Saturday, August 06, 2011

Laser Camping in the Salt

We went to the Great Sand Dunes National Park last weekend. It is only about 4.5 hours south west of us, but the Colorado Shepards have not been there since the summer after we first moved to Colorado. Of course that was before we had kids, so the youngest members of our family have never been.

I should apologize (especially for those of you with dial-up internet connections) for the number of pictures here. It was hard to cut down the selection (although this is not even close to all of the ones we have).

Of course, these pictures don't do justice to the Great Sand Dunes. But, you can get something of an idea.

We got there on a Thursday evening around dinner time. After setting up camp, eating dinner, and cleaning up, we took the little trail from the camp site to the dunes.

The kids, especially our youngest were extremely excited. We'd told them about the dunes, but I don't think you really understand how awesome they are until you actually are there on them.
I think that is Tyler in the distance
Connor, in particular, was so excited, he kept running WAY ahead of us. This is not typical of his hiking style. It was cool to see him so active. Surprisingly, he didn't really ever get tired in spite of all the running in sand he did.

That first time, we didn't go all that far up the dunes. We did run and jump all sand "cliffs". Because you land in sand, you can jump pretty far down without getting hurt. And, the sand makes a cool fart-like sound if you land right. The boys thought that was hilarious.
The boys and I had left our sandals by the little trail sign post closest to the dunes. I figured no one would take them, and they would be easy to remember where they were. Someone else had left theirs at another of the markers.

Unfortunately, we ended up playing in the sand a little too long and it started getting dark. When we came back, we could not find our shoes. It was getting dark and we heard thunder coming in. I ended up carrying Connor and poor Tyler had to walk back bare-foot.

I was pretty impressed that he never complained, because I certainly didn't like walking back bare-foot on the gravel trail to the campsite. Luckily, Tracy packed every shoe that the boys own for the trip (she even packed snow-boots, but that is another story). Unfortunately, I had just brought the sandals on my feet. I was pretty bummed out about losing them on the first night.
This is Mom watching after Connor way ahead

It started raining that first night. It was pretty much bedtime, so that was perfect. It helped cool things down, and as Mom had read to us, wet sand dunes make for better sledding (plus it helps cool down the sand a bit).

This photo is of the mountains from our campsite that first gorgeous morning.

After breakfast, we got back on the trail.
Daddy was barefoot again (which still sucked). Everyone else had alternative footwear.

When we got back to the post where we had left our shoes, Tyler dug around a bit, and wouldn't-you-know-it, but there our shoes were buried in the sand. The wind had buried our shoes! We probably would have noticed had we started back with more light. Let that be a lesson to you. You can decide exactly what that lesson is.
All I know is that I was very happy to have footwear for the rest of the weekend.

So, that 2nd day, we climbed the dunes with the snow-sleds. To be honest, I had my doubts that lugging those things would be worth it, but I was sure wrong. My next post will contain videos so you can see. Sledding the sand dunes was a BLAST. The rain the night before really helped make the sand fast.
So, we did a bunch of sledding.

Then we climbed.

Then we sledded some more.

Then we climbed.

Then we sledded.

Got the idea? Well, we did even more climbing and more sledding than that.
Here is Connor pulling his sled.

I was amazed that the kids never really got tired or cranky, because we did a lot of climbing. The hills we were sledding down were pretty big, so just the sledding activity itself would have been exhausting.

But, we made it up to one of the highest peaks on the dunes.
And, boy, was that cool! As I mentioned before, these pictures do not do the whole experience justice. If you get a chance, though, you HAVE to come and see them for yourself. And you especially have to climb to the top of one of the sand peaks and look around. Truly amazing!

Isn't this a cool view? It is better in person.

This might give you some idea how big some of the sledding hills were.

This panoramic picture is better full-size.

Yes, I took a lot of pictures of sand with the surrounding mountains. It just looked so cool.

Eventually, we made our way back to the campsite for lunch. Another amazing thing is that it got to back early afternoon without either kid complaining about how hungry they were. Trust me, that NEVER happens.

After lunch, we ended up going to the visitor center, which was also extremely cool. The sand dunes are a geological wonder.

We eventually made our way back to camp, had dinner, made a campfire. It rained again that night, but it didn't really start until the campfire was nice and established so we didn't really have a problem.

And, of course, the rain would help make the sand better the next day.
The next day (Saturday) was more of the same. We did more sledding and less climbing (but still lots of both). The kids also did more digging.

We took lots more pictures that day too, but for the most part they looked the same as the ones you've already seen.

We saw quite a few deer over the weekend. The kids thought it was pretty cool to have a few wandering through the campground. This buck was nice enough to pose for Tyler.

And, of course, Mommy played the guitar.

Sunday, we made the long drive home. The whole weekend was easily the best camping trip we have been on this year. Probably the best one since the kids have been born. If you get a chance, you have to come see (and play on) the Great Sand Dunes.

As I mentioned above, we also have some videos. I am planning on posting some of those in another article. Now you have something to look forward to.

OH! I should probably explain why I called this post "Laser Camping in the Salt", but I'm going to wait and do it in a future post. Something else for you to look forward to (and come back for).


  1. You're right: we need to visit the Great Sand Dunes. Looks like you guys had so much fun :)

  2. Have you been to Dinosaurs National Park? We need to go there, too.

    Ooo, and is your LinkWithin a blogger gadget or do I need to go somewhere else to get that? Of course, then I'd probably need to start tagging my posts.

  3. We have not been to Dinosaur National Monument (it isn't a national park ... although I don't know what the differences are).

    You can get the linkwithin gadget here: You do not have to use tags for it to work. I am not sure I always agree that what it picks is related. It is sort of fun because it brings up things I had sort of forgotten about.