Saturday, May 12, 2018


This week's arts and culture piece begins like this:

The Mojave National Preserve boasts 1.6 million acres of desert scrub, mountains, mesas, canyons, abandoned homesteads and sand dunes.

You motor up the 15, jump off at Baker and, instead of heading west for Death Valley, turn east instead. It’s free — no permit required.

And you’re very much on your own. After leaving the freeway, I drove the whole 34 miles to the Kelso Depot without meeting a single other car. Somewhere along the way, my cell reception petered out.

And when I arrived, the Visitor Center was closed (it’s only open Thursdays through Mondays).

Luckily, I’d brought along my trusty California Thomas Guide. Plus a friendly couple who’d stopped to use the restroom reminded me that there are only five or six major paved roads through the park, so it’s pretty hard to get lost.

Right away, in the open space and silence, my senses were sharpened. I noted the filigree shadow cast by a verbena, the tracks of insects and lizards, the clouds, the light.

At the 45 square-mile Kelso Dunes, I ate lunch from my cooler and set out for a little stroll. If my quarter-mile slog through the sand was any indication, the three-mile round- trip trail to the top would take about 10 hours. Still, the views are apparently stupendous. (Bring plenty of water!)


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