There are very few times in my life where I decided getting up early to walk up sand dunes was a good idea. Actually, there are none but there’s a first time for everything.
Great Sand Dunes
The morning was brisk and the sky dimly lit and we drove the straight, flat road towards The Great Sand Dunes National Park for a morning trek we thought would be an easy climb. The night before at the canyon, talking to the group that gathered there, the teacher mentioned how hard it had been climbing the dunes, how she stopped mid way and I decided that it was because she was old. Yes, I’m a terrible person but you’ll be happy to know I soon found age had nothing to do with how well you climbed!(I was the worst.)
We started fast and full of energy, practically galloping the straight, sandy land that lead towards the dunes until we decided to slow it down and conserve energy. The dunes began to incline, and slowly, our legs became shaky, tense. Take 10 steps, stop. Take 10 steps, stop. This hike wasn’t as easy as it sounded. The guys, leaps and bounds ahead of us, became tiny little ants crawling up a hill and we stopped and sat on the top of the 10th dune we thought was the last; it seemed like every time we climbed to the top of one dune, another grew. Literally, they were materializing behind each other.
The sun started rising taller and taller and slowly, slowly, S and I made it to the very top. Sweaty and exhausted we looked out at the scene unfolding below us, the cold wind whipping the hair into our faces and stared in amazement how far we had come from the car, how far away the parking lot was from the top of this incredible view. The sand dipped and curved into the San Luis valley, and we watched the sun rise over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains surrounding the dunes.
The morning had exhausted us. Our boots and socks full of sand, we slowly headed back to the Renegade and drove to Alamosa and had lunch at one of the many Mexican restaurant in that area before heading out to Colorado Springs and our last venture, Garden of the Gods.
Garden of the Gods
It was here that I fully came to understand the value of paying entry fees. Sure, it’s inconvenient and costs money but it solves one big problem; it cuts the riffraff at parks in half. When we arrived at the stunning Garden, bright red stone peaks protruding over each other, the first thing we noticed wasn’t this but was how many people there were. It’s a public park(!) kindly free for all to walk through thanks to Charles Elliott Perkins who donated the property to Colorado Springs which means literally everyone and their dog can show up whenever they please doing whatever they please. After the initial shock wore off we walked the park, marveling at yet again another unique landscape found in Colorado. People climbed the rocks peaks, posed in the grass, stood on the slightly wobbly red rock perfectly fallen into place. Even though the park was crawling with people it didn’t deter from the beauty of these simple structures, their jagged edges showing years and years of history. We stayed until sunset, until the red stone seemed to glow in the fading sun, the red dust staining our shoes.
We’d wake up the next morning and take our time, enjoy a slow coffee at a cool cafe and make our way back towards Denver to head home. The entire trip had happened in a blur, it was already Monday. What an incredible few days we had, packing so much into such a teeny amount of time. My advice to you, take two weeks. Explore Colorado in at least two weeks because there is so much we didn’t touch, couldn’t touch because of time. We saw an incredible amount of variation in 5 days, enough to wet our appetites to visit again. And after all that, after early mornings and late evenings and everything in between, I realized one important thing: my elevation sickness had finally stopped.