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Catch Our Drift: Sand Dunes

With summer quickly approaching, thoughts turn to sand and sea. And even those of us who are landlocked can enjoy the silica splendor of America’s impressive and oddball inland dunes.

Singing Sand Dune.
Singing Sand Dune, Nevada
Along the shores of Lake Michigan you will find an array of majestic pearly piles such as the Indiana Dunes (“The Casual Coast”) and Silver Lake Sand Dunes. Spread out a towel and make believe you are at the ocean’s edge. Lake Michigan is so huge (surface area: 22,300 square miles) that the illusion is pretty convincing, with 100% authentic “whipping waves” and suitably dangerous riptides. Silver Lake has a lighthouse and dune buggy rentals; at the Indiana Dunes you can see the distant city of Gary from the observation platform. (The Great Lakes Dunes have even been honored with their own sheet of souvenir postage stamps.)

The Highest Sand Dune in North America is located within the Great Sand Dunes National Park in North Mosca, Colorado. Topping out at 750 feet high, Star Dune is a monstrous mound that makes for some truly tiring trudging. The nearby “High Dune” is not nearly as high.

On a lighter note, head for the “Singing Sand Dune” at Sand Mountain, Nevada. Slide down the side of the mountain and you will hear the pile emit a strange moan. The eerie note you hear is (usually) two octaves below middle C. There are many other “singing sands” around the world. A group of scientist have studied the phenomenon and concluded that it is the result of the synchronized motions of grains of sand, with the outer layer of the dune vibrating like a loudspeaker. Now…Name That Dune!

Camel in the Desert of Maine.
Camel, Desert of Maine.
Finally, our choice for quirkiest dune destination is the “Desert of Maine” in Freeport. Although the state features some of the most dramatic and picturesque coastline in the country, tourists are drawn to this 40-acre inland dry patch, the result of poor farming practices of the past. The official website insists that you will have “an unforgettable journey.” We agree.

Exploiting erosion is the name of the game, with camel statues, a “tree-eating dune,” sand bottle crafting, and a large well-stocked gift shop. The highlight of any visit will most likely be “The Sand Museum”: a display of far-flung sand samples from around the world, sealed in vials for your perusing pleasure. We have to admire the attention to detail that went into this small “museum” of the miniscule. After all…no pain, no grain!

[Post by Anne D. Bernstein]

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