Thursday, October 18, 2018

Update: returning to the sand dunes

Greetings and happy Thursday, fall is here and it's time for a little life update. 

During my lunch hour today, I felt like doing a bit of travel blogging because in just six hours I'm hopping on a Southwest Airlines flight to Denver. I'm taking a break from my jam-packed schedule of visiting all the Wisconsin state parks, to do my annual fall backpacking trip, before beginning a long winter's hibernation. Needless to say, I'm looking forward to cold, weekend mornings with hot coffee, a vinyl playing.

The next three days I'll be backpacking with two of my best friends at Colorado's Great Sand Dunes National Park, located outside of Mosca, in the shadows of the jagged Sangre de Cristo range. It's been almost impossible to concentrate at work this week, knowing I'll be exploring yet another new national park. My 7:40pm departure cannot come soon enough. There's something about Great Sand Dunes that seriously intrigues me. Years ago, when I made the trek back home to Wisconsin after living in Colorado for a six-month seasonal job at a YMCA teaching outdoor education, I stopped very briefly here to see for myself, the mesmerizing sand dunes and snowcapped peaks beyond it. I was floored in fascination and had I not needed to hustle to Durango, Colorado to replace a blown tire, I would have stayed longer.

The energy I felt for a few hours at Great Sand Dunes was gravitating, pulling me in with curiosity. There's no place like this elsewhere in, Colorado, the United States, if not, the world. It's a dramatic, almost make-believe landscape and I'm ecstatic to be able to return and dedicate more much-needed time to taking it all in. I look forward to being able to show gratitude to this quiet, diverse display of wilderness. My heart feels calm when I think about revisiting this national park.

Our current plan is to spend one night out in the northern part of the expansive sand dune field, then hike a bit towards the foot of the Sangres that circle the park and spend our second night in the backcountry there. On the third day, we'll hike back towards the trailhead, reached via a 4X4 road, load up a Volvo SUV with all of our gear and head back to Colorado Springs to thaw out (temperatures are indicating low-20s at night), relax in a hot tub with Pikes Peak lingering in the distance, and throw back a few craft beers prior to boarding a super late flight back to Wisconsin out of Denver.

Earlier this year, I made my list of goals and resolutions for 2018, and on that list, one of my keynote items was to visit three national park properties. I smiled when I opened my medicine cabinet this morning and read that goal jotted on a piece of faded notebook paper, hanging on the other side of the mirror.