Eureka Dunes

We recently made a trip out to Eureka Dunes. It's about a two and a half hour drive from Furnace Creek. It's at the extreme north end of the park. The Eureka Dunes are some of the tallest dunes in the country rising over 600 feet. We call it the "sand mountain." What makes them even more special is that they are singing sand dunes. When the sand grains slide across each other a low, resonating sound is emitted. This was the first time we have gotten to hear it at the Eureka Dunes (we have heard it at the Kelso Dunes at Moj. Nat. Pre.). The Eureka Dunes also have several endemic plant species. I really wanted to see a special night blooming primrose that blooms out there, but it wasn't in bloom yet. In order to see them we left the house about 4 am, to get there before the sun came out.

On the drive there we did see this Yellow Evening Primrose. This was a great unexpected surprise! Just beautiful!

Starting the hike up to the top of the dunes.

Critter hole.

We saw several of these tiny beetles that were pastel green with an iridescent coating. They were gorgeous!

This is an endemic species of grass that only grows here at the dunes.

Dannielle and Britt came with us.

It took us about 45 minutes to hike to the top.

Looking north in the valley towards the road we came in on.

On top you can see the different sized (and color) sand grains. When we walked, our footsteps pushed the smaller, light colored sand grains down on top of the darker, bigger sand grains. Made a great contrast.

Group shot
Something very cool happened as we were hanging out on top. A fighter jet came swooping into the valley, saw us on top on the dunes, and circled around us several times. It was right at eye level if not below us sometimes. Definitely showing off, but a very cool experience. In the pictures it doesn't seem very close, but it was incredibly close and loud.

Some more of that endemic species of grass.

Some other flowers we saw on the drive home, in the daylight.

Broad-Flowered Gilia

Desert Paintbrush

Indigo Bush

Gravel Ghost


Wacky Weather

Well, it has been a wet, cool Spring for Death Valley so far. Normally the flowers start blooming in mid-March, but they didn't start until the second week of April. The El Nino weather pattern is keeping things moist and cool (for the desert).
Since last Friday, we had about three days of 98 degrees (the hottest days yet), then on Tuesday (4/20) it finally broke 100 degrees (101 officially). Wednesday it dropped thirty degrees, the high was 70 degrees and it sprinkled a little on and off throughout the day. Today, it rained pretty steadily twice, the high was in the mid 70s. For two days everyone has been wearing jeans, sweatshirts, and jackets. This is unheard of for the third week of April. I asked around at work and the folks that have been here over ten years say they have never experienced weather like this during this time of year. It happened in March of 2005, the last El Nino year, but never April.

Bloom of 2010

It has turned out to be quite a wonderful bloom. A write-up in Las Vegas says it is the third best bloom in the last one hundred years! These are just a few of the pictures we have acquired in the last couple of weeks while driving around the valley floor---south past Badwater to Jubilee Pass and around on the West Side Road.

The Desert Golds

Sand Verbena

Gravel Ghost

Desert Chicory

Desert Five-Spot

Albino Desert Five-Spot

Notch-Leaf Phacelia

Golden Evening-Primrose

More Beavertail Cactus

Desert Star

Bigelow Monkeyflower

Desert Gold Poppy