Featured Photo: Football Brown

Featured Photo: Football Brown
Showing posts with label Great Sand Dunes National Park. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Great Sand Dunes National Park. Show all posts

Saturday, December 09, 2023

Colorado 2022: Day Sixteen and Seventeen, Great Sand Dunes and the Trip Home

After the last few days of misery, we were glad to finally be heading home. The last leg of our trip was supposed to be a return to Great Sand Dunes National Park. We had stopped there before, but just a quick drive through and continuing on our trip. For this trip, we had reserved a campsite at Pinon Flats for two nights. The hope was to do some hiking, hopefully including a trip out upon the dunes, and also maybe some night time astrophotography. Due to the ongoing rainy weather and clouds, I hadn't spent much time behind the lens at night since early in the trip at Rocky Mountain National Park.

By some miracle, when we woke up on our last morning at Gateview Campground, it wasn't raining. The air was chilly, but the sky had hints of nicer weather ahead. The only thing keeping the day from being better was that Little Bit was still miserable from having a cold. That lingering cold would be just one of several motivating factors sending us hurrying on our homeward way.

After packing up camp, we headed out to highway 149 and headed south towards Lake City. Still hoping for some great fall colors, we pushed higher and higher towards Slumgullion Pass. The best colors of the day were between Lake City and that pass, although we saw plenty of beautiful golden aspen further along our drive as well. Here are just a few pictures from our frequent stops. 


Highway 149 winds through golden aspen south of Lake City Colorado

San Juan Mountains and golden aspen


As you can see, the clouds were really breaking up nicely and the fresh snow on the higher peaks added a nice touch to the autumn scenery. We had packed some damp gear upon leaving Gateview. As we descended the Rio Grande Valley, we eventually stopped for lunch at a roadside pullout just beyond Creede. Wagon Wheel Gap had some interesting history, but we were also thankful for the bright sun and dry conditions. The various pieces of our tent dried quickly in the low relative humidity and gusty winds. Before long, we were fed and headed down the road towards our goal for the night. 

We had been actively discussing if we even wanted to stop. Little Bit was running a fever and seemed genuinely miserable. We wanted to get home quickly in case it developed into something requiring a trip to the doctor. However, as the day was beginning to grow late and we had to drive right past the Great Sand Dunes National Park anyway, we decided to go ahead and stop for the night. That turned out to be the right call, or at least I think it was. We were all tired, and driving deep into the growing dusk was probably a bad idea. Lots of critters were liable to be out wandering the roads at night, so getting some good rest before traveling further made sense.

In the dying light, I snapped a few pictures of the sand dunes. Under the circumstances, I didn't get to do all the photography I had hoped for. Yet another trip will have to be planned for sometime in the future. However, I did have some reasonably good light for the little photography I got to do. 

Great Sand Dunes National Park at sunset

The next morning, it was obvious that we should go ahead and pack up to head home. Even though our reservation had one more night, Little Bit was miserable. We hiked briefly out on the dunes, but strong down sloping winds off of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains made it miserable. With sand stinging our faces, we quickly retreated after climbing the first prominent high point or ridge. After getting in our car, we decided it was time to go home. I pointed the car homeward, and we started making haste. 



Leah at Great Sand Dunes


Making good time, we arrived in Amarillo that night and the next morning, decided to make it home in one big push. Traveling with a sick toddler isn't a recipe for quick trips, but we just wanted to get home. We arrived in the wee hours of the morning, worn out but having had a great trip. 

Even though the last few days were rough, the overall trip had been a big success. We had also learned some important things. First and foremost, toddlers don't like being cooped up in a kid carrier for hours at a time. Before this trip, we had tentatively planned on another big Glacier National Park trip for 2023. By the end of this trip, both Leah and I had come to the conclusion that another big road trip with a toddler wasn't a great idea. So, we'll wait until we can all enjoy hiking the trails of that amazing park. If you're curious why we are dying to get back to Glacier, check out this post from our last trip there.