Believe it or not but the tallest sand dunes in America is in Colorado, a place not known to be a desert environment. We have always found deserts fascinating: the simple beauty of sand dunes and its abundance of life when you expect none. We have gone to Death Valley to see spring blossom, to Saguaro NP to see the majestic cacti, and to Joshua Tree NP for its unique yuccas. I remember one time we were in a sand storm while hiking on a Death Valley sand dune; the sand formed a layer of sand cloud suspended about one foot off the ground, flowing around our feet as if we were walking on heaven. Here at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, we saw the tallest sand dunes.
The dunes were formed as eroding sand from the San Juan and Sangre de Cristo Mountains were trapped in the San Luis Valley. Over the millennia, sand slowly piled up to where they are today: sanddunes without a desert. It was a popular place and we were lucky to find a campsite on late Wednesday afternoon. The next afternoon around the same time, the whole campsite were full. By early Friday morning around 6, new campers were lined up to take any vacant spots. Arrive early and get a campsite overlooking the sand dunes; it is worth it.
In the morning, we loved to head out to the dunes when the sand was still cool and the ripple marks on sand dunes were still undisturbed. We usually would catch a few animal footprints as well. Also it was safer. By the afternoon, the sand would get too hot to walk on it barefooted and there was also the risk of lightning. On a sand dune, any person would be a likely candidate of lightning. We saw a sample of fulgurites (crystallized sand due to lightning) and we didn’t want to challenge the power of the nature. The wind usually picked up in the afternoon as well and may holler all night, wiping out all the marks of daily doodles and returning it to its natural beauty again the next morning.
Kids love to play in sand; Kadia was no exception. She raced around sand dunes, slid down them, fell into them, buried herself in sand and tossed sand around as if it was magical dust. She ran down this one sand hill but fell face down into the sand. We were expecting her to cry but she got up with this big smile, her face, teeth, eyelashes all covered in sand. It also brought out the child in us as we run around and laughed our heads off. Kadia liked it so much that she did her junior ranger activity book and got a junior ranger badge.
Hiking on sand was tough though. A 700-foot sand dune may equal to a 3000-foot mountain as each step we took, we slid back down to the exact same spot we started with if not further. With a baby on my back (see the photo below), I soon gave up the idea of scaling the tallest sand dunes, maybe next time. If you ever are in Colorado, stop by this park and have a blast.
We camped next to this Dutch couple with their one-year-old daughter, Julia. They were on 3 weeks tour and were camping as well. We saw a lot of CruiseAmerican RVs on this trip and quite a number of them were Europeans. They indicated that they loved outdoors and wouldn’t think of staying in a RV. We would like to take a camping trip to europe sometimes like they did here. That would be another great experience.