Barstow, CA Friday Nov. 14
Hate to say it but gotta say it. The temperature was about 40-50 degrees warmer than St. Paul in the Mojave Desert today. Yes we enjoy MN and winter. But it is nice to periodically leave the cold.
Our flight last night to Vegas was a full flight; I have not been on anything else in several years. The flight left from MSP’s G concourse, the premier Delta concourse so it is full of upscale bars and restaurants that we ignored. The people on the flight were in a jovial mood; it seemed there were several groups of friends going to Vegas. I hope they are able to retain that good feeling when they leave Vegas. Oh, and to the woman who sat behind me and coughed throughout the flight, rest assured you were successful in giving me your cold.
Our rental car had a defective driver side mirror so we were able to experiment with returning a rental car and exchanging it for another. The woman at the Hertz Gold Counter was very helpful, even staying after her 11 pm departure time when she had already clocked out. Thanks, ma’am.
This morning we made a stop at Target to pick up a few items we could not bring on the plane like a flat of water and a large tube of sunscreen. Then it was on to the Mojave National Preserve in southeastern CA. This Preserve comprises only a part of the vast Mojave Desert. The desert stretches from Zion National Park in Utah to the suburbs of Los Angeles and includes Las Vegas, Death Valley, Edwards Air Force Base, the Mojave Preserve and other areas.
Mojave National Preserve started when conservation efforts in the 1960s and 1970s led to the creation of the East Mojave National Scenic Area managed by the Bureau of Land Management which still allowed for many different types of uses. Conservationists wanted more restrictions and many years of wrangling and politics finally resulted in the addition of this piece of land coming under the direction of the National Park Service. The designation of the area as a preserve and not a park placed Mojave in a realm of less protection than a national park but more than BLM’s control would allow. Mojave National Preserve is 1.6 million acres and is the third largest NPS unit in the 48 contiguous states-only Death Valley and Yellowstone are larger. Alaska has many larger NPS units.
We were able to observe many of the varying climates and topography of Mojave. Elevations range from 880 feet to almost 8,000 feet above sea level. We criss crossed the area, starting our drive in the NE quadrant, going to the southwest and then starting again in the southcentral and driving to the north central section. The paved roads were under a reduced speed limit; heavy rains (how ironic) a while back caused damage. It was nice to have a rental car and not worry about our car getting its suspension damaged. I must admit the rental did provide a smoother ride.
At Cima, we drove along the valley between two mountain ranges, eventually passing over Cima Dome, a large uplifted land mass along which are located the largest collection of Joshua trees. The Joshua trees here are shorter and a different sub species from those we will observe next week at Joshua Tree National Park.
Kelso was once a major Union Pacific train staging area in the days when trains needed water for steam. Additional engines were placed on the trains, helping them get over the higher elevations to the east. Technology changes made the staging area less necessary and the depot in the area was closed. It is now re-used as the main visitor center for the preserve. Local residents were essential in preserving the building from its planned demolition by the UP.
In the southwest section of the preserve lie the Kelso Dunes, 600+ foot high sand dunes. These dunes are notable for their size and for the low frequency “booming” noise generated when people walk across the top of the dunes. We did hear the booming noise generated by others who had hiked to the top.
We spent an hour walking on the dunes but did not make it to the top-that would have taken another 2-3 hours. Walking in the loose sand was hard work, we made it our major exercise of the day.
Sunset comes early, at 4:39 p.m.officially so our last drive back up from the south central area only included one other 30 minute hike in the higher reaches of the park among the Joshua trees. We left the park as darkness was descending.
Ed and Chris Saturday 11/15 7:15 AM