Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Trip Start May 06, 2010
Trip End Oct 14, 2010

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Where I stayed
Alpha Motel

Flag of United States  , Colorado
Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Since I was sleeping in my car in the campground in the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve I got started a little earlier than usual.  I went to the Visitor Center, watched the movie, looked at their displays and talked to a ranger.  The park was first made a National Monument in 1932.  It was expanded and turned into a National Park and Preserve from 2000 to 2004.  Parts of the sand has been mined for gold and part of the park was ranchland but it's pretty hard to tell.  The blowing sand can cover up a lot.

I decided that it would be best to photograph the dunes before sunset.  That gave me most of the day to drive the Medano Pass Primitive Road.  It's a 4-wheel drive only road and I've been eager to go somewhere in my SUV that I couldn't have gotten to in my van.  Sometimes when they say that it really isn't but in this case they're correct.  My van never would have made it.

I got stuck shortly after getting on the road when I came around an uphill turn in deep sand and met with oncoming traffic.  After letting air out of my tires, as they recommend, I was back on my way.  I made it through all the sand, streams, steep grades and rocky sections, eventually arriving at the Medano Pass.  The road continues down the other side of the mountain.  I stopped at the top, took a few pictures and then retraced my path back to the park.

After reaching the bottom I headed to the air pump to re-inflate my tires.  By then it was already late enough that there were interesting shadows on the dunes.  I parked in what seemed to be a good spot along the road and headed through the brush toward the dunes.

The dunes were a lot further away than I thought.  I eventually reached them and started taking pictures.  I had planned on walking south along the eastern edge of the dunes and then continuing west along the southern edge as the sun moved further west.  Trekking through the sand and over the smaller dunes on the eastern edge was slower than I expected and the sun started to get ahead of me.  Then it went behind some clouds.  It didn't look like they were going to be clearing any time soon so I gave up and headed for the car.  I made it back about 45 minutes after sunset.  It would have been a really tough slog making my way out of the dunes with just my little headlamp so I'm probably lucky I had to give up early.

I had intended to spend tomorrow morning at the park but since I'd never manage to get there for sunrise unless I slept in the campground again and I won't have time to stay until sunset I decided to head for Denver a day early.  I drove as far as Walsenburg and found a hotel for the night.
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