Remarkably, we reached Sand Dunes National Park in like an hour. Wat?? Cars are just so fast! The Sand Dunes are part of a pretty remarkable ecosystem made up of several habitats, and host several organisms that aren’t found anywhere else in the world. They are mostly bugs. The Dunes are huge, the tallest one is 750 ft tall, and the main Dunefield stretches out for 30 miles. That’s a shit ton of sand.
They are formed by a intricate combination of natural forces, as all of these crazy landscapes are. Winds from the West blow sand in from the desert in the valley, which collects at the foot of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains. Then, wind blowing down from the mountains whips the sand up into these dune formations. Spring creeks, formed from snowmelt, carry the sand back down to the foot of the main dune field, completing the cycle and keeping all the sand in place. Ta da! That’s my reeeally rough scientific explanation. I realized that I am not great at understanding geological tables which explain this stuff. In any case, these dunes formed thousands of years ago, and the same sand has been recycling though the system in that time. The result is this strange mountain of beach sand perched right in the middle of a typical Colorado mountain scape. It’s pretty neat.
I’m not gonna lie, I was not super pumped about the dunes. I’m from Florida. I’ve seen sand. I’ve even seen sand dunes. These dunes are cool and everything, but I was tired and wasn’t thrilled about walking out straight uphill through some sand. On top of that, it started raining and lightening. So I walked out with Travis and Clint for a little, but they had some male need to climb to the top of the highest dune, while I had a need to use the bathroom.
Other people seemed like they were having more fun— kids obviously love sand and they were jumping around in it, and you can rent sand boards to skirt down the slopes like a snowboard. All I could think about were the buckets of sand they were going to have in their shoes. I was dunzo.
By this time we had entered the Eastern part of the state. Terrain-wise, it’s very similar. Population-wise, it’s basically another state. Southwest Colorado is so rural that we just got used to seeing single-pole electric lines carrying enough power for the whole county and roadsigns announcing 60 miles till the next town. But now we were driving through our last set of mountains on our way to Denver, and this was a whole new story.