I’m going to use the theme of “Throwback Thursday” to start revisiting some trips I never got around to writing about. First up is an exploration of the rock art of Rodman Mountains Wilderness Area and a climb of Ord Mountain from last November’s Thanksgiving roadtrip.

As I was preparing for our annual Thanksgiving trip I was poking around maps looking for areas we hadn’t checked out. In particular, I was looking for non-National Park lands where we could take Thor hiking. As I lazily panned around google maps I saw a small green square just south of 40 out of Barstow. The Rodman Mountains Wilderness. Googling the name didn’t get me a lot of information other than a lot of petroglyph pictures. Fun! I set out to learn more.

At the same time, I’m always looking for good desert peaks to climb and I had dog-eared a few easy ones in my favorite guidebook to get Thor started peak bagging with me. Ord Mountain was one, with a 5 mile round trip route that followed an old road. It is in the same area as the Rodman Mountains so day 2 of our Thanksgiving trip was planned: petroglyphs in the Rodman Mountains and a climb of Ord Mountain.

Trip Report

We pulled into the Rodmans in the evening and found a dispersed campsite. Surprisingly uncommon in this area, we drove a while before finding one but when we did we enjoyed it.

In the morning we took the short drive to the petroglyph area. I’ve heard them called both the Surprise Tank and the Rodman Mountain petroglyphs. What we found was a fantastic volcanic canyon with walls covered in rock art. Most of the images were abstract, but some were clear representations of animals, celestial objects, and humans. Below is a sample of some of the rock art we saw. 

The importance of the area also became clear after a short walk: water. Although the ‘tank’ was dry mud during our visit, it was obvious that water collects here. In the desert, locations like this were incredibly valuable to the people who lived in the region.

Usually new ‘rock art’ offends and irritates me, but something about the fact that the only ‘new’ scratches on these rocks also said ‘WATER’ only seems to drive home the fact that this place is very special.

Next, we moved on to Ord Mountain. Following some rough roads to the north end of the peak, we drove the steep gravel road up the north end of the range to about 4600 ft where a gate blocked the road. There was enough room to turn the truck around and park, so we set off to cover the rest of the road on foot.

When we finally crested the summit plateau we could see plenty of towers ahead.

There’s even a helicopter pad on the summit.

It wasn’t the most exciting of desert peaks I’ve done, but it was a great intro for Thor. The 5 miles and 1700 ft gain was enough to wear him out, especially after exploring the petroglyphs that morning.

After Ord, we continued on to Mojave National Preserve where we planned to spend the rest of the week. A great campsite on the south end of the park was a great place to relax and enjoy the cold late-fall evening. It gets dark way too early in November!

Ord Mountain Map and GPS Track


Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd

Mountain sports addict. Dog Mom. Craft beer drinker. Tech nerd. The best days are those spent above 10k ft. Meet me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google +

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