Happy June Hikers!
I’m so excited to share my adventures in the Great Sand Dunes National Park, and the totally random, and nearby, Colorado Gators Reptile Park!
First, I need to point out how I actually found out about the Sand Dunes. When I moved to Colorado last year I picked up a free map at a gas station that had cycling routes, national parks and preserves, and wilderness areas and mountains all marked on it.
I thought it might come in handy so I stuffed it in a backpack and never pulled it out again until recently. I have a not-so-secret love of maps, all maps! Old maps, new maps, trail maps, road maps! So I decided to hang this map of Colorado in my hallway to help me get a little more oriented to the west, after growing up on the East Coast, I don’t have a good sense of what’s around me out here.
Hanging up that map was a game changer! I could immediately and easily see all the towns, parks, trails, mountains, and wilderness areas that were within a couple hours drive from where I live! One of them being Great Sand Dunes National Park, so of course I made that first on my list for weekend adventures.
The drive out to the Sand Dunes was a little worrisome, there really is nothing out there! Just driving for a couple hours through the Colorado desert, with teeny tiny towns here and there. And, of course, hand painted signs promoting UFO’s and ET’s.
The coolest and most random thing of all though, out there in the middle of no where, is a giant alligator and reptile park and rescue! What started out as a tilapia farm, transformed into a refuge for unwanted pet alligators and other reptiles. They had about 300 alligators and many other huge snakes, turtles, tortoises, bearded dragons, scorpions, tilapia, and many other creatures. I even got to hold a live alligator! Which was actually really scary! But I’m glad I did it.
Then we continued to drive through the desert, until you could start to see the Sand Dunes in the distance, taking up 30 square miles and rising up about 800 ft off the desert floor at the base of the Sangre De Cristo mountain range.
I had never seen anything like them. It almost looked fake, animated, like the desert in Aladdin, except it was right in front of us! It is such a unique geographical area, and still always changing and being reformed by the strong winds blowing through.
Luckily, we made it time to still play in Medano Creek, that flows around the base of the dunes during May and June each year as the snow melts off the Sangre’s.
We also got to hike up to the top of dunes for a full view of the park and Medano Creek. I never thought hiking on sand would be so difficult!! The dunes were very steep at times and it was like you were just treading sand trying to climb up them. It was a very slow and hard work out!
Overall, that was two days very well spent! Checking out alligators, playing on sand dunes and in Medano Creek like little kids, and camping out at the base of the Sangre De Cristo mountains.
I feel so lucky to get to have experienced a new place, try new things, and act like a kid again! I truly wish the same for you this summer! (Well really I wish this for you every season of the year! But for most people, these things happen over summer.)
So get out there, go to a new place, try something new and just let loose! Even if it’s just for a weekend, it doesn’t have to be a long, expensive vacation!
Until next time,