Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S is for Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Great Sand Dunes

 

Down at the southern end of Colorado, the southernmost segment of the Rocky Mountains is known as the Sangre de Cristo mountains (they continue on down into New Mexico, ending near Santa Fe).  At at the base of these conveniently S-named mountains are the Great Sand Dunes, also S-named a really cool.  And we've had fun with both.

The Sangres are the site of the first "real" backpack trip we did with our boys, with no packers and no outside help (except a car shuttle).  They were barely 5 and 6 1/2, and about as big as their tiny backpacks. The trip was, alas, before our photography went digital, so I don't have much available to post, and those I have are scanned from slides.

I can't help looking at those chubby baby-knees and wondering what we were doing!
Snack stop--a very frequent event


Day three--the top of Venable Pass, and more snacks



The trip was amazing for what it was--three nights, 13 miles, from one side of the range to the other via three passes (we ran right along the divide for a couple of miles).  We started near Crestone and ended near Westcliff.
Approaching the Phantom Terrace, the amazing cliffy trail from one pass to the next.

The Great Sand Dunes we have visited several times (including the same trip as the packtrip above).  They are amazing--sand dunes, surrounded on 2.5 side by 13- and 14-thousand-foot peaks.  In the spring, the mountains have snow, and the creek around the base of the dunes surges like waves breaking over the shore.  The dunes are among the highest in North America, with the tallest being over 700'.*  And I'm pretty sure they are the ones at the highest altitude--the base of the dune field is nearly 8200'.

In addition to the cool creek (and how cool IS it to have a creek at the edge of a dune field?) the dunes are one of a handful world-wide that "sing" when conditions are right.  The shifting sands will set up harmonic resonances that are akin to the bass note on the biggest pipe organ you ever met, and can be felt through your whole body.

These photos are from a trip in 2012.
The edge of the dunes is abrupt, although there is plenty of sand in among the trees and sagebrush

The first hikers atop the main dune that morning, though it was a calm night so there were old prints.

The dunes are on the edge of the San Luis Valley in Colorado.


*Two other sets of dunes also claim to be highest: the Eureka Dunes in Death Valley National Park and the Kelso Dunes in the East Mojave National Scenic Area.  The Kelso dunes are another "singing" dune.

And I leave you with two filthy boys, enjoying the post-pack-trip tradition: ice cream!
Not Death By Ice Cream, but ice cream as the elixir of life!

12 comments:

  1. Look how tiny you guys look next to that terrace

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    1. Well, it was a big hunk of rock! But in all fairness. . . those are the boys, and they WERE tiny!

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  2. The Great Sand Dunes sound amazing! Love the pics. :)

    Madeline @ The Shellshank Redemption
    Minion, Capt. Alex's Ninja Minion Army
    The 2014 Blogging from A-Z Challenge

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    1. Wonderful stuff out there, when you go looking for it! And sand dunes are super-cool. Even a couple of years ago, as young teens, the boys loved the things they could do with a creek and a lot of sand :)

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  3. What wonderful memories your children will have, and I'm sure it's inspired their sense of adventure and confidence. Both will be invaluable as they go through life. Lovely pics!

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    1. Sure hope so! I sometimes wonder if they'll be backpackers when they are on their own. We shall see!

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  4. Looks like an amazing trip! Your sons were obviously troopers to walk that far without complaint at that age.

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    1. I never said they didn't complain ;) But they have always loved camping, especially away from everyone else, and understood that the price of that is walking.

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  5. I would love to see that from a hiking trail! I took my daughters and some of their friends on a week long AT hike (but they were teens) and it was such a memorable adventure. So good for families to do stuff like that together.

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    1. Absolutely! I'm starting to wonder what happens next--Oldest Son is just about finished with his Junior year in high school, so everything is going to be changing.

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  6. Brilliant trip - thanks for sharing it with us!

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    1. Thanks! Fun to look back at those old photos.

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