Sand, Sand Everywhere
Boulder, CO >>> Great Sand Dunes National Park >>> Moab, UT
Drive Time: 5 hours
Miles: 237 miles
Today, we drove from Boulder to the Great Sand Dunes National Park, reaching our highest altitude yet of 11,318 feet. The weather continually changed, one second it was 25 degrees and snowing, the next it was 60 with high winds.
The park was unlike anything either of us anticipated. I expected sand dunes for as far as the eye could see in the middle of a desert. However, the dunes sat nestled along the Rocky Mountains, looking almost like a theme park.
Before hiking, Michael and I stopped for lunch at the base of the dunes. However, it was so windy that we didn’t last long at our quaint picnic table as we finished our lunch in the car to remain warm. We quickly understood that only the warmest of clothes would be acceptable to climb the dunes.
To access the dunes, you must first remove your socks and shoes in order to cross Medano Creek. Yet the freezing water was only the beginning of the adventure.
You can hike anywhere on the dunes, making it look like the dunes are covered in black ants from a distance, which was really unique because you could blaze your own trail without worrying about getting lost.
Michael and I took off determines to reach the top of the dunes, a daunting task. With out feet sinking into the sand with every step and wind pushing us every which way we trudged our way up and down dunes to reach the top. At points the wind, filled with sand particles, would blow so hard it stung our exposed skin and was often hard to counter. We had to take breaks just to withstand the intense winds before continuing. At the top, you could see the dunes in all directions, Medano Creek and the Rocky Mountains in the distance. It was truly beautiful.
The trek up was difficult, but coming down made it every bit worth it. Standing at the top, we looked down a hundred feet at such a step incline, it might as well have been deemed a cliff. Fully expecting to fall or stumble we cautiously took one step and then another. But, as our feet sunk into the sand we quickly gained confidence and began running down the dunes and then sprinting. While it looked like we doomed to faceplant, we didn’t and instead it felt like we were flying. I felt invincible. It is a feeling impossible to explain, I guess you’ll either have to take my word for it or make your way out to the Great Sand Dunes yourself.
Successfully making it to the bottom of the dunes, we dumped our sand filled shoes out and decided to keep moving. Spending three hours in the park was plenty for us to do what we wanted which afforded us time to make our way to our next stop and attempt to find a warmer climate to camp in.
Our ETA to camp was 9:30pm so we stopped for dinner on the road. We pulled off in a small town at a family dollar to cook up some cold canned chicken sandwiches. Between only eating the food we brought along with us and Michael’s genius skills to find us free camping, we really are accomplishing this trip on budget.