Algodones Dunes

It’s mid–June in Eastern California. The Arizona and Mexico borders are equally close. With the daytime temperature locked at around 114°F, the obvious choice is to drive out into the middle of a wide expanse of rolling amber–coloured sand dunes.

This is our 20th anniversary trip*. We’re driving a semi-planned route through the deserts of California and Arizona. We have spoken about being in this landscape since shortly after we first met. Before we could even drive, we wanted to see this bizarre, harsh, and beautiful environment.

We haven’t been disappointed. Despite the incredible dry heat that pushes against you and even whips against you in oven hot wind, we are baffled, overjoyed, freaked out, and amazed by this place.

Travelling to the dunes on Route 78 East out of Brawley, California was an extra shock as green irrigated crop and grazing lands gave way to a wall of endless rolling sand.

In another season, this area is raucous with ATV traffic. The tracks criss–cross most surfaces and people come out here to day camp. The feeling as two odd Canadians here at a time when all the locals know better is both wonderful and a bit terrifying. Walking for a couple minutes across a few dunes and looking back, I can see only more dunes. The car and Gayla are no where to be seen so I head back.

The little cinder block campsite toilets off in the distance make me think of houses on Tatooine. My eternal inner Star Wars child is excited hoping to see a Jawa sandcrawler over the next rise. I will later find out that parts of Return of the Jedi were filmed here.

At points the dunes subside and flatten, stretching eventually towards dotted desert scrub lands. Still harsh and seemingly endless, the sparse silver-toned plants would be like a lush garden to someone emerging from these dunes after more than the couple of hours we stayed here.