I was in my lowest gear, out of the saddle, and moving at three miles an hour. It would have been easier to get off the bicycle and push, but I am stubborn.
Three days before I had climbed over Greenhorn Pass in the Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains during a blinding snowstorm. I wasn’t going to let the Panamint Range of Death Valley National Park defeat me
There was ample time as I struggled up the mountain to question the sanity of doing a six-month, 10,000-mile solo bike tour around North America. I’d prepared for the journey by increasing my beer ration. Of course I paid for my folly. I usually do.
By the time I reached Death Valley, however, I was two weeks into the trip and my body was toughening up. I succeeded in making the nine-mile climb out of Panamint Valley to the top of the 4956 Towne Pass even though it took me three hours and burned half of my carefully acquired beer calories.
Euphoria was the result. Looking back, I count the climb as one of the top ten challenges of my 10,000-mile trek. It almost competes with dodging a tornado in Mississippi.
I rewarded myself by declaring it lunchtime. I also allowed myself to contemplate the 17 mile downhill ride into Stove Pipe Wells and what I would find at the bottom: the Sand Dunes of Death Valley.
I’ve been in and out of the Valley numerous times over the years. It’s all beautiful or at least wonderfully strange. But for me, the Sand Dunes are in a class by themselves. I am fascinated with their sinuous curves and how they contrast with the surrounding mountains. I love climbing up and down their slippery slopes in the early morning and wandering along their peaked ridges on a moonlit night.
The dunes are a product of wind, sand and topography, all of which Death Valley has an abundant share. Mesquite Flat Dunes, located at Stove Pipe Wells and featured in this blog, are the easiest to reach and the most commonly visited. Being relatively close to Hollywood, they have starred in many movies, including Star Wars.
The last time Peggy and I were in Death Valley, we brought along our bikes for a more relaxed tour of the Valley floor and dune area.