After driving all day Thursday, we all slept in on Friday.
The Eureka Dunes are not very large or famous but they are among the highest dunes in the United States at over 650 feet above the valley floor. They look smaller because they are framed by the striped limestone cliffs of the Last Chance Range that rise up 3000 to 4000 feet higher. Sand dunes are caused by wind blowing across the valley floor and picking up fine dust and sand; as the wind hits the higher mountains, it slows down, loses energy, and drops its heavy load. One thing that I find interesting is that the the individual grains of sand are constantly changing but the size and shape of the dunes do not.
As an aside, after getting home I realized that, with four people on our trip, I took alot less pictures than I usually do when I am only with Michele. Among things I didn’t take pictures of were the beauty of the sand dunes. Fortunately, Kirk Moore has some wonderful sand dune pictures over at his website. I highly recommend that you take a look. End aside.
By the time we got to the dunes, it was starting to warm up and the dunes were getting very bright. We hiked up about half way, maybe 350 to 400 feet, on sand that got looser and looser.
About the time that the day starting getting really hot, heading towards triple digits. We got back in the truck and looked for shade. First it was back to the main road and then over the Last Chance Range into Death Valley itself. As we started over the last pass before Death Valley, we started seeing more plants in bloom. First the Beavertail Cactus, also known as the Pricklypear Cactus and probably known as some other names which is why people who like plants and go looking for them in the wild end up using the botanical name. In this case, Opuntia basilarus. Just as we got to the pass overlooking upper Death Valley, we came across lots of clumps of Desert Aster, AKA Mojave Aster, or Aster mohavensis.
Then it was down into Death Valley, past Crankshaft Crossing, and on to Scotty’s Castle where we had lunch in the shade.