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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Great Sand Dunes

June 1st, 2013 · 2 Comments

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When someone leaves on a trip, an ancient blessing goes something like this:

“May all your surprises be happy ones.”

Maybe you were the person who said or had that thought when I left home in Boulder on May 5 for a three-week swing through the American Southwest. I drove 3,400 miles and stayed in southern Colorado, in central New Mexico, in southeastern and northern Arizona, and in Utah. While the 5,800 photos that I took may seem like a lot, it was only 1.7 photos per mile.

Whoever blessed my trip did a great job of it. Everything worked out.

The impetus for this journey was to return to Southeastern Arizona. I went there 13 months ago and visited two of the three main naturalist areas. I wanted to visit the third one, and I wanted to go in May when the birding migration was in full swing. The migrant birds were there, including several Elegant Trogons that I had only briefly glimpsed last year. That worked out.

Plotting my route from Boulder to Southeastern Arizona meant two overnight stops. The obvious first one was the Great Sand Dunes National Park in south central Colorado, 240 miles from Boulder. While I had enjoyed two previous visits to the dunes, I wanted to climb them again and get better photos of the sand.

Now, sand isn’t easy to photograph and is just as hard to climb. But when I climbed to the top of a dune on this trip early one morning, a brief rain the previous evening had made the sand firmer and the air clearer.

My first view of the sand dunes on this trip was from my room at the Great Sand Dunes Lodge. In the photo below they look like they might be a few feet high. But they rise nearly 750 feet from billions of grains of sand blown by wind across the San Luis Valley. They cover about 39 square miles and are the highest dunes in North America.

The Great Sand Dunes Stand Between the San Luis Valley and the Sangre de Christo Mountains

The Great Sand Dunes Stand Between the San Luis Valley and the Sangre de Christo Mountains

Click on the picture above to enlarge
Nearing the Top of the Sand Dune

Nearing the Top of the Sand Dune

Click on the picture above to enlarge

Standing just below the dark bulk of this dune crest felt oppressive. I could feel the power of the sand.

Another View from Almost the Same Place

Another View from Almost the Same Place

Click on the picture above to enlarge

I took the second and third photos from near the top of the dune. When I reached the top, I could see the same mountains that you can see in the first photograph, although I was just a little closer. But I found the true beauty of the dunes on the way to the top rather than when I stood on the summit. Like all in life, the journey is what counts. It works that way for me.


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Posted in: Photography

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Carole Lannom // Jul 2, 2013 at 4:12 am

    Have you jeeped in the San Juan’s in CO? Done the San Juan Triangle in a jeep?

    I have Type 2 diabetes and we take jeep trips in the San Juan Mtns. in CO. We have been to the Great Sand Dunes and loved it.

    Love your pictures!

  • 2 David Mendosa // Jul 3, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    Dear Carole,

    I haven’t done that yet. A good friend of mine also recommends it, and I will have to do it next year. This year I’m spending the summer in Alaska!