The Sand Dunes

I find it hard to get off my butt to make an adventure happen. But often it only takes a little push from a friend to overcome my inertia.

Alex’s visit provided just that push. He and Danielle spent a week in Denver, and planned to head to the Great Sand Dunes park to camp overnight before heading on to Utah to start their vacation. They invited me along, and although I initially hesitated, I couldn’t argue with the appeal of the dunes and the logic of going there with a good friend.

I’ve lived in Colorado for 6 years, but hadn’t been out to the Great Sand Dunes since my college trip with Robert and Liz. A long time, and the Sand Dunes are less than a 4 hour drive away.

I drove south from Denver on Saturday morning, and met Alex and Danielle at the Oasis store just outside the entrance to the park. The main camping area was full, and so they had found a spot at a campsite a few miles up the Medano Pass Primitive Road. They came down to pick me up, since the road requires a high clearance 4x4 to get through. The Focus would never make it.

But we couldn’t get back to the site for a while. A small plane, a Piper PA-28, had crashed that morning in the mountains up the primitive road, and they had closed it while search and rescue did their work.

The weather looked threatening, and Danielle decided to hike up to the campsite to put the rain fly up on their tent. Alex and I decided to hike out onto the dunes instead.

The dunes in black & white

Alex takes a walk


A rare happy Alex

The dunes in color

Danielle never made it to the camp site, at least not on foot. The sand on the road is soft and it was over 5 miles back to the site. Alex eventually got permission from a ranger to drive up to our campsite, along with a stern warning to not go any farther. I left the Focus down in one of the parking lots, with a permit from the rangers for overnight parking, and rode in the Jeep with Alex towards the campsite. We picked up Danielle on the way, just short of the river crossing and at least a mile from the site.

Later in the evening we walked about a mile down the road and then hiked up into the back side of the dunes. There were a few steep climbs up soft sand, but we made it. Unlike the main dunes area it was completely empty. We had the dunes to ourselves.

Danielle climbs up a dune

All alone

The evening started out grey and cloudy, but slowly changed to a strong golden light that highlighted the textures and patterns in the sand. Fantastic golden light for photography. We planned to stay until dark and try to get some star photos, but it got cold and we left shortly after dark.

Danielle takes pictures

Alex and Danielle

Golden light on the dunes

Details in the sand

The wind is blowing

It was a good trip.

— Steve

Posted on 13 June 2013