Sunday, April 01, 2007

Ibex Dunes and More

I just returned from a short trip to visit Ibex Dunes at the south end of Death Valley National Park. The NPS site has a nice PDF map. Here's a Google Maps link centered on the Ibex Dunes. It was surprisingly easy to get there. Harry Wade Exit road was washboarded, but smooth enough to take at 40 mph and avoid a lot of vibration. I was surprised to find another car parked there - alongside the 4wd unmaintained road. The dunes are 1 mile east of that dirt road. It took about 20 minutes to walk across the sparsely vegetated valley to the dunes. The dunes were actually easy to walk up - due to fairly compacted sand. On a previous hike up the Kelso dunes, each step would sink 5-8 inches into the sand. On Ibex dunes, however, almost every step stayed atop the sand. The weather was perfect - about 80 deg and clear skies. The last section of road is unmaintained and had a sign with an ominous warning of deep sand. I had only planned to drive up 1 mile and so I wasn't worried about the conditions.

Afterward, I drove to Afton Canyon. East of Barstow and just south of I-15, the Mojave River is above ground in this location and that results in an oasis for wildlife in the area. The BLM has a campground there. I decided to not camp because it was very hot and dry and a fly had taken an intense interest in bothering me as I was taking some pictures.

I decided to drive up to the Coptic Orthodox St. Antony Monastery that sits northeast of Barstow in the middle of nowhere. I didn't stop to visit. I just wanted to drive by and see the place. It was somewhat disappointing. I don't know what I was expecting. I'd never been to a monastery before.

Then I drove up to Coyote Dry Lake. People collect meteorites from the playa there. I once saw a TV show with celebrity astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and he was visiting Coyote Dry Lake with another scientist who showed him how he collects meteorites there and uses the data to estimate how many meteorites hit the Earth each day. It was easy to drive there by taking Coyote Lake Road - an unmaintained but well worn dirt road that ends up right on the playa. The lake bed was covered with small rocks of various kinds. I don't know how anybody can find a meteorite in all that.

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