Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mojave National Preserve aka "Oh, The Desert is FUN!"

Hike: Kelso Dunes, Cinder Cones National Natural Landmark, Teutonia Peak trail (Mojave National Preserve)
The Inspiration: Discovering desert deliciousness without battling the heat
Highest Altitude: appx 5,000'
Trip Mileage: appx. 8
Total 2010 Mileage: 22

During a recent meeting of the minds between Modern Hiker, The Hike Guy, and 1/2 of Team WWED?, it was decided that winter should involve two very excellent, and very different, activities - snowshoeing and spending time in the desert.

When a three-day weekend presented itself in the form of Martin Luther King Jr.'s Monday birthday, we decided to haul our buns off to the winterized expanse of the Mojave National Preserve. Plans were made, maps were purchased, marshmallows were packed...and poor Modern Hiker had to bail the morning of the trip due to unforeseen circumstances.

The remaining two-thirds of Team Awesome was shaken, but not stirred, and decided to forge on, with Team WWED? arriving at the Kelso Depot Visitor Center just in time for an impromptu chili taste-off with the affable Mike Williams of The Beanery! Let it be said that free chili is probably the best start to a camping trip, unless you are sleeping in close quarters that evening. And even then...

After a hugs-around-the-campfire type evening, Team WWED? + THG rose early and bundled up for a bumpy drive down to the Kelso Dunes...

O, land of wonderment! O, land of awe! Big, sweeping sandy landscape loomed ahead, curls of dust at our feet, oceanic desert plants strewn left and right, dreams of flinging ourselves like out-of-control childrenfolk into the sand clutched at our collective breast.

I have now driven twice across the desert from Texas to California, and twice have declared the desert to be "boring and sucky" - but at this very moment of sand-fever, I fell in love with the desert.

The trail to the dunes is deceptive, nothing like frisking about on the beach, but one by one, our group made it to the saddle, and then the summit ridge. Watching Rebecca climb towards the summit prompted the observation that this is exactly what Ed would do, and exactly what he would look like, if this was about 20,000' taller and capped in snow. Exactly.

Once we all reached the top, we flung ourselves onto the sand in various states of rest. Rebecca stood on her hands; Kolby reclined on the slope; I flopped down prone, like a beached whale. Then we all took turns running awkwardly straight down the side of the dunes like newly-birthed Frankensteins. It wasn't pretty, but it sure made some great noise.

We later returned to the dunes area, Kolby drawn by the promise of kit fox den-seeking, and Rebecca and I by the notion of sliding down and otherwise burying ourselves in more sand. But before this was to commence, we spent some time at the lava tubes (lava!) and patiently waited for the tiniest shaft of light to stream through while completely trying Rebecca's patience and feeding her desire to avoid being stuck down there if an earthquake struck at that precise moment and showered us all in a bazillion years' worth of volcanic residue.

Luckily, we emerged unscathed, and after another stop at the Beanery and our late afternoon sand diversion, we packed up our top-secret campsite and headed through the world's largest concentration of Joshua Trees, towards Teutonia Peak, while continuing our daylong tradition of inexplicably bursting into refrains of "Lookin' like a fool with your pants on the ground" every twenty minutes or so.

After missing the sunset, we turned around at the saddle, headlights on, and eventually blasted out of Mojave on I-15, about five minutes before it began to rain, bound for the greased-up, calorie-laden delights of Peggy Sue's 50's Diner.

Start a trip with a free chili cook-off and end it with fried pickles, grilled cheese, and pie. Now that's the spirit!

What Would Ed Do?
Ed would be proud that we had the common sense to leave before the storms hit. Ed would be concerned, however, that our weekend diet consisted solely of concession food and marshmallows.


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