Great Sand Dunes

A friend proposed a road trip, a long day’s drive to Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado. Rather than zip along the interstate highway, we took the scenic route over Guanella Pass and Kenosha Pass into South Park and down through the San Luis Valley. She was a kindred soul; we readily agreed to pull over for interesting sights along the way.

When we went early this week, the fall colors were just beginning. The aspens were yellowing in only a few places, and would need another week or so to don their golden brilliance. The snow peaks were gone, having melted in late summer; no early snows dusting the high mountains yet. And the wildflowers were mostly spent. But there were plenty of spots that caught our eyes along the route.

Shadows from intermittent clouds created dark shapes moving among the green hills. A stream, Geneva Creek, on its way to join the North Fork of the South Platte River, gurgled by.

A yard full of old trucks. And some highlights in tiny towns.

As the wide San Luis Valley opened up, the desert landscape painted yellow across the valley floor. The pale shapes of the sand dunes rose up against the eastern mountain range. The dunes were formed by sediment from the surrounding mountains that settled in the valley. Southwestern winds blew the sand up against the Sangre de Cristo range over thousands of years. The peaks and valleys of the dunes are always shifting with the seasons and the winds.

I exchanged my sandals for the sneakers I brought along, while my friend put on moccasins which quickly filled with sand as we headed out over the dry creek bottom and onto deep beach-like sands. She took them off, delighting in the feel of the sand on her bare feet. I was tempted to do the same, but it’s hard to manipulate a camera while holding shoes. It was mid-afternoon and contrasts in light and dark sculpted the dunes, the shadows of hikers stretched longer than their silhouettes. A few hardy plants took root here and there. We sat down on the side of a hill ribbed with lines from wind. In the breeze, a thin spray of sand slid over the surface, footprints slowly disappearing. Quiet and peaceful, enjoying nature in this seeming unnatural place.

Shadows deepened as we left.

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Published by rkrontheroad

Writer, photographer, traveler

55 thoughts on “Great Sand Dunes

  1. The sublime natural landscape of Colorado is boundless. I only had a brief stint in the US state a few years ago, but based on your photos, there’s so much more that needs to be seen. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I visited Great Sand Dune NP about 25 years ago when the family was on a ski trip to Wolf Creek in the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Your outstanding photos rekindled memories. It was weird to see those huge sand dunes and no water anywhere around.

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  3. Love the silhouette photos, Ruth, especially the one framed with trees and the hikers in the second to last. Also, I have to admit the first photo had me thinking the Sahara instead of the Great Sand Dunes right here in my (our) backyard!

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    1. Funny you should ask! I have written a travel memoir of my eight years living abroad and travel in those countries. Trying to get an agent to pick it up and go with traditional publishing; I really don’t want to self-publish. Please click the About link on my page to find out more. Unfortunately, my brain doesn’t go into fictional stories, wish it could. I really appreciate this comment, Beth!!

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  4. Greatly enjoyed this road trip Ruth. Colorado is quite literally the stuff of dreams for Sladja and I and this piece has only fuelled that wanderlust further. Love the different shades of light on the sides of the hills and mountains. If we were doing this trip, I fear we would be greatly sidetracked by the prospect of fresh fudge at the diner. And obviously the dunes themselves are just stunning.

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  5. What a wonderful selection of beautiful photos, including the vibrant murals and mountain views. I’ve never been to the Great Sand Dunes, but I can easily imagine that anyone seeing the tallest sand dunes in person must be in awe of the spectacular array of the country’s most unique geographic formations. It makes me wonder what a desert is like after dark? Thanks for sharing and have a lovely day 🙂 Aiva xx

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  6. The Dunes are otherworldly – perfect timing for the new Dune movie to be released. If I look very hard, I can see giant worms…😀 Everything looked wonderful – a great short distance travel destination for us. Thank you for the inspiration!

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