Kelly Bou and I drove south from Las Vegas, Nevada on 17 December 2011 to
visit Mojave National Preserve. My original plan was to climb Edgar
Peak, but when we approached Providence Mountains State Recreation Area,
we were dismayed to find the access road closed. Although it might
have been possible to walk the remaining few kilometres to the trailhead
(plus extra elevation gain), I was loathe to do so given the short
daylight hours, and I was also unsure if the closure of the road also
meant that entry by any means was prohibited. As it turned out,
ominous clouds rolling into the area made it easy to bail on Edgar Peak.
Hoping to salvage the long drive, we decided to go around the south end
of the Providence Mountains and visit the Kelso Dunes which my friends, Dinah Kruze and
Bob Spirko, had climbed the year before.
The trailhead was deserted when Kelly and I arrived, but a fellow pulled
in at about the same time and asked if this was the meeting place for
an interpretive program. I told him that I knew nothing about the
program but assured him that he was probably in the right spot.
Appearing satisfied, the fellow waited patiently while Kelly and I set
off for the highest dune. The approach hike was generally easy, but
the dunes are deceptively farther away than they look. At the base
of the highest dune, we initially hiked straight up the steep slope which
was reminiscent of ascending treadmill scree--less painful but just as frustrating
to climb. I kept finding coins in the sand here (sadly, only 23
cents) and wondered if others had lost them on the way up or on the way
down. About halfway up, we veered off to climber's left and
zigzagged the rest of the way to the top. The Kelso Dunes are known
to make sounds under the right conditions, but unfortunately, we only
experienced a few brief vibrations when I skidded down a short slope at
the top. The unpleasant wind made it difficult to hear anything at
all, and it was also blowing sand all over us. With rain clouds
approaching from the Providence Mountains, we did not hang around long on
top. The best part of the day was plunge-stepping down the steep
slope we tried to hike straight up. Krazy Karpets might have been
fun to use here! On our return plod, we passed by a ranger and
numerous people milling about the low dunes not far from the trailhead.
Only one of them bothered to venture further like us and climb the highest
dune--the fellow I talked to earlier.
Kelly and I subsequently stopped at the visitor centre in Kelso where I
enjoyed a six-dollar strawberry-banana milk shake (I bet it would be
worth every penny here in the summertime) before heading back to Las
Vegas. Though the day amounted to little more than a car tour
through the heart of Mojave National Preserve, there is much worth
exploring here, and I definitely plan on returning in the future for an
Kelly walks past the interpretive displays at the trailhead.
The highest dune is on the far left.
To the east are the Providence Mountains.
There is a trail of sorts to follow, but it is difficult to get lost on
Dark clouds begin to gather to the south.
Kelly walks atop some smaller dunes.
Kelly shows her displeasure at climbing straight up the dune.
Kelly approaches the highest point (943 metres) of the Kelso Dunes.
The dunes are more extensive than what is visible from
||The Providence Mountains look very
dark to the east.
||Sonny bounds down the steep slope.
||Kelly easily reaches the bottom of the
||Total Distance: 5.17 kilometres
Round-Trip Time: 1 hour 56 minutes
Net Elevation Gain: 158 metres