Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Crossing California - Imperial Sand Dunes

Day One:

Forget Interstate 10, we found a scenic route to follow through southern California and west to the Pacific Ocean. Ed and I left behind the hospitality of our new found friends Denny and Sharon in Ehrenberg, Arizona to continue our travels. We mapped out a scenic route on California’s Highway 78.

A few days before, we covered part of this route to Palo Verde– our unofficial agricultural-tour – where we found the sheep and broccoli. Our new destination for the first day of our drive was the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area.

The wind carved sandy dunes rise up to staggering heights in Glamis, California. Although we could see tracks from ATVs and dune buggies, the only dune buggies we saw were two sheltered in protective trailers. A peek inside gave a glimpse of some custom dune buggies tricked out with lots of chrome. Very nice!

Our visit at the Imperial Sand Dunes would just be what I call a “look & see” – a brief stop while passing through California. We took a look around in the Glamis highway store. Clothing for the serious dune rider hung in rows. A rotating rack held post cards. Bags of chips set on shelves at $3.99 a bag. And, the clerk seemed more interested in watching the History Channel than engaging me in conversation about the area. He only offered that we’d need a recreation pass to spend the night in our coach near the dunes. He had them for sale for $40. “You can camp without it, but if a ranger checks on you, you’d better have a pass.” He shrugged indifferently and turned his attention back to the TV. He didn’t notice that we left.

Down the Highway 78 a bit, we found a road leading to a lookout. Had it been a crowded day, Ed may not have been able to make the wide U-Turn with the coach. With only one other RV, a couple of cars, and two Gold Wings in the lot, he had no trouble navigating.

From Hugh T. Osborne Lookout Park, we could access the dunes. After a few steps, I kicked off my Sketchers sandals to walk barefoot. The sand felt warm and the shifting sands massaged my feet as I walked across the crest of the highest and closest dune.

I later learned that the mining operation that I could see from my perch was the only remaining gold mine in California. And, the train that looked miniature in the distance provided frequent transportation for Mexicans who dare to ride the rails to illegally enter the US.

Scorched by the sun and sandy from the dunes, we boarded our own “train” – the coach, the tow dolly & car – and continued our southwesterly route on Highway 78 to Brawley, then north on Highway 111.

In the town of Calipatria, we found a level lot next to what looked to be an abandoned barn where we boondocked undisturbed through the night.

February 3, 2009

Imperial Sand Dunes, California

Interstate 10 from Blythe, CA then

South on Highway 78

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