The Giant Sand Dunes

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On the far right of this picture are two people walking across the dunes. They are the tiny black speck lost in the seas of beige-ish yellow sand. In the center is a tiny oasis – no visibly water, but plenty of plant life. These sand dunes are appropriately giant.

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What greets you once you cross the tiny stream from the parking lot to the sand – the first set of dunes, commonly used for dune-boarding. I have my board ready, but first we went to explore.

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At the crest of the first dune, you see the giant desert-like expanse. It stretches seemingly for forever. For scale, two people walking in the distance.

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Continue climbing and you’ll see some of the extremely delicate plant life growing on the upper dunes. Much rarer than the wide swath of plant life at the base of the first dune, these plants exist as isolated guardians against the winds.

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All of the plants here are important, but up on the shifting dunes this holds especially true. It is absolutely vital that they not be damaged in any way – their existence is difficult enough, and stepping on them only destroys the fragile ecosystem of the sand dunes.

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Reach the top of the dune desert and you’re greeted with a barren view. Nothing lives up here – the sand is ever moving and the wind is strong.

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From here you can see the southern edge of the dunes, where the river runs strong and plants grow thick and wild.

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On the dune-side of the river, a tangle of plants secure the sands.

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If you crouch down to sand-level, make sure to cover your face. The wind blows sand along, up, and over the edge of the dunes with strength enough to hurt. That fuzzy layer of sand is flying up the dune.

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Keep going to the west, a long way to the west, and the ocean becomes visible in the low distance. You won’t be anywhere near it – it’s several hours to hike – but seeing the bright blue waves from the top of the dunes is spectacular.

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Some notes on boarding down the dunes. The board you bring should have a smooth bottom. Ours was a woven plastic material and the friction was amazing. We’d get on the board, kick off, and wind up stopped inches down the hill.

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Fortunately, the dunes offer plenty of distraction. Sitting there, stuck in the sand, I contemplated the scale of the place. This picture is the oval-ish structure at the bottom of the valley I was trying to board down. In one picture it looks tiny, in the next, massive. It was a very large ridge of sand.

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For want of a horse, the rider was not lost. My two favorite things to do in the sand are one, roll down the hill, and two, take huge jumps and be caught by the soft sand beneath. Rolling is fun, but gets sand everywhere. Jumping makes you feel like a superhero.

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At the bottom of the valley I took some time to practice my sand bending.

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And then climbed right back up to go again. Climbing up the dune to get another go is the most exhausting part of the experience, and it leaves with a great workout. We climbed back up many, many times.

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At the top of the dunes, there’s a real danger of your hat blowing away, so keep a tight grip. Behind me is a very interesting sand structure, and people for scale.

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It looks like it was once a solid dome of compacted sand, which has now worn out and collapsed in a ring around the center.

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It offers an ever-changing sight as you walk around, above, and below it.

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Some angles are almost unrecognizable as being the same thing.

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Briefly the clouds circled overhead in two layers making for a wonderful view.

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Sand textures very differently depending on where on the dunes it lies. Mostly it’s a fine particulate, but in some areas it’s compacted, and in others deposits of tiny stones make for an interesting texture.

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It’s well worth the detour to see the dunes. They’re spectacular in scale, dwarfing perceptions of distance and size. Exploring them is difficult but rewarding – every new peak is its own, different vista. Take care of the plants, be prepared to clean everything of sand, and have a fantastic trip!

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