Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Sand Man


A large portion of the Coachella Preserve is a sand dune system in the middle of the Coachella Valley. While there used to be numerous sand dunes around the area but many have been gobbled up due to development. This area, though, is permanently set aside to protect the wildlife who call the dunes their home.

The Preserve is the largest tract of open land in the upper Coachella Valley area.

Most of the area is surrounded by fences but there are a few open entry points. The sign has symbols saying you can't use any vehicles within the Preserve but it's open to hikers and horses. No pets are allowed.

The dunes are a ways off so I hike across the open desert to get to them. There are no trails.

The dunes are untrammeled and take on interesting designs created by the wind.

They also show prints of animals which travel across the sand. Here is the telltale track of a Sidewinder. The Sidewinder has adapted to the sandy environment with his sideways motion so as not to sink into the sand.

I, on the other hand, do not have any such mechanism from keeping me from sinking.

The dunes are growing and fences which have been put up to keep the sand in place are quickly swallowed by the advancing blowsand.

Left long enough this car will eventually be buried by the sand and become part of the dune.

Amazingly, dunes often begin where there is water present. Water beneath the surface allows plants, like this mesquite to grow. As the sand blows, it is caught by the leaves of the plant and as the dune grows it catches more and more sand until you have a sandy landscape devoid of the plants that caused it in the first place.

The dunes are growing and trying to take back some of the space we've taken from them. Eventually, they may win and, in some way, so will we.

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