A few weeks ago, Bill Chance commented on my avatar photo and mentioned that he had some photos of his family in that exact spot. By the way, if you want to see some great photography check out his blog. Since he and I both know where this picture was made, I thought I would let everyone else in on the location.
Two years ago, I was driving down Highway 160 in southern Colorado when I stopped at the Fort Garland Museum. I can’t pass up an old western fort and spent some time wandering through the barracks and parade grounds. Before leaving, I asked the lady in the gift shop if there was anything else of interest in the area, and she directed me to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. As you can probably tell from the above photo, I found it.
I had no idea what was in store because I had never heard of this particular park, but, after turning off the highway, I realized that it was something interesting. The sand dunes, something unexpected in the Rockies, could be seen from miles away. To myself, I thought I had stumbled upon something that nobody else knew about – a natural wonder unspoiled by the tourists who invaded the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. Of course, that was before sitting in the traffic jam at the entrance. Apparently, everyone in the area wanted to look at the dunes.
The traffic jam finally cleared, and I made my way to the parking lot filled with people wearing bathing suits and toting beach balls. Beach balls in the Rockies? Yes, beach balls in the Rockies. This wasn’t a pristine natural wonder. This was a massive recreation area. The sand dunes towered over the parking lot, but the area between the two was filled with water flowing from the mountains. It was like a beach with children frollicking in the water; teenagers riding water boards; older people sitting in beach chairs; and twenty-something’s sunbathing along the side.
After a wade across a quite of bit of water, I climbed the dunes with hundreds of other people. The sand was loose and hard to walk through, but I tried my best to make it to the top. At the time, I didn’t know that these are the largest sand dunes in North America and rise 750 feet. I have hiked higher and steeper climbs but not while sinking with every step. I didn’t get to the top. I am determined to go back and do it, however.
So, that’s my avatar photo. If you ever head down Highway 160 in southern Colorado you should stop by and check it out. It’s an opportunity to have some fun in the Colorado sun.