On our last full day in the Mojave we visited the Cow Cove petroglyphs in the northern end of the park. This is an amazing collection of petroglyphs and this was our second visit to them (last year’s visit). You can wander the rock piles for hours and hours, discovering all kinds of abstract images with meanings we can only hope to understand.
Cow Cove is approachable via vehicle but only ones with clearance and preferably 4WD (it’s sandy). If you know where to leave the vehicles, it’s a short and flat 1.5 mile hike down an old access road until you are at the glyphs. It’s just remote enough that they have remained relatively unscathed, although you can find some ‘modern’ rock art as well. I’d love to know the original meanings of the art we discovered – we just found what we would call strawberries, cell phones, decorated easter eggs, bananas, fish, dancing hot dogs, bowling balls, and armadillos. According to one rock art book we own, the bowling ball was really the God of Death. I have yet to identify the others.
Sooz and Robin and I spent quite a lot of time wandering the glyphs and finally the rest of the group dragged us away. We drove south and stopped for a late lunch at Kelso Depot, then headed down to the Kelso Dunes for sunset.
What an amazing hike! During the day storms had moved in over the Mojave and we drove though some of the rain on our way south. At the dunes, the sun was brightly shining on the ground, but the surrounding ranges were covered in dark storm clouds. I could smell rain in the air while enjoying the amazing colors and a breathtaking sunset.
After dark we returned to camp where we found the incoming system had dropped the temperatures quite a bit. The campfire was a welcome sight (thanks to the Navis who had returned early and started it for us), and after bed the rain started again. I dozed on and off to the sound of the desert rain, and in the morning we drove out across a snow-dusted Cima Dome.
Another successful and fun Thanksgiving Road Trip on the books. And already looking forward to next year!
If You Go
I’m not going to be super specific about the location of the glyphs, but you’ll be able to find the location with a small amount of effort. The roads to access cow cove are mostly fine but they do get sandy and the ruts are deep – high clearance is definitely needed, and 4WD may be required if you get stuck in the sand. We went with a group, some of whom had high clearance vehicles but not 4WD. But we had 4WD vehicles that would have been able to help anyone get unstuck. Judge for yourself based on your equipment, experience, and group.
Easy access, southern end of Park. Park at the trailhead and walk to the dunes. Look for animal tracks, and listen for the special noise of the dunes. Even in a light wind it may be difficult to reach the summit of the dunes – blowing sand stings!