The Vet Voice Foundation Celebrates Twenty Years of the California Desert Protection Act.

It's now been 20 years since passage of the California Desert Protection Act of 1994 (CDPA). This landmark piece of legislation enlarged and re-designated Joshua Tree and Death Valley as national parks, established the Mojave National Preserve, and established 69 wilderness areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management in the California desert. In total, the California Desert Protection Act increased protection for 8.6 million acres of the California desert.

To celebrate, the Vet Voice Foundation sponsored a trip for a group of Veterans to travel to the Mojave National Preserve to hike and have an overnight camp out.Starting with a brief stop at Mojave Fest, a gathering of local residents, artistic and non-profit organizations held at the Historic Kelso Depot to celebrate the CDPA, the Vets continued on to the Kelso Sand Dunes, one of the most popular hiking sites at the Preserve. The Kelso Sand Dunes are the largest areas of sand deposits in the Mojave Desert, and are comprised of 5 sets of stacked dunes, the tallest reaching 650 feet tall. 

Two Vets, Carlos Simenthal and Steve Dunwoody, California Vet Voice Director,took on the challenge of climbing the tallest one and succeeded!

"Once we reached the top, you could see everything around us. We were even above the birds!" said Carlos Simenthal, a Navy Veteran and native of Victorville, California. "If I had to sum up this experience in one word..." he was asked, "tranquility."

"So many Veterans benefit from being in the outdoors and reconnecting with nature and themselves, particularly those with PTSD." said Steve Dunwoody, "That's another great aspect of what this is all about." 

Following the hike in Kelso Dunes, the Veterans went on to the Hole-In-the-Wall campsite to set up tents, get a fire going and prepare dinner. "We told campfire stories and roasted marshmallows over the fire. It was great to be out and away from the city and experience something I've never done before. I'm glad there are areas like the Mojave National Preserve to give this opportunity to Vets," remarked Joseph Luu, an Iraq and Afghanistan War Veteran of the U.S. Army. 

You can see a video and pictures from the trip here:

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