Great Sand Dunes National Park


FORWARD

After much preparation and planning, the time has come for us to hit the road. This proverbial road will include as much of the United States as possible and some of Mexico and Canada. It will be long in both distance and time and with all that lies ahead it has become a habit to mull over the possible series of happenings that are likely, unlikely, good and bad.

flat tires, broken bones, weight loss, mountain summits, personal growth, running out of gas, water and beer, getting lost, the dog getting sick, nice tans, bad tans, becoming an expert fire starter, loosing the car keys on a hike

These are just a few.

With one location down, the cliche holds true: the good outweighs the bad. First stop was home-state based Alamosa, Colorado where we parked the trailer for 2 nights and filled our days with fresh air and nature. In the end our muscles were sore and tired and our mental health was re calibrated in the way that only being in nature can accomplish. Not even a flat tire and a monster bee sting could shade our first experience of life on the road.


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You don’t know what you don’t know. We have lived in Colorado our entire lives and neither of us had visited the sand dunes. Now having been, it feels comparable to as if we had never skied or seen a concert at Red Rocks. It should be something you do when you live in Colorado.

The sand dunes are a natural wonder that compare in magnitude and setting to no other sand dunes in the United States. They nestle against a backdrop of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. For those of you that don’t hable espanol, that is Spanish for Christ’s sangria. JK, JC.

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We followed some word of mouth advice to go in the afternoon, when the sand would be a bit cooler and the shadows start to show. Instead of going to the popular main beach area, we took a 4×4 road (Medano Pass Primitive Rd), which is cautioned to use at your own risk, and gets you to a less populated site and right at the base of the dunes.

Looking up and out onto the sand, the strangeness of the sand dunes hovers. With the mountains so near, covered in pine trees and wild flowers, the sand stretches out, on and on, layer upon layer, towering up and seemingly transitioning the mountainous land straight into a Saharan desert.

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We had started the hike with no particular goal but eyed a peak that looked reachable. A few steps in and our shoes were filled with the warm sand. Matt had talked to a ranger on our stop into the visitor center and he recommended traversing the dunes rather than taking the shortest route. This would reduce the one step forward, half step back nature of the sand. We started out fine using this practice, but quickly ran into a what now moment at the base of a steep section. Against the advice, we hauled up the hill painfully, with extreme effort and with no lack of cursing.

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We made it to a ridge line and had the ease and luxury of following it up and up for an hour or so. We had made it high enough to see that truly the sand dunes stretch as far at the eye can see. Here it feels possible to achieve absolute solitude and peace. The sand stretches out like a satin sheet unbroken by trees, rocks or other debris that typically dot the earth. Nothing but sand and an occasionally breeze to break the silence and lift particles in the air to send them elsewhere.

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After playing awhile and marveling at the sand dunes oddity and strangeness we headed down. What was difficult on the way up was magnificently easy on the way down. It felt appropriate to jump and hurl our bodies down the slopes, causing minor landslides that kept us in a fluid motion downward. It seemed just like moments had gone by from when we left the top to where we were dusting ourselves off back at the car.

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We certainly could have spent more time there, taken a longer route or perhaps rented snow boards to use as if it were a ski hill. None the less the time we did have was complete. It was the first stop on our journey and it seems appropriate that we were in Colorado, having amazing adventures in our home state that we love and will happily return to.


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