I hiked Kelso Peak in the Mojave National Preserve yesterday with Luke. I chose this easy peak because I haven't been hiking in a while. The last time I hiked Kelso was in 2005. The summit register indicates that only a few people hike it each year.
The hike looks daunting from the starting point, however that is deceptive. As we approached the peak while walking across the desert, it looked smaller and smaller. Then, once we walked up the wash around to the back side, the summit approach was right in front of us and easy.
We parked at a pullout off Kelbaker Road where the powerlines cross the road. This time I decided to follow the old disused 2-track mentioned by Andy Zdon in his book "Desert Peaks." That actually made it easier to cross the desert, since it reduced the time and distance required to dodge the scrub. It was sometimes hard to see the track under our feet, but easier to see it off in the distance.
That track doesn't quite reach the peak, and when it petered out we hiked southeast to cross several ravines in order to reach the wash that heads up a canyon north of the peak. Once in the wash, it's a pleasant walk. It takes you past a large guzzler maintained by volunteers to provide water for big game in the area.
Don't forget to look for the big rock with a hole in it.
We found a large rock formation that provided a great place to rest in shade before scrambling up to the summit. Here's a view of the summit from that large rock.
As you get higher, you can choose any route you like.
Here's a photo looking south toward Kelso Dunes, and one looking north toward where we parked the car.
The next shot shows the wash we came up and the rock were we rested, which makes a nice landmark for returning to the wash.
The next two shots show Old Dad Mountain in the distance. We've hiked that before. It's much harder. You can also make out a disused microwave relay station on an intermediate ridge. I've driven to that station to check it out. The road up that ridge is very rough.
On our return, we startled two large big horn sheep feeding just beside the wash. I was too slow to get my camera out, so I didn't get any good photos. As they quickly ran away I barely captured them in a video. Here's a screencap.
It took us 2.5 hours to reach the summit. My GPS receiver indicated the round trip distance was about 7.5 miles.
This was a fun hike. The next morning I was a little sore. Clearly, I need to get into better shape. Luckily, I avoided any muscle cramps. I tried a new electrolyte replenishment protocol and I think it helped.
For more information, you can read Bob Burd's trip report here. He hiked it a few months ago and his name was the last name on the summit register.