Garden of the Gods to Great Sand Dunes NP

Trip Start Aug 29, 2013
Trip End Sep 15, 2013

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Where I stayed
Great Sand Dunes Lodge Mosca
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of United States  , Colorado
Tuesday, September 3, 2013

We got up about 8:00 and went for breakfast.  We had waffles etc. at the La Quinta.  We packed up and loaded the car and were on the road shortly after 9:00.  Our first stop was Albertson's Grocery where we got more meat, cheese, and Pringles.  Next we drove to Garden of the Gods and parked and walked down among all the rocks.  It was already hot, especially when we weren't in the shade.  We saw lots of birds on the first part of our walk.  We got to the other end of the loop path I discovered that the battery was dead on my camera so I didn't get pictures of some of the most interesting formations.  We will be back next week on our tour, so I hope to get the ones I missed today then.  We went to Balance Rock again and then headed out to Rt. 24 which would take us to I 25 south.  We were right by Manitou Springs so we took a drive into town and found the Cliff House where we will stay next week.

It didn't take us long to drive down to I 25 and before long we were whizzing along at 75 MPH.  We drove through Pueblo which seemed very industrial.  One factory which caught our eye was one which manufactures the poles for big wind turbines.  We stopped south the Pueblo at the Cuerno Verde Rest Area in Colorado City for our lunch.  We got a nice table under a tree in the shade.  This was amazing as we had been driving through mostly desert with ocotillo cactus growing everywhere.  We had a leisurely lunch and then headed to Walsenberg where we got off on Rt. 160 where we finally headed west.  We had to wait on a long train of ore cars in Walsenberg.  We drove over the Sangre de Cristo mountains through the La Veta Pass where it rained and the temperature dropped from 90+ to 60 in about five minutes.  As we descended from the pass the temperature went back up to 82.  We drove through Fort Garland and Blanca and then came to Rt. 150 which headed north to Great Sand Dunes National Park.

We could see the dunes in front of the mountains from many miles away.  We passed the road to Zapata Falls which we hope to visit.  When we got close enough we stopped to take a picture.  We stopped to take another picture at the entrance and stopped at several markers on the way to the Visitor's Center.  In the Center we talked with a naturalist about what there is to do.  There is much more to do here than hike up the dunes, which by the way are the tallest in North America.  We watched a 20 minute movie on the park.  We started to hike the nature trail at the Center and it started to sprinkle just a little.  We could hear thunder and more dark clouds moving in, so we opted  to drive a couple of places just to have a look.  We stopped at the Dunes Parking and went to look at the dunes.  It looks like a half a mile walk just to get to the base of the dunes.  People on the dunes looked like little ants.  Then we drove out to the campground and to the beginning of the gravel road that goes to Point of No Return.  This is where cars that do not have 4-Wheel drive have to turn around.  We decided to to that tomorrow. 

Then we headed to Great Sand Dunes Lodge.  On the way back it started to rain in earnest, the biggest drops I had ever seen.  It got darker and the thunder cracked and the lightening sparked all across the sky.  It was awesome!  Then the pea-sized hail started coming down hitting the roof and windows with a terrible racket.  We drove west out of the park and got ahead of the storm.  Great Sand Dunes Lodge is about a mile outside the park.  We drove up the hill to the Lodge and checked in.  The manager was really helpful.  We got to room 6 and unpacked the car.  We decided to sit on our back porch and watch the hummingbirds as the storm approached.  When it started raining we stayed on the porch and watched the storm move across the valley.  As is cleared in the east we noticed that the Sand Dunes were not a dark brown and looked more like little mountains in front of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the background.  Larry noticed that the top of the dunes looked white and we figured out that it was hail collected on the dunes.  As we continued to watch the patches of white got smaller and smaller until they disappeared. 

When we were sure the rain was done we went to supper at the Oasis Restaurant, the only one out here.  We are miles from the nearest town.  It was a very basic restaurant with a pretty good menu.  Larry got Colorado Native beer only to find out that it was 3.2% and made in Golden (where Coors is made).  For our meals Larry got a Navaho Taco made with Navaho bread instead of a tortilla.  It was huge.  I got chicken quesadillas with green chili sauce.  Larry had read on Trip Advisor about the homemade pies so he got Pumpkin Chiffon and I got Sour Cream and Lemon.  Wow!  They were made by our waiter's grandmother.  Can't wait to try another one tomorrow.

We went back to our room and sat on the porch to watch the hummingbirds and the sunset.  Both were spectacular.  Erin called while we were out there and we talked a while.  The closer it got to sunset the more frenzied the hummingbirds became until there were 8-10 birds at some of the feeders.  We saw broad-tailed and black-chinned hummers.  We also saw a lot of sphinx moths on the rabbit brush by our porch.  Some people call them hummingbird moths because they hover like a hummer and are just slightly smaller.  As the sun went down it gave lots of color to the sky.  We stayed out until it was very dark.  There are no city lights here but we can see the lights of cars miles away moving down the roads.  I wrote the blog and Larry studied the maps for our adventures tomorrow.
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My Review Of The Place I Stayed

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