The alarm went off at 6 a.m. after a dismal night of light sleep, and I wanted to pass back out. A large "WHOA" from Eric convinced me to sit up, and there they were. Massive sand dunes - dark tan against a deep blue sky. The pine-studded hills and snow-capped peaks of the 14,000 foot Sangre de Cristos surrounded the bone dry dunes with supreme grandeur. The dunes are a geological wonder, formed when an ancient lake dried up and westward winds blew every grain of sand up against the natural barrier of the Sangre de Cristos. Seeing the scale of it all gave a humbling sense of what I call smallitude, feeling entirely significant against the massive landscape.
|the medano creek basin flanked by the southern tip of the sangre de cristo mountains - photo by dylan jones|
|one word - epic - photo by dylan jones|
We had to move fast - the sun was already blazing and sand temperatures can reach 140 degrees in the afternoon. We filled up with water and grabbed a few snacks, heading for the intimidating hike to the summit of High Dune. The elevation of the dune basin is 8,000 feet - enough to give us East coasters short breath, naseua and headaches. On we trudged, taking it step by step, from dune ridge to ridge, trying to traverse efficiently. Heading straight up will kill your energy in a few hundred steps. High Dune sits 800 feet above the basin, offering a view of the entire sand dune field and the epic Sangre range. I couldn't help but wonder what it must be like to be in a caravan in the Gobi desert - a thought that brought some scary images of dehydration of third degree sunburn.
|bone dry dunes contrast the lush pines of the sangre de cristos - photo by dylan jones|
|forget a beach, we like high altitude and massive mountains for toes in the sand - photo by dylan jones|