“In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
And where you invest your love, you invest your life”
Ever since I moved to Colorado in 2009, I wanted to see and photograph all these magical spots I saw for years and years. This past year I made it a personal goal to hit all of the “cliche” Colorado landmarks that I was too lazy to before. Last fall I finally did Hanging Lake and those infamous Maroon Bells everyone likes to line along the shore of. This summer so far has been filled with the traditional Colorado Road Trip over to Moab and now I can finally check the Sand Dunes off the list. I’m really glad that I did.
After a couple weeks of talking about making the trip, I finally packed up the car on a Wednesday and headed out. Leaving the city at about 6:30 set up an arrival time of about 10:45. Taking our time on the drive Dereck and I made a couple stops along the way.
Taking in the view in Colorado Springs. That shirt though…style points
After a horrendously bad decision to get Chik-Fil-A for dinner, not because of the health factor but because a packet of honey mustard would ultimately be the demise/messiest thing ever from the weekend, we finally arrived at the park. It was just after 11:30 when we finally got there. With a storm to the east flashing lightning, clouds moving in and a full moon above, we knew night shots were going to be tricky. Now being our first time there we had no idea that you apparently have to cross a creek to actually get to the dunes. Maybe it was a high flowing night, or maybe we weren’t prepared but Medano Creek looked like the Mighty Mississippi in the middle of the night. We decided not to forge the raging river but instead set up camp and try to catch the sunrise.
Don’t mind the camera shadow…
We set up camp along the river bed behind a few trees, so we weren’t to be seen. Later came to figure out we were in a spot that probably wouldn’t have gone over so well if a park ranger would have found us. Oh well, what can ya do? It sure was tough to awake to the alarm going off at 5:00am but I am glad that I did. Waking up to dusk and a few clouds above I had a good feeling I’d get some sort of sunrise. Setting up along the creek bed I watched what felt like maybe a 3 minute burst of color that acted as a sunrise. I came away with a couple photos I was happy with.
Mountains, Great Plains, Rushing water, combined with this weird and random collection of giant sand piles. What is this place? We finally forged the creek and made our way on to the dunes. If you’ve never hiked on a sand dune before, let me tell you this…it’s rough. After a hefty hike up a couple of the dunes we decided to chill out, relax and shoot a couple photos.
After a quick nap atop one of the dunes we were awaken to a nice little sand storm. Good morning. The biggest challenge here was to keep dust out of all of my gear, let alone all of my clothes. We decided to make a trip over to the visitor center and get a back country pass to setup camp for the evening.
Once that was secured we made our way over to the picnic area, had a couple beers, some lunch and a quick nap to recharge. At about 6:00pm we decided to make our way out and set up camp somewhere. Oh joy, hiking up these damn dunes again. The cool thing about back country camping here is that A. It’s free and B. You can go anywhere you want as long as you are out of sight of the visitor center. As we made our way up in search of a spot to setup camp, it was getting close to sunset. Once over our final dune, we set up camp and watched the sun set over the whole field of sand.
I don’t know if nature was trying to make up for the quick sunrise or not, but this was probably one of the best sunsets I’ve seen in a long while. It was one of those sunsets that only got better and better. The sky lit up with vibrant oranges and reds, lighting the whole area in a nice warm tone to send off the day.
After watching sunset and enjoying a traditional camping dinner (shout out to Chef Boyardee Beef-A-Roni) we made it a very somewhat early night. There is something magical about waking up in the middle of no where to nothing but peace and quiet. Being on top of a sand dune is no different.
We made the trip back to Denver and stopped one last time along the way back to shoot the small but gorgeous mountain rage on the way out of the park.
So here’s to another “cliche” spot crossed off the list.