Saturday, August 8, 2015

Hiking in Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve


During three previous Colorado visits I ventured into the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Each of those visits were timed poorly. Because the dunes area of the park offered no swimming depth water it was simply too hot, over 90F air and 150F sand temperatures, to take a leisurely hike over the mountains of sand. So I came to know the visitor center, Medano Creek, Big South Canyon, and the Mosca Pass Trail.

Visiting GSDNP was on my "B" list list of things to do this year if weather in the San Juan Mountains flushed me out early. It turned out that a sunrise ride across Monarch Pass (last post) left me with plenty of time to reach the dunes for an afternoon visit. And, thankfully, the weather was absolutely perfect!
Polar V800 GPS mapping of a 3.4-mile barefoot hike
I reached the park entrance just after 5 pm. The photos that follow provide a glimpse of a tranquil, blithe, enchanting visit that culminated with an introspective sunset walk along the highest windswept sandy ridges. This unplanned walk turned out to be one of my favorite experiences from thirty three days and ten thousand miles of traveling. Check out the photos, click on the links to learn about this unique park, and then plan your own visit to this enchanting sandy landscape. Btw, the current cover photo for this blog was taken while crossing Medano Creek as the hike ended. ST

Striated approach: Clouds top the Sangre de Cristo Mountains while
a desert crop field seems to hold the great sand dunes
Medano Creek and the surrounding wet sand must
be crossed before ascending the dunes
Medano Creek, the dunes, and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains
Dozens of people play, hike, and "surf" on the dunes.
Shoes off - it is time to climb
Looking back at the visitor center and the mountains
Climbing closer to some of the clouds that dropped heavy
rain and hail all around the dunes  
A ridge path to High Dune?
Storms all around my sunny sand wonderland
It appears that many have taken the high road of late . . .
Reminiscing about summiting those mountains
Looking back at fewer footprints and High Dune


That storm produced hundreds of lightning strikes
Looking out over almost thirty square miles of sand piles 
Another storm in the mountains (Crestones) to the north while the dunes
and me still cast shadows
Glancing back at a lone set of footprints tracking toward the setting sun

This pinky nail sized beetle shows why the sand seemed soft -
Tiny prismatic particles


The star gazers have arrived!



This Mocha Stout helped fuel the first of two 14er ascents after leaving the dunes
Yes, it is really a blend of mocha and stout

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