I recently returned from a whirlwind couple weeks of travel that took me from New York to Colorado, down to the DC area and back again. I’ll be heading to Cambodia in just a few weeks, but for now, I’d like to share a little bit about what I’ve been up to lately.
Colorado has been at the top of my travel list for quite some time now – with its gorgeous mountains, relaxing hot springs, and every outdoor activity under the sun, how could it not be? It’s also home to one of my oldest and best friends from high school, which might have been the best reason of all to make the trip. He and his fiancee own a hostel in Salida, which is located about three hours southwest of Denver. If you’re traveling through that region of CO, I highly recommend booking a room at the Simple Lodge!
One of my favorite things that I did while hanging out with Justin and Mel in Colorado was going to the Great Sand Dunes National Park. If you’re expecting a typical national park hiking experience, think again. The sand dunes are less about the destination, and much more about the journey along the way. There are no trails to follow or mountains to top – you really just wander through the dunes and go whichever way the wind blows. Or the sand, as it were.
In order to get to the dunes, you have to cross over a little stream formed by melted snow runoff from the nearby San Juan mountains. Now is the time you ditch your shoes for the day.
It’s a little chilly. But the sand will warm you right up! (This probably goes without saying, but visiting the dunes at the end of April is one of the best times to go. Summer time means hot sand and no ocean to cool off in.)
We spent several hour meandering through the dunes. Their formation began about 400,000 years ago, and they continue to grow and change all the time, thanks to erosion from the San Juan mountains. I really like that no matter how many times you visit, they’re never quite the same.
Another cool thing about hiking here is that you can scale dunes that are completely vertical. It’s pretty exhausting, but you get on your hands and knees and basically crawl up. The only thing to keep in mind is that your depth perception gets a little messed up, and you might be biting off a bit more than you can chew. I remember a particularly steep dune that took us a good half hour to climb.
Here’s a nice close-up of my attire for the day. The key is to tuck the blanket into your goggles at the top of your head (mine had slipped here) to prevent sand from getting into your goggles. But you’ll also have to accept that you’re going to be finding sand everywhere for a long while after you leave the dunes. One week later, I was still washing sand out of my hair.
The scenery of this national park is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. If you’re headed to southern Colorado, it’s a must-see!