Monday, February 3, 2014

Hike 2014.005 -- Kelso Dunes, Mojave National Preserve

Hiked Monday, February 3. Second hike of the weekend. I took Monday off from work, allowing me a long weekend to spend some time with my wife and also get a little hiking in. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera at home, and only had my very poor-quality cell phone camera to take pictures. They're not only blurry and often hazy, but the color is off.

The Kelso Dunes trail-head is about 8 miles south of Kelso Depot, where the main visitor center for Mojave National Preserve is located. From paved Kelbaker Road, it's three miles on a gravel road (generally suitable for passenger cars) to the parking area. A vault toilet and interpretive signs are at the trailhead.

The actual hike is also advertised as "about three miles" roundtrip. Probably depends on which route you take and how long you wish to walk amongst the dunes.

Once you leave the parking area, the initial part of the trail is well-defined. However, soon there is no formal trail, as you're going over sand, which blows across the footprints each night. The highest dunes are allegedly 600 feet tall. I'm not sure where they're measuring that from. I suppose the total altitude gain from the trailhead may be close to that, but you're not 600 feet above the area immediately around the dunes.

Normally, you want to visit sand dunes near sunrise or sunset, with the low sun giving you nice shadows and textures. Of course, in the winter time, the sun never gets very high, anyway. The hike is also easier in the winter (though harder than the distance would suggest, because you're walking up sand). In the summer, bring lots to drink, and a hat and sunblock. The sun bounces off the white sands, and would burn you pretty quickly.

The third photo was taken nearest the start of the hike, with a well-defined trail. The first was near the top of the tallest dune, looking towards the Providence Mountains. The second was on the way back, on the flatter area. Lots of various creature tracks along the way, at least where they weren't obliterated by footprints.

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