Mojave National Preserve

February 19, 2006

Kelso Dunes and Lava Flow Petroglyphs
Kelso is the site of a railroad depot that’s been restored and converted to a visitor
center.  It was here that I discovered that my wallet was missing!  I figured I must
have left it at the gas station in Newberry Springs and so I called them and thank
goodness, someone had turned it in!  Jeffry and I toured the depot visitor center and
bookstore and talked to one of the rangers about petroglyph sites in the preserve.  She
told us of one site near the lava flow north on the Kelbaker Road and so there we went.  
We explored the lava flow for a while before we started to spot the petroglyphs.  
Jeffry also found a plant that I was not familiar with, a coyote melon.  A strange plant
to be growing in the desert, I thought, it looks like a small watermelon!  Apparently,
though, it is not good to eat.

We then drove back down to Kelso and then on to the Kelso Dunes Trailhead.  Kelso
Dunes are one of the largest dune fields in the west.  They cover about 45 square miles
and the tallest dune is about 700 feet tall.  They are also very unique as they’re one
of only about 30 dunes in the world that are “booming dunes.â€�  At times when the
sand avalanches down a steep side of the tallest dunes a low, resonant booming noise is
created.  It is caused by the extreme uniformity of the sand grains and the dryness in
the air.  Jeffry and I climbed the tallest dune that afternoon and after enjoying the
view and playing in the sand for a while (I have a great video sequence on my camera of
Jeffry doing sommersaults down the dune!), we went down the steepest side, sort of
running down to try and create the boom.  Sure enough, they’re not making it up, the
sand dune sings!  And not only do you hear the “boomâ€�, you feel it vibrating up
through your feet and your legs.  It was one of the neatest things I’ve ever
experienced!  You have to try it if you ever find yourself out at Mojave NP!  :)

After we hiked back out of the dune field we drove northeast and ended up camping off
of the Cedar Canyon Road.  Just as the sun was going down we found a nice campsite next
to a couple of juniper trees.  As I started to set up the tent several groups of coyotes
started singing!  It was magnificent to watch the sun set into the western sky and to
hear their howling at the same time.

Jeffry set out to make a fire as it was to be another chilly night.  We made dinner
including my fabulous grilled cheese sandwiches and Jeffry’s wonderful s’mores.  
I retired a little before Jeffry and I slept very soundly that night.  I woke up just
when the sun was coming up and again the coyotes were singing.  Seems they like to sing
at sundown and sunrise!

Jeffry went for a morning hike and saw a herd of mule deer.  Then after eating bagels
for breakfast and packing up we drove towards Hole-in-the-Wall passing through an area
that burned last year in what was the Mojave Desert’s largest wildfire in recorded
history.  The fire burned through Pinyon pine and juniper woodland as well as the edge of
the largest Joshua Tree forest in the world.
Jeffry hikes over the lava flow near the Kelbaker Road
It's slow going but fun to look for petroglyphs
The lichen is very colorful against the dark lava
The first petroglyph I spotted
I think the one on the bottom right looks like a tortoise shell
Is this petroglyph real or fake??

Most people who attempt to carve a petroglyph give up - it's extremely hard
carving thick lines in hard rock and it takes a long, long time to do a good job. If
you ever visit a petroglyph site you may see where others have attempted their
initials or the like and their carvings are usually very thin and shallow.

Well, we saw this petroglyph near both authentic petroglyphs and ones you can
tell were fake. This one obviously took some time to do due to the thickness of
the lines and some of the smaller markings are typical authentic petroglyph
signs. But it appeared a little lighter in coloration from the authentic ones, and
the subject matter makes me skeptical. Anyway, the ranger at the visitor
center couldn't say one way or the other. What do you think?
The hike up to the top of the tallest dune at Kelso Dunes is a
tough one.  It's hard enough walking on the loose sand when it's
level.  There are portions of this hike that are at about a 70*
angle :p  Jeffry and I hiked up as a couple and two of their young
daughters were.  The two girls often would crawl up the very
steep portions.  I wanted to crawl sometimes as well!  I was
impressed that those two girls, aged about 5 and 7, made it!
This is Jeffry right before the steep part
Uh, yep, this was the freakin' steep section!
You take a step up and slide on back down...  Then repeat!
This part wasn't too hard...
Zooming in on the lower dune to the east
We made it!
The two girls had a ball at the top sliding down the steep side
of the dune then crawling back up over and over again
This guy came crawling right up the steepest part of the dune
and was completely out of breath when he made it to the top
The view looking north
In the distance is Soda Dry Lake near
Baker where this sand originated
The view looking west
The view looking east
Those are the Providence Mountains
Jeffry throws a handful of sand into the wind
Jeffry and I start walking down the
steep southern side of the dune and try
to create the "booming" noise
Soon enough we're at the bottom of the
steep section where we made and heard
and felt the booming
Life on the dunes
Alpenglow on the cliffs near our campsite that evening
What a great campfire!  :)

On to the next part of the trip: Hole in the Wall

Back to first part of trip
More about Booming Dunes
Mojave Preserve Trip in 2007
Mojave Preserve Trip in 2008
Back to Dayhiking
Back to Tarol's Home Page
What a great sunset!