Since I have a "real" job now, most of our traveling is limited to weekend excursions. We had initially planned on heading to Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada, but since it was President's Day Weekend, I heard the entrance lines were crazy long. Looking at the trusty atlas, we decided on Mojave National Preserve, just another 1hr 45 min farther down I-15.
We arrived at the exit for Mojave about 2am, and spent another hour driving in the dark down Joshua tree lined roads looking for a turnout that wasn't already occupied. While there are designated pay camping spots in the interior of the preserve, there is also roadside camping. As long as the spots are already cleared and have a fire ring, you are welcome to pitch a tent (or sleep in your car like we did). We got lucky with our spot. Once we woke up to the foggy sunrise, we realized we had probably found the most beautiful spot of all.
After a couple breakfast beers and vodka shots (something had to keep us awake after 3 hours of "sleep"), we were off to hike Teutonia Peak. This 4 mile RT takes you through the densest Joshua Tree forest in the world. There was SO much plant life and some awesome rock formations. The fog was so heavy that we couldn't really see anything once we ascended the peak. The best part about this hike was starting it early (like 6:45am) and being the only people out there. We passed by the trailhead a little later in the day and it was packed.
After a stop to the visitor center - which is in an old train station - we decided to head to Kelso Dunes. It was one of three more hikes we wanted to do that day, but two were going to be impossible with Buddy. If you don't take your dog, I would recommend checking out the lava tube hike (it descends down a metal ladder) and the Hole in the Wall Rings Trail which literally involves climbing on metal rings.
The Kelso Dunes trail it 3-4 mile RT give or take, depending on what path you choose. After walking in the sand for what seems like forever, you finally will start to ascend 700 ft. Straight up. In sand. If you go at 1pm like we did, you will be in full sun. 55 degrees felt more like a solid 100, and we both got sunburnt. We did give all our our water to Buddy because I felt bad making a predominantly black dog hike up sand in full sun. There is no established trail once you start up the dunes, just pick what looks most gradual. We spent some time at the top of the tallest dune before venturing on to the smaller dunes. The views from the dunes are incredible.
Tips for visiting the Mojave:
And now for 1 million photos of plants!