Thursday, March 19, 2015

Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO

There's sand everywhere! Located in Colorado's San Luis valley near Mosca, Colorado is quite possibly one of the most unique national parks in the system: Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Pictures just don't do this place justice. Surrounded by dozens of miles of open range country, as far as the eyes can see and skyrocketing 12k, 13k and 14,000 ft snow-capped mountains, are massive sand dunes. Spanning 30 square miles in, these dunes, one rising even 750ft!, are the tallest in North America. Caused first by mountain erosion in which sand enters nearby streams, like the Medano Creek (which you have to cross on foot to access the dunes) . The sand is then....

 blown by gusty winds towards these Sangre De Cristo Mountains hiding around the dunes. The sand builds up, and builds up, and builds up. Crazy fact I learned was that in peak summer weather, the sand itself can roast up to 150 degrees! This place is just so wild and cool. It's mind-boggling beautiful and jaw-dropping how this is random geographic feature is just here way high up in the mountains. While it's in a pretty remote part of Colorado, it's totally worth checking out! This has been on my outdoors bucket list, and now I've crossed it off. See the photos below, which can be enlarged by clicking on them:



























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Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO

On my long drive back to Wisconsin from the Fraser Valley up in the rockies, I had to shape my route around checking out Great Sand Dunes National Park. Even if it were for just a couple hours, I just had to see this place. The craziest thing about Great Sand Dunes is that it just appears out of nowhere. It's like boom, dump a metric ton of sand here. It's wild and stunning. Literally, the first thought I had in my head getting out of my car was 'There's sand everywhere!' Located in Colorado's San Luis valley near Mosca, is quite possibly one of the most unique national parks in our whole system: Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Pictures just don't do this place justice. Surrounded by dozens of miles of open range country, as far as the eyes can see and skyrocketing 12k, 13k and 14,000 ft snow-capped mountains, are massive sand dunes. Spanning 30 square miles in, these dunes, one rising even 750ft!, are the tallest in North America. Caused first by mountain erosion in which sand enters nearby streams, like the Medano Creek (which you have to cross on foot to access the dunes) . The sand is then blown by gusty winds towards these Sangre De Cristo Mountains hiding around the dunes. The sand builds up, and builds up, and builds up. Crazy fact I learned was that in peak summer weather, the sand itself can roast up to 150 degrees! This place is just so wild and cool. It's mind-boggling beautiful and jaw-dropping how this is random geographic feature is just here way high up in the mountains. While it's in a pretty remote part of Colorado, it's totally worth checking out! This has been on my outdoors bucket list, and now I've crossed it off. Next time I get out here, I'll have to go up into the Sangres and hike a bit more or backpack out onto the dunes. I've heard that backpacking through sand dunes is excruciatingly more difficult than a normal trail. Enjoy the photos!

Cheers,
Robby






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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Days 2 and 3 of Driving: Norton, KS to Milwaukee, WI (14 pictures)

Read about Day 1 Here

After crashing the night in Norton, KS, wake up came at 8am to grab a small breakfast from the motel lobby and then hit the road. Today's driving took me across the endless farmlands of Kansas, through small towns built along railroad tracks and towering silos filled with grain. With weather being in the high 80s, the country music playlist on my iPod became useful.

I never knew Kansas and, now, Nebraska were so rural and such staples for farming in our country. Endless sights of Allis-Chalmers, John Deere and Case tractors and big combines- kicking up dust into the dry sky of the Platte Valley. My route took me through places like Long Island, Alma, Haldrege. Places like Phillips County, Kansas... which is the cow-calf capital of Kansas and Kearney, Nebraska...the Sandhill Crane Capital of the World.

Today was planned to be a fairly easy day of driving, about 8 hours worth to Des Moines, Iowa where I would...


 call it a night. As soon as I passed the Nebraska state line, the endless amounts of brown farmland continued to sprawl. Passing over the Platte River, I hopped onto the interstate and made a dash towards the neighboring state of Iowa. Along the way, I made a pit stop in Lincoln, Nebraska- a really cool town- to check out the towering, state capitol building. At the tip top of the gold dome, the building claims the title for being the second-tallest state capitol, at 400ft tall.

Filled up with gas and a burger, the trip to Iowa was underway for only a few more hours. En route- I stopped at a rest stop to fill up my water bottle, stretch, and call a few friends. Sitting on a picnic table looking out across the distant fields, I could see giant windmills spinning away and more farm equipment creating shapes of dust in the sky. The sun was slowly starting to set. I reached Des Moines an hour or so before dusk, met up with a good friend and took a stroll through Iowa's capital city. A must-see is definently the Pappajohn Statue Park, filled with strange and abstract, yet neat statue displays everywhere. Especially at night it's worth the walk. It's located near Grand Avenue by 13th and 15th streets.  Fresh coffee followed by craft beer capped off the night.

Tuesday morning rolled around and after a quick homemade breakfast, I was back on the road again. With Dubuque, Iowa set as the destination, I sat back and finished off the last 6 hours of the drive back to my hometown of Bayside, Wisconsin. Before crossing the border bridge, I stopped off along the bustling Mississippi River in Dubuque to check out the marina, which was filled with big paddle-wheel river boats. One particular in a dry-dock having repair work done to it.

After 3 days, almost 2,000 miles, one popped tire and four tanks of gas- I pulled into my parent's home in Bayside, WI, absolutely exhausted, to find a nice cold treat in our fridge: a pint of Guinness. Happy St. Patrick's Day!  

A few more favorite songs played today during the drive:
"What Sarah Said"-Death Cab For Cutie
"Give Me Shelter"-The Rolling Stones
"Crosstown Traffic"-Jimmy Hendrix
"Drink to That All Night"-Jerrod Niemann
"Patience"-Guns N' Roses

Here are a few pictures from today's trip (which can be enlarged by clicking them):















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Friday, March 13, 2015

Day 1 of Driving: Granby, CO to Norton, KS

A new job back home in Wisconsin means a new adventure on the road. On Sunday I'll be leaving the truly beautiful state of Colorado (but not for good) and driving almost 24 hours with 1,500 miles (this time solo) back to the cheese state. A must-see stop? Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, that's been on my outdoors bucket list for months and while it may add almost 9 hours of travel onto my total trip, it's very important to me to visit this told-fascinating place. The Saab is packed to the gills, loaded up with five-months worth of stuff, the iPod charged and a route in place. I can't find the words to describe how sad and hard it is to leave Colorado.

 A friend and I were having breakfast yesterday, chatting about what Colorado is for us. My response I told him, "It's hard to explain...but...Colorado for me is just my pure freedom and adventure." It's been easily some of the greatest 5 months of my life, filled with endless fun and some of the best relationships with people I've met in these 24 years of being alive. I couldn't be more... thankful for the opportunity to live in the mountains for a long time, they're a second home.

Pulling out of Granby, CO at around 650am with the GPS set to the Great Sand Dunes National Park, located in the San Luis Valley about five hours south, I set out. Making the trek over the almighty Berthoud Pass one last time, I was out of Grand County, the sun continuing to rise and light up the mountains like fire. Continuing through towns like Frisco,  Leadville, Buena Vista, Salida, Crestone, I was making good timing until I came around a bend in the road and slammed into an unavoidable rock the size of a basketball at about 65mph. Aside from a dent in the front bumper, my tire exploded. Thankfully being a gearhead I was able to swap out the bad tire for the compact spare in just a few minutes. Yoga mat was a big win when it came to kneeling down on gravel. At least changing a tire right by the Arkansas River was a plus.

Driving through small town after town, past old churches, homesteads and acreage after acreage of open range that lead up to towering 14,000ft mountains. It's just unreal how beautiful Colorado is. After stopping at Great Sand Dunes National Park, (blog post on that coming soon), I trudged along at a whopping 55mph on this sad little excuse for a tire to a Walmart in Pueblo, Colorado that agreed to stay open late to throw on a new tire. $101 and sixty-minutes later, I'm back on the road speeding towards the Colorado border. Around 9pm the wagon was approaching the Kansas state line....?....totally thought my map and GPS were taking me through Nebraska.

Oh well. I kept driving away from the last remnants of a sunset painted across the sky, falling on the Rocky Mountains that soon disappeared in the horizon of my rear view. I stopped though, pulled over and got out to look one last time. It almost gave me the chills and made me choke up a bit, as for the first time in like five months, I could no longer see the mountains. That's when it really sunk in that I was leaving Colorado. Desperately seeking a place to crash in this dark maze of rural Kansas, I finished up some leftover Chinese and called it a night at a cheap, comfy, 70s-decor filled motel in Norton, KS.  13+ hours of driving and 1 flat tire...it had been a long day.

A few favorite songs played today during the drive:
"Layla" -Eric Clapton
"Feel So Close"-Calvin Harris
"White Trash Beautiful"-Everlast
"Gray Day"-Jesse Colin Young
"Black Sun"-Death Cab For Cutie
"Lost"-Sunlounger
"Jesus Don't Want Me for a Sunbeam"-Nirvana
"Best of You"-Foo Fighters
"Deadweight On Velveteen"-Jose Gonzalez

 Here are a few pictures from today's trip (which can be enlarged by clicking them):












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