The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

We lethargically departed Santa Fe on July 20, stopping downtown for a second round of Farmer’s Market interviews before heading North towards Taos. It was at the market, in fact, that we learned the catchphrase “Land of Entrapment” from a mushroom grower named Danny, putting words to our feelings about New Mexico. Already several days behind schedule, we were running the risk of never leaving the desert, and so made a concerted effort to “rush” towards Colorado. In our hurry we did stop repeatedly to admire the landscape. In particular we were struck by the Gorge-ous Rio Grande Gorge, feeling glad we hadn’t come upon it westward bound in a covered wagon…

3 Shot HDR Canon 5D F 4_17-40mm

In Taos we strolled, admired local artworks, and then ate excellent tacos and a chile relleno at the Guadalajara Grill, gladly taking Christie’s recommendation that we stop and enjoy this classic taqueria.

From there we drove into the sunset and eventually into Colorado, arriving after hours to the The Great Sand Dunes National Monument. After some mild confusion regarding where to camp (not again – darkness and road weariness always get the best of us at camp time), we set up our things and settled down for a night of punctuated sleep. Lack of rest did nothing to hinder our excitement the following day, however. With the morning sun illuminating the enticing sand dunes to the west and a range of Colorado-sized mountains to the east, we made quick work of packing up and with little hesitation charged out and up into sand dunes.

3 shot HDR Canon 5D F 5.6_24-105mm

Taking what Adam called a “White Mountain” approach to the trail-less dunes, I soon blazed a sandy path for us straight up to High Dune. (Adam followed, one eye obscured by his camera).

Canon 5D 2000 F4_24-105mm

We arrived, along with other huffing and puffing visitors (think altitude) after a few miles and stood half stunned by the view that awaited at the top. Here, Adam’s pictures will best suffice:

Presently, we decided to descend and continue with our day in the park. We ran, jumped and rolled like two excited children back down the dunes, shooting video (coming soon), laughing like crazy and surprising a few less ambitious hikers with our antics.

Sand Angel

At the bottom, we returned to the car, shook off some of sand (which continued to appear in hair and pockets for about three days afterwards), and once again went charging into the hills, this time to the east. We made our way up a gorge into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on the other side of the park.

We decided to limit our stay to one day (forest fires had rendered much of the backcountry closed to visitors) and hurried north to meet up with a friend of mine who lives between Nederland and Boulder in Northern CO.

About a year and half ago, I traveled alone for several months in Argentina, Chile, Peru and Bolivia. Down in Chilean Patagonia, I met a young man (Orion Lazo) from New England who I ended up hiking with for five days in the Torres de Paine National Park. Joining forces with a porteña girl and Chilean boy, we hiked close to 100 miles through one of Patagonia’s most fantastic wilderness areas and, as you do, became fast friends. Long story short, we stayed in touch and, when Adam and I decided on our road trip route, made plans to catch up in Nederland, where Orion has been living contentedly since returning from South America.

Getting together “back home” with people you meet while traveling is always a surreal experience. Over time, many of us cross paths with former co-travelers, often unexpectedly and in the most unlikely of places. Meeting up with Orion, however, proved to be one of the wildest of these travelers’ reunions.

First, to further complicate/mystify this unlikely social event, I was able to get in touch with another old friend on the road up toward Nederland. During our final days in Boston, Adam and I spent a few hours with Derek Beckvold, a musician who I met when I started college back in MA. Derek had mentioned he would be in Colorado in late July, traveling with a friend’s band, Full Tang, so we sent him a message from the road. Lo and behold, the group was going to be playing a show in Nederland the following night. Timing was on our side and apparently so was some kind of travelers fate.

What really made all this eerie was when we finally arrived at Orion’s home in Four Mile Canyon and told him about the show the following night. Not only was he familiar with the band Rubblebucket, who Derek and members of Full Tang often play with, but had actually met Derek a few years earlier and talked him into giving him a private saxophone lesson in Burlington, VT.

Surprised but surprisingly not shocked (It’s a small world, la la la) by this strange connection, we settled in for the night in a fortunately spare bedroom, relieving us of the task of setting up our own portable bedroom in the dark once again.

Upon waking in the morning we began a series of great Colorado days with Orion, Ira Dog, Ryan, and Ben.

Canon 5D 3200 F4_24-105mm

More to come, stay tuned!


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