First stop was Kelso Depot, the Union Pacific Railroad depot built in 1924 which was renovated and turned into the Mojave National Preserve Visitor Center on Kelbaker Road.
It’s an impressive visitor center but the ranger we asked a few questions to was about the least helpful one we’ve ever encountered.
From there it’s another 10 miles to the 45 square mile Kelso Dune field, where of course we had to trudge 1.5 miles up the tallest dune, 650’ above the desert floor.
The sand was dotted with desert primrose at the beginning of the hike.
We started late in the afternoon and there were only a few other people around, but you can see by the footprints there we many others who went before us.
My favorite part of dune hiking is looking for tracks other than human in the sand.
And nature’s artwork created by the wind.
It was a strenuous hike, but we had a good excuse to stop frequently for photos.
There are limitless ways to get to the top but we picked what appeared to be the least steep way up.
It was two steps forward and one step sliding back down the sandy slope. At this point Jim seriously considered turning around but Suzanne encouraged him to hang in there.
The final climb was easier, along a ridgeline of sand.
I’m almost there.
My hiking partners in the distance.
Once he got to the top, Jim was glad he continued on. Had he not he would have missed the best part.
At the visitor center we learned that Kelso is one of a few acoustic dunes that produce a booming sound as sand grains compress and slip over one another. A silica coating on the grains that helps them stick together also resonates when they are moved. We got to hear this strange sound first hand as we ran down the steep side of the tallest dune.
Suzanne captured our elegant descent. I may have fallen down but it sure was fun.
It was another excellent day in Mojave National Preserve, despite being able to make our own dunes out of all the sand we had in our shoes!