Monday, September 22, 2008
Colorado's Huge Sandbox
Did you know there's a national park called "Great Sand Dunes" in southeastern Colorado? The tallest sand dunes in North America are formed here by a natural combination of the mountains, the sand, the wind and the water. We just learned about this unique spot a few months ago from RVer friends who passed along great photos and stories. So we made a path from Texas to Colorado while working our way to New Mexico. And here we are taking in another beautiful piece of the country.
We arrived at the park on Friday and luckily we were early, around noon, and were able to snatch one of the large enough campsites for Ferd. There are no electric or water hookups in the campground, but that doesn't seem to deter visitors. It filled quickly with families savoring the sunny days over this September weekend.
It's Sunday evening as I write this and all of a sudden there are many empty campsites. In fact, this afternoon we walked out our door to be greeted by five deer calmly nibbling on the bushes around our rig. They gave us a few glances and went on about their business. It was as if they had been waiting for the neighborhood to be evacuated.
But, back to the sand dunes, etc. It's difficult to capture the enormity of these dunes in the photos. The sand erodes from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the background, is moved by creeks and blown by the wind, all this in a cycle that deposits these towering sand mountains. People climb them, ski them and sled them. And the wind swiftly erases the foot prints and grooves left by humans and creates formations that look like giant whipped cream peaks or choppy waves. Well, I had to hike over at least a couple of these mounds. There was a swift wind blowing. But I did make it over a few dunes.
As would be expected, soon as we arrived Jerry learned about the 4wheel trails up into the mountains. We had a beautiful day yesterday following the Medano Pass trail. It starts out on several miles of deep sand, of course. Not long into the trail we came to a popular play area where folks were sledding on a very steep and high section of the dunes. Some even brought skis. There were many determined souls who dragged their sleds to the top for what looked like a fantastic ride down.
Our 22-mile trip over Medano Pass was a great ride too. The trail follows the route used by Zebulon Pike in 1806 and forged by the natives long before his explorations.
The elevation at the top of the pass is 10,040 feet. The views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Wet Mountain Valley are spectacular. On the way up the pass there are nine crossings of Medano Creek. And all along the way there is an abundance of aspens, pines, sage and wildflowers.
It turned out to be a longer route than we thought by the time we came over the other side. But we soon consulted our trusty map and found another interesting "unpaved" road that cut back toward the park and was quite scenic itself. By the time we stopped for pizza at the All Gon Pizza Parlor in Fort Garland we were just about starved. What did I say about getting ourselves back on the diet?!