Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado – Roadtrip 2007

May 22nd 2007 started off with waking up in a hotel in Alamosa, Colorado. We had rode into town late the night before after visiting Red Rock Amphitheater and Royal Gorge Bridge coming from staying the night in Denver, Colorado. The night before we rolled into Great Sand Dunes National Park at 9pm and there was still light out so we thought we could make it.Little did we realize from Hwy17 we still had 25 miles until we hit the dunes. We drove about 21 miles and it was absolute pitch darkness. This would have been a perfect time to take some night pictures but at the time I still hadn’t mastered the whole star trail thing or even night landscapes, which now i know how to do unfortunately (should have read up on the subject before leaving). It was so dark we couldn’t figure out where the dunes were located at all…i mean pitch darkness. As the sun set all we could see was a roll of lights coming from Hwy 17 in a line all the way to Alamosa. Rick was FREAKING out, and I will repeat FREAKING OUT about the darkness. It was nice out when I was trying to get a few pictures at night but he swore we were going to be eaten my panthers and we needed to get in the vehicle immediately. It was pretty funny, I think Rina filmed him on tape having his “episode”…..

We turned around and took Co-150 to Hwy160 and followed the lights to town. This of course added 35 miles on top of the 21 we took to the national park so we arrived there pretty late. Ricardo was dead set on visiting every single hotel and asking the prices before deciding on which to settle down in. We ended up staying at the first hotel we visited as always. Ricardo had asked the price first but then an hour later made me go ask and try and get a discount. I came out excited after agreeing on a price $10 less with a non-existent Triple A card. 😉 I told Ricardo the price and was gleaming with how well I did and he said that was more expensive than the original price they quoted him. APPARENTLY, if you have darker skin and your Puerto Rican you get a better price in Alamosa, Colorado than the “rich white girl” —> I am far from rich by the way. I was pretty annoyed at this fact but I had already paid for the room so I buried my head and unloaded the car. It’s funny I grabbed my travel journal out to recall the price of the hotel room and this is what I wrote:
“Super 8 Motel in Alamosa is apparently against the white people. Ricardo went in and got a quote, later I went in and he gave me a higher quote and acted like he was giving me a discount. What an asshole.”
The next morning we left to head back to the Sand Dunes after a small fast complimentary breakfast. Rina’s turn to buy gas and she filled up the tank for $43.00 and we were at 1,293 miles of our journey. I apparently bought a lotto ticket at Safeway and won $3.00 but the ticket cost $3.00 so I traded it in for a Starbucks Frappachino, Bottle of water, and a 3 Musketeer. I apparently had no regards to health in 2007. By the way, the hotel for the night was $82.21
We arrived at the park at 10:26a.m. and immediately saw a deer cross the road in front of us.
When we did see the dunes we were all in complete shock. How we missed these the night before really was beyond us. Seriously.. they are freaking huge.

The first thing we did after parking was stand at the foot of the sand dunes testing the temperature of the water. News to us, the last thing we thought we would see was a stream of water heading down from the mountains across the path blocking our lovely sand dune climb. Let me just state the water was freezing. Really really really freezing. I thought ok..oh well and proceeded to take off my shoes and socks. Rina decided to set this one out, apparently she hates sand with a passion, we never knew. I started skipping/running/jumping across the water and at first Ricardo thought I was insane or something and then when i looked back after I had made it across I saw him taking off his shoes and socks as well. While he proceeded to follow I took a few shots while I waited for him to cross. After you cross that freezing water you literally have to bury your feet in the hot sand for them to get feeling back.

Ricardo wanted me to hang back so i could take a picture of him on top of one of the dunes with his arms raised in the air so i did that and got this funny shot of Rick running toward the dunes, but it looked like he was running toward this group of girls in bikinis. Let me tell you I have no idea what these girls were thinking because it was not hot out, and the wind was fierce. I had a hoodie on & was just getting completely pelted with sand up to my forehead, it hurt – for real. I tried to get as many interesting shots as I could while I waited for him to get to the top of the Sand Dunes. We found out later the dunes reach 750feet, not exactly easy fast climbing with no water or anything. Next time I go there I’m definitely bringing a backpack, a hiking stick, and bottles of water. He made it about 400 feet before turning around to stick his hands up in the air. The further away you walked away from the creek the smaller people looked back toward the parking lot. They just became tiny little dots in the sand. Oddly enough when Rick made it back down to where i was standing his mobile said SOS & that was it, we decided it was time to leave.

While Ricardo and i were wondering through the sand dunes, Rina was apparently wondering through the grasses at the foot of the dunes. Being the nature lover that she is, she had found a really cool tree i just had to photograph. Not enjoying the walk through the red ant fields I thought she was crazy, but it turns out she was right. The tree had recently been struck by lightning and had burned to the ground somewhat.. what was left was really cool to photograph.
After a quick stop in the gift shop to get the usual (stickers, post cards, pins, and patches) we left the park at 12:30 heading for Mesa Verde and Monument Valley. Little did we know in less than an hour we would be driving through a winter snowstorm in the mountains and Rina would be seeing her first snowfall of her life.

Here’s a Google map image of some of the driving we did in the snowstorm. None of us had any idea it snowed at the end of May in Colorado. Later on though looking at the elevations we realized of course it snows in May in Colorado. Apparently it also snows in Utah, Wyoming, and Montana as well.

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