Thursday, July 23, 2015

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

I'm not going to write much about our trip out or back--we took three (very long) days to drive each way. The way out there was fun, full of anticipation of what lay ahead and the novelty of the scenery (even though it was all cornfields). The air conditioning worked three times for about 20 minutes each, but it wasn't terribly hot (until the last stretch of Nebraska into Colorado, stuck in road construction). M, being a teenager, spent most of the time sleeping and listening to his iPod. On the way there, I engaged E and Z in reading, looking at the atlas and talking about the places we were going through. 

On the way back, they focused on the iPads for the 12 to 16 hours of driving each day, I read a depressing book, M slept again, and we all sat in stony silence, sweltering in the heat and humidity, and (me anyways) dreading the return to real life. I only took a few phone pictures during the trip there and back--my camera was safely tucked away in the car--which you can see in my Instagram feed over there on the right side bar if you're really curious.

BUT, before all that, we had an amazing time in Colorado.

We spent a couple of days in Denver, visiting with family, and then we headed south, to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

The Great Sand Dunes are formed from sand from the San Juan Mountains and coarser grains and pebbles from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains that washed into a huge prehistoric lake that covered the San Luis Valley. As the lake receded, winds piled the sand against the Sangre de Cristos, forming the tallest dunes in North America.

It had rained shortly before we got there, so the sand was somewhat packed and relatively easy to walk on.

We climbed to a false peak or two below the High Dune (C went back and climbed to the high point the next day).

Everywhere we looked, we were confronted by just stunning scenery, so pardon my excess of photos.

Last time I was here, C and I came in May, and it was cold and windy, so I don't remember appreciating it nearly this much. The time before that, I was 13 and had stomach flu. The time before that, I was three or four and only remember having sand EVERYWHERE after playing in the stream.

I love this big, shaggy juniper.

Our second day, we took a short hike along a back road.

I hadn't adjusted to the altitude yet, so I was perfectly happy hiking on a nice flat roadbed.

But someday, I'd love to go back and hike into the backcountry.

C makes fun of me for seeing the world through dead trees.

Mushrooms growing out of the sand? It must be a wet year.

I can't even estimate how high this wall of sand was. Looking at this picture, I think how lucky I am a chunk of it didn't break off and fall on me, but standing there, I felt no fear.

Water over looks amazingly like beach water over beach sand.

Our country has done a lot of terrible things to its great wealth of natural wonders (that's what the depressing book I read on the way home was about), but once in a while it gets something right. Rather than turn this unique place into a rich man's playground, or mine the dunes for silica, we did the right thing and preserved most of the dunes (~90%) as a wilderness area.

One gratuitous picture of me, after I handed M my camera and ran down a dune.


  1. Amazing!! Now I have another place to add to my places to visit list. Wow!

    1. You definitely need to go there, Kim. Though hitting it when it's not too cold and windy or so hot the sand burns your feet is tricky! We lucked out for sure.

  2. Wow! Breath taking... the pictures are stunning, that red against the blue sky, feels surreal. Thank you for sharing Can't wait to see more.

    1. Thanks, Yanic. We loved it there for sure!

  3. Absolutely stunning!! looks like you had an amazing time.


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