You Get Sand in Your Car

You might have seen them. National Park Yelp reviews that are, well, stupid:


“There are bugs and they will bite you on your face.” – Sequoia National Park


“The only thing to do here is walk around the desert.” – Joshua Tree National Park


“All I saw was a lake, mountains and some trees.” – Grand Teton National Park


“Paid $20 to get in. Didn’t even get to touch lava.” – Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park


I sometimes wonder how many of these are the writer’s true feelings and how many are being sarcastic just to have fun with the reader.


None-the-less, let me add one of my own:


"You get sand in your car." – Great Sand Dunes National Park

Photo of sand dunes rolling out for miles with clouds above.
Great Sand Dunes National Park **

Surprise! If you drive to something called Great Sand Dunes National Park, you’ll probably get sand in your car. There’s sand everywhere. That’s kind of what a sand dune is about.


Great Sand Dunes is situated in southern Colorado, not far from the New Mexico border.


This isn’t the Bonneville Salt Flats or the Great Salt Lake. These really are sand dunes. Rising to as high as 750 feet, they are the tallest sand dunes on the North American continent.


It’s a grown-up sized sand box covering 30 square miles, estimated to include nearly 1.8 billion tons, billion with a “b”, of sand.


The best part is visitors, young and old, are free to roam on them, in whichever direction you care to go.

Photo of ribbon of highway leading to a distant mountain.
The winds whip hard across the wide open highway for miles leading to the park. No surprise the sands have collected here. **

I didn’t quite make it to the top though I did get pretty close. I was there in March. It was both cold and very windy.


Hiking up the dune, dark skies began rolling in and something told me I didn’t want to be on the top of a sand dune in the middle of a rain or lightning storm.


As it turned out, it wasn’t rain that began falling as I neared the parking area on the way back. It was what the tv weather people are now calling graupel, those little snow pellets

.

One of the real disconnects when you’re out in the middle of the park, high up one of those dunes, is the feeling that you've been transported to some African desert but, right there, just on the edge of the park are snowcapped mountains.


Blanca Peak, rising 14,345 feet, rests to the south of Great Sand Dunes and is considered sacred to the Navajo, with sister mountains visible in other directions.


I spliced together a couple of videos I took along the way. The first part, as I was walking across the dunes, shows the drifting sand. The second, from higher up the dune gives you a view of just how beautiful the dunes are with their undulating shapes and the unique designs naturally created on them, as well as the nearby mountains and incoming dark clouds:



If hiking up them and taking in the view isn’t enough excitement for you, well then, how about sledding down them?!?!



With the cold and wind going on when I was there no one was attempting it. During other parts of the year though, it’s great fun. Just don’t bother bringing your sleds with you.


Sand sledding is different from snow sledding and is best when using boards and sleds specifically made for it. They don’t rent them at the park but if you do a little planning ahead you can rent one from an outfitter on your trip there.

Photo of sand dunes with two people, barely visible, on top of a dune.
The two hikers in middle of this photo, and another off to the left, provide a reference to just how big the dunes are. **

FYI, the closest entrance to the dunes is on past the visitors center. Definitely stop at the center first. There are also trails behind it, but the one that actually enters into the dunes is past there.


The park is open 24/7 and I’ve heard it’s a great dark sky location for viewing the stars at night.


Just remember, you’ll get sand in your car. And it will be worth every single miniscule pebble of it.


Oh, on that note, if you want to change clothes after venturing out onto the dunes there is a changing shelter near the parking lot. At the very least I advise shaking out your jackets and shoes before getting back in the car.


Check out my flickr page to see more photos from the park.


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**I allow use of my photos through Creative Commons License. I'm not looking to make money off this thing. I only ask you provide me with credit for the photo by noting my blog address, alansheaven.com, or a link back to this page.

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