Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Before I tell you about the park, I have a few pictures to catch up on from the night we arrived here. First, the KOA where we're staying has bunnies! Excuse me for just a minute...Squee!!!

Sadie and Smitty watched one nibbling grass just outside our door. They were in sneak 'em up mode...at times with their ears laid flat. That bunny had no idea how lucky he was.

As the sun set, we were treated to some beautiful fiery skies. It looked different depending on which direction we looked. To the back of our rig...

Looking to the passenger side of our rig...

Looking up...

It just got prettier and prettier.

Day is done.

In the morning, looking out the other direction, we saw a beautiful sunrise.

I was busy typing my blog posts to catch up on the week we were out of touch. Smitty was there beside me helping. Ordinarily, he's not allowed on the table, but in the small confines of the truck camper, we cut him some slack. It's the only view he has looking out the back of the camper, and so he's allowed up as long as we aren't eating.

Before taking off to see the national park, I got a start on the 4th of the four stitcheries I brought along with me. This is Farm Fresh Eggs from Bird Brain Designs.

It's a little worrisome having reached my last project when we're only halfway through our trip. Fortunately, we have a quilt shop on today's agenda where I can, hopefully, score a starvation stitchery if I see one I really need.

We drove into town for about an hour. Mike wanted to pick up a decongestant. We've both been bothered by the dry air and the elevation, but Mike has been particularly miserable with stuffy sinuses. We also stopped off at McDonald's for our beloved Egg McMuffin. When we finished our business in town, we headed in the other direction, on our way to the national park. We could see the dunes out Mike's side of the truck. We can also see them from the RV park.

When we turned north on the road leading into the park, we could see the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. This is the tallest peak.

Looking toward the front, we had an even better view of the dunes. These are the tallest dunes in North America. If you'd like to read more about them, you can visit the park web page right here.

I tried to get my customary picture of the sign, but these people were rudely posing for their own picture in front of everything. I'd hoped for another opportunity as we left the park, but nothing doing. It seems everybody wanted their picture in front of the sign.

The park was fairly crowded. It was Sunday, after all, but more importantly, a free day. As it turns out, September 15th is the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month.

We headed first to the Visitor Center, as we try always to do when visiting a national park. For one thing, we're on the hunt for refrigerator magnets and shot glasses. (When I say "we," I mean "me.") Inside were some explanatory signs about the area. I'll only show you a few. This first one relates to the next image below.

And here's the rest of the information related to #2.

They had no shot glasses, but I picked up a refrigerator magnet. Also, we've been on the hunt for a couple of coasters to use when we set frosty drinks on the table, and I found them here.

Also, I enjoyed this t-shirt. This "advice from a dune" was printed on various items in the gift shop.

Behind the visitor center was a short nature trail. The dune field is so large, there isn't really any way to capture it except in panorama. Remember that you can make the image larger by clicking on it.

Here's some more information about how the dunes are formed via the forces of wind and water.

It was a short trail...something of a botanical garden with signs along the way identifying the various plants. We've seen these little wild asters growing all over Colorado.

Here's a new one on me. I've been calling these blooming desert shrubs "sagebrush." As it turns out, it is actually known as "rabbitbrush."

This was an interesting graphic about settlement of this area.

And that was all fine and dandy, but our shadow selves really wanted to get closer to the dunes.

We drove up the road a short distance until we came to a parking area and a short trail leading out to the "dune sheet."

There were a lot of people here...many with large pieces of cardboard and other sand-sliding apparatus. We walked about halfway across the sand sheet, but it was hard on my knee walking on soft sand. After a while, we decided we'd gone far enough and turned back.

Out of curiosity, we drove through the park campground, which was full when I tried to make a reservation last month. Still, it was good to see it. I doubt any of the spaces were large enough to accommodate all 45 feet of our length. Instead, we decided to try hiking out to Zapata Falls just outside the park. There was a short hike in to see it, but it first meant driving up a very rough road. We had the camper still on the truck and decided against it. It did give us a nice view of the mountains behind us, however. Storm clouds seemed to be brewing.

From there, we headed back to the RV park and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon. We both took naps. I'd been up since 4:45 a.m., and a nap sounded pretty good to me. After our naps, we got Smitty out for a nice long walk. It was a good thing because it started raining late in the afternoon. We've noticed that Colorado tends to get thunder and lightning storms in the late afternoon. They blow through hard and fast, and then the sunshine returns.

Today we're moving west to Dolores, Colorado, where we'll stay two nights while we visit Canyon of the Ancients National Monument. I'm aware that Mesa Verde National Park is right near by, but we visited there in 2006, and so we won't go back this time around. Canyon of the Ancients would be enough reason to visit, but the road will take us through Cortez, where Cortez Quilt Company is located. I planned the itinerary for this trip, and so I routed us through Cortez. I can't remember how I heard about this shop, but something motivated me to print off a page and stuff it into my Colorado folder.

So, off we go. It's a bit of a long drive today at 265 miles, but the quilt shop is only 198 miles. We should arrive well before closing time.

3 comments from clever and witty friends:

Unknown said...

Barbara, you will be driving by Durango Quilt Company on the west side of Durango. It’s awesome. We live in NE Colorado and just did the same route your guys are doing. Enjoy!

Jenny said...

Wonderful scenery, the size and scope of these giant sand dunes is amazing. I know what you mean about people in the way when you want to take a photo. I try to wait patiently till they have finished and then clear the area, dont really want strangers in my travel shots, but sometimes its a hassle. I remember one time we were at a very famous sign and a mother was posing her kids this way and that, climbing up the sign, and must have taken two dozen snaps. And all the time a queue of people were waiting for their turn!

piecefulwendy said...

I remember walking across that sheet, and how difficult (and long) a walk it was. What beautiful sky photos! Hope you have a good cruise to the quilt shop. I note the comment about Durango; we stayed there on one trip. Lovely place! I didn't know about the quilt shop though :-( Anyhoo, enjoy your travels!