In early February 2016, we planned a day trip to visit the Natural Bridge Caverns, located between San Antonio and New Braunfels, Texas. It wasn’t a terribly long ride as it was only about an hour away from where we were parked. We decided a weekday was best to avoid weekend crowds. Or, so we thought…
In the summer of 2015, we relocated from the Air Force Academy Campground to Haggard’s RV Park in Pueblo, Colorado to visit our son who also lived in Pueblo. While parked there, we also met up with our RV friends, Brittany and Eric (also a Coast Guard Vet) of RV Wanderlustsome comraderie and campfires.
When our RV friends weren’t working their remote jobs, we’d get together for an outing and vittles. One morning, we all rose early to drive out to the Great Sand Dunes National Park for some hiking, sightseeing and to get our National Park Passports stamped.
Brittany and Eric gladly agreed to drive if we packed a picnic lunch for the trip. It was about a three hour drive to the Dunes.
About the Great Sand Dunes…
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is actually quite young; established in 2004. It sprawls some 150,000 acres; across part of Southern Colorado’s San Luis Valley, a broad and plain between the San Juan Mountains on the west and the Sangre de Cristos on the east. The tallest dune towers over 750 feet.
Streams and creeks flowing out of the San Juan Mountains over millennia carried gravel and sand into shallow lakes in the San Luis Valley. During drought periods, these lakes dried, releasing the sand particles to the action of the wind. Strong prevailing southwesterly winds carry the tiny grains toward the Sangre de Cristos, piling them up against the foothills.
The resulting dunes are the tallest in North America, covering more than 30 square miles. Adults hike across them and marvel at their beauty; children run and slide down their steep faces, enjoying a playground of fairy-tale proportions. You can read more about how they formed and their geological natures here.
Welcome to the Dunes…
Once we got to the entrance, we stopped for photos because, in our world, it didn’t happen unless there were pictures!
After getting parked, we got our passports stamped at the Visitor Center and viewed a video and hands-on informational exhibits.
All four of us headed to the picnic area where we sat down to enjoy some fellowship while chowing down on our cooler full of vittles. We were blessed with beautiful weather too.
After packing up leftover crumbs of our lunch, we all trekked out to the base of the Dunes and climbed up the first that led to the rest of them.
Our exciting adventure…
It was already a very warm day so it seemed like it was a little more work but that didn’t stop Dan and Brittany from doing the inevitable; climbing to the top of the dunes. Being that Eric has bad knees and I have back issues, we hung out at the top of the smallest dune to watch Brittany and Dan challenge themselves. We were already 6000′ above sea level, so this was a bit more challenging than just taking a stroll up a 750′ hill, not to mention, it was loose sand.
While Eric and I stood there chatting for what seemed forever (because we stood there in the heat for all of it), Brittany and Dan disappeared over the crest of the first dune. They looked like little ants the further they hiked. We’d see them again and then loose them doing down another…and another…and another.
Brittany’s words upon their return, ‘it was quite exerting; one step forward, three steps back and doing it at higher altitude, we just couldn’t catch our breaths’.
Dan said they had to stop often to empty their shoes which weighted them down. Adding to that, it was a very warm day; about 85 degrees.
A few times, we’d see one of them, bend over in the distance during their climb and stop for awhile. They said they were offered water by some passerby’s (hikers that were faster and more in shape as them?!). Then we’d see them start up again.
The finish line…
An hour and a half later, they successfully made it to the top and another hour and a half after that, they came back tired, weary but celebrated. They were red-faced and a bit dehydrated so Eric and I sacrificed our own water bottles to get them back to looking a normal color. But LOOK at them looking all celebratory!
It was a fun day trip with great friends! A little RV family bonding is what we call it. Dan and Brittany felt celebrated and accomplished. I bought them each their own I climbed the Great Sand Dunes sticker for their vehicles (if there were trophies, I would have bought them too!).
On the drive back, our tummies were growling so Eric took to googling places to eat in Pueblo. We agreed on the Bingo Burger which turned out to be a very deserved and pleasant meal. Fantastic burgers!Best friends! Good times! Fantastic memories!