The Sand Dunes of Magdalena Bay

by Leila Olsen-Phillips

The warm soft sand felt amazing on my bare feet. The dune was huge, maybe forty feet of pure sand shaped over hundreds of years. I was breathing heavily because of the effort it took to clamber  to the top of the dune; but finally, I made my way to the top. The view was incredible; there was sand as far as the eye could see. I could no longer resist . I sprinted at top speed, which was hard considering the sand, I was approaching the edge of the dune… closer… closer, and the time finally came, I jumped.

June2013PATH Dunes1It felt like I was flying, although I think I left my stomach at the top of the dune. I was falling… falling gaining speed, my hair was flying in the wind. Then I hit the ground unharmed, it was soft and comfortable. I just lay in the sand not minding that it was slowly seeping into my clothing. After a while I got up and started making my way back to the top. As I climbed up I had to keep reminding myself that the jump was worthwhile and having to climb up again was but a small price to pay.

We, my class of fifteen, had managed to raise enough money to take part in an ecology project in Baja, Mexico. At the moment we were on an island made up of sand dunes in Magdalena Bay. The island was about a fifteen minute boat ride from our campsite. I was bundled up because Mag Bay was about 15o C cooler than Espiritu Santos where we had previously stayed. I now regretted my toque and sweater.June2013PATH Dunes2 I wanted to leave them on top of the dune but I decided not to because one of my classmates had already lost a shoe in the sand.

After about 20 more dunes we had made it to our destination: The Pacific Ocean. The second I laid eyes on it I realized where the paintings and stereotypes of rough, stormy oceans came from. The tide was out so there was a beach about 100 meters in width littered with the dead remains of deep sea animals. I slipped on my shoes so no sharp rocks of bones would pierce the thin skin that covered my feet.

When we made it to the water I dipped my foot in and jumped back in surprise, it was freezing. The water was blue/gray and the waves were taller than my 5.3 ft body. When they hit the shore there was a huge crashing sound; the waves would bring up kelp and sea-weed and toss them on  the beach. I bent down to pick up a piece of kelp and was surprised when I nearly dropped it. It was slippery and wet, much different than I had anticipated.

Suddenly I heard one of my friends scream, I ran over to see what the matter was. She had found a dead sea turtle, it was a   Cholonia Mydas or Green Sea Turtle. The turtle’s shell was, it looked like spray painted, blue and red; this was how the scientists would keep track of the number of dead turtles. The sight was horrible, its little turtle face was shriveled up and dry so you could clearly see the outline of its scull, its skin had sunken in around  its eye sockets, its  flippers torn apart and crusted with blood and it had this disgusting aroma about it, like salty death water. Its shell was soft and bouncy because it had been dead for a fair amount of time. It sickened me.

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The walk back was long and uncomfortable for most. Unlike most of my classmates, I had not gotten wet, so the walk was only long for me. The trek back wasn’t as exciting because our hike to the Pacific had completely tired us out; but none the less, we jumped off the dunes because we would most likely never return.

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