|While Vanessa was at a batchlorette party in Vegas, instead of giving The Paris some more of my money, I took off for the Kelso Dunes.
In high school, one of my biology teachers, Scott Smith used to take some of us kids camping out here, and let us loose on the dunes. He setup a competition to see who could make it to the top of the largest dune first. Of course it's insanely difficult, but a ton of fun.
This time, it was deeper into summer, so quite a bit hotter than when I came here in high school. While scrambling up the largest dune on all fours, the sand was so hot that my fingers were turning bright red, and my feet were baking in my boots. Flys were buzzing around me, and would land on me when I'd stop moving, but not to bite, they would just hang out in the shade of my arms or legs.
The biggest difficulty in climbing up the largest dune is that every time you disturb the sand, like by stepping into it, it starts a little land-slide, moving you back down hill a few inches and covering up your shoes with scalding hot sand. It's a two steps up, one step back cycle. Also, of course any time the wind blows, the sand kicks up. You get a mouthful of sand, sand in your eyes, sand in your ears, and a fine coating of it from head to toe, glued on by sweat.
The last twenty or so feet is the worst, as the wind is always blowing, so it's hard to see, and still incredibly hot. This time, I had my head down, and didn't even realize I was close to the top until I reached up and grabbed the ridge. Hooray! I walked along the ridge a few feet up to the summit, the point where three ridges of sand intersected, high, very high above the desert floor.
Once on top, the conditions are much nicer. The sand-blasting dies down (though never goes away entirely), the breeze becomes much cooler, and except for the wind and sand shifting, it's totally silent. This is one of my favorite places, so I rested, and soaked it in. After a while, when I had stopped panting and sweating, I sat up, closed my eyes, and meditated on the serenity of the place. When I opened my eyes, not two hundred feet from me was a large eagle, probably a Californa Golden, riding the air currents up, looking me over. He didn't flap his wings once, until he decided I wasn't interesting and turned away.
Going down the sand dunes is a lot of fun, this time I scooted on my butt for a while, which causes the sand to vibrate and give off this loud, deep rumbling. If you get it going well enough, the whole mountain seems to vibrate. Then I just jogged down. An hour up, two minutes down!
After the long walk back to my truck, I cleaned up with a jug of water I had brought, and prepared to get going back to Vegas. Just before I was going to leave however, a man jogging down the road came up to me to ask for help. He had gotten his Volvo stuck in sand a mile or so down the road, and had jogged the whole way in the heat to try to get my help before I took off. Good timing! I pulled his car out, and he and his girlfriend were nice enough to share some food and ice with me.
On the way back to Vegas, instead of taking Kelbaker road, I took Cima road, which runs along some train tracks, so I got some opportunities to take some train pictures.
One last interesting thing: While driving back I found a long, flat and straight piece of road and decided to see how fast I could go. 95 mph. It took my truck a good minute to make it up from 70 mph, and once it got to 95, it just sat there. No amount of time or smashing of the accelerator pedal would budge it. Plenty fast for me though, at that speed the whole truck shakes and it's a little scary!