Night Falling Over Sand- Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, CO

What I remember most vividly was the feel of cold sand against my bare feet and the sound of running water. We settled in next to the creek to relax after our eventful day (starting in South Fork, headed to Creede and then back to South Fork only to head back out later in the day to find a town with a postoffice to buy stamps at and then finally to this park that ended up about a two hours drive away) and to wait for the sunset.

It took it’s time, and perhaps if I was a more determined photographer I would have hiked up to the dunes to enjoy the view from there but, I consider myself more of a traveler than anything else, and so I saved that journey for another visit. This time I took in the colors of above from below and enjoyed the clouds moving in from the east.

We lingered till just after the sun had settled in, the sky still muted colors, until we heard the far off cries of coyotes…and the sounds of people nearby calling back at them. There is a particular kind of madness that even i’m not that fond of delving into, so after a few more back and forth calls we headed back to the car, the day more than happily ended.


The Magnificence of the Wind- Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, CO

I had wanted to come to this park for so long that by the time I visited it, it was almost like a dream. 

The first time I sat down with plans to visit the Great Sand Dunes NP, it was last June. I had been idly messing around in google maps, enlarging and then zooming into areas of interest around Texas, Colorado, Arkansas and Oklahoma and had spotted an area on the way to the San Juan Mountains that I hadn’t quite looked at before and upon closer inspection, led me to the point where I was ready to make the 14 hour drive from home out there by myself as soon as possible. This idea ended up being shelved and instead I headed to Big Bend NP (which to be honest, wasn’t the best idea either as it was the beginning of summer and I ended up almost dying out by an abandoned mine), though I still kept the idea tucked into my heart that I would make it out to see the dunes one day.

Fast forward more than half a year and another roadtrip later, and we finally found ourselves looking up up up at the gently swirling dunes. I’ve seen many a beautiful place, been privy to some spectacular scenery and have been to more places that took my breath away than I probably deserve but…

I know I say this a lot and perhaps after a certain point it almost becomes a given, but this park was well and truly something special, something magnificent that I can’t quite put into words. Maybe it’s because of the utterly unexpected nature of the environment- you’re walking past green bushes and across a cold stream to get to the dunes and then once there, you’re looking past them towards the tall snow capped mountains in the near distance, the smaller green mountains on the other side of the view no less lovely.  Or maybe it’s because I rarely visit parks with any preconceived notions or expectations (the one exception being Arches and perhaps thats why I didn’t enjoy my visit there half as much ) and with this one especially, what I got was more than I could have dreamed up in the first place.

The few people that remained by the time we made it out into the dunes were friendly but kept their distance, everyone very much in their own space, in their own world. It can be hard to see exactly how large the area is when you’re making your way in from the park entrance but when you’re out there, it’s like you’ve stepped into a whole other world. One where the sound of sand shifting and moving is a constant companion, where the wind whips and whistles fiercely (but never too harshly) and where each step is just a little more difficult than the last.

It was fun- just so incredibly fun, the kind you forget to have when you pass from childhood- to wander around the dunes without any real aim, crouching low to watch the ripples in the sand, and looking back to where you came from to watch your heavy footsteps slowly disappearing into nothing.  Time here passes strangely, one minute your heading towards the next rise of sand and the next you still haven’t quite made to where you were aiming for and the suns gotten much lower in the sky. You look around and people that you had seen at the tops of the dunes, their sunglasses glinting in the light and cameras covered in plastic bags, they’ve disappeared down the other side and you wonder what they’re going to find over there. You wonder if you should try and make it over as well, but then your legs are growing tired from constantly sinking and rising, sinking and rising and so you head back towards the shores of the cold creek that marks the border back to normal.

Visiting this park it’s an experience not to be missed, but above all, you really should try and stay for the sunset like we decided to. If you think things feel surreal now, wait till the sun sets.


Point of No Return- Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, CO

We made it to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve just a little after 1pm, a warm box from Pizza Hut resting on the bfs lap and my eyes fixed on the horizon. It was that kind of overcast afternoon where you can’t help wondering when those distant rain clouds are gonna overtake the sky and ruin your plans. It was a mildly chilly day, the sun dipping in and out of sight and we were shivering a little as we sat ourselves in the picnic area near the dunes to eat our lunch and plan out our afternoon.

Just driving up into the park had been an experience in and of itself, the whole area it’s own corner of nowhere in Colorado. It’s the kind of place you have to really aim to go to, you can’t  just find yourself there accidentally, and I think thats part of the charm. The crowds were minimal and they completely disappeared once we headed out on the unpaved road towards the Point of No Return (seriously, what have I said about national parks and their inclination towards dramatic names).

We had a good few hours to kill before the sun set and we wanted to wait a little before tackling the dunes themselves, so after eating lunch and getting caffeinated again, we decided to take the small hike up to the Dunes Overlook. It’s a fairly easy hike, just 2.3 miles (3.7 km) roundtrip and i’d definetly recommend it not only for the excellent view from up above the dunes but also for the beautiful views and scenery on the way up. Once you make it up to the overlook, you can either sit on one of the many convenient benches like the bf did to catch your breath, or you can be like me and run around all over exploring the many view points. We somehow lucked out and managed to get the overlook all to ourselves and I can honestly say it was with great reluctance that I eventually let myself be led back down.

Once we made it back to the car, I crossed the road to go check out the area just on the other side, where the Sand Pit is. The bf stayed in the car to clean his shoes out (lots o’ sand, obviously) while I trudged my way slowly over the small ridge, my camera slung heavy over my shoulder. The thing I most vividly remember, apart from the incredible view of the mountains with the sand dunes just off to the left, was the calm quiet. The wind whipped around me constantly, but never harshly, and the coolness of it was welcome on my warm face. I could feel the gritty sand in my boots as I stood there looking out at the landscape while surrounded by beautiful and unexpected vegetation and it felt more like a gift than anything else, a vivid constant reminder of where I was.

Eventually I replaced the lens cover on my camera and walked back to car, intent on making it out onto the dunes themselves.