Monday, April 09, 2007

Mojave National Preserve& Mitchell Caverns SRA

After Amboy Crater, I made my way into the park, and up to "hole in the wall" camp and visitor center, camping at the developed campgrounds.
The next day I explored the hole in the wall "rings trail" which leads into a small slot canyon, and went to Mitchell caverns. The caverns were definitely neat, and the ranger led tour was very good due to the personality of the ranger. He was pretty impressive, moving from park to park every few years, to round ot his experiences. I struck up a conversation with him regarding the impressive cavern discovered in King's/Sequoia last year, and as a matter of fact, he was put onto the team. This for a guy that only had been at the caverns for two years or so. Anyways, good blend of humor, patience and expertise, led to a very good time on the tour. The Mitchells, who were responsible for opening the caverns to the public, actually did so under the guise of a mining claim. There are a few short mine shafts on the trek up to the caverns, which he dug to appease the claim. Seems he had done a better job of managing the resources than the state did upon taking it over. There was irrepairable damage done in a chamber that held petroglyths, when they allowed Jim Morrison and the doors to film a video there. Anyways, another situation where the pictures just will not do justice. The NPS actually has a decent photo gallery
After another hike near hole in the wall, I took a drive north to mid-hill camp to see if I could not find the view point of mount whitney I had been told about. Nope. And this area had burned recently so was not very scenic.
I chose to exit the park and return in west to Kelbaker so that I could visit Kelso Dunes. I chose to "disperse camp" in the desert rather than another night in the campground. On the way in on Kelbaker, I saw the results of someone who had a rough morning. A smoldering skeleton of an old pinto or something facing the wrong ways in a ditch, evidently losing it through some hairpin s-curves. highway patrol was there, but I did not see the driver...
It is about a mile and half out to the summit of Kelso dunes, and that is through the sand and a 700 foot rise. Trudge, trudge,trudge :) It was definitely worth it. Got an earlier start on this one, so the temps and sun were not a real issue. I think the strenuous part of the trek was the running on the dunes to try to make a "boom". These are one of the few sand dunes where the shifting sands will create noise if the moisture content is right. I managed a few, but some guys I ran into on the summit actually got a couple of real good ones going. The sound reminded me of a large prop plane. Before I had started my hike in, the winds had created on where I thought a truck was coming up the gravel road, but then realized it was coming from the dunes :) There were a lot of animal tracks from last night but none were showing themselves in the light of day. Oh well. I really felt I had now been in the desert, with the dunes remonding me of scenes of movies set in the sahara or such. And very nice views.
After a stop through Kelso depot for water and a respite, I went further north to the cinder cones area. I got a kick out of the old kelso jail at the depot. I know I would be good if that was the consequences...
The cinder cones are definitely impressive, with one having a dramatic blowout the side and a deep lava flow.
From here, I exited the park and drove up to the Tecopa area. Leon had told me a lot of this area, and I was eager to take a look around. I passed by a real neat area, that being Dumont Dunes BLM rec area, only because they required purchase (or so it seemed) of a weekly pass to use. This is a OHV rec area for the dunes, but the overall terrain was very neat. I found a nice spot just south of Tecopa to pull in for the night and enjoy the stars...

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