your title for this one. Joyce and I spent three years while living in the High Desert while I worked at Edwards AFB and Joyce at the Boron School District. We spent most of our free time camping in our Hylander Fifth Wheel Camper and visited most of the areas you went to on this trip. I must say that Denise just is not having enough fun in that picture with Phyllis! I just spent three days in Bakersfield at a Model T Swap meet and found some more parts for my latest restoration project – a 1914 Model T Ford Speedster. Have a great trip and hope to hear from you again.
    Gert and Joyce


    1. Thanks Gert, it was great visiting with you in SLO. Sounds like you and Joyce know the desert well, good memories I’m sure. Keep us posted on the progress of your T… looks like fun!


  2. What a fun, beautiful, and amazing trip we had with the Taylors!! The days went by much too fast but the memories will be with us forever. Can’t wait until next winter for more exploring, campfire, laughs, and camaraderie! Love you guys!


  3. Thoroughly enjoyed reading about your road trip and seeing your fabulous pictures. As brand new RVers, we are excited to see what others are doing and where they are traveling. We did get to Anza-Borrego to see the Super Bloom earlier this Spring and loved it. Thank you for sharing your other stops.


  4. We just noted all the waypoints you stopped at….10 days? YOU ARE THEEEEE DOGS!!! Sign us up for any Humanity Tour. I actually read the blog first, Photos offered a perfect visual tutorial of the trip. The video was a special dessert. Love your Humanity Tour logo too…Motsko talent for sure.


    1. we are looking for additional Humanity Tour guides and you guys are certainly over-qualified!. I am currently working on a post regarding our time together on the east side which by the way was a total blast. Again it was great to camp with you in place with no rules YA! I am glad you were able to hold off and watch the video last 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.