Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Sand Dune Solitude

Recently, I had the opportunity to be one of the ten backpackers issued a back country pass to sleep in and/or around the Great Sand Dunes National Park Dune field.  The park is located in the San Luis Valley near Crestone, Colorado.  Crestone is know for it's positive energy vortex and is full of spiritual people and amazing Buddhist temples.                

I highly recommend this trip for ANYONE who would like a short, but silent backpacking trip into one of the most magnificent places in the world.  The elevation is low enough where you aren't huffing and puffing onto a 14,000 foot peak and is fun enough to explore the different ecosystems in and around the dunes.   You can take as long or as little time you need to hike into the dunes, which means no pressure for speed hiking....unless you set off about an hour or two before nightfall.

Visiting the Great Sand Dunes has always been a person favorite location of mine, but had never slept in the Sand Dunes until last month.  The dunes call to me every early summer, while the Medano Creek still surges and breathes with the with pulse of the earth.  Last year, I heard about the limited back country passes and decided to take advantage of the opportunity this year by completing a solo Sand Dune Solitude adventure.

Upon arriving at the park, I hurried to the visitor center to hopefully obtain a back country permit.  The park only gives out ten permits a night and luckily I was only number four at 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon.  The ranger issuing the pass, signed me up to park at Point Of No Return.  Despite the haunting name, I found the very small parking lot and nearby trail head inviting.  I hiked about a 1/2 mile to Medano Creek and played in the water a bit until the mosquitoes were too much.  I crossed the creek into the maze of dunes.  Typically there aren't as many mosquitoes, but Colorado had a record high amount of late snow and early summer rain this year.

After crossing Medano Creek and headed up the dunes. I was able to capture these fabulous views of the San Luis Mountains behind the dunes. Hiking into the dunes themselves isn't too long of a hike as the crow flies, but it definitely drains your energy hiking in the sand straight up to the peaks.  If you haven't hiked in dune before, think of the scenario of one step up/half step down. The sand is also hot during mid day, so I would highly recommend sport sandals.  I was able to hike on the east side w/o a problem since I started my hike around 3pm, after the sun had moved to the west side of the dunes.  Hiking in the evening and early morning is also a good time to hike barefoot.

I set up my bivy and slept inside because of the expected thunderstorms.  Luckily it only rained for about 30 minutes, then I was able to sleep outside under the milky way. Since the temperatures weren't hot and the sand held warmth for part of the night, my summer sleeping bag of 25 degrees did the trick just fine.  I kept my pack light and was able to use my daughter's amazing Osprey day pack.  The food was very minimal- a couple of Luna Bars, 2 hard boiled eggs and lots of water.  This worked out well for a quick overnight trip.

 I decided to summit a dune in the morning right after sunrise,  This photo was take as I was walking up the dune.  Aren't these shadows amazing in the morning sun?

This picture was taken in the morning as I submitted the tallest dune peak by sleeping area.  Taking a few minutes to sit down and enjoy the view is so important to me.  Sometimes being alone and one with earth is well needed to reconnect.  This trip definitely fulfilled that need.  My trip was one of the quietest hikes I ever completed.  I didn't see a single soul past 5 or 6pm, and it was quiet enough to hear the sand blow it's energy around me.  There aren't many birds or animal noises in the dunes, so will confidently call this trip my Sand Dune Solitude adventure.

While taking time to my self I came up with this quote that seems to be a theme in my life.