We are gathered here today, at the foot of the Last Chance Mountains, to pay our respects to Eureka Dunes. You were once majestic: soaring out of the valley floor. You were once magical: mystery and adventure waited within your depths. You enchanted us in our youth, challenged us in early adulthood, and inspired us later in life to try and stand the test of time right alongside you. Time finally caught up with you, as it must for all of us eventually.
Though future generations will miss out on getting to enjoy all the experiences you had to offer: the educational opportunities, the frivolities you pandered in abundance, the chances to test their mettle, to grow and become more than they were when they first step foot upon your sandy reaches, we are not here to mourn you. Rather, this is a celebration of your existence.
We will keep you alive in our hearts and minds by remembering what you meant to us, what you did for us, and what we learned from you. Anyone who had the privilege of visiting with you at least once will have their own stories to tell, and I will encourage them to share those stories in a few moments
in the comment section below. This, however, is my story. This is how you will always be alive for me.
My first impression of you, as we dropped into the valley and we could see you far off in the distance is that you weren’t as impressive as I had thought you would be. The buzz words had been “tallest sand dunes in CA” and possibly “the tallest in North America.” I had built you up in my mind and then I was unimpressed. But, we kept driving, and driving, and driving and as we grew closer you jutted out of the valley floor to tower above everything else. The ridges and peaks of the Last Chance Mountains still dwarfed you, but they are mountains and dwarf everything by comparison. We arrived, set up camp, and then we were unleashed upon you.
We took our modified skateboards, with the trucks and wheels removed, and the bottoms sanded and waxes and went crawling and sprawling over the expanse of the dunes. We walked for what seemed like forever, climbing to the peaks of the nearest ones, and sitting on our boards to slide down into the bowls and valleys usually losing control and tumbling off to slide and roll the majority of the way down. We laughed, dusted ourselves off and continued on in search of the highest peaks, the steepest slopes, and every second of fun we could squeeze out of those moments.
Bruised, battered, weary and jubilant we returned to camp before the sun set so we could replenish our energy through food. We sat around our little fires to keep warm and we relived the days activities, our shouts of laughter echoing back and forth off the valley walls. We were giants among giants. We had tested ourselves against the dunes and we had survived.
As the moon and stars came out to play and our fires sputtered out, I figured we would be headed to bed to rest up in preparation of a full day of time on the dunes the next day. I was wrong. Following the older scouts lead, we donned our warmest gear (boy scouts after all – we had come prepared), fired up a few lanterns, grabbed our flashlights and boards and headed back out into the dunes, into the darkness, into the night.
The slightest breeze can send the dunes shifting, the fine sand swirling around, moving, reforming. During the day you could see plumes of sand being sent skyward off the tallest ridges. At night, when we could no longer rely on our sight, we could feel the ground shifting underneath our feet. It was then when we could really understand that the dunes were alive. It was then the magic of the dunes came out to play with us. I was enthralled. I was ensnared. I was cold, and tired, and filthy, and in love. Through the caress of the icy sand, on those moonlit nights, lost in their depth and wrapped in the adventure it offered, I knew the dunes loved me too.
I returned to their embrace every year after that while I remained a boy scout. I went from following the elder scouts’ leads to running my own course, to be followed in return by new generations of scouts. We explored every valley. We climbed every peak. We hiked around the whole expanse. We learned and laughed and were shaped into the men we would become as we tested ourselves against the elements and the dunes.
Times have changed, as they will always do, and while the wind has yet to blow the dunes into oblivion the rules and laws have changed. People are no longer allowed to set foot upon them so they may be preserved for future generations to see, unspoiled by our impact of trespassing across them. I am sad that I will not get to unleash my children to roam their slopes but I will tell them my stories, I will see the shine of magic in their eyes when I do, and I will know you live yet.
That is my story of the Eureka Dunes. Please, now, if you will, I would be honored if you would share yours…