On our recent trip to Death Valley, we were blessed to experience so much beauty and deep connection with ancient lands. A humble and loving bond with Mother Earth.
We experienced one gift after another. Many of these arose from what some would call ‘weather drama’. For me these moments were deep medicine teachings from the soul of Mother Earth.
New snowfall leading to the magical moment of witnessing snow evaporating into a tarn across the expanse of The Playa as I shared in my previous blog post. A full moon dancing in and out of the backlit clouds as we walked around the tight curves of the Titus Canyon narrows at night. A wind storm sweeping across the valley floor whipping up sand and coloring the sunrises and sunsets for two days with a palette of astounding beauty.
The wind was the catalyst for another magical experience I would like to share here. It was the day after out magical Racetrack/Playa experience. We stopped by the ranger station for some hiking suggestions as we had heard there was an unprecedented windstorm to arrive that afternoon/evening. After sharing our Racetrack/Playa magic with he woman ranger, I asked her about hiking to the Panamint Dunes. These dunes are in the Panamint Valley (one valley to the east from the main Death Valley expanse). Her final words as we walked out of the door were, “Better start now so you can get back before the winds arrive.”
We took her up on her advice and promptly began the lovely drive over Town Pass from Death Valley to Panamint Valley with Telescope Peak, which is they highest peak in Death Valley, guiding us over our left shoulder the whole way.
We drove the rough road to the trailhead which is actually just a dirty spot at the end of the road surrounded by an endless expanse of desert as far as the eye can see.
We could see the Pananmint Dunes four miles to the east in the distance appearing like they were ‘hanging’ or ready to slide off the side of the mountain. The dunes are about 2000 feet above and a four mile walk across the desert from where we were currently parked.
The air was still, the sky was blue with some high wispy clouds and it was comfortably warm. We packed up and headed off with light and open hearts.
This area has many endemic plants that are found no where else in the world. We were gifted the walk to be just the two of us and the land. There was a group of four who started about fifteen minutes before us. They headed toward the smaller dunes to the right and we headed toward the tallest dune to the north. It was as if we had this surreal world to ourselves. Just us and the lizards, mesquite and sage!
There were countless lizard tracks going in and out of the rocks and under mesquite bushes. We also saw desert hare tracks and were serenaded by the occasional desert birdsong.
The dunes stood there silently calling to us to come and explore. They seemed ancient yet so malleable. Snow covered Telescope Peak loomed in the distance behind us, the beacon to guide us back to the car which now was only an occasional glint of blue steel dancing off the rays of the sun. Far in the distance.
We reached the plateau where the dunes resided and slowly began ascending up the valley floor to the dunes that stood as sentinels before us. They truly appeared as if they were mountains of sand prepared to shift at a moment’s notice possibly at the beckoning of the wind’s desire.
Light shifted and the dancing shadows played with our souls as we walked closer and closer to these monoliths of light colored sand with streaks of dark sand hanging off the ‘ribs’ laying in various directions and angles.
We each chose a slightly different path up the largest dune in front of us. Ian decided to ascend the probable 400 foot climb to the peak of the dune directly up the main ridge to the right. I chose to ascend the ‘rib’ of slightly darker sand more to the left that ran perpendicular to the main ridge. We met part way up and made the final ascent together.
The sand was soft, inviting, and beautiful to experience your steps magically appear in a track behind you. Once Ian and I met up, I followed in his fishtail footsteps along the main ridge to the peak of the dune.
Tumbleweeds were being blown across the sides of the other dunes and as the wind slowly began, it’s voice echoed in our ears.
We attempted to eat lunch at the peak but the ever increasing wind had different plans for us. Rather than eat sand with our lunch, we were drawn to experience the ever-increasing wind blow sand off the top of the neighboring dunes as if it was a scarf trailing from it’s neck.
Some high clouds were now present and the dancing shadows and light were getting more eerie and beautiful. We knew the wind storm was brewing. Looking out onto Panamint Valley proved that wildly! The sand was being whipped up so we couldn’t see the highway we drove in on from Towne Pass!
We reluctantly said our final good-byes to this beautiful monolith of shape-shifting sand. All taken deep into our hearts and souls and laughing all the way, we plunged down the side of the mountain of deep sand to a slightly more protected area below for lunch. Joined by some small black beetles, we ate, communed and were grateful for this surreal place and moment.
We knew we had a four mile walk back across the desert with winds that were increasing in veracity with every minute that went by! Packing up we gave our humble gratitude to this special place and took off in line with Telescope Peak like a shining star to guide us to our car.
The winds continued to pick up with each minute and by the time we arrived at the car they had been blowing easily at the predicted 40-50mph! We looked like the pioneers that had crossed these valley in the 1800 and 1900’s–only with today’s modern cotton handkerchiefs for scarves!
As we returned, we frequently turned to observe the receding view of the dunes behind us in the shifting and dancing patterns of shadows and light.
The dunes were completely shifting into a new shape before our eyes! The darker sand ribs were now gone and a whole new world of sand was being co-created by wind, sand and time!
We couldn’t talk to each other on the way back as the wind was deafening. In our own worlds, deeply tied together by love, commitment and experience, we witnessed a new world being born before out eyes!
Out of the seeming chaos and disorder of the wind was birthed a new world of order. A new monolith of shifting sand held in the paradox of light and dark. We stayed to the course steady and with open hearts. We arrived at the car and looked into each other’s eyes knowing we had witnessed one of nature’s small yet magnificent miracles. Again. Grateful.
Can you see the shape of our own new world coming into being? Out of the disorder, disarray and chaos that is alive right now!
What if your keep an open and curious heart? What if you allow the wind to blow through you? What if you know that as the current tracks are being erased by the wind, a new world will take shape? What if your courageous perseverance, commitment, love and presence will co-create that new world? One that can hold both dark and light concurrently allowing us to be become true stewards for all of Life?
May it be so!