Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Sands That Sing

Kelso Dunes and Airstream

Kelso Dunes and Airstream

┬ęBert Gildart: From our Airstream to the top of the Kelso Dunes is about 660 feet; not far, but the experiences that resulted from the climb were significant.

First, there’s the view that results once you have reached the crest of the dunes. But in this land of perpetual scenery that wows, perhaps even more astounding are the sands that are said to sing.

Though hiking distance is not great, I vastly under estimated the time I’d need to reach the top, for as you approach the crest the sand begins to slide, meaning that you may need two forward steps to advance over what might normally have required by a single step.

But for those interested in hearing the sands sing, sliding is precisely what you want. And that’s what happened.

WHAT MAKES THEM SING?

As I approached the crest, the sand began to slide–and the result was startling. Some have said they hear a booming noise and that’s what I heard. Because there was absolutely no other sound on the day of my climb, the booming might have been startling had I not prepared myself with prior research. Reading indicated the sound could be created by the rapid shear rate–the actual tearing of sand particles one from the other.

Visual Feast

Visual Feast

Others, however, say the sound is related to the thickness of the dry surface layer of sand. When the sands slide, sound waves bounce back and forth between the surface of the dunes and the surface of the moist layer creating a resonance that increases the sound’s volume.

VISUAL FEAST

Though the sound was impressive I was not prepared for the visual feast that greeted me as I crested the dunes–third largest in the nation. It was late in the day and the lighting was particularly dramatic. Stretching before me were miles of rolling dunes, melding one into the other. In turn, they folded into mountain outliers and then–at last–into a major mountain range that could very well have been ranges within Death Valley, some 50 miles or more to the northwest.

Discovering Sand Stories

Discovering Sand Stories

Though it took me almost two hours to make the 600-foot ascent, the return to the Airstream required little more than half an hour. There, I found Janie also enjoying the dunes, but in a slightly different manner. She was studying all the tracks in the sand left by nocturnal creatures.

And that’s a story all of its own.



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