By Bob Difley
If you are not a boondocker and don’t like weird, out-there locations, you need read no further.
However, since you are still reading, let me suggest a place where there is only one campground, a really primitive, no-hookup, barren and desolate spot, where there are only ten campsites, not all of them with picnic tables or fire rings.
You have to drive about ten miles over a rough gravel road (4WD not required). There is no water. No restrooms. No gas. No supplies. No smiling campground host. No internet or cell phone coverage.
The only other living species you might see are beetles and the occasional jack rabbit. And it’s dark — very, very dark — and quiet. You might hear a mournful coyote at night. And you will hear something else.
A low rumbling sound. Unidentifiable and strange, like the deep, penetrating bass note of an organ, or the moaning of a sleeping giant.
This is Eureka Dunes, in the northernmost part of Death Valley National Park, hidden in the enclosed Eureka Valley at a 3,000-foot elevation. The dune formation is about a mile wide and three miles long and rises about 700 feet above the valley floor. It is other-worldly and strangely silent — except for the noises.
Scientists do not know for sure what makes these sounds, but speculate that it comes from avalanches of dry sand tumbling down the steepest faces of the dunes, the sand grains grinding against each other creating a strange, low, booming echo.
The dunes are closed to all off-highway vehicles, and horseback riders, and sandboarders. That’s good. And you can walk to the top of the dunes, and follow the ridgeline to the highest point, and that’s good also.
There are only about 35 locations in the world that make these strange sounds. All of them are in the desert. Several lie in the United States: the Panamint Dunes — also in Death Valley; Kelso Dunes, in California’s Mojave National Preserve; and in Nevada, Big Dune in the Amargosa Valley, Sand Mountain near Fallon, and Crescent Dunes near Tonopah. And if you find the sleeping giant, for your own safety, don’t wake him up.
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