On Wednesday we went to the Sand Dunes National Park. It is so odd to see huge sand dunes, not only in Colorado, but also at the base of a mountain. They have been there for hundreds (and perhaps thousands) of years. We’re not talking just a little sandy strip but 30 square miles of the actual dunes and much more than that of sandy area.
We arrived around nine and drove straight to the dunes. I would not recommend arriving any later than that if you are going in the summer time, as the sand temps can get to 140 degrees rather quickly. We were able to walk in the sand in our bare feet but by the time we left at 10:30, it was getting too hot to do so. In the visitor center there is a 15 or 20 minute movie about the dunes and most years, there is still a trickle of the stream running through, at the base of the dunes. Since the snow pack was so low this year, the stream stopped flowing much earlier than normal (usually it continues till early July). The video showed kids playing in the sandy stream and having a grand ole time. We saw some kids digging in the sand and able to reach moist sand, below the surface, that they were using to build their sand castles and such with.
Linda and I climbed up to the top of one of the lower dunes, which is very tough going…well because it’s sand, a steep incline and the wind is blowing very strongly.
As you kick up the sand from walking, it is stinging your calves from the wind beating it against your skin. In this picture we are on top of the dune and the parking lot, where we parked the car, is just beyond those trees.
To the summit of the highest dune, it’s somewhere around 735’ tall and takes close to two hours to climb. Lots of kids had the saucer style sleds and were sliding down the sides of the dunes like they were snow banks. They were having a ball.
The video, at the visitor center, showed what the dunes look like covered with snow….a very pretty sight. There are a couple species of insects that only exist in the area of the dunes…..no where else on the planet except for there. Pretty neat !
The outside of the visitor center is constructed with a Trombe wall, which is a passive solar design that I studied in high school (so it was neat to see one in action).
Overall, our trip to the dunes and Zapata falls made for a great day. I would love to go back, earlier in the spring when the Medano river is flowing so we could see what that is like. It would also make for a pretty dramatic falls area too !