By Len Wilcox
There’s a lot of fine places to visit in California, and a few that are not so wonderful. Some people might think Barstow fits in that not so wonderful category of places. Well, they might be wrong.
It is a desert town with a very busy railroad running through the heart of it. It’s close to old desert boomtowns, and those fortune seekers that prospected for gold and silver in the 1800s kept looking for borax, copper, and uranium in the 1900s, even up to the present day.
North of town is a large Army warfare training center, and Goldstone, the big listening post NASA created to communicate with satellites out wandering amongst the planets and beyond. But all those things together – the desert, the fortune seekers, the railroad, the military and the spaceship hunters – there’s a lot to this little desert town.
There are several museums and information centers in the area that are well worth your time. The BLM’s Desert Discovery Center has several displays that explain much about the desert and the native peoples, but the star of the show there is a 6,000-pound rock, the Old Woman Meteorite, which fell to earth in a wilderness area east of town.
Rainbow Basin, northwest of the city, is a colorful geologic history lesson with dinosaur footprints and ancient fossils hidden in the wavy layers of rock. Nearby is a low canyon carved out of volcanic lava flows that holds hundreds of petroglyphs. It’s one of the largest collections of rock art in the world.
It’s too bad that Barstow is only known to some folks as a pit stop on the way to Las Vegas. Those folks hit the truck stops and the huge McDonald’s at Barstow station, then jump back into air-conditioned cars and buses and race off, never realizing they are missing out on some outrageously beautiful and fascinating country.
There’s more to Barstow than fast gas and a quick break from the road. You just have to stop and take the time to see, to stop and follow the tiny trails in the sand, to find out what a place is all about.