May 2014, I'm back in the Mojave Desert for a 10-day hiking and camping trip after a 1.5-year hiatus. It feels really good. This time I'm driving a Toyota FJ Cruiser instead of the 10-ton bicycle. I think the FJ will be just as much fun, though I do miss the bike.

Day 1: A long drive from San José to Mojave National Preserve

Day 1: A long drive from San José to Mojave National Preserve

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Depending on your route and final destination, this takes most of the day while you drive 400-450 miles. It feels strange to be driving a long distance like this in a motor vehicle; my previous Mojave Desert trips were done on Amtrak, with my bicycle brought along.

Day 2: Break in the FJ on some dirt roads (and some paved) in Mojave National Preserve and area

Day 2: Break in the FJ on some dirt roads (and some paved) in Mojave National Preserve and area

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The 4WD experience is new to me. Today's project is to break in the FJ and drive on some of the dirt roads in Mojave National Preserve where I've previously ridden my mountain bike, and a few where I've not ridden. I have a lot to learn and try out.

Day 3: Hiking Carruthers Canyon, Mojave National Preserve

Day 3: Hiking Carruthers Canyon, Mojave National Preserve

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I've been meaning to hike Carruthers Canyon for many years; today I'm doing it. I think at first that I might make it up the hill to the New York Mountain peaks area, but I get tired and distracted enjoying the lower terrain and never make it up to the high points. 5.2 hiking miles.

Day 4: Break in the FJ a bit more with a drive down the Route 66 corridor

Day 4: Break in the FJ a bit more with a drive down the Route 66 corridor

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Today I'll just drive and explore a little. I want to check out a few roads south of Route 66 between Amboy and Essex. Maybe I'll do another desert hike tomorrow.

Day 5: Another FJ day, driving to the Button Mountain area, Mojave National Preserve

Day 5: Another FJ day, driving to the Button Mountain area, Mojave National Preserve

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I thought I might end up hiking today, but I drive the FJ many more miles again instead, especially enjoying those miles driven on dirt roads. I'm already addicted; it's as fun as mountain-biking. I'll hike tomorrow for sure.

Day 6: Club Peak hike, Mojave National Preserve

Day 6: Club Peak hike, Mojave National Preserve

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Club Peak is a low peak in the lava beds area of Mojave National Preserve that is in officially designated Wilderness. An easy hike, yet remote, perfect for me today. 9.6 hiking miles with about 1000 feet of elevation gain.

Day 7: Exploring some four-wheel-drive backroads in the FJ in Lanfair Valley, Mojave National Preserve

Day 7: Exploring some four-wheel-drive backroads in the FJ in Lanfair Valley, Mojave National Preserve

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I've ridden parts of a few of these roads on my mountain bike during previous trips. Today I turn on four-wheel drive and drive the FJ on some roads that I haven't explored yet, getting to know the area better.

Day 8: Hiking Piute Mesa, Mojave National Preserve

Day 8: Hiking Piute Mesa, Mojave National Preserve

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This hike into a new area for me has been on my list for a while and it turns out to be quite enjoyable. Given that the day is rather warm, I like the fact that it's a fairly easy and gradual hike. 12.8 hiking miles and about 1500 feet of elevation gain.

Day 9: FJ day trip, driving from Mojave National Preserve to Death Valley National Park

Day 9: FJ day trip, driving from Mojave National Preserve to Death Valley National Park

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After driving around Mojave National Preserve last night, I ended up camping in the Mid Hills area. Today I've decided to drive to Death Valley National Park and do a hike over there tomorrow.

Day 10: Hiking Wildrose Peak, Death Valley National Park

Day 10: Hiking Wildrose Peak, Death Valley National Park

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Wildrose Peak has been on my to-hike list for several years. I considered hiking nearby Telescope Peak today, but chose Wildrose Peak instead. Telescope Peak will have to wait until another time!