Monday, July 10, 2017

On the Downhill Slide at Great Sand Dunes


Hola from the beautiful San Luis Valley in south central Colorado!
More specifically, hola from Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve!


© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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I have wanted to visit this incredible place since I moved to Colorado in 1982.
The park is located in the high mountain desert of the San Luis Valley
nestled up against the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

It is remarkable for its biodiversity, containing seven distinct life zones
from low streams and wetlands, to salt-encrusted plains or sabkhas,
to sand sheets and grasslands, to dune fields,
montane forests, subalpine forests, and alpine tundra.


A Little Muley Foraging on the Sand Sheet Grassland
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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But as excited as I was to see muleys and hummers ...


Hummingbirds Gather at a Feeder
Outside Our Hotel Room
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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And wade in intermittent Medano Creek ...


Terry Wades Across Medano Creek
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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I had come to the park to tackle
the tallest sand dunes in North America,
dunes that reach up to 750 feet in height.

The dune field in the park nestles up
against the base of the Sangre de Cristos
and comprises about 11% of a 330
square-mile deposit of sand in the valley.


The Sand Sheet Grasslands Sweeping Out from the Dune Fields
at the Base of the Sangre de Cristos
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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Doesn't sound too bad, until 
you realize the Visitor's Center stands at 8,166 feet,
and the dunes are uphill from that!





So High!!!
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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We arrived at the park around noon
when the temperature was reaching the mid-80s.
Not a good time to begin hoofing it up the dunes
where the surface of the sand can be 150 degrees hot.


Too Hot For Me!
Most people were sticking to the lower dunes.
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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So after a quick lunch in a pretty spot, we headed to our lodge for a siesta.


Heading Back to Our Lodge
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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At 7:00 pm Terry and I were ready to tackle the dunes!


Terry Begins to Cross Medano Creek
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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We started out with high hopes,
heading for the highest spot on the horizon.


© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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In the early evening the dunes are lovely,
with the low-angled sun casting soft shadows and highlights.

© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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We make good progress, even though hiking in sand is challenging.

Terry Flahes Me a Smile
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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My Turn To Pose
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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At times it was a slog ~
Sometimes our feet disappeared into the sand.  
Underneath the cooling surface,
I could feel the warm sand from the heat of the day.


Ridiculously Hard at Times
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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Hoofing, hoofing, hoofing ...


Up and Up
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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We keep our focus on reaching a lower dune summit,
while looking behind to mark our rise in elevation.



The Goal
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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Looking Back
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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The Final Push
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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Summiting that first dune was one
of the hardest physical things I've done.
Terry and I floundered to the top,
one foot forward, six inches back
with each step up a very steep dune slope.

I could stagger only five or six steps
before having to stop to catch my breath.
Buckets of sweat were pouring off me
as I tried to strike this bucket item off my list.
Finally ...


© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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Then it dawned on me when I looked up ...



The Next Stop ~ Or Not
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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I simply could not make the higher dune summit.
I was shot.

It was a devastating moment for me,
because for the first time I truly felt I had peaked in my life,
from here it was the long downhill slide to the end.


The Downhill Slide
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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Fighting back tears, I told Terry that I just couldn't go on,
I couldn't reach the top,
I was on the long downhill slide to the end.

Terry wrapped an arm around my shoulder and said,
"You are on no downhill slide! 
Look where you are!
Look how far you climbed!
Let's climb down and try again tomorrow."

"I won't be able to walk tomorrow," I said.
"I'm not sure I can even make it down."

"Sure you will, Babe.  Let's go!"

We started staggering back down the dune,
and I reminded myself that even if I hadn't reached the top,
there were still plenty of adventures ahead of me.

Besides, the sun had set, and glorious color was spreading across the sky.


Sunset on the Dunes
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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We picked up a ridge rather than
floundering down the steep side of the dune.

It was a longer trek, but it was easier going,
and the most delicious breeze cooled us.


A Dune Ridge ~ Not for Those Who Don't Like Heights
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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Terry Follows Me Down
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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Down and Down
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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Twilight falls as we near the bottom of the dunes and head for Medano Creek.


Almost down!
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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Night arrives as we cross the flat plain leading to the creek,
and we move slowly forward by the light of our headlamps.
Nothing like crossing a stream in the dark!


Approaching Medano in the Dark
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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In a way I was glad I couldn't reach the high summit.
We'd have been climbing down the dunes in the dark.
We weren't the last down, by any means.
People often climb the dunes at night.

I was more than grateful to tumble into bed,
and my last thought was, "Tomorrow is another day!"

26 comments:

  1. I am glad that Terry was such an encouragement to you, Louise! What an amazing experience! Beautiful photos!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Linda! We made it back home today after a wonderful trip to the Great Sand Dunes. It was an amazing experience. Terry is the best at encouraging me. Thanks for your kind words about my photos. I get such pleasure from sharing them! Sending you love and hugs, my special Montreal friend!

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  2. I actually never seen hummingbirds in person. I had a feeder once but never saw them

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There were many hummingbirds around our lodge, Adam. I saw more hummers there than I've seen previously in my life. We spent a couple of hours over our stay watching them. For little birds they sure are feisty, especially the males. They zipped all around so fast, and they could stop in a heartbeat. Have a good one, my friend!

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  3. Wow! Hey, you still did good. It's one thing to go up a large hill with a solid path. Sand is a different matter.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Alex! My spirits rebounded, after a scary realization. Confronting limits is never easy, but I quickly got past them. Growing older is not easy, but I'm going to keep pushing myself and making the most of the time I'm given. Take care!

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  4. That's a helluva climb! Believe me, I would not even have attempted it! Having to accept the physical (and mental) realities of aging is a sonovabitch, I know. It's always a kind of wrench to the system.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wrench to the system is right, Debra! And it was one helluva a climb. But I went right back to do it again the next morning. The Great Sand Dunes is one of the most amazing places I've ever been. Terry and I are planning to return to explore them more. There was something for everyone, from the backcountry hikers to toddlers digging in the sand by Medano Creek. Have a good one, my friend!

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  5. Sand would be hard as heck to get up the full way, especially in heat of most any kind. Although ouch to 150 degrees burning the feet. With my bum back no way I'd get up there. Give me a mountain any day. Better to turn back than push on and croak and not have another day lol sure got some great shots and you made it farther than many and many more who never even attempted it. Way to be at your sea.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your encouragement, Pat! It meant a lot to me. I'm sorry to hear that you have a bum back ~ no fun! I definitely don't want to croak prematurely. Too much left to do ~ LOL. Have a good one, my friend!

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  6. Hi, Linda, Adam, Alex, Debra, and Pat! Thanks for your encouraging and kind comments. I'm sorry about posting an earlier draft ~ Managed to do that late last night! We're checking out and moving on this morning, so I have no computer time. Hopefully our hotel in Sedalia tonight will have access. Then I'll reply to your comments and visit! Have a great day, My friends!

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  7. Coral Pink Sand Dunes in Southern Utah is another place you should check out. There are not quite as tall and I think the base elevation is around 4000 feet. Climbing on certain types of volcanic ash is also a workout.

    Did you make it to the top the next day?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Sage. I'm back home and can finally sit down and reply. I have been to Coral Pink Sand Dunes, a strikingly beautiful spot. I'd love to return. I know what you mean about volcanic ashes. I got stuck on the top of a cinder cone in Craters of the Moon in Idaho and couldn't get down. I had one pissed-off sister sitting down below with my Scottie. She knew I was scared of heights and was mad at me for determinedly scrambling up that cone. After dancing all around the slippery edge at the top of the cone, I finally scooted down hundreds of feet on my seat and ruined a good pair of jeans. LOL I've posted about the second day! Take care, my friend!

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  8. I'm sad that you were disappointed because I was impressed by your accomplishment. It's quite a feat. Even walking on flat sandy ground can be difficult. Go, you! You did great.

    Love,
    Janie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the lovely comment, Janie. My spirits have rebounded, because I wised up and realized climbing the lower dune was an accomplishment. Facing limits due to age is a scary thing, and that was the first time it really hit me. I'm so grateful for every healthy day I have, and I know I can't take them for granted. Have a good one!

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  9. Looks like a lovely place. Glad you enjoyed it.

    Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Andrew! It's good to see you again!

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  10. So Louise, next time take snowshoes with you - you could start a new sand shoe fad LOL. Looks like a wonderful place hugs your sister Barb

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL, Barb! I couldn't believe it when my feet disappeared beneath the sand on the downslopes of the dunes. You would love this place. It is out of this world! The geology of the San Luis Valley and the dunes is fascinating. Can't wait to see you!!!

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  11. A valiant ascent! My compliments and admiration.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Geo! I was really rocked when I wrote this post the other night. It's not easy to have the reality of being sixty-seven knocking me flat. I run around constantly in denial. Happily, I'm back in denial again. I hope that you and Norma are having a great week!

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  12. Wow, just wow! What a spectacular place. You did great. I'm not sure I'd be able to reach the top either but I'd be thrilled to get that close to it. What an adventure!

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    Replies
    1. It is a spectacular place, Martha, and the closest I've gotten to the sands of Arabia! We had a blast and are hoping to go back soon!

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  13. WOW!!! You should be damn proud of yourself Louise!!! I could have never accomplished what you did! I am in Awwww!!! What an amazing adventure! Big Hugs!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the big hug! I can feel it, Stacy! I am proud of myself. Getting to the top of High Dune was exhilarating, and I'm still feeling the glow! I hope all is well with you!

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    2. LOL ~ I just realized that this was my first post on the dunes! I went back the next day, and I made it all the way to the top of the sky ridge and beyond! So I'm really happy!

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