May 22, 2010

Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Located in south-central Colorado, along the western front of the 14,000 foot Sangre de Cristo Range are the tallest sand dunes in North America. At over 700 feet above the San Luis Valley, these sand dunes rise like something from another planet.

The sand that erodes from the sandstone formations of the Colorado Plateau and from the San Juan Mountains to the west blows east and then piles up against the great mountains.

Any moisture that collects on the dunes, filters down to the bottom and then emerges as Medano Creek at the base. The stream is completely flat and because of the continual addition of sand, it meanders constantly, making it grow wider or narrower over time, but rarely more than a few inches deep. This was the first obsticle to accessing the dunes.

Then it was off across the dune fronts, before approaching the big ones.

Dogs are generally not allowed in National Parks. But, we've learned over time that the exception to that rule is any place that has sand dunes. Maile LOVED sand and was a very happy camper.

If you have ever had difficulty walking across the sand at the beach, then you can probably appreciate trying to climb a 700 foot sand dune. It is definitely two steps upwards and one back as you slide back down. This image reminds me of something out of the original Star Wars movie.

And, here is the view from the top looking northeast.

And back toward the southwest.

Of course, going down is much easier if you just let gravity help you

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