Gina and I LOVED the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado! The dunes there are the tallest dunes in North America, and they settle snugly between snow-capped mountains and a river. This season had been particularly dry, but we were blessed with a very shallow stream that Gina, myself, Roxi, and EVEN SHIRLEY would later enjoy.
We snagged a sweet spot in an RV resort about 3 miles from the entrance of the National Park called Great Sand Dunes Oasis RV Resort. The “resort” had gasoline, a small store, a restaurant, a laundry room, a community lounge, clean and modern bathrooms, and full hook ups, all for $30! Unfortunately, they didn’t have grass or any hiking trails for the dogs, but you win some, you lose some.
The staff at the RV park was very friendly, and they easily fielded all of Gina’s ridiculous questions about wildlife and snakes. We also learned that we could “sand board” and “sled” down the sand dunes but were warned that the sand usually got extremely hot during the day, enough to blister your skin (150 degrees or more)! They advised us to either go early in the day or late in the afternoon, and since it was already mid-afternoon, we made a plan to hit the dunes the next morning.
A few days earlier in Colorado, we purchased a brand-new Tao Tao 50 CC moped at a flea market for $750. We discovered quickly into our trip that it was very inconvenient to have to drive the RV everywhere we needed to go. So instead of having to unhook the RV, pull in the slides, and drive it to the National Park where it would sit in the sun and roast our pets (Because oh yeah, our generator doesn’t work – but that’s a whole other blog!), we kept it cool and snug at the campground and drove the moped there instead.
The moped, which we so appropriately named “Skipper”, can cruise about 35 mph…downhill. He doesn’t have much get-up-and-go, and he HATES going uphill (especially with both Gina and I on board). Thankfully, the ride to the National Park was a piece of cake. The speed limit was consistently 25-30 MPH with little traffic allowing us to fit right in. Gina and I stopped at the visitor’s center to get a game plan going. The view of the Great Sand Dunes from the back patio of the visitor’s center was perfect. We found a hiking trail map, and a staff member suggested that we hike the Mosca Pass trail which led in the opposite direction of the sand dunes up into the mountains. The only problem was that the parking for the trail was about a quarter of a mile further into the park… up a hill. It didn’t seem to be TOO steep, so we thought we’d give Skipper a chance to show us what he’s made of. I knew with absolute certainty that if we didn’t get up to maximum speed before hitting the hill there would be no chance of succeeding. The visitor’s center parking lot was shaped in a loop, so it gave us the perfect opportunity to accelerate. The only other problem was the stop sign at the end of the parking lot. In order to keep our speed, we had to blow the stop sign and pray that we didn’t get creamed in the process.
I puttered around the parking lot loop, getting up to a speed of about 25 miles per hour. I led us with blind confidence toward the stop sign. Just as we began to enter the intersection, a car came flying over the hill to our left, causing me to have to slam on the brakes! I looked back at Gina with the question written all over my face…”Go again?” Surprisingly, she gave me the green light after almost killing us both. But really, the traffic on that road was very sparse, so what were the odds THAT would happen again? I whipped us around the loop once again, open throttle (lol) AND……we cleared the stop sign area with ease. One obstacle down. I leaned forward because… aerodynamics haha! Skipper got us about halfway up the hill when he started to peter out. We started chanting, “Skip-per! Skip-per! Skip-per!” I began thrusting my hips forward to give the moped a boost. Gina refused to help lol. Eventually, we came to a dead stop in the middle of the lane nowhere near the crest of the hill, and we lost ourselves in gut jiggling laughter. In the end, we parked at the Visitor’s Center and walked where we needed to go.
The Mosca Pass trail led us along a creek up into the mountains. Gina had to remind me a few times to slow down and enjoy the journey as I always seem to hike fast with the destination in mind. When I slowed down enough that I could look up from the trail without tripping, I noticed how peaceful and precious the area truly was. Even for as “In The Now” as I try to be, I still need to be reminded to enjoy the moment sometimes. But the destination, I tell ya, was exactly what I hoped it would be.
After making our way back to the visitor’s center, we took a short rest, filled up our water bottles, and used the hiking path behind the visitor’s center to head toward the Great Sand Dunes. There is a parking lot much closer to the sand dunes, but again, Skipper + Hills = Nope. The hike to the parking lot from the sand dunes was short one, but about 1/3 of the path is sand. For anyone who has actually taken a long walk on the beach, you know it sounds a lot more romantic than it actually is haha. From the parking lot, the sand dunes were across the river and then about another ¾ of a mile through flat sand. Because of the time of day and remembering how hot the sun made the sand, we chose to skip out on hiking the rest of the way to the dunes until the next morning when we were going to rent the sleds. Instead, we enjoyed the shallow sandy stream which was all that was left of the roaring river people could once tube down. All I could think about in that moment was how much Roxi would love to be playing in the water.
The next morning, Gina and I got up bright and early and rented our boards. She picked a sled, and I picked a standing board. I was under the impression that it was going to be very similar to snowboarding. It is not. I was quite disappointed when the employee told me that boarding down the sand dunes was not like snowboarding in the sense that you could not carve back and forth. All of your weight had to stay on the back of the board, and the ride was a straight shot down. For anyone who has ever ridden a snowboard straight down a hill without carving, you know how difficult it can be to keep your balance and stay up right! But, we had already completed all the paperwork for the rental boards, so straight down the sand dunes I would go!
Sand boarding was a unique experience. It is just as much fun and sledding or snowboarding, but it’s more awesome because it’s on sand! The sport was quite a bit of work, though! Yes, walking up a snow hill in the cold bundled up like Randy from the Christmas Story while the air burns your lungs sucks. But climbing a sand dune in 85 degrees and sinking in with every step sucks more!
…We had a few successful runs…
…And a few unsuccessful runs…
…but we had a blast the whole time! We very much enjoyed our time at the Great Sand Dunes National Park, and we plan to make a return visit in the future! Gina and I felt safe and comfortable being ourselves out here, and we recommend anyone with a little adventure in them to make a trip!