Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Not All Who Wander Are Lost
June, 2019 - Mount Denali, Alaska

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Great Sand Dunes National Park

We arrived at Blanca RV Park on Monday afternoon after another trip through mountains.  There was about an 8 mile stretch where we were climbing the entire time.  Kevin is pretty sure he heard the truck chanting “I think I can, I think I can”.  At one point, our top speed was 35 MPH, but we made it!

I found this campground in Passport America.  The plusses are it is close to Great Sand Dunes National Park and the price is $10 a night for a full hook-up site with 30 amp service. There are also showers and laundry, but I haven’t checked them out.  Otherwise, the place is pretty much a dump.  There are a few mobile homes in the back with a bunch of kids running around.  There are also several construction workers staying here for the summer.  The highway is close, and you can hear trucks going by.  So, it definitely doesn’t have any wow factor, but the price is right for a few days of exploring the area.

Great Sand Dunes National Park 1 Yesterday we spent several hours at Great Sand Dunes National Park.  It’s another amazing place!  This is a 30 square mile area of sand dunes nestled between two mountain ranges.  Due to the contrasting direction of the winds coming off of each mountain range, the sand is blown back and forth, keeping it in the valley.  The tallest dune is 750 feet making it the highest sand dune in North America.  It’s one of those areas where you’re driving along the range, and all of a sudden these amazing sand dunes appear. The Sangre De Cristo Mountain range is behind the dunes, and the views of the dunes and mountains are incredible.  Pictures just don’t do it justice.

Great Sand Dunes National Park People at top We started out at the visitor’s center where we watched another very informative movie.  There were several displays showing how the dunes were formed and explaining the history of the area.  This was the view from the back of the visitor center.  The tiny dots on the highest dune are people.  That dune is named High Dune and is 650 feet high.  If you climb to the top of it, you can see the tallest dune, Star Dune, which is another 1-1/2 miles behind High Dune.

Great Sand Dunes National Park Evelyn near top 2 We thought we were up for the challenge of climbing to the top of High Dune.  After all, we hiked on trails with higher elevation gains last week in RMNP.  So, we drove to the parking lot, and set off.  I had my hiking pole which came in very handy.  I must say the altitude really kicked my butt this time.  Climbing in sand is tough, and it was pretty much straight up once you got to the dunes.  I was really having trouble breathing, and Kevin didn’t look so good either.  I’d climb about 20 or 30 steps, and have to stop because it felt like my heart was going to explode, and I couldn’t breath.  We got about three-quarters of the way to the top of High Dune, and I decided it was time to quit.  I was getting a little scared that pushing on might be medically unsound.  The picture shows how far we got.  High Dune is the highest peak in the back.  We only saw a few people make it to the top.  Most turned back far from the top.  One of the rangers we talked to last week told us that it actually takes people about 4 months to fully acclimate to the higher elevation.

Great Sand Dunes National Park Kevin near top Here’s Kevin on the way down.  If you look closely, you can see people on different parts of the dunes.  There are no paths.  Hikers are allowed to go anywhere they want. 

Further into the park was the park campground.  There was a 2 mile round trip trail starting at the campground called Dunes Overlook Trail.  That sounded like a good trail for us.  It was pretty much uphill the entire mile to the top.  Kevin wants me to be sure and tell you that all trails in Colorado go uphill :)

The views of the dunes along this trail were breathtaking.  The pine trees that grow here are called Pinon trees.  Here are a few pictures of the views from the trail.

Great Sand Dunes National Park Dunes and Aspen

Great Sand Dunes National Park view from hiking trail

On the left side of this picture is the parking lot.  You can see how far it is to climb to the top.

We had a very enjoyable day exploring Great Sand Dunes National Park.  It was another tiring day, but as I’ve said before, it’s a good kind of tired :)

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!