Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Dunes and the Desert

It is still dark when I head out to the dunes. From the Mesquite Dunes parking lot, I walk straight out to the highest dunes but soon realize that there has not been much wind lately; the dunes are covered with thousands of footprints! I do some shooting but hike out to a remote area that is much more pristine. It is a cloudy morning so the temperature stays below 80 degrees until late morning but as soon as the sun peeps through, it is unbearably hot and time to leave. Because of the cloud cover this morning, there are minimal shadows but I find some interesting sand patterns and plants that keep me busy for several hours.

Around noon, I head out toward Ridgecrest where I will spend the night in preparation for the workshop. I am not taking the side roads of yesterday and choose to drive the longer route on main highways. Driving past Panamint Springs, the wind picks up and all the way west to 395, the winds are howling and blowing sand across the road. Along 395, it is gusty and dusty. The drive takes less than 2 hours and I am surprised at the size of Ridgecrest, which I had expected to be a tiny town in the middle of the desert. It is the home of China Lakes Naval Air Weapons Station, which I find out has 38 percent of the Navy’s land holdings worldwide. In total, its two ranges and main site cover more than 1.1 million acres, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island! The town has new homes and shopping centers under construction, a new mega Walmart is at the very outskirts. Funny that I should go shopping in Ridgecrest but I find a huge selection of fabrics at Joanns and exercise pants at Big 5 and makes me realize how "not normal" our Peninsula cities have become.

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