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.

WhiteSands6 18 16 T111

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.

WhiteSands6 18 16 Pedstal2

WhiteSands6 18 16 wall

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.

WhiteSands6 18 16yucca

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

WhiteSands6 18 16 Trees

WhiteSands6 18 16 Trees2

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WhiteSands6 18 16 Ant

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

WhiteSands6 18 16 DuneRipples

WhiteSands6 18 16 dune1

WhiteSands6 18 16tracks

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.

WhiteSands6 18 16circle

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

WhiteSands6 18 16 dune2

WhiteSands6 18 16talldunes

More dunes.

WhiteSands6 18 16 Pedstal3

WhiteSands6 18 16 Pedstal3b

A pedestal and a close up view of it.

WhiteSands6 18 16shade1

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.

WhiteSands6 18 16radiosondeA

WhiteSands6 18 16radiosondeB

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.

WhiteSands6 18 16 Pedstal1b

WhiteSands6 18 16 Pedstal1a

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

WhiteSands6 18 16pano360

360 degree panorama. Click here and enlarge for full size. Pan with scroll bar.

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WhiteSands6 18 16truck

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.


You can use these images, Inferno 2016, under a CC BY 4.0 license. About Credits

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