Then we asked him if he knew of a place to go camping in the national forest nearby, so that we could set up the yurt, and he suggested a few places (but only after telling us about the numerous diseases he had: mountain biking disease, back-country skiing disease, etc.) Apparently this guy didn't really have a job, he just drove his car up mountainsides in the Sierra Nevada, hiked up the steepest slopes, then skied down for fun. He also did a bunch of back-country mountain biking in the summer, and told us about a time he biked to Eureka Dunes in the north side of Death Valley. He also said that no one would bother us if we set up a yurt in that direction, which perked our interest, so we asked him how to get there, and soon we were on our way.
Parking at Eureka Sand Dunes; Last Chance Range.
To our surprise, when we took the long lonely road to Eureka Dunes, we saw a bunch of Joshua Trees, and other small cacti. Then we dropped into a large valley on the east side of the Last Chance Range. The end of the valley was obscured until we drove down enough of the road that it became visible, and out popped a huge sand dune! We got all excited when we saw it, however, our excitement dropped off realizing that we had to turn off the main road and go down a gravel/rock road about 10 miles at 30 mph just to get there. It took us 1/2 hour at a painfully slow speed. But once we got there, we were greeted by a break in the clouds and the dunes were showered with sunlight. There were little fluffy clouds in the sky as we started hiking up the dune, determined to get to the top of one of the closer peaks.
Starting our hike up the dunes.
At the top!
We read that the Eureka Sand Dunes are the tallest in the state of California, and might possibly be the tallest in the U.S. if the winds are right. The tallest in the U.S. that I know of are in Colorado at Great Sand Dune national park, but apparently the Eureka Dunes rival them. There are also a bunch of animals that only live in the dunes and nowhere else. We saw a beetle crawling along the sand, and even a blue lizard with red eyes. Little sprouts were growing out of the sand, which seemed odd, however the sand in the dune is very efficient in soaking up water and retaining it. Although we were in a desert, when we buried our feet into the dune, cool wet sand was just an inch under the surface (like at a beach).
A beetle on the sand dunes.
Eureka Sand Dunes
After climbing, we decided to pick the steepest descent, and jumped most of the way down. That was a lot of fun! When we got back into the car, we saw that there was a road that went behind the dune and into the mountains where there was a cold spring called Marble Bath. We tried driving to it, but being in the Daewoo, we could not get too far before the road became too rocky and uneven. If we were in the baja (which we didn't take and left by the yurt because it was low on gas) we would've made it, but oh well, next time I guess!
Jumping down the dunes.