The next day we entered the eerily empty Mohave National Preserve and climbed up the “singing sand dunes.” The Kelso Dunes are made up of ultrafine sand that produces a low humming noise when they move. We were pretty sure we heard them sing once. The dunes are so steep and the sand so loose in places that it is almost impossible to climb straight up them.
|A small hole in the wall|
The central part of the Preserve is mountainous and we drove a very rough road around to the Hole in the Wall campground. We explored the narrow canyon and deemed it free of bandits (they live in Wyoming with the Sundance Kid) and enjoyed a little botanizing as the desert vegetation was starting to become familiar.
In the afternoon we drove east out of California and along parts of the historic Route 66. When we crossed into Arizona we started climbing steadily out of the desert and into high pine country. We were trying to get to the Grand Canyon in time to see the sunset but only arrived on the snowy South Rim for the final cool hues of twilight.
Camping that night in the Kaibab National Forest was the coldest of the trip. Even though we set up the tent to provide a little extra insulation, I had to get up and light a fire in the pre-dawn hours to warm up. At least firewood was easier to come by than in the desert.
|Colorado Pinyon silhouette|
|Gambel Oak leaf (Quercus gambelii)|
|Colorado Pinyon (Pinus edulis) needles in bunches of two|
We found the ruins fascinating and learned that the nearby Wupatki National Monument managed several more ruins, so we spent the rest of the afternoon exploring them. Nobody knows for certain why the settlements were abandoned, but I couldn’t help but wonder if they ran out of firewood.