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Kelso Peak
Mojave Desert, California
April 17, 2014

Distance: 11.8 km (7.3 mi)
Cumulative Elevation Gain: 350 m (1148 ft

Two things that stood out on our trip to Kelso Peak. The first was the stunning desert scenery we saw in a canyon; the variety of plant life growing among the granite boulders was amazing and in sharp contrast to the bland, bush-covered desert flats we had crossed to reach it.

The other thing that stood out was our drive across the Mojave Desert to the trailhead. Soon after entering the Desert, we made two roadside stops. First we stopped because a tarantula was crossing the highway. We didn't have to stop, but I wanted to take a closer look. A few minutes later we stopped again, this time to move a desert tortoise away from the road. It's illegal to handle tortoises, but a naturalist told me it was okay to move them to safety. When we stopped again to move another tortoise to safety, I wondered if we were ever going to get to the trailhead. But we reached the trailhead without sighting any more wildlife on the road.

Following the route description in Desert Summits, Dinah and I started hiking down a dirt road. When the road curved left, away from Kelso Peak, we left it and struck out across the desert flats. The terrain dipped down slightly, and we soon lost sight of the mountain. After a time we hit a major wash and followed it into a canyon. At least that's what Andy Zdon calls it. I thought it was just a wash. It was so shallow that from it we could see Kelso Peak from afar.

Canyon or wash, it held the best scenery of our trip. Eventually it ended but not before leading us to a trail that dropped into another scenic wash. We followed the wash until it turned away, and we made our way directly to the base of Kelso Peak. We ascended the steep northwest slopes and scrambled up the boulders that crowned the summit.

Kelso Peak is one of the most interesting desert peaks we've done. Not only did it display great scenery, but it also held a range of wildlife. We saw dozens of lizards, half as many rabbits, a couple of squirrels and quail, a few songbirds and one hummingbird, although nearly all the animals were too fleet-footed or fleet-winged to capture on camera. Amid the desert glory, summiting Kelso Peak seemed incidental.

KML and GPX Tracks

Desert tarantula

The first desert tortoise we saw

The second tortoise cried like a baby when I picked it up. I didn't know they were vocal. It really surprised us.

View of Kelso Peak from the trailhead

We started up a road but soon left it

Zebra-tailed lizard

Heading into the shallow canyon

A variety of plants set the stage for fine desert scenery

Kelso Peak in the distance

This is the first time I came across pencil cholla (mouse over for a close-up)

After the canyon ended we dropped into a wash on our left

Hiking down the wash (mouse over to look back)

Beavertail cactus flowers

We left the wash and made our way to the base of Kelso Peak (click for a larger image)

A rock with teeth?

We finally reached the base of Kelso Peak

Looking back, there are small volcanoes on the right

The summit is on one of these boulders

On the summit

Kelso Sand Dunes lie south

On the way back I saw this beetle about an inch long moving very fast

Marl Mountains, Kelso Peak (7.3 mi, 4757 ft, 1109 ft)

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