50 degrees at dawn with a high of 61, probable rain.
The Mosca Pass Trail is an out-and-back hike of 6.4 miles with moderate difficulty, rated 4.5. Since the elevation is already over 8,000’ and the hike gains 1,459’, we took it very slow with frequent stops to catch our breath. A sign at the bottom warned of mountain lion sightings. It is a perfect place for them with lots of cliffs and rock ledges on which to perch. I know attacks are rare, but I kept looking behind, and I carried a can of bear spray.
As described on “All Trails”, there were lots of birds and flowers. We stopped at two miles and turned around. It’s our first real hike, and we didn’t want to wear ourselves out. With misting rain and temperatures at 56 degrees, it was a perfect day for a hike. By the time we got to the bottom, the parking lot was getting full.
After lunch, we cleaned the trailer and worked on the water lines. We disconnected the faucet lines, put a pot under the cold water line and turned it on. Happily, water flowed strongly. We did the same to the hot water line, and it too flowed strongly. Since I have shoved a wire into the hoses and the faucet, but can’t get it through, I think the on/off valve is stuck. I’ll get a new faucet in Moab tomorrow.
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!
There are three routes to Great Sand Dunes National Park. We took 56 southwest to 160 because I had never traveled it. This was the last big travel day getting to the southwest for our extended tour.
As we drove through working communities of Ensign, Montezuma, Hickok and Ulysses, we drove through serious farm land, land that had to be watered to make it work. Huge windmills covered the area for miles. As we drove on, there was also oil production. A train line went between the towns, loading grain from gigantic silos. The road was also busy with tractor trailers. The communities were more like corporate work areas.
The further west we went, the drier it got. We saw abandoned homesteads, small, stone structures. If Rt. 50 through Arizona and Nevada is appropriately named The Loneliest Road, Rt. 160 to Trinidad might come in second. As the land became drier, even if land was given to people, they couldn’t make it work.
We stopped in the rather abandoned town for a bathroom break. Fortunately, I checked the refrigerator temperature. It was 44 degrees. The gas was not lit, so I turned the refrigerator off, switched propane tanks and turned it back on with no effect. I turned on the gas stove, but the flame was very weak. I know the tanks have propane, but now all kinds of thoughts ran through my head. Did the mice chew up my gas line?
In the small town of Kim, we spotted a big propane tank. Stopping to ask if they did refills, a gentleman said no, but the man across the street sometimes does. Looking across the road, I saw a small, house-type propane tank. I went across and knocked on the door. A gentleman with hearing aids came to the door. “No”, he said, “We used to run the propane business across the street for 30 years, but the new owners don’t do refills.” I told him I thought we had propane, but the flame is weak. He said, “Drive the rig over here. You can turn around in the yard, and I’ll fill it for you.”
Bud was his name, and he is the epitome of a midwest or western gentleman. He also has a camper and appreciates the travel and issues you can have. As he filled the not-so-empty tank, we talked about Kim. There was a pretty stone building across the street that was built by the WPA and is now used by Colorado Highway people.
We thanked Bud profusely, and offered $30 for propane and peace of mind. He took the $10 and refused the $20.
I loved driving 160 and all it’s changing scenery. I almost hit a big, strong antelope that jumped in front of us, but then jumped back to the side of the road. The speed limit is 65 and I was going 70, so it wouldn’t have been good. I just got a glimpse of him, but I have a vivid picture of him. Best to have a full tank of gas, water and snacks when driving this road. However, if you get in trouble, there are good people to help.
We stopped for lunch in Trinidad, then turned north on I-25 for 35 minutes to Walsenburg and turned west on 160 again. Pulling into Great Sand Dunes Oasis RV Park, I was a little nervous. When I called to make a reservation, a young man seemed a bit detached. There was no credit card transaction, and they don’t send confirmation emails. We did have a confirmation number. Thankfully, all was well and we proceeded to our campsite.
It was 3:00, so I had two or three hours to work on our plumbing issue. I am now pretty familiar with taking it all apart, so I removed the faucet with the attached water lines and tried to blow them out with our air compressor. No dice. I tried flushing with water with no luck. I then pushed a wire up the hose, but it wouldn’t go through the faucet. Maybe I’ll just buy a new faucet in Moab, but we still don’t know if the problem is in the faucet or further down the line. Maybe I’ll connect a hose to the cold water line, run it out the door and turn on the water pump. If that runs strong, I’ll put it on the hot water line. If that runs strong, I’ll go buy a new faucet or get someone to take the lines off of this one.
We sat watching the views and the sun go down from our plateau campground overlooking the valley and Great Sand Dunes. It’s so unique to see huge sand dunes up against the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the southern section of the Rockies.