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I am a Denver-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North: A Swing Down Memory Lane. I have several other pieces, including fiction, in the works.

Remembering the Sand Dunes

After a long drive, it was still relatively early in the morning at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. I was entertaining guests from London, England two-and-a-half years ago, and they wanted to see something scenic in Colorado. So, since I had taken them to Rocky Mountain National Park on a previous trip, this time I took them south from Denver toward Alamosa.
I had never seen the Sand Dunes before, but it was high up on my list. So I, too, was excited to get to the dunes, but not so much so that I welcomed the predawn wake up poke from a child I had just met the night before. I had no doubt they were already experiencing issues with jetlag, but I wasn’t quite sure why I needed to suffer along with them. Nonetheless, I climbed out of bed, slowly mind you, and got ready for a day out and about with my friends from across the pond.

We drove south on Interstate 25, stopping for breakfast in Castle Rock, and arrived in Colorado Springs just as rush hour was starting for the morning commute. It was no bother, though, since we had planned to pull of briefly and see the Garden of the Gods – a beautiful, red-rock park that is punctuated by Pikes Peak in the background (above). We spent a brief amount of time on the trails around the rocks before continuing on to our goal.
The drive through Fountain, Pueblo and Walsenburg was open and easy. And through the mountains to the west on U.S. Highway 160 it was clear and sunny. We were halfway there when we climbed over La Veta Pass, and enjoying ourselves as we bounded along on a road that could be used for car commercials. But finally, just as the drive was beginning to wear on us, we saw our turn off and the great dunes off in the distance.
It was mid March and snow was still capping the surrounding mountain peaks. But, as so often happens in Colorado, the weather was warm. We required only a light jacket, and not even that when it came time for our ascent to the top of the foremost dune. We approached it brashly as we crossed the dry Medano Creek, thinking it didn’t look so big, but were quickly humbled when we began our climb.
My friend opted not to make the effort, enjoying the view from the bottom just fine, so I did the hike with his daughter. Being the naive adult that I am, I thought I’d lead the way. She suggested one route, but I liked the another much better for what reason, particularly halfway up, I could not tell anyone. But we fed off each other’s energy and enthusiasm, encouraging the other when we both wanted to quit, and finally made it to the top. We fancied ourselves the king and queen of the world after our sometimes vertical climb, but only fleetingly since we saw a vast system continuing on the west that would surely take more energy than what we had remaining.

After catching our breath and enjoying the view, or enthusiasm quickly returned while we slid down the dune on our bottoms. Since she’s quite a bit lighter than me it worked out well for my friend’s daughter, by the friction I created with my large frame made it an exercise in futility. So, instead, I encouraged her on and laughed as I recalled the great days of sledding in my youth in Minnesota.

The trip to the Sand Dunes was well worth the drive, and a day out I soon won’t forget. And each time I think of it, I’m enticed to make the drive south once more for a day of sand climbing. Maybe one day again soon I’ll find the energy to do so, but I think I need a young sleep-deprived jetlagged child to encourage me to do so. But who knows, that may be in my future and I don’t even know it.
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  1. Snowy Peaks and the Great Sand Dunes | Jason's Travels - November 30, 2012

    [...] peaks tower over Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park in the cooler [...]

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