Sand Dunes in the Mountains

I gave you a glimpse of the Great Sand Dunes National Park in the post for this week’s photo challenge.  It is worth revisiting in more detail, starting with the sunrise at San Luis State Park, just outside the dunes.  The San Luis campground was the ideal launching pad for a day trip to the Dunes as we continued our road trip through Colorado.

Campsite at San Luis State Park, Colorado
Our campsite at San Luis State Park, outside the Great Sand Dunes

As you approach the park entrance sign, the dunes are like a mirage at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Hiking the dunes on a summer day requires a morning start — that sand bakes in a hurry under a hot sun.  With no trees or other objects to provide cover or shade, one quickly gets a desert hiking experience.

Starting out on a Great Sand Dunes hike

Great Sand Dunes, Colorado

Sand angels are not a wise idea when you have your camera in your pocket.  Photos are great tools for capturing memories; this photo will always capture the memory of my son’s camera literally biting the dust.

Sand Angels in the Sand Dunes of Colorado

It took awhile to get the hang of climbing the dunes — there is a strategy to minimize the feeling of walking on a treadmill.

Not all came to hike.  We saw visitors with makeshift sleds, and others on skis, treating the sand like a warm weather ski hill.  No problem with congestion at this vast venue!

Climbing the dunes in Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park has such a unique setting — neverending desert-like dunes butted up against the extensive Sangre de Cristo mountain range.  Sunrise and sunset would provide for some phenomenal photo opportunities!

Hiking the dunes at the base of the Sangre de Cristo mountains

We had a goal of hiking to the top of the tallest dune, but settled for the second tallest, by our estimation.  We sat and rested for a water break before the return hike to the car.  Water bottles were quickly depleted, and sunglasses essential, as the sun climbed to its midday spot.

sand dunes hike 10 8_3_09

sand dunes hike 17 8_3_09

If you are pressed for time, even a half-day stop to wander through the Visitor Center and take a short walk onto the dunes is worthwhile.  However, spending a day or two exploring the nearby mountain trails and activities would make for a fun weekend trip.  We barely scratched the surface of this fascinating site.

Parting view of Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

The National Park website for the Great Sand Dunes National Park has all the information you need to start planning a visit to this unique Colorado destination.

Ciao! ~ Kat

Weekly Photo Challenge: Good Morning

I am not a morning person by nature.  But I find that pitching the tent and unplugging from the world for even a few days has me greeting the world as the sun crests the horizon.

Sunrise at San Luis State Park campground, Colorado

Interestingly, some science may underlie this tendency for even night owls like me to convert to early birds when spending time in the great outdoors.  This article explains that the “nature effect” on night owls who go camping is the most dramatic.  Apparently, we are all morning people at heart.

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.  ”Good Morning” was this week’s theme.  Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here.