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| Claudia Heller | Trip Reports

2020 - Trip Report - My Personal Dust Devil

`My Personal Dust Devil

By Claudia Heller

There I was sitting on a soggy stream bank spying on three killdeer and feeling the dampness of the ground seeping through my jeans. The Death Valley sun was high over Salt Creek and black storm clouds hovered threateningly over the mountains in the distance.

Before I saw it, I felt its presence. A strange and eerie feeling came over me, as if something were about to happen. As I looked over the small cliff some 500 feet away, I saw it – my own personal dust devil swirling frantically toward me. It slid neatly down the cliff, soft sand forming a perfect funnel, thick and brown at the base, tapering to beige and then disappearing into the brilliant blue desert sky. It travelled some 100 feet to the river, and as it passed over the shallow waters I could see the ripples in its wake swirl then die down as it passed.

My dust devil passed within a few feet of me and despite its furious appearance it lightly kissed my cheek as it spun by. I watched it skid across the desert floor behind me and then off into the distance, disappearing behind a rocky hill.

My first thought was to tell someone, but then I thought “who would care?”  A close encounter with a dust devil is a personal experience one must live, for the thrill is difficult to explain.   ~ Claudia