Inferno 2016

Each year I go on an Inferno Hike into the dunes on a hot day. I try to pick the hottest day of the year.

I drove to the entry booth just beyond the visitor center near the highway. There I paid a small fee to enter and drove to the edge of the picnic area. Some people were there playing on the dunes.

The 30 minute drive was the hottest part. The truck was 129F when I started and 117F when I parked. During most of the hike it was 108F to 110F. In the dry desert air high temperatures are less uncomfortable since your sweat evaporates immediately. That provides efficient cooling and prevents uncomfortable sweaty wetness. That comfort can be dangerously deceptive. You must drink enough water. Given water and low humidity a human can survive, even indefinitely, at surprisingly high temps. Here is an interesting infographic. (link) The humidity was so low that almost no condensation formed on my frozen water bottles.


Pretty toasty as I begin the hike. I took two half-gallon plastic bottles of frozen water in my pack and two one-quart canteens. I also left another gallon of water in the truck. I set a GPS way point at the truck.



First I found this pedestal. Pedestals form when a dune drifts away but part of it remains. Their sand is compacted and plants often help to keep them in place. I was going to pick up that bottle and pack it out. I seldom find trash more than 1/2 mile from the picnic areas.

I also saw this wall structure. It is about 3 inches tall. The remains of a yucca are nearby but the wall seems to be a different substance.


In this part of the dune field there are plants in the flats and on some dunes. Several yuccas were blooming.





These trees provided shade. They have been partially covered as the dune drifted over them. I rested here. These ants enjoyed the shade too.




Ripples form on the windward sides of dunes. Sand blows up the dune and falls at the top on the leeward side. That side, the slip face, gets steeper until small avalanches happen. When the wind alternates more evenly in two directions the dunes have defined crisp line on top. Since those dunes build up in one direction and then the other they get taller.

I saw two sets of tracks. I think one is a cat since it is padded with no claw marks. The other is unknown to me.


Plants blow in the wind and make circles and arcs in the sand.



More dunes.



A pedestal and a close up view of it.


I rested in the shade of this salt cedar. Then I walked another 1/2 mile or so. These dunes are in a military reservation where various testing, experimentation, and training is done. I was near the edge of the zone that is open to visitors and had about half of my water left so I turned back.



Soon I found some wreckage. At first I found no writing on this object. It had some electronic components and wires and a heavy tube. On closer examination I found faint lettering. The only word I could discern was “radiosonde”. So this is a instrument sent up on a balloon.



On the way back I found this interesting pedestal. Some of the limbs or roots were cut with a saw.


Here is a 360 degree panorama. 794 kB. Click the picture and enlarge to full size. Use the scroll bar to pan left or right.



Looks like the thermometer had been in the sun. My truck was a welcome sight but I wanted to explore more. That can wait for cooler days.

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