Day Trippin in the Desert
Mojave National Preserve Travel Blog› entry 5 of 6 › view all entries
March 28th, 2009 – by: TRE69
Death Valley was the first suggested meetup spot, however it would be a six hour drive from Los Angeles. I suggested Mojave National Preserve...a two hour drive for Sal and Nancy heading west from Las Vegas and a four hour drive for Nhi and I heading east from Los Angeles.
I woke up about 330am...sheesh I can't believe I woke up THAT early! As 4am neared, I called Nhi to make sure she woke up and was on her way to my house because we had quite a long road trip ahead of us. Fortunately, I was able to borrow my dad's Toyota Tacoma because my Toyota Corolla really wasn't long road trip ready.
The drive went smoothly as there was no traffic on the highways. Nhi and I got to see the sun peaking out in the distant east. Somewhere between Victorville and Barstow, we stopped at a McDonald's for a restroom break and to grab brekkie. Unfortunately, the McDonald's we stopped at was chock full of high school students who were on some sort of bus trip.
Google Maps advised me to take the Interstate 40 East...I didn't like driving on this road because the morning sun was glaring in my face which made it difficult to see the distance ahead. I had to enlist Nhi to be on the lookout for our exit for Kelbaker Road. Along the highway, Nhi marveled at the abundance of blooming wildflowers...we could only hope we would see such bloom within the confines of the preserve!
We entered Mojave National Preserve's southern entrance via Kelbaker Road. The landscape that towered around us were the Granite Mountains and the Providence Mountains, sun-baked and rugged.
It was perfect timing...just after we parked the car, Sal and Nancy pulled into the parking lot! We hoped the visitor center would be open so that we could ask a park ranger about good day hikes in the preserve to see the wildflower bloom but it was still closed. So we settled on hiking Kelso Dunes. Sal suggested we carpool in his car to the trail head because he had plenty of passenger room and because his car had a slightly higher ground clearance since we had to traverse an unpaved road with loose gravel just to get to the trail head.
As we drew closer to Kelso Dunes, the pile of sand was larger than expected. According to the display case near the trail head, Kelso Dunes rises at least 600 feet from the desert floor and covers at least 45 square miles
The trail was well marked from the parking area through the desert shrubland. As we walked towards the dunes, we all keenly looked at the desert floor around us in search of color...lavender, yellow, white...any sign of desert flowers. Unfortunately, we found very few and far between. Most of the shrubs were brittle and dry, many were dead ...a somber reminder of the harshness of this ecosystem. The tiny wildflowers we were able to see were tiny miracles
Probably less than a quarter mile away from the parking area, the shrubland began to thin out and the sand began to gain some elevation.
Along the way we saw a group of boy scouts trudging their way up the sand with boogie boards, toboggans, and even flattened cardboard boxes. Kelso Dunes is one of the few places on Earth where you can go sand boarding. I was tempted to bring my snowboard but it would have been such a hassle carrying it up the dunes.
We probably hiked about 1.5 miles from the parking area when we decided just to chillax on a hill of sand. We basked in the late morning sunlight, gazed at the higher dunes to see sand boarders ride the sand, and sat in silence trying to hear the shifting sands boom from layers of sand rubbing against each other.
After having our full of vitamin D, we decided to head to Mitchell Caverns Natural Preserve in the Providence Mountains State Recreation Area within the Mojave Nature Preserve to see if we could join a tour of the caverns. So, we headed back to Sal's car but not before Sal and Nhi attempted to make their own sand boom by running down the slope of a sand dune. We lingered around the shrubland near the trail head because a fellow naturalist pointed out a desert iguana hiding at the base of a bush.
Back at Sal's car, I attempted to empty my hiking boots of all the sand that had crept in from hiking the dunes. Unfortunately, my boots are partially made of fabric and the fine sand was trapped even with my vigorous shaking. No wonder I felt so tired...I was carrying extra weight!
Sal's air conditioned car was a much welcomed respite from the midday desert sun and heat.
It was probably 1pm and we decided to head to Baker, on the northern border of Mojave National Preserve along Interstate 15, to grab lunch. Along the way, Sal dropped Nhi and I at Kelso Depot so I could get the truck. We all headed north on Kelbaker Road and passed Cima Dome & Volcanic Field National Natural Landmark, along the way. At the famed Mad Greek, the four of us ravenously devoured gyros with dill yogurt sauce, baklava, and strawberry milkshakes. What a satisfying end to a wonderful day!
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