White Sands, Storm

6-22-09_EntryRoad

My hike into the dunes. A storm cut this expedition short but I enjoyed it. I planned this as an inferno hike but, as for a few years, it has been cooler. I will hike here again. More things to see: the alkali flat, the flat area with plants that I saw this time, more types of dunes, the edges of the field, Lost River, and the non-dune desert nearby.

East of the Entry Road
East of the entry road.
Yucca with Seed Pods
Yucca with seed pods.
Yucca Seed Pods
Yucca seed pods about 3.5 inches long.
 Flat areas between dunes have ridges and other formations.
Flat areas between dunes have ridges and other formations.
A flower in a flat.
A flower in a flat.
A plant in a flat.
A plant in a flat.
A flower in a flat.
A flower in a flat.
Probably kangaroo rat tracks.
Probably kangaroo rat tracks.
Art photograph.
Art photograph.
This is about 3.5 feet tall. I'm not sure if it is a pedestal from roots or a wind erosion feature. The yuccas probably shelter it from wind. I think both roots and wind shelter formed this.
Pedestal

This is about 3.5 feet tall. The yuccas shelter the sand from wind so the pedestal is left when the rest of the dune moves.

Pedestals 6 to 8 feet tall.
Pedestals 6 to 8 feet tall.
This is the formation I saw from the road. They are about 10 feet tall.
Pedtals

I saw these 10 foot tall pedestals while driving in toward the picnic area.

An advancing dune partially covers these yuccas.
An advancing dune partially covers these yuccas.
Formation

I saw this curved formation, about 3 feet tall, on the way back to the truck. This area is close enough to the edge of the dunes that there is much vegetation in the flat areas. I saw ants, a bee or wasp, tracks, and sand formations. I saw lizards with light blue tails. About 91 degrees.

6-22-09_Dunes6
A dune.

I returned to the truck and drove until I was close to the picnic area. The picnic tables with the curved metal shades were there as for decades. There weren’t many people there. It used to be a popular place. According to signs there is now a nature center and off trail hikers are to register there. I didn’t. I saw split log fences, markers, signs, and other developed things that are new or more numerous. I liked it better when there wasn’t so much stuff. I could see a storm raining on the mountains to the east.

Dunes are formed by wind. Wind moves the grains along flats and up the windward side. Grains fall and form a rise or dome. The windward side of the dune above is on the right. Its leeward side is to the left. The leeward side is protected from the wind so grains that pass the top fall near the top. This forms a steep slope called the slipface. When it becomes steep enough small avalanches occur and the sand slides down. Sometimes sections of a slipface will sheer off and slide all at once. Changing winds, storms, and dunes intersecting make complex shapes. Dunes move. They drift along with the wind.

I walked west into the sand sea. There were more plants, mostly grass, in the flat areas than I expected. As I went farther there were fewer plants until there were some flats with none and some with just one or two. The dunes here were 20 to 35 feet tall. Some maybe more. They make long ridges. Walking on the tops and not too steep parts was easy. Soft sand wouldn’t have been easy. While going up a steep dune your feet sink in and slide back a little and avalanches cover them more if you’re on the slipface.

Slipface slides.
Slipface slides.

I climbed up a slipface. My feet made the angle of the sand above them steeper than the angle of repose, the steepest angle where the sand doesn’t slide. That started these slides or avalanches. They are 3 or 4 feet long.

Ripples
Ripples
Crusts and ridges.
Crusts and ridges.
Layers
Layers
Sparkles
Sparkles

Sandy places aren’t smooth powder. There are features and formations. There are ripples from an inch to several inches wide mostly on the windward side. Slides on the leeward side. Crusts and ridges in the flats. Sometimes the layers of the packed sand below area revealed.

The sand would sparkle as I walked. There were specks that I think are biological material from plants.

Dune
Dune
Dunes
Dunes
Dunes
Dunes
Dunes and footprints.
Dunes and footprints.

Dunes. 101 or 102 degrees.

Big Pedestal
Big pedestal.
Big pedestal.
Big pedestal.

This large pedestal is around 20 feet tall.

Big pedestal with plants.
Big pedestal with plants.
Big pedestals with plants.
Big pedestals with plants.

I saw big plants like those in the distance in above. I went there and saw this pedestal. It is probably 25 feet tall! Another big one is nearby.

From the taller dunes here I could see a large flat sandy area with many plants to the west and a building and a tower to the north west.

A storm approaches.
A storm approaches.
Wind
Wind

The sky had grown cloudy and I saw a wall of sand streamers approaching. That means wind is coming. The storm I saw earlier would be here soon.

The wind was fairly strong as I started back. I saw streams of sand blowing over dunes. In the
movie you will see sand blowing up the slipface of a dune in the opposite direction of the winds that mostly built the dune.

I wanted to explore some more but not in a storm so I went back to the truck.

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2 thoughts on “White Sands, Storm

  1. Thanks! I found that if you walk along the crest then the sand blast just goes up a foot or so on your legs. Just a little farther back and it blows in your face.

  2. Awesome movie of the sand coming off the Dune! I Know what its like to be on the receiving end of the sandblast

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