RV Trip: Great Sand Dunes National Park

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A new morning and we zipped up our RV and headed a few miles south to the entrance of our 2nd national park visit for the trip. The kids had been excited to see what this next park had in store when I spoke of mountains made of sand. How big could those big? We could actually see them from our RV spot last night but as we got closer via the highway, the beauty of the sand dunes was revealed.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

The girls were quickly off and running wild through the Medano Creek. This water comes down from the mountains and crosses the dunes and creates a beach for the early part of the summer. In May, its really flowing but by July, its gone. We are here at the end of June so there isn’t a big flow but the water is now warm and there is just enough to play in. The only downside to this area are the bugs. They live in the vegetation along the creek and swarm you if you go nearby. You can go upstream and there is much less vegetation and no bugs. We weren’t bothered by them much all day since we stayed that direction.

Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park

I kept starring off at the dunes and seeing people going for the hike up to them. Older kids were taking sleds out there and riding down the dunes. But there was just one thing I had to do. “You people” have me wanting to race to the top of anything that resembles a hill and time myself.

Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park

So I put on my VFFs and set out. I didn’t take any water, just my video camera. Figured I would be back quickly enough. This was my first run since the race and it was pretty unique! Ran from the river up to the top of the Star Dune, the tallest dune in the park. It hadn’t rained in quite a while so the going was slow. It was like running on a beach, in shoes, that is on the side of a mountain. Brutal heat. My feet started getting hotter and hotter. I finally had to sit down and get them off the sand to cool them down. Turns out enough sand got into my shoes and that was causing the heat up. So I had to stop and dump them periodically and that would cool things down. The sand was 120 degrees yesterday as measured by the ranger we saw. Tagged the top and ran back down. Super fast descent in the sand. Quite fun to barrel down the steep slope and not worry about falling. View my GPS data on Garmin Connect.

Anyway, back at base camp, the kids were still off playing in the water. I got to relax under our cool umbrella tent thing Kim bought for the trip while she walked back to the RV and made everyone lunch.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

The girls got a metal detector from my parents last year. We hadn’t made much use of it around the house but I remembered to bring it on this trip. So the girls walked the beach looking for stuff. Luckily, they didn’t find much — it is a national park and there shouldn’t be a bunch of metal junk in the sand. However, I snuck around and placed coins in the sand and they worked on finding those for quite a while.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

All this time, the fire continued on the hillside around the park. Helicopters were flying over all day. A ranger was discussing the fire with a nervous visitor nearby and I overheard her explaining how important the fire is for the forest’s health. I have heard that before but she had some specifics about how the conifer trees begin to overtake all other specifies and will eradicate them if left unchecked. The fire cleans them out and then the aspens are the first to come back. The conifers eventually return and the cycle repeats.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

After we called it quits for the day, everyone was full of sand. So we got into the RV and cycled through some quick showers right there in the parking lot to get cleaned up. The girls then went into the visitor’s center to turn in their junior ranger homework to pickup their 2nd junior ranger badge of the trip. With that, the visit to the park ended but I am sure we will back in some future year to see the creek with a much larger flow!

Great Sand Dunes National Park