Sunday, June 15, 2014

Mojave Star Party, and a Non-Hike to Cow Cove Petroglyphs, Mojave National Preserve, CA

Not hiked on May 31, 2014. I don't usually post about hikes I don't go on, but this one requires an exception.

I had very high hopes for multiple hikes on this trip (Friday, May 30 - Sunday, June 1). I was driving out to Las Vegas on a Friday, driving down to Mojave Preserve on Saturday, then back home on Sunday. I was thinking two, maybe three hikes for the weekend. Instead, I got zero.

I did get some nice views of a very dark sky, however. That was for the bi-annual Mojave National Preserve star party. Twice a year, some friends of mine (and, most times, me, too) head out to the Mojave National Preserve with our telescopes, and we show lovers of wilderness something we can not show them from here in town: A really dark sky, and some of the wonders of the cosmos that you can only see from a really dark location.

The next star party's going to be on Saturday, November 1, 2014, in case you want to start planning your fall hikes already. :D

Well, so there I was, trying to plan some hikes for this long weekend, and I come across this site. It does not it is "difficult" for non-4wd, but that it is accessible by all vehicle classes. I spent some time looking at google maps satellite imagery to match the description up with actual photos of the route, and it looks pretty straightforward.
So, off I go: exit I-15 at Cima Road, south about 1/4 mile to Aiken Mine Road. Turned on the road. . . And in less than a mile, I was stuck in the sand. This was after several experiences that felt a lot like driving over ice: car's sliding, and turning the steering wheel has no effect on your direction of travel.

So I used my arms and hands to clear a path in the sand and got rolling forward, again.
After another 100 yards or so, I'm stuck again. And I'm not even at the part on the map that warns of deep sand. Practically the whole freaking road is deep sand.

So then I decide, well, better turn around, because I've got another six miles of road, and this isn't even the tough part. And I'll have to drive back on this, too.

Of course, as expected, turning around in deep sand is not easy. You're going perpendicular to the lines of travel (where previous tires have compressed the sand a bit). So I get stuck about four more times before finally getting back on to some tire tracks and making my way back to the pavement.
After I got back to the gas station on Cima road, I asked one of the workers there, "Hypothetically speaking, if I were to get stuck in the sand of Aiken Mine Road, how much would it have cost to get pulled out? Answer: Probably $500. So, my advice: Do NOT attempt reaching Cow Cove petroglyphs by passenger car via Aiken Mine Road. It's definitely for high-clearance and four wheel drive vehicles. If you ignore this advice, be sure to bring a shovel to dig yourself out (clearing a low path where your undercarriage doesn't drag along the sand as your wheels sink into the sand).

This was my experience in a Saturn L200. It's what I would consider to be a midsized car, with a fairly long wheel base and skinny tires. Driving something with a shorter wheelbase, slightly higher clearance, wider tires, and NO traction control MIGHT give you more success.

As for me, I'm planning to wait until fall, then just park my car near the start of Aiken Mine Road wand walking the 14 miles or so to the petroglyphs. This might also prove too difficult, since walking on sand means a lot of wasted energy. But, for me, it's either this or wait until I have four wheel drive.

Obviously the pictures on this post are all from the star party, and none are from my unsuccessful hike attempt. As I ssid, the star party went great. :D

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