We have made 3 trips to Great Sand Dunes in the past 5 years and man … it NEVER disappoints. The awe of a giant pile of sand in the middle of the Colorado mountains? Always breathtaking. Always incredible and always SO SO fun! This go-around we went with some great friends for our first camping trip together and had a wonderful time.
We left Thursday after work. We got going late. Our progress was slow. VERY slow. Stops, delays, whining. And then we got there finally at 2 AM and the loop we were expecting to be open, expecting to be able to camp in was CLOSED. Seriously??? So we went to another loop which was for groups only and had no pop ups or RVs allowed and it was clear that we weren’t the only ones flummoxed by the turn of events. Tons of people were camping here there and everywhere, so we joined the fun, parked the 4 Runner and the popup across a few parking spots and half-popped the camper. We didn’t unhitch it and just got it up enough to pop out one bed and stuck everyone in that one bed and passed out. Really it wasn’t half bad. The next morning we found out that it was all a mistake and our loop was supposed to be opened.
So after a quick breakfast and packing up we moved into our spot for the weekend. It took us a while to get into the spot since it was really sloped and we were just about to go exploring when our friends showed up. Yay!
After naptime for the littlest, we went to Zapata Falls for a hike. For the uninitiated, Zapata falls is an amazing waterfall IN A CAVE. You hike the last 100 feet or so through the river into the cave and woa! there’s the waterfall. This time we got to see it still frozen. That of course meant that the water we hiked through was freezing cold, probably only liquid because it was moving. Brrrrrrrrr
We got back to camp pretty late, enjoyed dinner, a campfire and some s’mores and everyone passed out happily. The moon both nights we were there was incredibly bright and beautiful. It was so bright you really didn’t need a flashlight to navigate the campground. Amazing! Unfortunately it made it so you couldn’t really see the stars (Sand Dunes is one of the best places in the country for stargazing because it has remarkably low levels of light pollution).
The next morning, we made the pancakes and stocked up for the day. J and I went for a nice easy 3 mile run along the main access road … nice but HILLY. Still it was good to get out and move and great to run in such gorgeous surroundings.
We all went over to the dunes and the guys worked on climbing them while J and the kids and I had a fab time at the faux beach created when the Medano flows. The water is nicely warmed by the hot sand it flows over and it never gets much over calf-deep, so it’s perfect for kids to play in. All the fun of the beach without cold water or scary aspects of the ocean. We were there for hours and we practically had to drag the kids away kicking and screaming.
We had naps (such great naps!) followed by an early dinner. Then we went to the little restaurant/lodge/shop just outside the park entrance to have ice cream – they make amazing milkshakes. Before bed, we took the kids on a nature hike near the visitors’ center and watched the sun set over the dunes. Nothing quite like it.
We all had a wonderfully fun, exhausting time. We left the site early and had breakfast at the milkshake diner. The trip home was nice and uneventful and we got home and cleaned out the popup just before the rain started. Everyone showered and emptied about a pound of dirt and sand down the drain. And it’s good to be home.
This guy had an epic weekend. He went everywhere with us and he is almost as exhausted as the rest of us.