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You’re gonna wanna click the above
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First off props to my beloved Susan because I gotta say it takes a special woman who says “hell yeah!” when I tell her that I want to drive out to the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night with our two dogs and spend the following day next to a the biggest pile of sand in California and then come home the day after that.

It was sooo worth it. Five and a half hours spent Friday night rolling up the 14 to the 395 to Big Pine and then the 168 up, up, up winding roads dodging brazen jackrabbits until going down, down, down to where the pavement ran out then dodging even more jackrabbits until we found the turn off for Eureka Dunes and 10 miles later we pulled into the deserted campground, stepped outside into the blessedly still but chilly (but not as bad as we’d expected) 1:30 a.m. air under as many stars as there are grains of sand in the dunes and decided we’d save the tent pitching for daylight and sleep in the car.

Four and a half hour later we were up with the dawn and it was even colder (but still wonderfully windless and deserted), and soon the coffee was percolating on the campstove and coyotes were yipping somewhere unseen in the distance and then the sun popped up over the eastern mountains and immediately began warming things up and we had breakfast of corned beef hash, bacon and eggs and as we raised the tent we openly wondered if we’d somehow lucked into getting the entire monstrously magnificent Eureka Valley to ourselves.

A short time later we had our first lookeloo: a fella in a sedan pulled out to take a couple photos and move on and by 11:30 it was still all ours ours ours and decidedly in the low 80s and gorgeous and so Susan and Ranger and Shadow and I hit the dunes. We didn’t make it to the 700-foot top, opting instead to romp around up to about 400 feet or so before heading back for ice-cold Coronas at camp and a nap that was disturbed occasionally by the passing trains of two-wheeled and four-wheeled offroaders, the latter stopping long enough to be overheard saying “That’s some impressive freakin’ dunes” before heading off.

At sunset we had a couple visiting pairs of people who parked nearby and made quickout and back trips onto the sand before coming back to their vehicles and leaving.

We did end up with a neighboring camp, but they had the fine sense to set up about a half mile down the road. As darkness fell, we got the fire going and had a great dinner of steaks and veggies and cheap red wine bought at the Stater Bros. market in Mojave. Afterward we marveled at a couple of bats and their acrobatics through our camp picking off moths drawn to our lanterns.

I tried my hand at several five and 10-minute timelapses of the starry skies but after losing patience I joined Susan and the dogs in the tent and appropriately bundled up we were all asleep or getting there by 7:30 p.m.

Up again at 6 a.m. to another phenomenally windless and glorious day I got a morning campfire going and coffee brewing. After breakfast Ranger and I had another romp to about the dunes’ 250 foot elevation, then came back to break camp with Shadow while Susan and Ranger headed out for one last visit to the sandy stuff.

We were packed and on our way by 10 a.m. as planned, leaving us enough time for a sidetrip to the Manzanar Interment Camp off 395 outside of Lone Pine. By 4 p.m. we were home to find all the cats had been well cared for by my mom. Afer unpacking we dropped the rental SUV back at Hertz and since then he dogs have pretty much been sacked out from their fantastic journey and Susan and I have been pulling pictures taken off our cameras, including that 18-shot 180-degree view posted above of the south end of Eureka Valley and the dunes.

Without a doubt everything conspired — the weather, the lack of other people, the location, the light traffic out and back — to produce one of the best camping experiences ever. Plenty more pictures to come. Later.

First it’s back to the grind of doing dishes and sleeping in a real bed.

UPDATE (11.12): My Flickr photoset found here; Susan’s is here!