Hungry Valley is a State Recreational Vehicle Area just off Interstate 5 near Gorman. The park is packed with 130 miles of trails for dirt bikes, ATVs and 4WD vehicles. This might conjure up an image of a nuclear-broiled landscape swarming with jump-suited Suzuki pilots–something like Mad Max meets the Power Rangers. And that wouldn’t be a completely wrong picture. Part of the fun in Hungry Valley is watching dirt bikers domino into each other as they round a hairpin turn at 40 miles per and find themselves facing the business end of a Jeep.
What surprised me on a recent stopover was how much of the park is unspoiled. There were several places where I got out of my Jeep and felt that I was completely by myself. Either I couldn’t hear, or I simply didn’t notice the gnatlike whine of distant two cycle engines. What I heard was the sound of the wind in the black sage.
At one place I left the Jeep behind and scrambled up a ridge where several junipers stood sentinel. I figured I’d take a few minutes to commune with God and see if he might break his long silence.
The hill itself wasn’t anything to write home about. Just a steep sandy rise covered in chaparal and prickely pear. But on the back side of the ridge there was…nothing. And I do mean nothing. I was standing on the rim of a vast red rock canyon. Something I’d expect to see in Utah, Arizona or New Mexico.
I looked to see if there was some way down into the canyon. There was a narrow path crossing a ledge less than a hundred feet below me. As I studied the ledge, a large, healthy mule deer came bounding along the path and darted out of sight behind a rock wall. A second or two later came a very large gray coyote, burning up the trail in pursuit of the deer. I never knew coyotes had such ambition.
While Hungry Valley OHV park isn’t so big – well, it’s 19,000 acres big – but you probably won’t get technically lost in the park. Yet you can get lost in the exploration of it all.
First published December 20, 2006