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Variety - Great Sand Dunes part 1

Tallest sand dunes in North America

Ancient dunes with Sangre de Cristo mountain range behind it

I woke up around 4 AM in the Palo Duro in Texas. I wanted to leave early and avoid a potential storm or a tornado. I didn't get to say goodbye to the lovely couple beside me. They said they were from Florida and that Palo Duro was their favorite park. I hope to meet them again someday or get in contact. They said they camp there almost every year. But I'll always have them in my memory. They made my visit there very pleasant 😍

I packed my tent and started driving west. It took me an hour before I landed on the famous Route 66 on a stretch between Amarillo, TX, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. My first stop for the day was a cool place Karla found in Santa Fe, NM - Meow Wolf. The road up to there was a steady climb, and I could see it in my fuel consumption. The altitude on my GPS was rising as fast as I advanced through Texas and as I entered New Mexico - Land of Enchantment 🧙‍♂️

Great sand dunes of Colorado

After around four and a half hours of driving 300 km (600 miles), I was there. I arrived at Meow Wolf just before the opening and had a blast. I won't share any of the pics not to spoil the fun. But here's the pitch of the place. Meow Wolf is a company that does large-scale interactive art installations. I'm talking about a whole building where you can roam and explore. There are many hidden things, passages, Easter eggs, puzzles, etc. I suggest you Google a Meow Wolf location near you (yes, they have a few places).

A small, self-service gas station at the entrance of the Great Sand Dunes National Park

I loomed around the trippy installations, trying to get the most out of them. I spent around one to one hour and a half there, which was awesome. Can't wait to see it again somewhere else. Right after that, I headed my way up to Colorado from New Mexico. The drive was supposed to be three hours or around 200 km (175 miles), but I had to stop and eat. I started seeing mountain ranges for the first time on this trip. The north of New Mexico was covered in evergreen forests and rock formations that almost made me crash for admiring too hard 🤩 These were the tails of the famous Rocky Mountains.

I was now in Colorado. The first thing you see is a marijuana dispensary shop at the border 😂 I guess that was made for the eager folks of New Mexico who wanted their green grass to be legal and legit. I stopped with that some time ago and didn't have any interest, but it was funny that the shop was literally next to the border of two states, with no shame whatsoever. My destination was the Great Sand Dunes National Park in the San Luis Valley, CO. The whole area was similar to the desert environment I left in Texas a couple of hours ago, but a bit different.

The whole valley is up 2300m (7500 ft), and it is not as warm as in Texas for sure. We were still in Colorado, and it was the end of May. I saw the storm forming in the distance as I approached my destination. A large dark cloud was moving its way in my direction 💨 You can see it in the pics from that day. It didn't look pretty at all. I was lucky. The storm didn't happen in full effect. Only a couple of strong wind gusts visited the campsite we booked. But it was cold and slowly getting even more.

Warning about bears in this area

To give you an intro to the Great Sand Dunes. They are left there, slowly eroding from the day they got there. And they got there from a large lake that covered the San Luis Valley and with the great help of opposing winds in that area. The winds from the valley blow in the direction of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains 🗻 behind the dunes, and vice versa. And if this sounds funny or naive, you should visit there. The following day, the wind blows from midday all the way until the evening all across the place, but I'll talk about that more in the next post.

I set camp and cooked some steak for dinner. We bought some charcoal that makes it easy to get a fire going. Of course, I didn't know that at first, and I tried playing with some lighter fluid to fire it up. I hope none of the neighbors were looking. Or at least that they didn't laugh hard. After some time, I got it going and was ready to cook. With my belly full, I got a couple of minutes of daylight to snap some of the photos you can see here. The wind was blowing strong, and I was feeling cold, having just left Texas heat 🥵

A couple of steaks and a can of beans, campers dream

I layered up and bunked up in the car. The tent was no option because I saw it would get below freezing that night, and I didn't want to become frozen overnight. I followed the bear instructions on the warning sign - all the food and items that can attract a bear were to be put in a bear-proof container. Yes, even deodorants. I fell asleep easily, knowing no bear would knock or open my rented car. The next day, it was time to hike the dunes 🏜

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