As Jon and I headed south towards New Mexico from Denver, we found ourselves close to Great Sand Dunes National Park. Great Sand Dunes is a sand dune field created by erosion of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The park encompasses both the dune field and the foothills of the mountains as a nature preserve.
November 9, 2014
Miles 11454 – 11725
As we neared the park, we could see the dunes in the distance. One of the amazing things about the dunes is their size, making it very deceiving from the road how close you are to the park. We stopped at the first roadside overlook only to discover we still had 20 miles to go before entering the park. When we got to the park, we stopped in the visitor’s center like always. A bit tired of geology at this point, we didn’t spend very much time reading about the park. We did ask a ranger about hiking and what shoes he recommended on the dunes (he said boots).
Unlike other parks, there are no trails to follow across the sand dunes. You simply pick the point you want to go to and walk there navigating the dunes and ridges to find the easiest path. Before entering the dune field, we had to cross the Medano Creek, which in November was only a few feet wide and an inch deep. If you go in the hotter months, the creek is a popular spot to splash around and build sand castles.
Great Sand Dunes National Park might be the park that Jon and I are the most divided about liking. Jon enjoyed its uniqueness from the other more wooded national parks and enjoys the sand for climbing, jumping, and sliding around in. I on the other hand have never really liked getting sandy and don’t like how difficult sand is to walk in, made worse by the day’s chilly wind and the dunes steepness. Regardless, we decided to hike to the top of High Dune which looms at 699 feet. Although without paths and since we walked to the tallest dune within eyesight, we think we might have actually ended up at at Star Dune which is 755 feet tall.
The view from the top of the Dune was very nice, overlooking the dramatic dune shapes with mountains in the background. Additionally, coming back down the dunes was an easier and nicer experience than walking up them. Even though the sides are steep, the sand cushions and slows the steps down. It was sunset as we left the park so we stopped for a few photographs.
That night we stayed in Alamosa, TX, more of a downtown area than many of the other small towns we’ve ended up in. The only downside is that on Sunday night several of our first choice restaurants were closed. We ended up eating at The Rubi Slipper. The burgers going to the other tables looked really good. We started out our meal with $1 fried tacos, then I had a steak salad and Jon had a burger with fried macaroni and cheese on it. I think we were both pleasantly surprised with our meals and we enjoyed watching the Sunday night football game.