I can feel muscles that I was sure my body put in stasis. But that’s today. The earnings from yesterday’s minor misadventure.
Yesterday… March 4, 2021… …
Early mid-morning Kurt left the camper to scamper up the second highest sand dunes in the United States and the highest in California, Eureka Sand Dunes. I wanted to wait for evening light. (Here’s where I went back to bed, the glory of a cozy bed to yourself).
The mid-day wasted on and Kurt returned talking of smaller dunes on the other side of the dune mountain we couldn’t see from camp. Around 4:30 it was time to chase that light. Dunes for me are light studies. They are the high seas waves moving at the speed of eons. Time stopped. Here study the crest, there the ripples, over there see the crests line up in a row. The sand is nearly shadowless at midday. The dunes glow in setting sun. The dunes are dusty blue shadows at dusk.
The undeveloped road had an iffy stretch that we made it through fine on our way in. On the way out Kurt made a last minute turn to follow other tracks circumventing the worst spot. It was deeply rutted and particularly threatening coming from the opposite direction. But that was the mistake. High-sided isn’t a set of words I want to hear again. We were stuck in powdered sugar. Freddie jumped out of the truck and bounced through the dust sending up plumes of puppy joy in the wake of my horror. Kurt worked to free Baby Grey Whale. Out of the dark came headlights. Saviors? No. They offered use of these plastic thingies to use under the tires. It didn’t work. High-sided. There is a moment when you realize it’s time to commit to getting dirty. While Kurt jacked the truck up to get wood under the tires, I started digging out under the truck. (Our Cinderella saviors had a midnight Jeep rental curfew). Once the entire underneath was dug out, Baby Grey Whale drove out fine. We were covered in grey fairy clay dust head to toe and so was the dog. So was the truck. We left behind dust smudges on everything we touched. Had to wash the dog. No water in the tank. While Kurt filled the water tank I washed off Freddie’s bliss. After showers we were too tired for dinner and crawled into bed with our private aching miseries.
The quiet is first thing I noticed this morning. Eureka Valley is secluded. I can compare the quiet to a morning after a fresh snowfall or the time we spent at Crazy Jug Point on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. It is the absence of sound that is loud. Even though I can see the ant people making tracks up the Eureka Dunes, it’s still incredibly silent. A lone raven flew over head where I walked, flipping upside down, twice. I’ve never seen them do that. That’s when I blundered onto an animal’s tunnel system of some sort, I fell to my knees when the ground gave, with no grace because I was protecting my camera, directly into a dried plant covered in sharp plant things, then I was covered in sharp plant things. I made it out of that. Shaking poky plant things off my pants. Grimacing at the scratching every time I took a step. OK. Then, BANG, a jackrabbit shot out of its hiding brush right next to me like a horse from the starting gate. I squealed, so much for that quiet. I decided it was time this mighty northern swamp creature used the road before I really hurt myself on this walk. On the way back to the camper it crossed my mind the times I studied the desert illustrations as a kid. To me it was the most exotic place. I mused to myself, how lucky am I to see these desert creatures in real life.
Kurt and I finally, finally left 29 Palms behind us. 29 Palms has become an energy vortex for us, like Flagstaff and Las Vegas… inescapable. But we have for now absconded. (Did get one more drive rolling through Joshua Tree National Park at sunset, that was at least nice).
For our first official untethered night we camped out on a playa. I’ve discovered these dry lake beds to be one of my favorite types of geological formation to visit and photograph. The colors are spectacular at each end of the day and the textures are rich yet simple.
What to do for our first post kitten-stress adventure? Death Valley. Caveat: I’m thinking there was an easier way to get to our destination, maybe longer, but probably easier, I think there might be something pathologically wrong with us in this way we find the most difficult routes. We drove straight through Death Valley passing up the more popular southern end attractions and campgrounds. The further North the less traffic. We took a gravel road that announced itself as 45 miles to something. That briefly turned to a paved road towards the end, before we turned off for another ten miles of washboard gravel… did we learn our lesson last year with the off-road adventure to the sailing stones? No. Uh ah. Nope. Not at all. We’re even discussing going back.
Waiting at the end of the road for us: tucked under the blue-violet shadows of the Eureka Sand Dunes and the surrounding pale violet mountains, a small campground with bats flitting around it in the dusk. And a disaster inside the camper. The popcorn escaped its jar in the cabinet, but not the jar, just all of the popcorn. The TV came off the wall, not the TV mount, the back of the TV broke off and I found the TV on the floor. Various other objects on the floor: everything from the medicine cabinet, the new cat litter traveled from one end of the camper to the other, paper cups jumped out of their home and scattered… and some of the spice jar lids popped off.