Monday, December 19, 2016

Kelso Dunes Wilderness Powerline Road

Here's another nice powerline road across the Mojave desert.  This section runs from Kelbaker Road at Kelso Dunes, west toward I-15.  I've driven this section a few times and almost all of it is easy.  

The road is signed with the BLM route marker NN15.  I drove it a few months ago and it was in good condition.  There are a few short sections with moderate sand (5 inches or less) and one section with deep sand that can be avoided by taking an alternate route.  Here's the view after leaving Kelbaker Road.  You can see the Kelso Dunes off to the right.

Since it passes by Kelso Dunes (the 2nd highest dunes in California) you might consider taking this road back toward LA after visiting the dunes.  Most of the road is like this...

Here's the view looking back to the east from the western border of the Mojave National Preserve.

The hilly section is not sandy and has always been well graded.

The most difficult section is the part immediately west of the dunes.  It's not really difficult.  Annoying is more appropriate.  The road crosses the fall-line of the local gentle bajada and so there are many shallow washout channels from past rain storms.  Those require you to slow down, unless you're driving a modified Jeep or you enjoy beating up your suspension.  Once you're past that (less than 10 miles) then it's pretty easy.  High ground clearance isn't needed on this road, however 4wd is definitely helpful in the loose rock/gravel and sand sections.

Entering the valley with Broadwell Dry Lake...

You don't need to drive the entire route shown above that I drove.  You can bail out at Crucero Road and head south to Ludlow for gas and ice cream.  The 76 station there has a Dairy Queen inside.

If you do continue westward, as I did, then the road becomes BL8810 and then becomes BL8560 after the dogleg turn.  That's not important information.  I don't think there are any signs.  I know the BLM route numbers from the maps I have.

The last section of road passes by the F-4 jet fighter crash site.  Years ago it had some large pieces of the engines and fuselage surfaces, but now that site has mostly been picked clean.  My previous posts about that site are here, and here.


Tater Crosley said...

Michael, what maps do you use the most in this area? I may be driving this same road in a few weeks. I'd like to have some paper maps on hand. I find the BLM website hard to search. I wish you could point to a place on the state map and get a list of maps for that region. But it seems like you have to know the name of the map you want to see, and the names aren't alway intuitive if you aren't from the area. I've ordered some BLM Desert Access Maps from the library but they will likely be out of date in terms of what roads are still open access since the recent changes in land status.
Do you use paper maps? Or GPS types?

GPS loaded maps would be nice but my gear is pretty low budget/low tech at the moment.
Besides which, it is nice to look at a paper map because you can get a bigger picture of the area.

Michael said...

I mostly use 4 types of maps:

1. Benchmark maps - available from book stores and National Park visitor centers
2. CTUC (California Trail Users Coalition) trail maps
3. BLM printed maps - available from BLM and National Park visitor centers
4. Google maps that I have captured, annotated, and printed ahead of time

This post from 2014 describes items 1 and 2.

This post from 2015 shows some of the useful BLM maps I've bought.

When I visit a new location (or return to a location after many years) I often stop at a BLM or NPS visitor center just to shop for new maps.

You're right about the BLM website issues. They are notorious for constantly changing their site. An example is: the BLM site I link to at the bottom of my 2014 post (linked to above) now goes to a dead page on the BLM site. For this reason, each time I have succeeded in finding maps on the BLM site, I then download as many as I can so I can use them in the future.

When I plan to do any wilderness hiking (even on BLM or NPS lands) I will then use the USGS 7.5 quad topo map for that area. Those are like you describe: named after obscure things in the map area and hard to find the right one. I use sites like the Libre Map Project to find USGS topo maps. This page links to sets for each state. Then each page lets you search for maps by name, or see the entire set for that state. Unfortunately, some states (including California) no longer show the entire set of maps.

One of the best web sites for finding USGS maps is ... the USGS. Here is the page for their interactive map tool. Just zoom in on the area you are interested in. Then click the circle on the right side for "24K" to see those maps. When you are zoomed in enough, then it will start to show the map names. Click on the name of the map you're interested in. Then, on the right side, select the vintage of the map. Then you can download one of several map formats (JPEG, KMZ, GeoTiff, GeoPDF). Kinda nifty.

Lastly, when I visit national forests, I often find very helpful maps on the US National Forest web site for that particular forest. I've also bought many of their paper maps when I stop at visitor centers.

I never use GPS loaded maps. I like to review my maps at home, in the hotel, and in the tent. I haven't yet seen any GPS-based maps that have the details that are in the paper maps or the USGS topos.

Wow. I might make this into a blog post since it might be useful to many others.