There are more of these in between days than the ones memories are made of. The days that crumble to dust even before your head hits the pillow. One day I’m left at the camper under the eye of the Eureka Dunes while Kurt drives into the nearest town to air the truck tires back up. Lesson learned about being stuck in sand; deflate tires to 25 lb pressure, problem: that is not good for towing a camper. One day gone to one mission. I read a book and listened to the sounds of rowdy young men set up camp.
One day spent traveling to the nearest town with laundry, Lone Pine. Eating Pizza in the truck while we waited for the clothes to dry. Camping at a campground not entirely open yet. No water, no dump station. The mountains are majestic and have veins of white running down from their tops. A local rest-stop attendant said it’s been dry, the mountains should be solidly snow capped. This new landscape is a feast for the senses.
We learn about Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills. We are there for less than 24 hrs. It’s the Western Movie filming location. Maverick, The Postman, Tremors, Gladiator. It might be the reason I was super confused about my expectations around Texas. Another day of travel, then chores (fuel, fill water, dump tanks, groceries). On our way we passed a memorial. Kurt asked me to look it up. It appeared “prison-like.” Manzanar Memorial. A reminder of what this country is capable of. A Japanese-American internment camp from WW2. Camp tonight is on top of a volcanic table…
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.