On our National Park’s 100th anniversary in August 2016, we thought it was fitting to visit one of America’s most famous memorials; Mount Rushmore National Memorial. This great memorial is located in South Dakota with majestic views of the Black Hills.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of travelers look forward to taking advantage of our National Park Free Admission Days. This wonderful opportunity allows visitors to visit our National Parks. Also included are our National Monuments, Historical Landmarks, National Battlefields, National Seashores, etc. without requiring a pass or payment.
Before we stepped foot into our first RV in 2014, we’ve already been to four National Parks and several National Monuments and Historical Parks when we were motorcycle nomads. We paid entry admissions for all of them because we didn’t have a National Park Pass. Why? Because we didn’t know about them!
Did you know there’s 60 of National Parks; at least one in every state? That’s ‘just’ the National Parks since 1916! There’s also countless National Monuments, Historic Landmarks, Battlefields, Military Parks, Seashores, Lakes and Rivers. They’ve grown to epic numbers of visitors. It’s fairly inexpensive, fun and a great way to get in touch with nature and the wild. At the same time, it’s a great way to learn about our Country’s history, geography and geology. Are you ready for your amazing experience?
Its November; the month for giving thanks. We are grateful for life’s rewards, the smallest of struggles and everything in between. We feel its necessary to recognize those who have been a huge influence in our RV traveling journey for the past two years.
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!
There’s a cool National Monument in western Nebraska that is rich in history of our country. We actually happened upon Scotts Bluff National Monument on one of our cross-country motorcycle trips pre-RV. But it wasn’t just the history that drew us to this strange bluff situated on the flatland valley along the Platte River. We decided to visit again but with purpose…
Between 1840 and 1869, visions of wealth and opportunity lured over 500,000 pioneers west to fulfill their dreams and a nation’s destiny. These emigrants started their journeys in Kansas and Missouri, walking more than 2,200 miles for months in pursuit of a better life. Since there were no road signs back then, they used natural landmarks to point the way. Along the Oregon Trail, they named a few of those Chimney Rock, Courthouse and Jail Rocks. Today, you can visit Chimney Rock National Historic Site to learn about them.