For over a year Jon and I have been dreaming of visiting Great Sand Dunes National Park. It seemed like an impossible fantasy land. How on earth could such a place be real? Well, it is a fantasy land and it is also very real. Our first backpacking trip of 2017 was kicked off in the most gorgeous way possible: desert, 14ers, a forming stream, solitude. We arrived at the dunes and fell in love with them immediately.
In 2017 my goal is to visit a minimum of eight National Parks. So far we've been to Rocky Mountain a few times. Great Sand Dunes is our second official NP of 2017. National Parks are amazing, in that every new park I visit, I declare it my favorite. They are all so incredibly different and unique. It's hard to have a favorite, but I know for sure Sand Dunes will be revisited often. It is magic.
Driving up to the dunes is memorizing. You enter the San Luis Valley and everything becomes lovely. There are 14ers and other large mountains- capped in brilliant snow. There is wildlife and stillness. The sky is so vast. The perfect cap to the ring of mountains that surround you.
And then you see the dunes. And your brain tries to process it all; alpine mountains-desert dunes-wide open sky-forest. As we entered the back country we were delighted by the forming stream we had to run ahead of to cross. It comes down from Medano Lake- an alpine lake that holds its own spectacular beauty. We were so lucky to see this stream forming. It is an unusual time of year for such things and our timing was perfect.
"Pure water is the world’s first and foremost medicine."
I had never walked on true sand before. And there was certainly a learning curve with getting comfortable on it. Especially trekking through the massive dunes. I always felt like I was going to fall or slide down them, with my big backpack and camera. Luckily, as time and miles passed, I became better acquainted with this odd ground and embraced it. Once we found our camping spot, the boots and socks came off. The rest of our time was spent barefoot in this pure, clean and remarkably warm sand. It was healing and addictive and rad.
For scale, here we have some friends far away on some other dunes. These things are monsters of sand. They are heartbreakingly breathtaking. I have never had the chance to photograph something so monochromatic and vast. It was a dream. It was hands down the strangest landscape I've experienced.
Right across the stream, on the other side of the dunes, you will find alpine mountains. Incredible. Strange. Everything.
This was our home. Much like winter camping, camping in sand requires a lot of care in regards to keeping the outside outside. And not in the tent. Winds here are extremely gusty and stiff. We experienced that mainly in the night, and mildly during the day. The contrast of hot air and ground with a cool mountain breeze was to die for.
I honestly don't think I can express how beautiful this spot on our planet is. It shook up my soul. There were moments I will remember for the rest of my life. And what it meant to me, after everything the past few months have been about... it rejuvenated me and has propelled me forward. I look forward to saying hello to these dunes soon. They are special.
Keeping sand out of our food was a challenge. I believe this will take a bit of trial and error to actually figure out.
The sunrise and sunset were magnificent and still. It made my heart soar to look to the left and see a desert sky. To the right and an alpine sky. To know such a place exists, that is life changing. It's that feeling deep inside. That our world, our natural world, it is all. Nothing else is nearly as important as preserving these majestic worlds.
"When we heal the earth, we heal ourselves." -David Orr