Trip Dates: January 2 – 15, 2023
Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area– Glamis Flats – near Brawley, California
You will need a permit to utilize the ISDR from October 1st– April 15th each year. You can get daily or seasonal permits online from the Bureau of Land Management.
With drifts of soft white sand stretching beyond the horizon, winter is the best time to enjoy the Imperial Sand Dunes in California. A few light winds and one evening rainstorm were the exceptions to40-degree mornings, and sunshine warmed the air into the low 70 degrees range each day. It was perfect weather for enjoying time outside with friends!
When the guys chose the site for our camp, the best spot was in some loose sand. At the time, it made the most sense to tow our houses into good places and make getting them back out a “tomorrow problem.” It was a great strategy as no one crowded around us. In this area of the “washes,” I noticed that almost all ice cream truck drivers were women. I was grateful that none were running the “hello” track with their music! It was a much quieter area than the flats, especially during the week while we were working.
We participated in the annual Dunes Clean up and filled many garbage bags from Oldsmobile Hill. There were T-shirts and prizes for folks who participated. There’s a tremendous amount of waste in the dunes. I choose to believe it’s primarily accidental and not a bunch of assholes. I know I’m wrong, though. We also pick up everything except TP or wipes while on regular rides. We celebrated our contribution to the beauty of this giant sandbox with fries and a dip code at vendor row.
PRO TIP – always keep a roll of dog poop bags or small plastic garbage bags in the car while you’re out, as you never know when you’ll need one.
The can-am winch successfully pulled 3 of our friends out of some deep sand situations. We didn’t need paddles to get exciting runs through the big bowls and made it over Oldsmobile with the turbo like a breeze. I love this car!
I did lose our GoPro in the sand. It’s in a sealed case. If anyone finds it, they scored!
The camp was a relaxing, fun, and quiet place to work during the weeks until our friends joined us over the weekends. We introduced a five-year-old to Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood: Men in Tights. His giggles brought all of us tremendous joy. We played the movie on our projector against the 5th Wheel(Momentum 397th GD), where we hung a white screen from the bottom opening of a window. We lit up the campfire and devoured the best ham and beans from a Dutch oven I’d ever produced.
Russ and I tried out our new gel blaster guns. We discovered that one of them shoots way harder than the other. The hits I received were annoying, while Russ had welts from the exchange. Of course, I immediately claimed the good gun by putting a black circle on it with a sharpie. We had a few wars in the sand and set up a shooting course of beer cans in the sand to entertain ourselves and our five-year-old buddy.
Our next stop was uncommitted when we arrived. After deciding against going to the Ocotillo Wells Recreation Area, we scouted for anear by dump station and fresh water fill-ups. We couldn’t get too far without stopping to resupply first. A mobile dump truck will come to you; however, it’s$150, and we were in that deep sand, making that undesirable.
Deciding to head to the South side of the Imperial Sand Dunes, we did a dry run in the truck to Brawley, CA, and mapped our route down through the Sunbeam Rest Area on CA Highway 8 and then back and over to the Buttercup Sand Dunes. While the Sunbeam Rest area was out of our way, it was clean, well-lit, open 24 hours, had two sanitary dump and freshwater fill stations on each side of the highway, and was FREE—a hidden GEM for sure.
There were a few moments of challenges in our tribe, and duning was forever sworn off, not once but three times. Sadly, this trip did end in mechanical failure for one of the sand rails in our group. Most of our group decided to leave a day early, so we loaded up so they could pull us out of the sand and headed for the highway.
This trip was probably one of my favorites from a duning perspective. The days were overcast and cool, and although it was busy, we were in a quieter place. The dunes are never silent, by the way, so please don’t go there expecting otherwise. It does turn into white noise for me after about day3. Fireworks are always going off somewhere in the area once it gets dark. If you have dogs that do not like them, please help them get into a calm state or safe place at sunset. Every weekend night will have at least one camp with fireworks in Glamis.
We tested our boondocking resource limits on this trip. We did take all of the gas from our friend’s refill tanks into town and loaded them into the house tanks. We burn a tremendous amount of fuel in the can-am when riding in the sand as opposed to any other type of trail we’ve done. All that turbo running kills the gas mileage.
Two of our friends had tires blow out on their trailers in transit to the dunes on this trip. Based on our mileage and wear, the situation inspired us to replace our house tires while on the next leg of our journey.
Please read the next travel journal for insights on finding and scheduling the tire replacement, the economics of extended boondocking, a quick trip to Mexico, and the worst wind storm we’ve experienced so far!
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