August 6, 2020 Great Sand Dunes NP, CO (Day 2)

The sun shone on the dunes this morning creating a lot of definition on the sand.

We wanted to get an early start into the park for our climb on the dunes. We left at 9:00 with the thermometer reading 64 degrees. When I stepped outside, it felt a lot warmer than that. We took the 10 minute drive into the park and we were the only car at the ranger station to check in. I was doing the driving today because Bob was treating an eye infection with some eye drops which made his eyes sensitive to light, so it was better for me to drive. The parking lot was pretty empty when we got there. We wore our hiking boots and carried water for our walk up the dunes. There weren’t a lot of people there yet.

The walk from the parking lot out to the dunes themselves is maybe 1/4 mile on sand. We chose a direct line through the sand to the closest dune where the sand wasn’t too deep.

We climbed up the first dune and walked along the crest of the dunes for quite a way. stopping a couple of times to sit down on the sand and take it all in.

The view from there was amazing–to be high amidst all that sand.

We went up as high as we wanted to and then started our trek down. It was easier going down than going up, to say the least.

We stopped a couple of times to watch people sledding down the hill. Some got the knack of it and made it to the bottom, but some did not.

We spent about 2 1/2 hours at the dunes and then returned to the campground. Leaving the park, there was a HUGE line to get in.

After emptying our shoes and socks of sand at the campsite, we went inside and had lunch. Bob’s eye felt worse today even after using the medicated eye drops for two days, so he called his optometrist friend back home who called in a prescription to the Walgreens back in Alamosa. We would go pick it up a little later this afternoon. After lunch, I drove us to Zapata Falls.

It is located back a few miles on the same road as the campground. The road to the falls is 4 miles of rough, rock-strewn surface.

It was not suitable for every car, but there were those cars trying to drive that road. The average speed was 5-10 mph and even that created a very rough ride. The smart drivers turned around before they got very far.

We thought about turning around ourselves, but drove all the way to the parking lot at the top.

The hike was a 1/2 mile up on a very rocky path, but the elevation rise was only 400 ft., so it wasn’t too bad.

The path dead-ended at the falls–a cascade of water falling through a narrow chasm.

You couldn’t see the falls without walking through the icy cold river to the base.

We brought our water shoes with us, but the crowd of people at the base of the falls kept us from getting wet and too close. We watched people for awhile as they braved the cold water and then made our descent. The views of the dunes and the San Luis Valley were beautiful from above. (The San Luis Valley is about the size of New Hampshire. It is vast!)

We returned to the car about 2:00 and took the slow drive down. By the time we got back to the entrance, it was 2:30. We had had enough of the rocking and rolling. To get back on the regular road was like heaven…and soooo smooth. I drove us the 31 miles back to Alamosa so Bob could pick up his prescription at Walgreens. We finally got back to the campground around 4:00. All we wanted to do was sit STILL for awhile. We relaxed outside with Auggie and watched the shadows move across the dunes from our campsite.

Bob had one more task for us to do before dinner. We washed the back and side of the bus that was in the shade. It was so dirty! He did the washing and I did the drying.

We had a later dinner and then took our walk with Auggie as the sun set.

The skies would be clearer this evening since the haze from the forest fires had disappeared. so we were able to see the mountains off in the distance. We went outside about 10:30 to view the stars and there were thousands of them. We could see the Milky Way and two or three planets. The skies were dark and clear above us, but in the valley it looked like the smoke from the fires had returned and settled there. It was very “hazy” in the valley, but we could see the colored lights from Alamosa on the horizon. There was a glow behind the mountains above us in the campground. We wondered if it was the moon that hadn’t risen in the sky yet. It was an amazing night! Bob has mentioned numerous times that he really likes this spot–on the top of this hill with the valley below us and a view of the dunes. It’s quiet, dark, and on a clear day you can see forever. We talked about returning to this place in the future.

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