Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes – Death Valley
Stovepipe Wells, Furnace Creek – California
36° 36′ 54″ N, 117° 6′ 47″ W

California – Early Day 5:
Just a few miles from our hotel at Stovepipe Wells were the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.  The constantly evolving dunes are a unique experience which we decided to view in the early morning.  So after a night of broken sleep in the 80°F hotel a 5am alarm call allowed us to kit up with warm clothing and water, head to the Jeep and drive the short distance to the dune parking lot off Hwy. 190.  From the deserted car park we walked a few miles out into the dunes to be in place on the top of the larger dunes before the sun began to rise.

Part of the Death Valley National Park, the dunes are a protected wilderness which has made them the perfect Hollywood film sets, including becoming the backdrop of the “Droid Dunes” from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.  Surrounded by the Cottonwood Mountains, these dunes are relatively protected so rise only 30 metres (100 ft), but cover a vast area with three types of dunes: crescent, linear, and star shaped.  The dunes floor is made up of polygons of cracked clay from an ancient lakebed.

From Mesquite we drove across the desert to Rhyolite Ghost Town, and then on to Zabriskie Point.