4:39 pm, July 11: Great Sand Dunes
The last time I visited the Great Sand Dunes, I was young enough to just run straight into the dirt and start scooping up massive mountains, castles, tunnel networks, and anything else my little imagination could come to think of. This time, it took me a little longer, but with Tommy’s help I soon found myself attempting to sculpt the back of a stegosaurus wading across the sands. I must say, either I’ve lost my artistic touch or I was never very good to begin with. Tommy and I quickly transformed ourselves into giant monsters and deftly ravaged the countryside, leaving nothing but sandy rubble.
Still, the urge to rebuild and see how it would turn out this time was completely overwhelming. We found ourselves employing mammoth mechanical scoops (conveniently installed at the ends of our arms) to unearth great quantities of earth and deposit them onto an ever-growing mountainside. Once there was a sufficient accumulation of dirt and grime beneath our fingernails (and believe me, that took a long time), we began smoothing the dirt into the form of a small volcano.
Now, I should amend a previous comment and tell you that it wasn’t Tommy and I that destroyed the first sand creations. Tommy and I were stomping around with great intent, and I did manage to end the short life of the dinosaur, but it was Sammy that destroyed Tommy’s first mountain. So, this second mountain, which we had been spending a good deal more time to build than the first, was intended to share the same fate. But, it just kept getting cooler! Once we completed the tunnel through the mountain’s center, we both knew that this was a structure that should be left to nature’s will. And so, once we knew it was time to head on to the next stop (we arrived at the park three hours late), we simply used a stick to christen it “The Good Sand Dune.” It will stand there forever, and you can’t prove me wrong!
Anyway, I think the last time I must have been too fascinated with the sand creations, because this time I was just continually awe-struck by the scale of the dunes. In my memory, they were huge (ask Tommy, I wouldn’t stop talking to him about it). In reality, they are beyond huge. They’re beyond description. A took some photos of the closest big one, the top of which is dotted with pixels representing actual people that hiked the 1.5 miles to its summit. There’s just now way you can appreciate why they called them “Great” without being there. The pictures make them look like a bunch of sand dunes :)
Now, sand dunes are one thing, but it was the setting that made them truly unique. When you stand facing them, you’re staring into a formidable desert. When you walk from the parking lot into the sand fields, you feel like you’re approaching a Florida beach—and in fact, the seasonal river’s bed, although no longer a source of water, was still wet enough to be damp and just way too much fun.
Then, when I was done staring at the sheer weirdness of this small patch of big desert in the middle of the Rockies, I could just turn around and stare at one of the most inspiring mountain vistas I had ever seen. I stopped, tilted my head back, and breathed in the fresh air. And I asked Sam, “See, wouldn’t you want to live around all of this?”
“Yeah, actually,” she said. “I would.”