Saturday, June 25, 2022
Saturday, June 25, 2022
50 degrees as dawn. Maybe a high of 65.
I didn’t know what to expect when I booked Great Sand Dunes other than there were massive sand dunes with a stream running along the edge. But we are here to see national parks and monuments and this is the first one on our way west.
I booked three nights at Great Sand Dunes Oasis RV Park. I knew we would need a break from four days of driving. In another location, it might be described as a gravel parking lot, but it sits on a plateau overlooking the massive San Luis Valley, a high elevation desert at 7,694’. They have it all – RV campground, cabins, lodge, gas station, store and a restaurant.
It is certainly a strange thing to find massive sand dunes in the Rocky Mountains. There is a massive wall of mountains that are in a curve. Winds are quite intense here. The prevailing westerly winds blow across the valley floor, pushing sand up against this mountain catcher’s mitt. They shift, flow and yet the measurements of the peaks haven’t changed much in 140 years.
Also unique is having three streams run past the dunes. As the stream hits the sand, it seeps into the sand and goes underground just past the dunes.
Martha fixed a great breakfast of sauteed peppers, onions and tomatoes with a splash of vinegar, coriander and cumin. She made wells and cracked eggs into them. Yum!
We went to the Visitor’s Center, a pretty adobe building. It is a nice store with some interesting books. The views form most Visitor’s Centers are great, and this was no exception. It is perfectly located.
Totally unprepared for the day, we walked across the stream, which consists of ribbons of water an inch or two deep, Martha in her Keens and me in my hiking shoes. With wind blowing from the East (a storm wind), we plodded up the dunes to a level I felt was sufficient and watched others sliding down the dunes on boards designed for the purpose. Others climbed to the very top – 750’. With elevations at 8ooo’, we felt the effects, heart racing, breathing impaired and slightly dizzy.
We drove through the park campgrounds, which were nice, but I like our spot better. It’s a weekend, so every site was taken. There is a dirt road going through Medano Pass. I talked to a man at the Visitor’s Center, who was putting air back into his Jeep tires after coming across the pass this morning. I asked if my truck would make it, and said, “about half way.” My GMC is not an off-road vehicle, although it has four wheel drive. I only drove up it a short distance before realizing this would not be a good idea.
We did drive to a small parking lot where there is a 2.5 up-and-back hike to a view point. Again, the altitude affected us. The views at the top were rather spectacular.
After lunch clouds and rains came, so we enjoyed a quiet afternoon. Martha mad an innovative dinner using the last of the rotisserie chicken. She essentially made a chicken pot pie with out the pie crust, but put it over a nice crusty bread. It was excellent.
In the night, the winds blew like crazy. I had my window open, and the sounds kept waking me up. I had my blanket on and was still cold, but after closing the window, it got stuffy, so I opened it again. By morning, the winds had stopped. I now understand how these sand dunes get built up and rearranged!